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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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

The Christmas Bombardment of Charleston

The Christmas of 1863 will long be remembered by those who passed the day in the City of Charleston….” said the writer at the Charleston Mercury.  Reporting on the Christmas Morning bombardment of the city, the Mercury reporter detailed:

For hours before the eastern sky was streaked with the first grey tints of morning, the cold night air was rent by other sounds than the joyous peals from the belfry and the exploding crackers of exhilarated boys.

At one o’clock, a.m., the enemy opened fire upon the city.  Fast and furiously were the shells rained upon the city from five guns – three at Battery Gregg, one at Cummings’ Point, and one at the Mortar Battery.  The shelling was more severe than upon any former occasion, the enemy generally throwing from three to five shells almost simultaneously.  Our batteries promptly and vigorously replied to the fire, but without their usual effect in checking the bombardment, which was steadily maintained by the Yankees during the remainder of the night and all the following morning, until about half-past twelve o’clock.  Up to that hour no less than 134 shells had been hurled against the city. – There was no more firing until about five o’clock in the afternoon, when one more shell was fired.  On Sunday [December 27] morning about three o’clock, four shells were thrown in quick succession.  There had been no further firing up to a late hour last night.

Remarkably, the Mercury and the Charleston Daily Courier declined to portray the bombardment in sensational… or dare I say horrific, terror-stricken… terms.  While a detestable disturbance on a day designated for peaceful reflection, there was no outright condemnation.  Perhaps that was due to the Confederate ambush of the USS Marblehead occurring the same “peaceful” morning.  Neither side designed a peaceful Christmas that year.

From the Federal side, the regimental history of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery looked back at the episode years later:

Dec. 24. “Twas the night before Christmas,” but all in the house was stirring as lively as a cat for a mouse.  We were hurling shell and our Yankee sort of Greek fire into the city of Charleston.  We sent a shell every five minutes from our 200-pounder Parrotts in Fort Chatfield.  This music kept up an animated dance among the rebels, and they answered us to the best of their ability. About midnight we could see three fires in the city; two of them quite close together, and within the range of our pieces.  We inferred, what we afterwards learned, that our shells had occasioned the conflagration, at least in part, and the Charlestonians had a sever task in subduing the flames.  This loss to the city was a very heavy one.

The Confederate military records don’t record the caliber of projectiles fired at Charleston.  But those records do offer a good tally of the shots fired.  Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the 5th Military District, including Charleston, reported 150 shots fired at the city on Christmas Day.  134 of those reached the city.  And 16 fell short.  There is no indication how many or what percentage of those landing in the city were duds.  Other Confederate authorities placed the number of shells failing to explode between 40% and 50%.   Given the number of unexploded shells found in Charleston in the 150 years since the war, those estimates were probably not far off.

Charleston 4 May 10 115

The shell in the photo above was found on Broad Street in Charleston.  The street seemed to be in the “beaten zone” where a majority of Federal projectiles landed.

Charleston was on the receiving end of Federal artillery fire starting the previous August.  After the Swamp Angel burst, Federal fired occasional shots into Charleston through September and October.  More so to test ranges than for any specific objective.  In November a total of 77 shots reached the city, with another ten falling short according to Confederate observers.  Those were spread out between November 16 and 27, with no more than twenty in any one given day.

But in December, the Federals increased the firing on Charleston, with activity almost every day:

  • December 1: 8 shots.
  • December 2: 19 shots.
  • December 3: 32 shots.
  • December 5: 8 shots.
  • December 8: 6 shots.
  • December 11: 8 shots.
  • December 12: 4 shots.
  • December 14: 7 shots.
  • December 15: 10 shots.
  • December 16: 1 shot (with one more missing).
  • December 20: 20 shots reaching and 11 falling short.

Certainly the Federals had found the range.  Keep in context this attention on Charleston came as the Second Major Bombardment came to a close.

