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.)

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“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 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.)

“A minor bombardment, the eighth and last of all”: More shells against Fort Sumter

Writing after the war, Captain John Johnson, Confederate engineer and historian, wrote this of the bombardment of Fort Sumter in September 1864:

The bombardment which had begun on the 7th of July, and continued with varying intensity, but without any real intermission, day and night through July, August, and the first week in September, is recorded as having lasted sixty days.  A minor bombardment, the eighth and last of all, ensued for a week longer…. It can, therefore, be truly said that the military interest of the Confederate defense of Fort Sumter came to its end with the close of this third grand bombardment.  No firing upon the fort but such as may be termed desultory occurred after September, 1864.

Before discussing the reasons Federals shifted attention away from Fort Sumter, let us consider the nature of this Eighth Minor Bombardment.  Captain Thomas A. Huguenin, commanding the fort, reported some 35 shells fired at the fort on the night of September 3-4.  After that no shells came at the fort until the night of September 6-7.   So a two day “pause” before resumption of fires.  In the morning of September 7, Huguenin reported, “Twenty-eight Parrott shells fired at fort last night, 7 missed.”  From there until the 22nd, he tallied the Federal fires:

  • Night of September 7-8 – 28 Parrott shells fired, 8 missed.
  • September 8 (day) – 25 Parrott shells fired, 8 missed.
  • September 11 – 140 Parrott shells fired, 28 missed.
  • September 16 – 36 Parrott shells and one mortar shell fired at the fort. Seven Parrott shells missed.
  • September 17 – 44 shots fired, 18 missed.
  • September 19 – 15 shots (from the Marsh Battery), all missed.
  • September 20 – 13 shots (again from the Marsh Battery), one hit.
  • September 21 – 70 shots fired, 15 missed.
  • September 22 – 15 Parrott shells fired, 9 missed.

During this period, Huguenin reported one private wounded, two negroes killed, and three negroes wounded – all on September 16.  We see again the heaviest loss among the garrison was to those laboring to repair the fort, and not among the soldiers defending it.  Statistically, this “minor bombardment” seemed loosely defined.  Assuming Huguenin’s reports were complete (and none were misplaced along the way), there were several pauses during September.

But, broadening the focus, there was a lot more big gun activity around Charleston harbor which was not focused narrowly at Fort Sumter.  Sullivan’s Island was an occasional target of Federal fires.  On September 6, Colonel Alfred Rhett, commanding the batteries there, reported 15 shots fired at Fort Moultrie. The Federals fired another ten on September 8.  Then on September 9, the Federals fired 127 shots at Sullivan’s Island, which elicited 51 shots in return from the Confederate batteries.

On the other side of the harbor, at Fort Johnson, Colonel John Black reported firing “Twenty-eight mortar and 24 columbiad shells” at the Marsh Battery on September 10.  In return the Federals fired 45 Parrott shells and six mortars at Battery Simkins and Fort Johnson that day.  September 11 also saw heavy firing in that sector with 28 Federal shots incoming and 32 Confederate shots outgoing.  The shots exchanged between Morris Island and James Island batteries continued through the month, but began to slacken.

So while the Federal fires did slacken all around, the “pauses” in fires at Fort Sumter were in part due to emphasis placed on other points around Charleston harbor.  Subjectively, I would re-assess the “Eighth Minor Bombardment” of Fort Sumter as more of a general engagement around Charleston.

(Sources – OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, pages 241-3, 252-3, and 256-7; John Johnson, The Defense of Charleston Harbor: Including Fort Sumter and the Adjacent Islands, 1863-1865, Walker, Evans & Cogswell Company, 1890, page 235.)

‘Twas the night before Chiristmas and shells were flying at Charleston

” ‘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 severe task in subduing the flames.  This loss to the city was a very heavy one.

That report is from the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery’s diarist.

