Flags over Fort Sumter… in their new locations

My spring break vacation was great.  How was yours?

We managed to mix in several stops at historical sites in addition to some “sporty” venues.  Our ultimate destination was Florida. The logical driving break was Charleston, South Carolina, and we allocated time there.  The aide-de-Camp, like me, has a special affinity for Fort Sumter.  We cannot get enough of the old fort.  So a boat ride out was part of the schedule.  This would be the aide’s third such visit to the fort, but the first since 2011.

Since our last visit, the fort’s staff had updated some interpretive markers.  Nothing major.  Just mostly updated graphics.  But there was one important change to the public display.  Something I’d mentioned last summer. The fort’s flag displays changed from this:

Fort Sumter 4 Aug 11 1670

To this:


Just the one, lone flagpole with the current United States flag visible as one approaches the fort.

But once in the fort, there are four historical flags on display:

2016-03-19 Charleston 535

The stands for these flags are a temporary arrangement, I’m told, pending a permanent configuration.


There is an interpretive marker between the flags providing context to the display:

2016-03-19 Charleston 556

As I said back in the summer, it is my opinion this is a good move.

I would point out that the display includes the four flags known to have flown over Sumter during the war – 33-Star United States Flag, the Confederate “First National” flag, the Confederate “Second National” flag, and finally the 35-Star United States Flag.  Each of those flags is an object speaking to specific periods of the fort’s history during those four troubled years.  And each serves as a point of departure for us to explore that rich history.

Indeed, beyond just simply having a historical flag display at Fort Sumter, I was struck by the reaction among those in the audience.  From the questions and conversation, there were a number who simply did not know about the historical flags.  Most recognized the convention of stars on the blue field of the United States flag.  But few realized that the 35-Star flag used at the end of the Civil War was missing Nevada, which had not been added as a state until October 1864 and thus didn’t get its star until July 4, 1865.  Some “flag trivia” if you please.

But, as one might expect, the Confederate flags were the subject of more questions and comments.  There are still a lot of misconceptions and assumptions about those flags.  Such has not dissipated with the experience of the last twelve months. In fact, I think it has actually gotten worse.  As I’ve said before, I don’t “like” the Confederate flag (like as in I also don’t like sushi, Downtown Abby, or the Beatles.. and that is not hate or rejection, but rather a preference, that others may or may not share).  But just as I don’t like some elements of history or connected historical objects, I don’t ignore the facts.  Fact is that Confederate flags flew over Fort Sumter.  And having that display at Fort Sumter allowed the staff to provide a connection to the fort’s past.

Context… you see, not condemnation. Maybe if all Americans knew the difference between the First National, Second National, and the Battle Flags of the Confederacy then that period of our nation’s history would be easier to come to terms with.  Call me an idealist here, but I find complex subjects are often conquered by study in detail.

Since we were the last tour of the day, the Rangers provided a short program discussing the four flags, prior to bringing them down for the night.  Then we all got to participate in a retiring of the colors for the day.  That became a wonderful “hands on” experience. So… file that away if you are visiting Fort Sumter, and plan on either taking the first or last boat of the day.  A chance to join the list of those having raised or retired the colors at Fort Sumter.

As we made our way back to port, we passed another of Charleston’s old defenses:


Castle Pinckney sports the Irish flag of late (.  Harry has the rest of the story, should you be interested to know why.

As I sat on the stern of our boat, listening to the rhythms of the engine and waves, my mind wondered to thought of flags, symbols, and how we use them.  I’m sure there’s someone out there who takes offense to the Irish flag.  After all, the Irish flag was born of conflict and rebellion.  It was carried into war and blood has been shed in its defense and in opposition.  Maybe a minority.  Maybe even a spot of a minority.  But it wouldn’t be hard to conceive a person who feels ill over the sight of that flag.

Not that we need to take down the Irish flag, flying to express some cultural solidarity, over a brick edifice placed on a sandbar in front of the cradle of secession.  Not that at all.

Rather, that I think that symbols are symbols.  As a historian I seek the stories which they relate to.  From that I find it easier to break down the ideas and causes for which these banners fronted.  It’s the ideas and causes, you see, that tend to need the most care when handled.


Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, Part X: Structure of the fort from the interior

Our next stop on this virtual walk around Fort Johnson, by way of photos taken at the end of the Civil War, is a point which looks across the interior of the fort at the walls on the east side of the fort.


The digital copy I am working from is a scan of a print and not one of the glass plate.  So you might see some distortions related to that type of media in the crops that follow.  For reference, this photo was taken with the camera standing at the point annotated as FJ8 on the diagram below:


The angle of the camera is centered across to the angle of the fort’s wall where the epaulement on the left of the water battery joined the wall facing Morris Island.  This was a very important section, as it was the structure which prevented the Federals from skipping shot and shell into the back of the gun positions.

As related in the earlier discussion, photo FJ7 was taken from a point next to the ruins inside Fort Johnson.  Somewhere on the extreme right of this crop, next to the chimney:


So imagine the camera tripod somewhere between the base of the chimney and the pile of bricks on the right:


That said, I’m more interested in the limber conveniently parked in our view.  We see all the fixtures associated with this important piece of equipment.  We can see the joins in the wheel.  As well the dove-tail joins in the chest atop the limber.

Looking to the left of the limber, and through the pavilion of sorts built around the ruins, there appear to be a pile of logs or other rubbish.


I find this interesting, as it brings to mind a “burn pit” or sorts.  Also note the mixed styles of vertical beams for the pavilion.  Some square beams.  Others are round poles. Sort of a “use what you have” structure. Oh, and notice the grass growing there.  Clearly this structure had been around a few years.

Looking at the roof of the pavilion, we see shingles.  And we also see bricks and wood laying on top:


Compare the pavilion roof to that of the shed directly behind.  (And yes that is the shed seen in FJ7, earlier in our “walk”).

Looking above the shed, there are a couple vents sticking out of the fort’s wall:


These vents tell us the wall wasn’t just a pile of earth, but was in fact built over a bombproof.  Panning back to the left, we see the entrance to the bombproof:


This is something the photos tell us that the survey diagrams do not accurately, or shall I say fully, depict. The wall is drawn, but the details of this bombproof were below the level of detail offered by the surveys.  The bombproof was just to the side of the sectional diagrams offered by the Coastal Survey team.  Without the photos, we might not know it existed.

However one structure seen on the survey diagrams is right in the middle of the photo.  The fort’s cistern:


Here’s a closer view of the platform that sits over the cistern:


You must keep the three-dimensional aspect in mind here.  The stacked logs behind the cistern are in fact the “crib” mentioned in FJ7.  So there is some distance between the cistern platform and those logs.  Notice the large stones on which the platform rests.  And… particular attention to the bucket:


There are shadows of the planks on the right. But directly under the bucket, the wood is discolored as if moist.  So we have a leaky bucket at Fort Johnson?  Or someone has been sloppy with the water?

Looking back for the moment, this view also provides a fine study of a sling cart:


This cart has just been used for some work, as the chains are still laying across the tree.

If we look close beyond the wheels, we see the tent mentioned in FJ7.


Notice the posts and rail on the left side of the tent. That rail is seen in photo FJ6.  See how this all pieces together nicely?

But what I like the most about this photo is that we have a couple of soldiers taking a break from their duties:


A couple of USCT resting on the stacked ordnance. The projectiles are 10-inch caliber for the columbiads.  Note crumbling pyramid on the left… we’ll see that one again.  Also note the stacked boxes:


We’ll see these from another perspective.  The markings are easier to read from that view. But for now just consider those faces and body language.  No martial pose.  Sort of an “Are you done with the photo?” attitude.  But as there is little blur, we might presume the photographer had requested they sit (or remain seated) at that point.  Perhaps a study in the fortunes of war… these USCT, former slaves, now tending a former Confederate fortification.

Also demonstrating that change in ownership is the United States flag over the ramparts:


As related in the earlier posts, the particulars of the angle from which the flag is seen in the photos, we can determine the flag staff was on the outside face of the fort.

We think of these works in terms of “offense” and “defense.”  We saw the offense in the form of four heavy guns.  Now we need to asses the defensive side, particularly how it protected the vulnerable areas in the fort’s interior.


