“Into a Marshy No-man’s Land” – Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable

Save the date! As mentioned earlier, I will be speaking at the Fort Sumter Civil War Roundtable on June 10. Here are the particulars:

  • Program: Into a Marshy No-Man’s Land: Intelligence and Special Operations on the South Carolina and Georgia Coasts, 1862-65.
  • Date: June 10, 2019
  • Time: Gather at 6:00 for a bit of socializing; program begins at 6:30.
  • Place: The Citadel, Jenkins Hall

So if you live around Charleston, you have my “special” invite to this discussion of “special” operations in the Civil War.

A little more about the topic:

Through much of the Civil War neither side firmly controlled the marshlands of South Carolina and Georgia. While the Federals established bases on the coast (starting with Port Royal in November 1861), the topography of the low country favored the Confederate defender.  Yet, the Confederates were unable and unwilling to establish permanent garrisons out to the coastline.  Major operations, such as against Fort Pulaski or on Morris Island, were rare with neither side able to gain a firm upper hand. As result, the marshes and coastal estuaries were in effect a no-man’s land in which scouts, spies, raiders, and irregulars operated.  The Confederates, with local knowledge of the terrain, scouted Federal activities; ambushed Yankee patrols; monitored communications; and maintained supply routes skirting the blockade.  The Federals, employing escaped slaves, trained “marsh scouts,” and naval landing parties, sent out raids to disrupt rice and salt production; spied on Confederate operations; interdicted blockade runners; and “hacked” communications lines.  These intelligence gathering activities and special operations continued right up to the end of the Civil War.

Readers are well aware from my blogging missives of my definition of the “Charleston Theater” which includes the South Carolina, Georgia, and northern Florida coastlines. In that theater, most – if not all – operations were focused toward control of Charleston. And within that broad scope, we tend to focus on operations directly at Charleston – Morris Island, bombardment of Fort Sumter, and blockade operations there. Yet there were many operations conducted along that coast which supported and sustained the campaign which escape attention as we summarize the high points. And those operations often took the color of what we’d characterize today as “special operations.” Not so much Rangers, SEAL teams, Delta Force, and guys with green berets… as such “special” units did not exist at the time. Rather operations that fit the definition of “special” often being conducted by regular forces – infantry detachments or naval landing parties for instance. And at the same time, we also find true “irregular” or at least “unconventional” players operating in those marshes.

With that teaser out there, please mark this on your calendars and plan on attending. The Fort Sumter Roundtable is a new group, with my friend Jim “A Little Short of Boats at Balls Bluff” Morgan a co-founder. They have a lot of interesting programs scheduled for upcoming months.

History and Hops: February

As mentioned earlier, I will be speaking at Dragon Hops Brewing on February 21 as part of the series “History and Hops.” As promised, here are the details:

What could be better? Enjoying a beer as we discuss the Civil War…. the Civil War in Charleston on top of that! Readers well know, this is a favorite focus of my research. We tend to bypass this story, treating Fort Sumter as just the place where the war started. In reality, Fort Sumter was the subject of an ongoing campaign as the Federals attempted to wrestle control of Charleston harbor. This focus on Fort Sumter was, in terms of days, weeks, and months, the longest battle of the war. Oh, and did I say there would be beer?

If you plan to attend, please stop by the event page on Facebook and make your mark. That way the staff knows how many folks to expect. This is an open event, with no tickets or such. Just have to be 21 or older, as there are alcoholic beverages served. Did I mention there would be beer?

So if you are in the area, save the date and make plans to stop by. We’ll warm up the winter with a talk about the warm(er) waters of the South Carolina Low Country. And did I mention the beer?

Summary Statement, 3rd Quarter, 1863 – Connecticut

Connecticut provided three light batteries to the Union cause during the Civil War.  Of those, only two were in service at the end of September 1863.  And that is what we see on the summary lines for the state in the third quarter, 1863:

0241_1_Snip_CT

This is half the story, but let us start with these lines:

  • 1st Connecticut Light Artillery Battery: Reporting at Folly Island, South Carolina with six 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Captain Alfred P. Rockwell remained in command, with the battery still assigned to Tenth Corps, Department of the South.  The battery  supported Colonel Thomas W. Higginson’s Edisto Expedition, aimed to divert Confederate attention from Morris Island.  The 1st Connecticut lost two guns, on board tug Governor Milton when that vessel ran aground and was burned.  The guns were recovered by Confederates.  With the four remaining guns, Rockwell’s Battery went to Folly Island, where they replaced a set of Quaker Guns covering Lighthouse Inlet.  The battery received replacements for the lost cannon.  The battery history insists, “They were of the latest pattern and much praised by the comrades.”  But the battery went on reporting six James rifles into the spring of 1864.  In November, Rockwell took a brief leave and Lieutenant George Metcalf, to the dismay of the men, held temporary charge of the battery.
  • 2nd Connecticut Light Artillery Battery: Reporting from New York City with two 12-pdr field howitzers and four 3.80-inch James Rifles.  Still under Captain John W. Sterling and part of the 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, the battery was among the forces dispatched north in response to the New York Draft Riots.  Sterling’s battery supported Brigadier-General Thomas Ruger’s brigade in August.  In October, the battery returned to duty at Washington, D.C.

However, there were two other batteries we should mention here.  Batteries B and M, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery served the 2nd Volunteer Brigade, Artillery Reserve, Army of the Potomac.  Under Captains Albert F. Booker and Franklin A. Pratt, respectively, each was armed with four 4.5-inch siege rifles.  And they would haul those guns up and down central Virginia during the Bristoe Campaign.  Pratt would put his guns to good use on November 7, 1863 at Kelly’s Ford.  We can understand the omission from the summaries, as these were “heavy” batteries with “siege guns.”

Moving down to the ammunition, the two howitzers of Sterling’s battery had rounds on hand:

0243_1_Snip_CT

  • 2nd Battery: 120 shell, 160 case, and 32 canister for 12-pdr field howitzers.

It’s over on the columns for rifled projectiles we find all the activity.  First the Hotchkiss types:

0243_2_Snip_CT

  • 1st Battery: 190 shot, 50 percussion shell, 80 fuse shell, and 360 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 136 percussion shell and 240 bullet shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

There is one more Hotchkiss entry on the next page:

0244_1_Snip_CT

  • 2nd Battery: 24 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

To the right are columns for James’ patent projectiles:

  • 1st Battery: 132 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 28 shell and 56 canister for 3.80-inch rifles.

Lastly, both batteries reported Schenkl shells:

0244_2_Snip_CT

  • 1st Battery: 458(?) shell for 3.80-inch rifles.
  • 2nd Battery: 156 shell for 3.80-inch rifles.

Overall, a good quantity of rifled projectiles on hand.  Even if for the less desired James rifles.

Lastly, we have the small arms reported:

0244_3_Snip_CT

By battery:

  • 1st Battery:  Seventy-nine Navy revolvers, thirteen cavalry sabers, and forty-six horse artillery sabers.
  • 2nd Battery: Eighteen Navy revolvers and fifteen horse artillery sabers.

Summaries posted later in the war were less particular about the distinction of “light” or “heavy” duties.  So all four Connecticut batteries would appear together.  But for the third quarter of 1863, we have to pretend there are two more lines on the form.  The odd twist here was the two “heavy” batteries were serving with a field army.  All the while, the two “light” batteries, for all practical purposes, were serving garrison roles!

Soldiers’ Directory of Public Offices, Charleston, January 1864

On January 1, 1864, the Charleston Courier ran this listing of public offices on column six of the first page:

CarlestonCourier_1864_Jan_1_Vol_LXII_No_19655_pg1_Col6_MilitaryDirectoryFull

A lengthy list, but providing locations – in some cases the address – of all the important military offices, some government offices, and several hospitals.

Several years ago, when first encountering, I marked this of interest but really didn’t attach much importance.  While nice to know just where a general’s headquarters were located, in context of the Charleston campaign those are not as critical as, say, the same general’s headquarters at First Manassas or Shiloh.  After all, at Charleston, General P.G.T. Beauregard was not living out of a tent.  He had the luxury of a roof over his head, a bed, and a place to sit for breakfast.

One has to wonder why the paper would openly post such detailed information about military headquarters and offices.  Certainly this was useful information for Confederate soldiers and citizens of Charleston. But this issue of the paper was undoubtedly in Federal hands within a few days (if not the same day!).  And such detailed information about Confederate military offices was very useful to the men directing those Parrott rifles on Morris Island.

But the more I thought about those listings, the more I thought about the locations as part of the “set dressing” which the historian need consider.  The staff offices, in particular, were where Confederate Army’s business was conducted.  Knowing where those were, and importantly the physical proximity to other staff offices, gives us at least some small measure.