According to Confederate journals, the Federals waited to open fire until 1 a.m. on Christmas morning.  One of those early shells started a fire in Charleston:

Captain [T.S.] Hale remained at his post of observation (Saint Michael’s steeple) during the entire bombardment, and recorded each shot.  He reports that the second shell thrown into the city struck and set fire a building on Broad near Church street; that he called to the police at the guard-house, directing their attention to the matter (the watchman in the belfry had left when the first shell struck the city); that the alarm was not given for twenty minutes, and the first engine did not arrive on the ground until an hour after the alarm.  In the meantime the flames had spread to other buildings, and before they were extinguished several houses were destroyed.

Hale believed that prompt response might have contained the fires.  However, in addition to the Federal shells, Hale claimed to have seen “a man with a torch, who set fire to a building known as Turner’s Hall.”  Troops from Colonel Alfred Rhett’s Fifth Military District worked alongside the firefighters to bring the blaze under control.

Within a few hours, the Federal guns in Fort Putnam joined in.  The Confederates opened counter-battery fires against the bombardment.   “Batteries Simkins, Cheves, Rutledge, Moultrie, Marion, and the Brooke gun battery opened on Cumming’s Point with vigor, but did not, as usual, succeed in checking the fire of the enemy.”  The firing from both sides continued for over twelve hours, ending in the early afternoon.  As the sun set on Christmas Day, the Federals on Morris Island lowered their flags for the night.  Instead of the normal ceremonial salute, the heavy Parrotts fired one more barrage into Charleston.

All told, the Confederate observers recorded 134 shells landing in the city and sixteen falling sort or wide.  In response, Battery Simkins fired 111 shots of all types; Battery Cheves fired 40 shells; Battery Rutledge added 58 shells; guns in Fort Moultrie fired 49 times; Battery Marion fired 48 times; and gunners in the Brooke Gun Battery fired 39 times.    So against a total of 150 Federal shots at Charleston, the Confederates returned 345 that day.  And the totals do not count for the Federal counter-counter-battery fire against Confederates on James and Sullivan’s Islands.

On the day after Christmas, General P.G.T. Beauregard reported, in a message to authorities in Richmond, “Six houses burned by fire of yesterday and 7 persons wounded by it and enemy’s firing on the city.”  Yes Christmas Day passed with much noise around Charleston in 1863.  And not all of it was from the harbor.  The Confederates initiated their activities on the Stono River around daylight that Christmas morning.

(Citations from 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, page 206-7;  OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 184-5; Part II, Serial 47, page 581.)

The Military Districts of South Carolina

Call this a resource post – the boring administrative details behind the other stories and threads.  For the Federals operating in the Department of the South, organization is relatively straight forward.  Both the Army and the Navy forces operated, generally speaking, across the same set of boundaries.  A close relation exists for the main elements of the Tenth Corps and South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  While divisions operated in front of Charleston, supported by major fleet elements, brigades garrisoned other locations supported by gunboats.

General P.G.T. Beauregard’s Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida matched that of the Federal department, for the most part, in terms of geography. But let’s just say the organization of Confederate forces in the department continually required adjustment.  Particularly within South Carolina.  In April 1863, when the ironclads first attacked Fort Sumter, Beauregard had three military districts within South Carolina:

  • First Military District under Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley covering from the Stono River, at Rantowles Creek, north to North Carolina.
  • Second Military District under Brigadier-General Johnson Hagood, with the land between the Stono and Ashepoo River under charge.
  • Third Military District under Brigadier-General W.S. Walker with everything between the Ashepoo and Savannah Rivers.

Earlier in February, Beauregard consolidated the Fourth Military District, which had covered the coast between the Santee River and North Carolina, including the small port of Georgetown, into the First Military District.  As such, the defense of South Carolina’s coast, from an administrative standpoint, looked liked this:

SCMilitaryDistrictsAPR63

The largest of these districts, the first, included several subordinate commands (dashed lines) including James Island and St. Andrew’s Parish, Sullivan’s Island and Christ Church Parish, Morris Island, Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney and Fort Ripley, Georgetown and vicinity, and the City of Charleston itself.  While the First District contained about a division’s strength of troops, the other two districts were at best reinforced brigades.