Major Henry Bryan, Assistant Inspector-General on General P.G.T. Beauregard’s staff, completed a detailed examination of all bombardments of Charleston through the end of 1863, submitting his findings on January 6, 1864.  In that report, Bryan noted the Christmas Day bombardment was responsible for, “the burning of six buildings and a cotton press…, by a fire originating from the explosion of a shell, and the destruction of some medical stores….”  Bryan added, referring generally to all bombardments of the city up to that time, “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 the interior of the state.”   And those abandoned properties were exposed to vandalism and theft.

Lieutenant George Walker, Confederate Engineers, assisted Bryan in the report and produced a map showing where each shell had landed in Charleston, “designated roughly by specks of red paint the locality where each shell fell, the extreme points where shells struck being connected by straight red-ink lines.”  Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a copy of that map in any archives or other collections.  If it is out there, I’d love to examine those “specks of red paint.”  However, even without seeing Walker’s map, we can surmise the captain’s work was good, given the level of detail and precision of Bryan’s reporting.

There are several threads to follow in regard to the bombardment of Charleston.  First off, Bryan’s report deserves a close look.  And I intend to give it due space in follow up blog posts.

Another thread to follow is how the effects of these bombardments were reported in Confederate papers.  In correspondence to authorities in Richmond, Beauregard clearly reports fires, damage, and causalities due to Federal bombardments.  Though he shrugs them off.  To the public, however, the newspapers arranged the news to keep the Federal bombardment separate from the fires caused.  Censorship?  Perhaps, as the Federals were seeking out Charleston papers for intelligence.  Spin control?  Very likely….

We should also consider how these bombardments, including Christmas Day, were justified and accepted from the military side.  Beauregard wasted no time protesting the bombardments.  And Gillmore rested his actions on justifications agreed upon in earlier correspondence.  It seems both sides agreed, mutually, that Charleston was a fair target.  After the fact, 150 years later, many will cry the bombardment broke the rules of war… and might even level allegations of war crimes.  But at the time, such talk was not in the air.  How did that come about?  It’s a long line of logic, deserving fuller discussion.

Lastly, as this is “To the Sound of the Guns” and we talk about what wonderful things artillery can do on the battlefield, we should also discuss how these Parrott rifles were able to fire on targets 8000 to 9000 yards distant.

So more to follow.

(Citations from Charleston Mercury, December 28, 1863, page 2 column 1; Frederic Denison, Shot and Shell: The Third Rhode Island Heavy Artillery Regiment in the Rebellion, 1861-1865, Providence, R.I.: Third Rhode Island Artillery Veterans Association, 1879, pages 206-7;  and OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 682-3.)

Christmas Eve, 1863, and Charleston was quiet… relatively

On the day before Christmas, 1863, the Charleston Daily Courier lead with their customary account of fighting around the city:

Siege of Charleston

One-hundred and sixty-eight day.

There was no firing from the enemy during Tuesday night or Wednesday.  The quiet of Fort Sumter remained undisturbed.  The enemy were hard at work making some changes on Battery Gregg, the nature of which has not transpired.  Fort Moultrie directed a brisk fire at the working parties which was renewed at intervals through the day.

The firing heard so plainly in the city Wednesday morning and which some believed to be the enemy shelling the city, was from one of our gunboats practicing up Cooper river.  The fleet remained in its usual position, not firing a gun.

So nothing was stirring, not even an ironclad?  As frame of reference, this was posted in the December 24 paper, reaching the streets on a Thursday morning.  All through the day the newspaper men at the Courier and their rival, the Charleston Mercury, prepared a Christimas edition, that would go out Friday morning.  Both papers posted notices they would be closed on Friday, thus making it a long weekend.  So subscribers would not expect to see newspapers until Monday morning, December 28.