As mentioned above, this portion of the wall was particularly important as it protected the gunners and some of the sensitive portions of the fort from the Federals on Morris Island.  But we don’t see Morris Island or anything beyond the fort’s walls.  That’s how high these were constructed to serve the defensive purpose.

One other particular we should note about these walls.  Look at the line across this view.  Or allow me to emphasize that with yellow lines:


See how level these are?  We have the main line (lower) that demonstrates the height of the main works.  Then there is a “crest” at the point of the works, which we’ve seen in other views, with erosion at the edges, which stood a few feet higher.  Again, these are details we can pull out from the surveys, but the photographs provide a three-dimensional verification.

Another component the photos bring to us is the reality of what the fort’s interior looked like…..


And maybe what it smelled like?

Next stop… we are going to look at that ammunition stacked on the left of this view.

Fort Johnson Photo Analysis, Part VII: The interior through the camera lens, preserved on glass plate

Thus far, we’ve looked at photos taken of the exterior of Fort Johnson, specifically the water battery.  But those were not the only places the photographer, George Barnard, visited in the spring of 1865.  In fact, Barnard spent considerable time inside Fort Johnson.  From that, we can “virtually” tour the fort, 150 years later, by way of those photographs.

Summarizing what we’ve seen thus far, here is the diagram depicting the location of the camera and perspective of the first five photos in this study… er … tour:


At the end of our examination of FJ5, I called attention to the Brooke Rifle and the barrel out in front of the gun.


The rifle and the barrel are key reference points as we step into the interior.  Both appear in the photo that I’ll label, for our purposes, FJ6:

Up close:


I’ll examine the other details of this photo in a dedicated post, but the Brooke establishes that we are looking down the back of the second gallery from the right on Fort Johnson.  Notice the pyramid of bolts to the right of the crop above.  Note the letters “A.C” on the top three. You see them again in another photo of the fort’s interior:

I’ll call this one FJ7.  And aiding the effort to establish the camera’s perspective is that pyramid of bolts, in the distant center:


See the letters?

The centerpiece of FJ7 are the debris and ruins inside the fort. Those appear on the surveys.  And that further establishes the perspective of the camera.  The ruins also appear in another photo of the interior, but from a different angle:

I’ll call this one FJ8.  Up close, here’s the ruins… which don’t see too badly ruined… if all you want is a pavilion.


Panning to the left, looking beyond the sling cart, we see the tent, with chimney:


That tent appeared in FJ7.  To the right of the tent is a platform with a bucket on top. That coincides with the location of the fort’s cistern on surveys.  Beyond (above) the platform is a log crib.  The crib and tent also appear from another perspective of Fort Johnson:

This photo, FJ9 for my labeling, looks across the interior wall of the fort.  Stacked pyramids of shot and shell stand along that wall.  Some of those were seen in FJ8.  As are the tent and crib:


Those sequences are fine, but only show the “small” particulars of the fort.  What we would like is a wide angle view of the fort’s interior.  Well we have one:


Unfortunately I cannot find this photo, which I’ll call FJ10, from a digitized glass plate.  Only a scan from a printed copy.  But in this view we see, from left to right, the ruins, pyramids of shot and shell, the cistern, and the tent.  There are other points of reference to mention here (notably the sling cart beyond the fort, which was seen in the exterior photographs).

That is sufficient to start plotting the camera locations of the five photos against the fort surveys:


The green lines demonstrate the angle of the camera view.

Considering the first five “stops” made in front of Fort Johnson:


You can see, hardly an inch of the Confederate water battery escaped the camera lens.  How many places of note from the Civil War can we say that about?

Sherman’s March, March 6, 1865: “Virtually living upon the country” as the Federals advance

Well, seeing as the majority of votes from Wednesday called for continued marching with Major-General William T. Sherman, let us proceed along his line.

For March 6, 1865, the columns made limited progress as Sherman held the right wing to allow the Left Wing to negotiate the PeeDee River.


The Seventeenth Corps moved to Bennettsville, to the southeast, to ease congestion near Cheraw and also to allow for foraging of fresher areas of the sparse countryside. The Fifteenth Corps moved just a few miles further out from the east side of the PeeDee.  And, as Major-General John Logan added, made use of the area’s grist mills:

During the campaign every opportunity was seized to work all grist and flour mills met with in the country, and on encamping for the night the mills in the neighborhood were regularly assigned to the different divisions.  Virtually living upon the country, it was necessary to husband our supplies and put under contribution all the resources of the country.