This arrangement remained in place through July. At that point, the Federal operations necessitated some changes. The Second and Third Military Districts remained unchanged in terms of geographic coverage, but with with much reduced troop strength.  With much of the infantry reallocated to defend the outer Charleston defenses, neither district retained more than a regiment strength overall, and most of that was cavalry and artillery.  Beauregard reconstituted the Fourth Military District.  The Fourth, likewise, was assigned mostly cavalry and artillery.

SCMilitaryDistrictsJuly63

The First Military District reorganized to include five sub-divisions. On July 30 the organization was:

  • First Sub-Division on James Island and including St. Andrew’s Parrish.
  • Second Sub-Division on Sullivan’s Island and including Christ Church Parrish.
  • Third Sub-Division on Morris Island.
  • Fourth Sub-Division at Fort Sumter and including Castle Pinckney and Fort Ripley.
  • Fifth Sub-Division garrisoning the inner defenses of Charleston itself and including the upper reaches of Charleston Neck.

The fall of Batteries Wagner and Gregg brought on the need to re-arrange this organization.  Special Orders No. 218, issued on October 22, reduced Ripley’s First Military Division in size, though not in importance.  The orders carved out three new districts from the old First:

1. Fort Sumter, Sullivan’s and Long Island, and the parishes of Christ Church and Saint Thomas, under Brigadier-General Ripley, will be designated as the First Military District.

2. The city, to include the lines on the Neck, Fort Ripley, and Castle Pinckney, under Colonel [Alfred] Rhett, will be designated as the Fifth Military District.

3. The parish of Saint Andrew’s will be divided into two districts; the first, commanded by Brigadier-General [Henry] Wise, to embrace all that part south of the Ashley River and west of Wappoo Cut, and to include the têtes-de-pont at Rantowles Station and the work at Church Flats, will be designated as the Sixth Military District; the second, to include James Island, under Brigadier-General [William] Taliaferro, will be designated as the Seventh Military District.

The new arrangements looked as thus on the map:

SCMilitaryDistrictsOct63

The orders stipulated that the commanders of those three new districts would report directly to the department headquarters.  Thus for the first time in the year a significant portion of the defense of Charleston lay outside the command of Ripley.

Threats to the Charleston and Savannah Railroad prompted another change in early December.  Under Special Orders No. 257, the boundaries of the Second, Third, and Sixth Military Districts were adjusted to provide better defense of that valuable line:

1. The Sixth Military District, Brigadier-General Wise commanding, will extend to embrace all the country to the east bank of the North Edisto, from the mouth to Gioham’s Ferry.  The headquarters of this district will be at or near Adams Run.

2. The Second Military District, brigadier-General [Beverly] Robinson commanding, will include all of the country between the western limit of the Sixth Military District and the Combahee and the Little Salkehatchie Rivers, and the southern boundary of Barnwell district to the Edisto River.  Headquarters at or near the Ashepoo Railroad Bridge.

3. The Third Military District will include all between the western limits of the Second Military District an the Savannah River.  Brigadier-General Walker will transfer, if necessary, his headquarters to such a point in his district as he may find best suited for the discharge of his duties.

As depicted on the map, this new arrangement, spread responsibilities for the defense of the railroad more equitably between the three districts:

SCMilitaryDistrictsDec63

An organizational report posted for December 31, 1863 indicated the following strengths within the districts:

  • First – 4,541 man effective strength, with fourteen field artillery pieces, and heavy artillery in the forts.
  • Second – 1,799 man effective strength and four pieces of artillery.
  • Third – 4,140 man effective strength and twenty-one artillery pieces.
  • Fourth – 1,186 man effective strength and six artillery pieces.
  • Fifth – 1,611 man effective strength with heavy guns posted in the batteries along Charleston’s waterfront.
  • Sixth – 2,842  man effective strength and sixteen artillery pieces.
  • Seventh – 6,007  man effective strength, eight field pieces, plus heavy guns in Fort Johnson and other fortifications on James Island.

The arrangement of December 2nd put Legareville within the zone controlled by the Sixth Military District.  Thus the orders issued to General Wise on December 17, instead of to General Hagood, who commanded troops on nearby James Island.  Importantly, Ripley, who had played a very prominent role in operations up to this time, was excluded from the activities in that critical sector.