The Christmas Day edition of the Courier, arriving that Friday morning, featured an opinion piece on the importance of the holiday:


The Christian world celebrates to-day, the anniversary of the advent of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of Man.  It is the oldest as well as the most important of all the Church festivals.  …

Well into the piece, a somber warning which might be served even in our own times:

There are many children of larger growth, woe, lost to the higher significance of this ancient feast, pervert it to fleshly delights, and derive their happiness in its avent from social reunions, good cheer, and the manful ports and games that have come down from the far distant past.  Too large a number of those who keep the day by generous fare and noisy mirth desecrate it by excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures, and forgetting the nature of the occasion and the obligations it enjoins, burden their stomachs with food, and drink deep of the Wassail Bowl.  How often is the injurious gluttony and indiscreet revelry of the half barbarous days of the Boar’s Head practice at the board in the present day, when through the blessing of Heaven is implored upon the meat and drink, the Giver is altogether forgotten and lost to all sense of gratitude, propriety and dignity, blasphemy, obscenity and drunkenness mark the wild carousal.

There you have it… a War on Christmas… in 1863.

But the piece turned from there to a frank assessment of the situation and the real war occurring right outside the city:

The Christmas of 1863 brings no gifts for the boys and girls. The sounds of battle have frightened away from our bleeding Southern land the bearer of painted toys, and candies and plums, and their parents and elders will have to be content with the wholesome food of simple quality, seeing that hams and turkeys, mince pies and plum puddings are things the contest we are engaged in compels them to do without. Many will dine on the scanty fare of every day.  Many will celebrate it afar from their homes, and the memory of the manner in which they have passed this day for a long series of years will aggravate their present ills and add grief to their sorrow.  Of those not a few have been driven from their homes by the ruthless enemy, who has burned their homesteads, took their slaves, and desolated their plantations [Emphasis mine]– How many mourn the untimely death of noble sons and husbands, and brothers, at the hands of the cruel invader, and how many thousands will hardly be aware that it is Christmas, for they will have to endure the same privations and hardships, and neither the food they eat nor the weapons they carry will remind them that the day they used to look forward to with such impatient desire, has once more dawned upon our earth.  The golden light of this morning will stream through the windows of many a home, but those generous rays will not dispel the darkness that enshrouds the hearts of the inmates. The light of those homes has been extinguished.  The beloved of their hearts, their joy and pride, lie sleeping in their gory garments on the field of carnage, where they fell with their faces to the foe. …

But, as with any stern sermon, the writer closed by encouraging the reader to be emboldened by faith:

Let us all keep this day in a penitent, thankful, truthful, reverent spirit, not forgetting the claims of the poor, and especially meeting the obligations we are under to our soldiers and their families, and praying with all fervor and faith that God would vouchsafe His blessing on our cause, and grant us speedy and honorable and enduring peace.

Below this, the Courier ran a notice that the Wayside Home would offer Christmas Dinner to all soldiers, “with or without furloughs or passes” from noon to three that afternoon, free of charge.  With the same notice, the Mercury urged donations to the Wayside Home as to replace items recently lost when a blockade runner came to grief.

On other columns that day, the Mercury lauded a seasonal serenade by the Eutaw Band, formerly the Charleston Brass Band, and now part of the 25th South Carolina Infantry.   The state of Georgia, as reported by the Mercury, was only $15 million in debt despite war situation, but had $9 million in public property to back that. Besides, it was reported the taxable property amounted to almost $800 million.  So the bills, from the war, could be met… at least those measured in dollar figures. However, the Mercury gave a less favorable estimate for the Federals that Christmas:

Expensive undertakings. – The New York Daily News, of the 16th instant, in an editorial says that powder, ball and shell alone, which have been used in the attempt to take Charleston, cost the United States Government seven millions of dollars, and the whole cost of the various expeditions fitted out against the city has amounted to upward of thirty millions of dollars.  The cost will probably be doubled, adds the News, and the undertaking will be abandoned.

It further adds, that enough has been expended in attempts to take Richmond to build half a dozen cities of the size, and almost as many lives lost as would populate the whole of them.

Thus, for those Charlestonians making the best of Christmas, there was a ray of hope, sought for in the Courier‘s message.  While Southern states might scrape up the financial reserves to see through the war, the Yankees were about to cave in…. at least that’s how it looked from the hopeful writers in Charleston.

As for the news around Charleston on Christmas Day, the Courier would lead with more reports indicating firing on Federal work parties.  Sumarizing, “… no particular movements of the enemy on Morris Island….” and “The fleet maintained the usual position.”  The number of Federal blockaders inside the Charleston bar was twenty-eight (including four monitors and the USS New Ironsides), supported by an equal number in Lighthouse Inlet and four blockaders outside the bar.