That said, let me take the Christmas Bombardment map from earlier posts and add to that indicators for these public offices:

ConfederateOfficesJan1864

As indicated, I’ve left the rough area of the “burnt district” and the area receiving attention of the Federal bombardments.  Yes, the Confederates kept their “business” out of the targeted area.  In fact most of the offices were clustered north of Cahloun Street and east of King Street.  In fact, I had to stack the ovals and circles so closely that many are “general” locations as opposed to specific street addresses.  So take these with that grain of salt. And by all means, if you have information that might improve the map, please drop a comment on this post.

Further, keep in mind this map is “off plumb” as I say, with the true north orientation actually not the top.  Rather we have to turn the map about thirty degrees to the left for proper orientation.

Let me crop the map for better visibility here:

ConfederateOfficesJan1864Crop

Here’s my transcription from the directory, keyed to the numbers on the map:

  1. Headquarters of General P.G.T. Beauregard, southwest corner of Meeting and John Streets.
  2. Major General Jeremy Gilmer, Deputy Commander of District, No. 12 Charlotte Street.
  3. Chief Engineer, Colonel David Harris, northwest corner Charlotte and Alexander Streets.
  4. Chief of Artillery, Colonel A.J. Gonzales, 46 Rutledge Street.  (The map location is a guesstimate on my part, going the fourth block up on that street.)
  5. Quartermaster, Major Motte A. Pringle, Chapel Street, opposite Alexander.  Near the Northeastern Railroad terminal.
  6. Provost Marshal, Captain W. J. Gayer, Northeast corner King and Hudson Streets.
  7. Ordnance, Colonel John R. Waddy, southeast corner Charlotte and Elizabeth Streets, second story.
  8. Commander, Fifth Military District, Colonel Alfred Rhett, Washington Street, near Charlotte.
  9. Chief Quartermaster, Major Hutson F. Lee, Wragg Square.
  10. Staff Engineer, Captain Francis D. Lee, Alexander Street, one door north of Charlotte.
  11. Commissary, Department of SC, GA, and FL, Major Ferdinand Molley, Railroad Office, Ann Street, north side.
  12. Post Quartermaster, Captain John Kennedy, Tax in Kind, Hudson Street, near King.
  13. Chief of Subsistence, Engineer Department, Captain J.S. Ryan, northeast corner King and Citadel Square. (Likely in the same building as the Quartermaster office, #6 above.)
  14. Quartermaster, Captain George J. Crafts, King Street, near Spring.
  15. Soldiers’ Transportation Office, King Street, near Spring.  Three blocks down from the Southern Carolina Railroad passenger terminal.
  16. Naval Station Commander, Commodore Duncan Ingraham King Street, near Calhoun, west side.
  17. Paymaster, Army Department, Charlotte Street, southeast corner from Elizabeth Street.  (Perhaps co-located with the Ordnance office, #7.)
  18.  Chief Engineer, South Carolina, Major William Echols, 472 King Street, two doors south of Post Office.
  19. Quartermaster, Major Edward Willis, Wagg Square (along with #9).
  20. Negro Labor, Chief Superintendent R.L. Singletary, Meeting Street, west side, two doors south of Ann.  (I believe that is also the office of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad, which Singletary was president)
  21. Medical Purveyor, Dr. Thomas Lining,  10 Charlotte Street, north side.
  22. Medical Director, South Carolina District, Dr. N.S. Crowell, 570 King Street, east side.
  23. Medical Examining Board, 572 King Street, east side (next to the Medical Director’s office, #22.)
  24. Medical Director, Department SC, GA, and FL, Dr. R L. Brodie, southeast corner of Meeting and John Streets.  Brodie was long associated with Beauregard, and close to the general’s headquarters.
  25. Naval Paymaster, Charlotte Street, southeast corner of Elizabeth. (My map is cluttered, and the oval for this one is placed on the street at that location.)
  26. Commissary, Fifth Military District, Captain E. A. Rabb, the Church, corner of Elizabeth and Chapel Streets.
  27. Post Office, corner of King and Ann Streets.
  28. Charleston Courier office, corner of Meeting and Reid Streets.
  29. Charleston Mercury office, King Street, east side, one door from Hudson Street.
  30. Confederate Sub-Treasury, W. Y. Leitch, corner of Meeting and Wragg Square.
  31. Telegraph office, second story, South Carolina Railroad Office, John Street, south side.
  32. Military Telegraph office, 8 Ashley Street, near the Arsenal.  (Location presented on the map is a guess on my part.)
  33. Southern Express office, Orphan House, entrance on Philip Street.
  34. Mayor’s Office, Orphan House, entrance on Calhoun Street.
  35. Quartermaster, 5th Military District, Captain S.R. Proctor (?), John Street, three doors west of Alexander.
  36. Wayside Home, W.J. Wiley, Steward, southwest corner of King and George Streets.  (Note how close to the shelled areas.)
  37. Wayside Hospital, Dr. Robert Lebby, Sr., Surgeon, King Street, opposite Cannon Street.
  38. Soldiers’ Relief Hospital, Dr. W. H. Harper, Surgeon, corner of Blake and Drake Streets.
  39. First Virginia and Roper Hospital, Dr. J.D. Burns, Surgeon, corner of Smith and Morris Streets.  (The hospital was a former lunatic asylum and often used for Federal prisoners.)
  40. First Georgia Hospital, Dr. W.H. Cummings, surgeon, corner of King and Vauderhorst Streets.
  41. First North Carolina Hospital, Dr. J.B. Baxley, surgeon, corner of Mary and America Streets.
  42. Third North Carolina Hospital, Dr. J.A. Harold, surgeon, between Elizabeth and Alexander Streets.
  43. First South Carolina Hospital, Dr. G.R.C. Todd, surgeon, Rikersville.  Off the map about four miles north of Charleston.
  44. Confederate Naval Hospital, Dr. W.F. Patton, surgeon, corner of Spring and King Streets.
  45. Negro Hospital, corner of Spring and Rutledge Streets.

