Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part IX: Ruins, Tents, Sheds, Sandbags, and the Flag

Let’s step a little further into Fort Johnson for our next stop, as we virtually walk around the site.  The next photo, which I’ve labeled FJ7 for tracking purposes, is this view looking across the interior:


I’ve plotted the location from which this photo was taken on the diagram below, keyed to FJ7:


As mentioned in the earlier post, we can narrow down the perspective of this photo by referring to objects in view, and comparing those objects to the perspective of other photos.  For me the “pin” is the pyramid of bolts with the markings “A C” on the top three:


In fact, we can see both of the bolt pyramids, flanking the entrance to the Brooke Rifle’s position, seen in FJ6:


To the left of the pyramids, is a common-place tent.  One of thousands used during the Civil War.  Nothing in particular to make it particularly noteworthy.


But notice all the extra support for this tent.  The railing around the sides of the tent serve as a second anchor. There’s a platform under the tent to elevate off the sand and provide dwellers some sort of proper floor.   Sort of reminds me of the tents setup by the Federals on Morris Island, in particular those inside former Battery Wagner… yes these:


I’d say it is likely the tent in Fort Johnson was setup by the Federals.  Perhaps the same Federals – the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery – who maintained the tent seen over on Morris Island.  But under the rule of “form follows function” I’d submit the Confederates owning similar tents and with similar requirements, would have used the same arrangements… had there been such a need.

We will see this tent again in FJ9… we are not done with the minutia of tenting arrangements.

I doubt the photographer was worried about the tent when composing this photo.  What appears in the foreground seems to be the main subject:


That is the crumbling bricks of a chimney and some wood walls.  The bricks appear to be just plain old bricks.  Nothing of great interest….


But then again, this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and not “Bricks of the Civil War.”  So I encourage masonry experts from the internet to enlighten us as to any peculiarities worthy of study.  I would just point out that this chimney matches with the annotation “ruins of old fort” in the survey diagram.

The wood structures extending from the ruins are more interesting to me:


Because these appear in a couple of photos, specifically FJ8 which I’ll walk through next, we have somewhat a three-dimensional appreciation of these.  Because these are rough hewn, I don’t think these were parts of the buildings that stood at Fort Johnson before the war.  These have the appearance of storage points, defined by low walls.

In the distance beyond these ruins, we see what appears to be a crib.


There is a doorway defined on the left.  Logs were laid without any filler between.  I’d submit this was also some sort of defined storage space instead of quarters.  Otherwise we’d see some effort to seal off the walls and vestiges of overhead cover.

Behind the crib is the entrance to the 10-inch Columbiad Rifle’s position.

And to the right is another chimney.  These chimneys take me back to the 1861 observations from Fort Sumter:


18th century buildings invariably had chimneys.  And we see a lot of buildings in view.

To the right of the chimney is a clear view of the slope on the angle of Fort Johnson which faced Fort Sumter directly.


In contrast to the other sections of the fort, this slope is deteriorating.  I don’t think that is simply a couple months of neglect.  Looks more as a longer term issue left behind by the previous tenants… the Confederates.  So to me the “story” in that crop is the labor shortage long reported by the Confederate engineers.  That would be the lack of soldiers detailed to do the work, as well as the lack of impressed, requisitioned labor in the form of slaves and free blacks.  A shortage I documented in numerous posts during the sesquicentennial.

To the right of that is another group of chimneys with a building right in the middle:


I’m inclined to call this a shop or shed of some sort.  There’s a lot of “stuff” laying around the building.  None of which is in focus well enough to give much detail.  Sad, because there were probably some interesting items for discussion laying about there.  Instead, we just have the clapboard building with a tarp over the roof.

Look above the building and we see the United States flag proudly waiving in the breeze coming off the ocean:


This allows us to locate the flagstaff, or at least the flagstaff in use by the Federals in the spring of 1865, at Fort Johnson.  Given the perspective of FJ7 and FJ5 of the fort’s exterior


The lines match up to place the flagstaff on the forward wall of Fort Johnson facing Morris Island.  And the photographer was keen to include the United States flag over these recently captured Confederate works.

As is my habit, let me turn to the extreme foreground in closing this “stop” of the tour:


Not grass, but a lot of bricks and broken sandbags.  I cannot help but think of the thousands of sandbags used around Charleston, by both sides, during the four long years of conflict.

Published by Craig Swain

"Historical marker hunter" and Civil War enthusiast.

2 thoughts on “Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part IX: Ruins, Tents, Sheds, Sandbags, and the Flag

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