But one additional sentence, seemingly a late inclusion, placed an ominous pale on Christmas Day:

The enemy opened on the city between twelve and one o’clock.  Our batteries replied as usual, with spirit.

Confederate officers place the start of this bombardment at 12:30 AM Christmas morning.  And that shelling continued through the day until 1 PM.  All told, 134 shots reached the city that day, with another sixteen falling short.  Occurring the same morning, a large fire broke out in Charleston resulting in the loss of $150,000 in property and several injuries to firefighters.

And while Charleston was receiving the bombardment and fighting a fire, over on the Stono River Confederates staged an ambush of the USS Marblehead.  Thus neither side was interested in Christmas Day truces.  On Monday, December 28, the Mercury would begin their report of these activities, “The Christmas of 1863 will long be remembered by those who passed the day in the City of Charleston….”

[While I’ve detailed the ambush of the Marblehead in earlier posts, I’ve only given the bombardment and fire passing mention.  I shall resolve that shortcoming in a post to follow.]

(Citation from Charleston Daily Courier, Thursday, December 24, 1863, page 1, column 1 and Friday, December 25, 1863, page 1 columns 1-3; Charleston Mercury, Friday, December 25, 1863, page 2, column 1, and December 28, 1863, page 2 column 1.)

Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery

Readers will be familiar with the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery due to their service along the South Carolina coast.  Hardly a month passes without mention of that unit here on this blog.  Though the main story-line in the 3rd’s service was operations against Charleston, batteries from the regiment served at times in Florida and Virginia.  And their service often defied the label of “heavy” artillery, as often the gunners served in the field as field artillery proper.

A bit of background on this regiment is in order.  The 3rd Rhode Island Volunteers first mustered as an infantry formation in August 1861.  As they prepared for their first major operation, as part of Brigadier-General Thomas W. Sherman’s expedition to Port Royal, they camped at Fort Hamilton, New York.  While there, under orders from Sherman, the regiment drilled on both heavy and light artillery.  By the time the regiment arrived at Hilton Head, it was for all practical purposes an artillery regiment.  Though the formal change did not occur until December of that year.

Over the months that followed, the 3rd Rhode Island served by batteries and detachments as garrison artillery, field artillery, infantry, and even ship’s complement as needs of the particular moment called.  In the winter of 1863, Battery C was designated a light battery in light of its habitual service.  We’ve seen that reflected in returns from the fourth quarter, 1862 and first quarter, 1863. However, the battery seemed to change armament with each quarter.  I believe this reflects more the “ad hoc” nature of tasking in the theater at that time.  For the second quarter, 1863, we find the guns reported on hand again changed:


At the end of June, Battery C had just returned from the raid on Darien, Georgia.  They were at Hilton Head on June 30, preparing for transit to Folly Island.  So this tally of two 12-pdr field howitzers may reflect a status as of January 1864, when the return was received in Washington.

This brief line, along with “clerical” lines for Batteries A and B, brings up a couple of facets to the summaries as they relate to the “real” operational situations.  First off, we know, based on official records and other accounts, not to mention photographs, the 3rd Rhode Island had more than just a couple of howitzers.  We must also consider the property management within the military and how that was reflected in the reports. The military in general tends to be very anal about tracking property.  For any given item, someone, somewhere is on the hook as the “owner” of said item.  Doesn’t matter if that item is a belt buckle or a cannon.  The “owner” might be a specific unit or could be a facility.  So, in the Civil War and specific to the context of this discussion, that “owner” could be a battery in the 3rd Rhode Island… or it could be the garrison commander at Hilton Head.  However, we rarely, if ever, see those garrison commands reflected in the summaries.  A significant blank that we cannot resolve with satisfaction.