Plotted on the map, there’s a new perspective to consider.  The clustering of quartermaster, commissary, and other supply related offices seems logical.  Many of them are in close proximity to the railroads, with some close between the depots and the wharves of the Cooper River.  But now it is possible to suggest the paths of correspondence around Beauregard’s staff, as well as between Beauregard’s headquarters and subordinate staffs.

Another good point to consider is the distribution of hospitals around Charleston.  If nothing else just the number of care facilities.

I am searching to see if a similar listing appeared for earlier periods in the war.  Would certainly be interesting to see if the Federal bombardment brought on the movement of offices.  As it stands, in January 1864, those offices were several blocks away from the most heavily hit sections of the city.

Lastly, let me again ask that if any reader has information that might refine the map, please drop a comment here.

(Source: Charleston Daily Courier, Friday, January 1, 1864, page 1, column 6.)

“Inexperienced persons” and unexploded shells lead to casualties in wartime Charleston

The physical effects of the Christmas Day bombardment on Charleston were not completely contained by fighting fires.  In the aftermath, as there always is, unexploded ordnance remained a problem.   And those mis-firing shells proved to be deadly “hidden gifts” for Charlestonians to deal with.  Reporting on December 28, the Charleston Courier lead:

Shocking Accidents by the Explosion of Shells. –

On Sunday [December 27] two accidents of a calamitous nature occurred from the attempts of inexperienced persons to draw the charge from unexploded shells.  Mr. Francis Gillis, a very worthy man, foreman of the South Carolina Rail Road Blacksmiths Shops, residing in Nassau street, in attempting to remove the powder from an eight inch shell, with a piece of wire, ignited the fulminating substance, when the shell exploded with a dreadful effect, taking off his left leg and left arm, crushing his thigh and severely wounding him in the head.  He lingered in great agony until evening, when he expired.

Based on census records, Gillis was a 40-year-old immigrant from France, and as the article states, he was employed as a blacksmith.   He was survived by his wife Louisa, herself of German birth.

Gillis owned a wood house at 53 Nassau Street at the time. And it is important to note, that residence was well north of Calhoun Street, and thus far away from the “targeted zone” described by Major Henry Bryan.  A fact that suggests Gillis had moved the shell before attempting the work.

And that begs the next question – why was he working on the shell?  Well, as it was reported he attempted to remove the powder charge, perhaps Gillis was preparing the shell for some display.  At the same time, him being employed as a blacksmith, perhaps he was simply salvaging iron for re-use.  Regardless, the manner of handling should immediately cause modern EOD specialists to start speaking of cautionary tales.  A wire, scraping against interior metal surfaces, was likely to create a spark.  One has to wonder why Gillis was not flushing the shell with water.  Unless he was also attempting to preserve the powder for some other purpose.

The Courier continued with discussion of the other incident occurring that day:

About one o’clock Sunday afternoon another shell exploded from a similar cause.  Two men, one named Johnson and another, name unknown, were at work upon the shell with a coal chisel and hammer.  A policeman, who was standing near by, warned them of their danger, to whom, however, they paid no attention.  The policeman had not gone far before a loud report was heard, and the shrieks of the men calling for assistance.  Johnson’s right leg was taken completely off, besides sustaining several other injuries.  His companion had his right leg and arm both badly shattered.

