Schimmelfennig’s report on Confederate dispositions at Charleston

Earlier I posted a report from Brigadier-General Alexander Schimmelfennig detailing the Federal dispositions outside Charleston on April 25, 1864. On the same day, he also passed an assessment of the Confederate dispositions facing his command.  That separate report went forward, with endorsement by Major-General Quincy Gillmore, to Major-General Henry Halleck and ultimately to Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant.  The report read:

Hdqrs. Northern District, Dept. of the South,
Folly Island, S. C., April 25, 1864.
Brig. Gen. J. W. Turner,
Chief of Staff, Hdqrs. Department of the South:

General: I have the honor to report the following information, obtained from deserters who have recently come on board the fleet, of the movements of the enemy and changes of their force upon my front. It is partly confirmed by the reports of reconnoitering parties sent out by me on James and John’s Islands.

General Beauregard and staff, having returned from Florida, left Charleston for Virginia last week. Troops are constantly passing through Charleston from Florida and Columbia to the north. On John’s Island and the mainland in its neighborhood, the force, instead of being as formerly (four regiments of infantry–Wise’s brigade– and one regiment of cavalry), now consists of two regiments of infantry, one near Church Flats and one at Adams’ Run; five companies of cavalry and one light battery. Two regiments of Wise’s brigade are on their way north from Florida, and the remaining two are daily expecting orders to leave. The enemy have lately completed a new work on the mainland, to cover the ferry from John’s Island and east of Rantowles Station. It mounts six guns and is garrisoned by one company of heavy artillery. A bridge across the Stono River, from John’s Island to James, skirting the latter between Batteries Pringle and Tynes, is being built. It is a heavy bridge and the work progresses slowly. It is beyond the range of our guns.

On James Island there are now but two regiments of infantry, the Twenty-fifth and Twenty-seventh South Carolina. The artillery force remaining unchanged (one regiment of five or six companies), but the cavalry (four companies Fifth South Carolina) and the Siege Train have gone to Virginia. Earth-works are being thrown up south of Fort Johnson on the beach. In the city of Charleston there is but one regiment of infantry and five or six companies of artillery, besides which the cadets do duty. At Fort Ripley the garrison is, as formerly, one company of artillery. The palmetto logs having given way in some places, the foundation of the work is being strengthened by filling in stone, &c. At Fort Sumter the garrison remains unchanged; the fort is being constantly repaired.

On Sullivan’s Island heavy rifle-pits have been thrown up, connecting some of the batteries. Besides the heavy artillery, there is still one light battery on the island; one light battery is also reported as being at Mount Pleasant.

I am badly informed as to the infantry force in this neighborhood, but have understood that Evans’ brigade has lately left the vicinity for Virginia. I have considered it my duty of late to harass the enemy on my front as much as possible, in order to interfere with his movements. From information received from a deserter, I understand General Beauregard recently kept five regiments who were on their way north in Charleston for some days in apprehension of an attack on James Island, and the artillery on the island were kept at their guns during the night. A reconnoitering party sent to John’s Island the latter part of last week met with infantry, cavalry, and artillery, but in small force.

The enemy fires very seldom from his batteries on James and Sullivan’s Islands, and at Fort Putnam only. On the night of the 21st-22d he opened very briskly and fired 50 shots in quick succession at Fort Putnam, killing 1 man of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, who was on outpost duty.

It seems that the enemy did not know what to make of the many steamers coming and going last week; was constantly in expectation of an attack and became nervous.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. Schimmelfennig,
Brigadier-General, Commanding District.

Mostly I pass this along to “move the runners up” for several follow on posts.  The angle to appreciate is what the Federals thought the Confederates had on hand.  Likewise, we should keep in mind what the Confederates estimated the Federal strength to be.

Both sides drew down the forces at Charleston.  Yet both sides still had reason to hold a line.  I would say Schimmelfennig’s report was not wide of the mark, for that day in April.  And the Confederate numbers, particularly infantry regiments, would continue to drop over the next two months.

(Citation from OR Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 66, pages 72-3.)