What we can do, in the case of the 3rd Rhode Island, is use primary and secondary sources to provide a glimpse into that blank.  Let’s consider the 3rd Rhode Island by battery at this point in time of the war.  Recall, the 3rd and other units were, at the end of June, preparing for an assault from Folly Island onto Morris Island. Colonel Edwin Metcalf was in command of the regiment, with his headquarters on Hilton Head:

  • Battery A:  On Port Royal Island, under command of Lieutenant Edward F. Curtis (in absence of Captain William H. Hammer), serving as garrison artillery.
  • Battery B:  On Folly Island under Captain Albert E. Greene, having moved from Hilton Head at the end of June.  The battery manned six 10-inch siege mortars.
  • Battery C: Transferring from St. Helena Island to Hilton Head, and thence to Folly Island in the first week of July.  Commanded by Captain Charles R. Brayton.  The battery would man two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles and four 30-pdr Parrotts (along with a detachment from Battery C, 1st US Artillery).  Likely the reported howitzers were in reserve.
  • Battery D: Part of the original garrison sent to Folly Island in April.  Under the command of Captain Robert G. Shaw and manning eight 30-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery E: On Hilton Head, serving as garrison artillery under Captain Peter J. Turner (who was serving as a staff officer, thus one of his lieutenants was in temporary command).
  • Battery F: On Hilton Head, serving as garrison artillery under Captain David B. Churchill.
  • Battery G: Stationed at Fort Pulaski and under Captain John H. Gould.
  • Battery H: On Hilton Head, serving as garrison artillery under Captain Augustus W. Colwell.  Would deploy to Morris Island in July.
  • Battery I:  On Folly Island under Captain Charles G. Strahan.  The battery manned four 20-pdr Parrotts.
  • Battery K: On Hilton Head, serving as garrison artillery under Lieutenant Horatio N. Perry.
  • Battery L: On Hilton Head, serving as garrison artillery under Captain Jeremiah Lanhan.
  • Battery M:  Part of the force on Folly island, under Captain Joseph J. Comstock.  They manned four 10-inch siege mortars and five 8-inch siege mortars.

Thus we see the 3rd Rhode Island was spread between garrison duties and advanced batteries preparing for a major offensive from Folly Island.  Those on the north end of Folly Island, overlooking Light House Creek, were armed with a variety of field guns, heavy Parrotts, and mortars.  Only the former category would have been covered by the summaries, as they existed in June 1863.  And what we have to work with is, based on official reports at the time, inaccurate.

But that’s what we must work with!  Turning to the smoothbore ammunition:


  • Battery C: 156 shell, 214 case, and 132 canister for 12-pdr field howitzer.

One might think no rifled projectiles would be on hand… but perhaps related to the two 3-inch rifles reported on Folly Island and manned by Battery C, we find some Hotchkiss projectiles on hand:



  • Battery C: 48 canister and 108 bullet shell for 3-inch rifles.

No ammunition reported on the next page, of Dyer’s, James, or Parrott patents:


But some Schenkl on hand:


  • Battery C: 100 shell for 3-inch rifles.

As for small arms:


  • Battery C: Forty-eight Army revolvers and 102 cavalry sabers.

I suspect, given the varied nature of the 3rd Rhode Island’s duties, the other batteries had a large number of small arms on hand also.  But because of the selective record, we don’t have the details.

Just to say we discussed ALL the Rhode Island artillery, let me mention two other heavy artillery regiments.  The 5th Rhode Island Infantry was reorganized as the 5th Rhode Island Heavy Artillery on May 27, 1863.  Stationed at New Berne, North Carolina, Colonel George W. Tew commanded the reorganized regiment.

Though not organized, we can trace the story of another heavy artillery regiment back to June 1863.  In response to the emergency developing in Pennsylvania, the governor of Rhode Island authorized Colonel Nelson Viall (formerly of the 1st Rhode Island Infantry) to form a six-month regiment.  Designated the 13th Rhode Island, recruitment was slow due to the war situation, small bounties, and the draft.  By July, the War Department decided no more six-month regiments would be accepted and insisted on a three-year enlistment standard.  With that, the 13th was disbanded and in its place the 14th Rhode Island was authorized.  That formation, which began organization in August, was a US Colored Troops Regiment of heavy artillery.