A carriage was procured and the two unfortunate men conveyed to a hospital. Their condition is represented as very critical.  Considering the frequency of these accidents it is surprising that more caution is not observed.

Without more identifications, it is impossible to trace just who these two men were.  Though readers are at liberties to speculate on the nature of men who would take after a live shell with a hammer and chisel.

The Charleston Mercury, also reporting on December 28, gave the location as “at the corner of Church street and St. Michael’s Alley.”   That location was right in the middle of the targeted area, and actually laying between areas where fires were reported.  So the unidentified individuals were likely attempting a direct “on the field” recovery of the shell.

The Courier concluded with instructions for anyone encountering unexploded shells:

By order of the Commanding General, any person having in their possession an unexploded shell may have the charge drawn by sending it to the Arsenal.  We trust we shall not have to chronicle any more of these distressing occurrences.

In short, the Confederate authorities offered “de-militarizing” services.  And the wording is interesting.  Authorities were not seizing or otherwise taking possession of Federal shells found in Charleston.  They were simply offering (see the use of the verb – “may have”) to render the shell inert.  We know from descriptions of hotels, train stations, and other public places, that shells and other curios from the fighting were placed on prominent display.  These, of course, were framed in patriotic manners to serve warning to visitors while also urging contributions to the war effort.  Something Confederate authorities would not wish to stop.  And, by offering up the service, Confederate authorities also allowed those at the arsenal to gather and report items of technical nature about the Federal shells.

(Charleston Daily Courier, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 1 column 3; Charleston Mercury, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 1)

“A fire, supposed to be occasioned by the enemy’s shells”: Curious reporting about the Christmas Day bombardment

In a report dated January 1, 1864, Colonel Alfred Rhett, 1st South Carolina Artillery and commander of the 5th Military District of South Carolina (basically, the city of Charleston itself, minus the harbor and coast defenses), reported:

On the morning of the 25th [of December], at 12.30 a.m., the enemy commenced to shell the city, firing briskly.  This shelling continued up to 1 p.m. of the same date, the enemy having fired 150 shells, 134 of which struck the city and 16 fell short.

Those details, as we have seen, were echoed in other official reports and the newspaper accounts of the day.  Though, for clear attribution, I believe Rhett is the primary source here, with others, be they military or civilian, simply relying on his observations.

Rhett continued:

About 1.10 a.m. a fire, supposed to be occasioned by the enemy’s shells, broke out in a building on the north side of Broad street, near Church street.  This house, together with the one adjoining, were consumed.  The sparks ignited the house at south corner of Church street and Saint Michael’s alley. This house, three adjoining, and the cotton press in Church street were consumed.  The sparks also ignited a house in Tradd street, which fire was soon suppressed.

For reference, please keep in mind the map of Charleston, with the stars indicating locations of fires:

ChristmasBombardment_Bryan_Assesment

Rhett continued with mention of the reaction to those fires:

The regular members of the fire department were rather tardy in their attendance, owing to some mistake in ringing the bell, but on their appearance rendered good service.  I immediately ordered out 200 men, First Regiment State Troops…. The fire still gaining ground, a detachment from Company A, Lucas’ battalion… were ordered out.  These men promptly appeared and rendered material aid in suppressing the fire.  The correct range was gained by one gun of the enemy, which threw several shells in proximity to the engines and the fire.

Rhett went on to praise the fire companies and military troops responding to the fire.  And he closed by listing two civilians, one fireman, and four soldiers who were wounded as result of the bombardment and fire.

At 2 p.m. that Christmas Day (about an hour after the end of the bombardment), General P.G.T. Beauregard informed General Samuel Cooper, in Richmond by telegram:

Enemy’s firing on city last night was severe.  Several houses were destroyed by fire near corner of Broad and Church streets; only 1 person wounded.

Then the next day sending an amended, corrected report:

Six houses burned by fire of yesterday and 7 persons wounded by it and enemy’s firing on city.  He threw 150 shells, of which 19 fell short.

Notice here that Rhett (on January 1) said the fires were “supposedly” caused by the Federals.  Beauregard, in his telegrams to Richmond, didn’t say specifically the fires were due to the shelling.  But given the context of that communication medium, we can read between the lines and make the assumption Beauregard was identifying the source of the fires.