The evolution of organization within the forces defending South Carolina begs for a more detailed treatment, down to the individual regiments, battalion, company, and battery.  That should also include examination of the command assignments.  But with so many changes through the year, I struggle to find a good method depicting such on a web-based platform.  A challenge!

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, pages 441 and 538-9.)

Buried alive by debris at Fort Sumter on Halloween

Robert, as he usually does this time of year, posted a “spooky” post yesterday.  The topic was the 19th century obsession concerning “The Premature Burial.”  At Fort Sumter, 150 years ago this Halloween, there was a very real premature burial.  But the cause was less sinister than something from an Edgar Allan Poe tale.  These were battle deaths.

During the second major bombardment of Fort Sumter, which started in the closing days of October, 1863, the Federals kept up the pressure with slow paced firings overnight.  At times, the besiegers used their calcium lights to illuminate the target.  This tactic served to keep the Confederates awake all night, diminish the repair work normally conducted at night, and keep the guard forces watchful for a sneak attack.

On the night of October 30, Colonel Alfred Rhett, the commander of the Fort Sumter garrison, kept a detachment inside the remaining structure on the sea-facing wall.  The men were there as a rapid-reaction force should the Federals attempt another amphibious landing.  They remained at the ready through the night into the early morning hours.  Their otherwise uneventful vigil interrupted by the 68 shots fired overnight from Morris Island.  Until one of the shots scored a lucky hit:

At 3 o’clock this morning a Parrott shot struck an iron girder in the sea wall, and a moment after the roof fell in crushing 13 men, who were posted there in readiness for an immediate mount to the crest, in case of a boat attack. The position was considered comparatively safe, as the roof had resisted the shock of this falling débris.

Rhett listed the names of those killed with the collapse in a separate dispatch:

Sergt. W. C. Owens, Sergt. J. A. Stevens, Privates S. L. Burrows, F. M. Burrows, S. W. Anderson, James Calder, O. J. Burn. W. E. Gibson, J. W. Jones, L. S. Lee, and W. N. Patterson, of Washington Light Infantry, Company A, Twenty-fifth Regiment, Private W. Martin, of Twelfth Georgia Battalion, and Mr. Matthewes, an overseer, were buried this morning by the falling in of the barracks on the sea face, where they had been placed in position for mounting the parapet in case of an assault.

Rhett lamented that a better bomb-proof might have prevented this loss.  But looking forward he requested ladders to better facilitate the defense.  In Charleston, General P.G.T. Beauregard’s reaction was a bit more cautionary –   “Order all walls threatening to fall and injure garrison to be pulled down or shot down, for which purposes an iron field piece can be sent there if desired.”

With daylight, the Federals continued the bombardment, but at a slower pace than previous days.   Summarizing the activity the following day, Rhett wrote that fires came from…

from two monitors, two heavy and two light rifled guns at Gregg, three heavy rifled guns and four 10-inch mortars at the middle battery, and four rifled guns at Wagner; 443 rifled shots were fired from the land batteries, of which 61 missed; 86 shots were fired from the monitors, all of which were reported as having struck, and 373 from mortars, of which 120 missed. The mortar fuses are cut so as to explode the shell a second or two after impact. In fact, during the night 70 rifled shots were fired, mostly with time fuses, of which 10 passed over, and 33 mortar shells, 12 of which did not strike. The fire of the land batteries was directed chiefly at southwest angle, which suffered severely.

The fuse settings chosen by the Federals indicates the intent was to break up the rubble and any repairs inside the fort.  And again the Federals appeared to focus more attention on the fort’s bastion closest to Morris Island.

In addition to the damage to the fort, Rhett cited a couple acts of bravery during the day:

The flag-staff was shot away twice and replaced by Sergeant [James] Garahan, Corporal [W. M.] Hitt, and Private R. J. Swain, all of Company F, Twelfth Georgia Battalion. The flag-staff was so cut up that it was necessary to raise the battle-flag of the Georgia Battalion in place of the flag.

Despite family ties to Georgia “Swains,” I have no evidence that Private R.J. is related to this blogger.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 631-2.)