“The south angle was the object of their aim”: Another minor bombardment of Fort Sumter

Through much of January 1864, the Federal guns on Morris Island focused on Charleston.  Their nine day bombardment of the city was the heaviest, in terms of shots fired, up to that time.  The gunners fired an occasional shot at Fort Sumter, mostly as a reminder of the range.  But as January came to a close, the Federal guns on Morris Island turned on Fort Sumter for another “minor bombardment.”  This commenced on the evening of January 28.  Reporting on January 29, Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Elliott, commanding the fort’s garrison, observed:

I have the honor to report that at 9 o’clock last night the enemy opened on us with mortars from the middle battery, throwing by morning 123, of which 82 burst in and over the fort. Two Parrott shots also struck. I ordered the steamer to return to the city before her cargo had been entirely discharged, as she was in evident danger. No injury was done to the work and no casualties occurred. The firing continues this morning from guns. The thick weather obscures the fleet. A tug was lying very close in at daylight this morning; I think she could have been struck by Sullivan’s Island guns.

Later that day, Elliott added an additional report:

The fire is from three 10-inch columbiads, and a 30-pounder Parrott is directed at the south angle, where some open arches have been recently filled from the outside, and which we suspect they have seen. Work going on as usual, and no damage done.

By 11 p.m., he tallied the overall figures for incoming rounds and damage that day:

Shots fired from 10-inch columbiads, 8-inch Parrott, 6-inch Parrott, 40 and 30 pounder Parrotts at south angle, 156; 129 hit. Mortar shells fired, 13; 7 hit. Damage, trifling. Casualties, 1 man wounded in ankle.

The bombardment continued the next day, with Elliott noting “The south angle was the object of their aim; an hour’s work at dark repaired the injury it received.”  For the garrison, the high point of the day occurred at 3 p.m. when the flagstaff was shot away.

…it was first replaced upon a small and afterwards upon a larger staff by Private F. Schafer, Company A, Lucas’ battalion, who stood on the top of the traverse and repeatedly waved the flag in the sight of the enemy. He was assisted by Corpl. L. Bressentiam and Private Charles Banks, of the same corps, and by Mr. H. B. Middleton, of the Signal Corps, who is acting as adjutant of the post in the absence of the regular officer.

They were exposed to a rapid and accurate fire of shells. At the close of the scene Schafer, springing from a cloud of the smoke and dust of the bursting shell, stood long waving his hat in triumph. It was a most gallant deed, and the effect upon the garrison was most inspiring.

Although at a slower rate than fired during the heavy bombardments of the previous November, shells continued to fall through the last day of the month.  Elliott provided a full record of all incoming shots for the month in his routine reports:

FortSumterBombardmentJan1864

The spike in the numbers for those last four days of the month stand in contrast to only three days of very light firing earlier in the month.  Note that Elliott’s tallies provided in the daily reports often overlap reporting periods depicted in the table above.  So those looking to run the numbers need to shake them first.

The objective of this minor bombardment was, as Elliott observed, just to break up a section of the fort the Confederates had recently repaired.  That objective achieved, from the Federal perspective, all returned to normal… meaning skirmishing with heavy caliber guns and mortars.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, pages 183-186.)