In contrast to the military correspondence, the newspapers disconnected the bombardment from the fires.  On December 28 both the Charleston Mercury and the Charleston Courier ran accounts of the bombardment.  And at the same time both papers ran accounts of the fire as a separate story.

First the Mercury‘s account, appearing on a separate column, well spaced, from news about the bombardment:

Extensive fire: At an early hour on Friday morning a fire broke out in the three story brick building on Broad street, next to the store of Messrs. Klinck & Wickenberg, and owned by that firm.  The premises had been occupied by Mr. A. J. Burks as a printing office, excepting the second story, which was used as an office by J.B. Campbell, Esq.  The fire soon spread to the next house east, owned by Dr. Joseph S. Inglesby, and occupied by Mr. B. Ford, as a shoe store, and the upper story as the law office of Messrs. Brown & Porter. Both these buildings were completely destroyed.  Soon afterward a fire was discovered at the corner of Church street and St. Michael’s Alley, and the five adjacent buildings, including the Charleston Cotton Press, owned by Mr. W. H. Walker, were speedily consumed.  The German Turner’s Hall in the rear, between Church and Meeting Streets, and the kitchen and outbuildings of the old Bathing House were also burned.  The house No. 43 Tradd street, owned by Mrs. Ann M. Brown, was badly damaged in the roof by the fire.

The loss by this fire is roughly estimated at $150,000….

The Mercury went on to say that four members of the fire companies and four members of the First Regiment State Troops were injured.

The Courier ran this story on column 2 of the front page (apart from the main story of the bombardment on column 1):

Large fire: At an early hour Friday morning, fire broke out in the three story brick building North side of Broad street near Church owned by and adjoining the large grocery of Messrs Klinck & Wickenberg & Co.  The premises, with the exception of the second story, was formerly occupied by Mr. A.J. Burks as a Printing establishment.  The second story was used by J.B. Campbell and J. Nathan, Esq’s., as Law offices.  The fire communicated to the adjoining building on the East, the lower story formerly kept by B. Ford as a boot and shoe story, and the upper stories as Law offices by Messrs. Brown & Porter and others.  The premises were owned by Dr. Jos. S. Inblesby.  Those two buildings were entirely consumed.

During the progress of this fire another was discovered at the Southwest corner of Church street and St. Michael’s alley, which destroyed a range of four very old buildings, beside the Charleston Cotton Press, the kitchen and outbuildings attached to the old bathing establishment on Church street, also the building occupied by the German Turner’s Association as a Hall situated in the area between Church and Meeting Streets, belonging to Mr. J. J. McLean.

The house of Mrs. Ann M. Brown, No. 43 Tradd street, sustained some damage by the shingles igniting and burning the roof.

The residence of Mr. A.J. Burks, No. 39 Tradd street, also took fire several times, but was extinguished without material damage.

A house on the North side of Tradd street, near Meeting, was also on fire, but was extinguished with trifling damage.

Perhaps the Courier‘s reporters were more diligent in their work?  Still we see the main details from the two newspaper accounts match, for the most part, with that of Rhett.  Particularly in regard to places and the major fires.  The minor fires, reported by the Courier, were certainly something a military observer would dismiss as unimportant.

The firm of Klinck & Wickenberg seem to have suffered the most loss in the fire – that of a three story building.  And I would be remiss if not mentioning that firm provided supplies to the Confederate army throughout the war.  As evidenced by this receipt:

Fold3_Page_23

Brandy, whiskey, sherry, and port wine?  No wonder the place caught fire so easily!

And I’m sure those were “medical supplies”… right.

All kidding aside, Klinck, Wickenberg & Co. also provided supplies purchased specifically for production of torpedoes.  Thus, if all the cards were laid face up on the table, I’m certain Major-General Quincy Gilmore would call it a legitimate target of war.

The main point I’d make here is that neither paper stated, as a fact, the fires were the result of Federal shells.  Both simply indicated the fires broke out.  No preface of “while the Yankees were shelling” or the like.  And I find that interesting.

However, there is a situational context.  Consider that anything printed in Charleston would end up across the picket lines in a few days, as part of the normal exchanges between soldiers.  So the newspapers, and Confederate authorities, had to be aware these stories provided valuable intelligence to the enemy.  That said, might the disassociation of the fires from the shelling be the result of “operational security” measures? As the Federals were using special incendiary shells, should the fires be directly linked to the bombardment that would impart a measure of conformation to pondering minds on Morris Island.