Colonel Reuben Williams’ expedition returned to Cheraw on the 6th.  This allowed the Fifteenth Corps to complete crossing the river.

The Left Wing continued to experience delays associated with the bridging operations.  Not until late in the afternoon was a pontoon bridge ready to receive traffic.  And even then, it used several wagons, covered with canvas, as ersatz pontoons.  Brigadier-General George Buell, who supervised the bridging in lieu of the incapacitated Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Moore, crossed his brigade first to cover the distant shore.  But at that time, the right of way passed to Major-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry.  Their crossing would take most of the night.  The Fourteenth Corps would wait for their turn the next day…and then assume the lead in Sherman’s movement in echelon to Fayetteville.

In order to speed the crossing, the Twentieth Corps started movement at 8 a.m. that morning to Cheraw.  After waiting for the last of Fifteenth Corps to cross, the Twentieth took to the pontoon bridge at 4 p.m.  Most of the corps crossed during the night.  Thus by morning of March 7th, most of Sherman’s forces had bounced over the PeeDee.  But, as seemed to be the case throughout the march, the Fourteenth Corps, which had been designated to lead the next advance, was behind.

A lot of other parts were in motion outside of Sherman’s direct control at this point.  The Confederates under Lieutenant-General William Hardee continued their withdrawal north.  Some confusion existed in Confederate command with respect to where Hardee should move next.  By the end of the day his objective was confirmed as Fayetteville. The cavalry was crossing the PeeDee at a point upstream of the Federals, to keep pace with Sherman’s movements.  And to the east, off my map, General Braxton Bragg reported an advance towards Kinston in force.  This was a column under command of Major-General Jacob Cox with about 12,000 men.  Bragg could oppose that move with some 8,500 men from various detachments and commands. But for a few days delay on either sector, the Confederates could consolidate forces and be in front of Sherman.  On March 6, opportunities were opening up for Confederate action.

Meanwhile, far to the south of all this movement, the city of Charleston was adjusting to life under occupation.  The previous day, Brigadier-General John Hatch reported:

I would suggest that two or three additional points be designated where the people can register their names and subscribe to the oath. I hear that the crowd is so large and the delay so great that many persons are obliged to spend time that they can hardly spare. I have also heard that it is proposed to get up a demonstration on Thursday next by the colored people. If it meet your approval it is very well, but the city being under martial law no assemblage should be allowed without your previous sanction. One thing more; I would suggest that an order prohibiting enlisted men being in the streets (except on duty) after retreat would at the present time assist in preventing the numerous robberies and irregularities. This need be only temporary.

Such was life in the “Cradle of Secession” under the Federal flag.  Yet, March 7th, the Charleston Courier, still in print, would proclaim, “The Yankees may hold Charleston for a time, as the British did in the Revolution, but the end of the war will restore it to the Confederate flag, and it will enter a new career of prosperity and importance.”

Well we might say at least the second half of the prediction was fulfilled.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 321; Part II, Serial 99, page 698.)

February 18, 1865: “The City of Charleston and its defenses came into our possession this morning”

While Federal attention was focused on attracting Confederate attention to Bull’s Bay, on Morris Island, Brigadier-General Alexander Schimmelfennig remained alert to the possibility that the Confederates would, as many assumed, slip out of Charleston. As had been the case since 1863, the Federal signal officers on Morris Island were watching, transcribing, and deciphering messages sent to Confederate posts around Charleston.  On February 16, 1865, those messages gave indication that something was in the air with respect to an evacuation –   “Be ready to move at a moments notice. Save all the most valuable Government property. Orders and messages burnt.”

I will focus on the details of the Confederate evacuation of Charleston in a separate post (when my hurried schedule allows!).  But I will point out the Confederates practiced some good and bad operations security.  While intercepted messages and other indicators pointed to a withdrawal, the Confederates maintained the lines up to the end.  The rear guard departed Charleston during the night of February 17.