Before we go too far with that, I’d mention that just days later the newspapers ran a full listing of all important offices in Charleston.  That listing included addresses of General P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters along with most of his staff.  And with that, we might well dismiss any worry on the part of Confederate authorities that valuable information was disclosed in the newspapers!

Still an interesting play here with the manner of reporting.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 684-5 and Serial 47, pages 580-1; Charleston Daily Courier, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 1 column 4; Charleston Mercury, Monday, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 2)

“The whole result has so far been utterly inadequate” : Assessing the bombardment of Charleston

The timing and weight of the Christmas Day bombardment caught Confederate authorities in Charleston off guard.  The city had been “under the guns” since the previous summer.  Though after the Swamp Angel initiated the bombardment, the number of Federal shots aimed at Charleston were small in number and little more than an annoyance.  Timed with the end of the Second Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter, December saw an up-tick in the frequency, and weight, of Federal fires into the city.  As mentioned before, this shift of emphasis on Charleston had much to do with the failure to achieve the objective of completely reducing Fort Sumter.  To some degree, yes, to assuage the sting of failure.  But as the weeks progressed into the new year, the shells hurled at Charleston were demonstrations and distractions to mask Federal movements toward Florida.

All told, Confederate observers counted 283 Federal shots reaching the city in December, the most of which (134) were grotesque Christmas Day presents.  The weight and temp increased through January, with 990 reaching the city.  And sustained through February, when Confederates tailed 964 shots into Charleston.  This bombardment would continue through the remainder of winter and into spring.  Federals maintained such pressure on Charleston through the summer.  By the fall of 1864, one might have set a watch based on the timing of Federal fires.  So this was not a temporary problem for the Confederates.

How does the military handle a problem?  Well, the officers in charge order an assessment.  The “stuckee” for that assessment was Major Henry Bryan, Assistant Inspector-General on General P.G.T. Beauregard’s staff.  On January 6, 1864, Bryan completed his report, covering the bombardments of the city up to that date.  As cited in the earlier post, Bryan first drew attention the impact on civilians and destruction of private property.  In aggregate, the cumulative damage (again from August to December) was:

The general result has been the injury of a large number of dwellings and stores, and many banks, public halls, churches, &c., by the percussion and explosion of the shells thrown; the burning of six buildings and a cotton press December 25, 1863, by a fire originating from the explosion of a shell, and the destruction of some medical stores, August 21,1863, by a shell bursting in the medical purveyor’s office and setting fire to it. It has further caused considerable social distress by obliging thousands of persons in the lower part of the city, in order to avoid danger, to leave their homes and close their hotels, and seek refuge in the upper portion of the city or in the interior of the State. This will expose valuable property to theft, and to injury from the elements.

Further down in the report, Bryan provided details of this damage:

The immediate damage from the shells cannot be considered large in proportion to the area within the enemy’s range. From Saint Michael’s steeple, which commands a full view, there is but a small appearance of destruction visible. By a rough inspection of the city yesterday with an intelligent local editor, who had already been taking accounts of the effects of the shelling, I learned that 126 buildings (including kitchens) had been struck by shells, about 85 being much injured and 41 only slightly. I presume that three-fourths of the houses struck can be repaired without pulling down any main wall; but a portion have rafters, joists, or corners very badly shattered–the South Carolina Hall (near Saint Michael’s Church), for instance, having been struck three times through the roof.

Keep in mind the area in view as also savaged by fires in December 1861.  (There is a well prepared map of that area on Low Country Walking Tour’s website.  Also, a good account from the Post and Courier, for further reading.  Point being, we have to consider other events in context here, particularly when reviewing photos from 1865.)

But how much did this shelling impact military operations?

The effect upon military operations here has been comparatively unimportant, and has occasioned no loss of matériel, excepting the medical stores, worth about $1,500. As a matter of prudence, all military headquarters, offices, and hospitals have been moved out of range to the upper portions of the city, the signal corps remaining at its post, which is out of the line of fire. As equally good buildings have been found in the upper part of the city for these offices, hospitals, &c., their removal cannot be considered an injury to the army. The movements of harbor transportation have been much inconvenienced, but not practically impeded by this bombardment.

So in Bryan’s analysis, the impact was inconsequential.  And keep in mind the Federal justification for calling downtown Charleston a legitimate target was based on the activities, which in this case Bryan was saying were least impacted.

In terms of casualties, Bryan noted those were few, but almost always civilian:

Five deaths have resulted from the bombardment, viz, Mrs. Hawthorne, No. 70 Church street, wounded by shell in right side, and died six weeks after; Miss Plane, corner Meeting and Market, left foot crushed by shell, and died in six days; Mr. William Knighton, corner Meeting and Market, right leg taken off, and died in four days; Mr. John Doscher, of German Fire Company, wounded at fire of December 25, and since died; Rebecca, slave of Mr. Lindsay, No. 5 Beaufain street, killed instantly by shell. At the fire of December 25, there were 1 fireman, 1 policeman, and 4 soldiers slightly wounded.

To this I will add a couple of civilian causalities due to mishandling of unexploded ordinance…. a fine story deserving full treatment in a follow up post.

In terms of the number of shots fired, Bryan noted that from August 21, 1863 to January 5, 1864, a total of 472 shots were fired at the city.  Setting aside 27 from the Swamp Angel in August and a handful in October, Bryan considered, “The regular bombardment may be said to have begun on November 17.”  Of the 472 shots fired, 28 were observed as “falling short.”  Of the remaining 444, Bryan could only account for 225:

  • Shells striking houses: 145
  • Shells striking yards: 19
  • Shells striking streets or in burned district (from the 1861 fire): 61

Just in the raw numbers, 127 houses “somewhat confirmed” were hit by 145 “known” shells.  Though keep in mind that Bryan admitted to gaps in the analysis. “There were certainly a considerable number which had struck in the burned district, and probably in deserted yards, of which I could get no account.”  This is where Lieutenant George Walker’s map, referenced by Bryan, would be of great help reconstructing what was known at the time.

Of course shells have a nasty habit of not performing as designed or intended.  Bryan cited observers who claimed 39% of the shells did not explode.  Not an insignificant number.  In part, that factors into Confederate evaluations – less explosions mean less damage.  But this also meant a lot of potential damage lay sitting and waiting in the rubble.

Bryan described the area most frequently struck (again mentioning Walker’s map):

It is nearly bounded north by Market street from East Bay to Meeting, down Meeting to Horlbeck’s alley, and along Horlbeck’s alley to King street; west by King street from Horlbeck’s alley to Tradd street; south by Tradd street from corner of King to Church street; down Church street to Longitude lane, and along that lane to East Bay, and east by East Bay street. Mr. [T. S.] Hale, the observer at Saint Michael’s, reports that “the enemy’s principal line of fire upon the city has been Saint Michael’s Church steeple, radiating to the northeastward as far as Saint Philip’s Church,” and generally limited westwardly in its range to Archdale street. “Since January 1 the enemy appears to have made Saint Philip’s Church steeple their line of fire, hence the shells striking higher up in the city.”

Again, I don’t know that Walker’s map has survived.  In lieu of that, allow me to offer this substitute:

ChristmasBombardment_Bryan_Assesment

Adapted from the 1855 Coleton’s map of Charleston, I’ve shaded, approximately, the “Burnt District” in dark grey.  The area cited by Bryan as “Frequently Struck” is in red.  And the location of reported Christmas Day fires is marked by yellow stars.  Note the call out to Saint Michael’s Church, which Confederates figured was the “aiming point” for the Federal gunners.

We might, from Bryan’s statements and the location of those fires, conclude the Federal shells fell mostly in the blocks bound by King, Queen, East Bay, and Tradd Streets.  From a technical standpoint, that’s a rather close shot disbursement, given the practice and equipment of the time.   Within that “Frequently Struck” area, only the relatively new battery with the large Blakely Gun was at risk.

And speaking of equipment, Bryan noted the Federals had shifted to 100-pdr Parrotts for this duty by the time of the Christmas bombardments.  Later the Federals would employ lighter caliber Parrotts and even Wiard guns on occasion.

In Bryan’s overall assessment, he drew this conclusion,

The whole result has so far been utterly inadequate to the labors and the boasts of the besieging forces.  That they should attempt to intimidate the people of Charleston into a surrender of their city is not to be wondered at; but having plainly seen that the destruction of property did not shake their determination, it is difficult to imagine what usage of civilization would justify them in continuing it.

Such reminds me of statements made in regard to bombing offensives during World War II.  And that in mind, I also find Bryan’s closing remark rings with some familiarity along those lines:

People are occasionally found living in the lower part of the city apparently indifferent to the danger of the enemy’s fire.

Londoners of 1940 might sympathize:

24-aldwych-underground-station-london-during-the-blitz-oct-8-1940-01october-8-1940-01

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46. pages 682-4.)