At daybreak on February 18, there was no Confederate flag flying from the staff over Fort Sumter.  The monitor USS Canonicus fired two rounds at Fort Sumter to ensure this was not a trick.  Those were the last shots fired at Fort Sumter, of so many fired during the war.

Federals on Morris Island immediately took note.  Several officers prepared boats to investigate the situation.  Lieutenant-Colonel Augustus G. Bennett, 21st USCT and commanding forces on the north end of Morris Island, directed Captain Samuel Cuskaden, one of Bennett’s staff, to secure a US flag and proceed to Fort Sumter.  At the same time Major John A. Hennessy, 52nd Pennsylvania, lead a boat out to the fort.  Captain R. M. Bannatyne, of the 52nd, later recalled the event:

The 52d Pa. at this time was doing duty as boat infantry, and had 41 or 42 boats of all kinds and descriptions, and the camp was on the west or harbor side of the island. There were no boats on our side of the island except our own.

Col. Bennett says that the regiments were under orders to be ready, but the first order we received was after we were marching to the boats.  When the men took their places we were soon going toward the harbor, with Major Hennessy ahead.  Coming out of the narrow channel into the harbor at what was then known as Paine’s dock, our course would bring us to the north point of the island, at Fort Gregg, where we were ordered to report; but part of the boats did not report there.

The last of the regiment was passing Paine’s dock not later than 9:50 a.m., and Major Hennessy was then going directly past Fort Gregg to Fort Sumter, 1440 yards distant, and his was the first boat to reach that fort and display the flag of the regiment on its parapet.

Corporal Johnson, Co. G, was the first man to land, followed by Major Hennessy and Lieut. Burr….

Thus, the 52nd Pennsylvania, veterans of the long campaign on Morris Island, were the first into Fort Sumter.


While Hennessy took possession of Fort Sumter, other boats moved toward Sullivan’s Island and other points.  While passing Fort Sumter, Bennett encountered a boat full of Confederate musicians, who’d been left behind as their armies abandoned the city.  Hennessy, who’d returned to his boat, and others joined Bennett moving into the harbor.   One by one, small detachments took control of batteries and forts.  Bennett and Hennessy proceeded to downtown Charleston, with Bannatyne indicating the latter was again the first ashore.

But not all the Confederate forces had left Charleston, as Bannatyne noted:

Just as we landed several of the Confederate ironclads in the harbor were blown up, with loud reports.  The streets were crowded with contrabands anxious to see the army.  We stayed at the citadel but a short time, and were ordered to the armory, which was reported on fire, but this proved to be a false alarm.  We saw no men in the city except Col. Bennett and staff and Major Hennessy… and detachments of the 3d R.I.

Flags went up all around Charleston.  Bennett was most concerned about security of the city and reports of Confederate rear guards:

I landed at Mills’ Wharf, Charleston, at 10 a.m., where I learned that a part of the enemy’s troops yet remained in the city, while mounted patrols were out in every direction applying the torch and driving the inhabitants before them.  I at once addressed the mayor of the city….

Bennett’s message to Mayor Charles Macbeth was to the point:

In the name of the United States Government I demand a surrender of the city of which you are the executive officer.  Until further orders all citizens will remain within their houses.

With the small force at his disposal, Bennett could not secure the city and would wait reinforcements.  While waiting, several explosions rocked the city.  At least two were from the Confederate rams being destroyed.  A magazine on Sullivan’s Island went up.  But the most disruptive was an explosion at the Northeastern Railroad depot.  There civilians were gathering food from abandoned Confederate commissary stores.  Children found quantities of gunpowder stored in nearby warehouses, and began playing with it in the smoldering cotton fires.  After a while, the children had left a perfect “train” back to the gunpowder stocks, with disastrous results.  As Bennett reported, “… not less than 200 human beings, most of whom were women and children, were blown to atoms.”  That one accident claimed more civilian lives than all the Federal bombardments of the city combined.

Mayor Macbeth readily surrendered the city and only expressed concern about maintaining law and order.  By afternoon, reinforcements from Morris Island arrived and Bennett’s focus was assisting the city’s fire companies attempting to keep the flames from spreading.  Fortunately, there was no repeat of Columbia in Charleston that evening.

That afternoon, Major-General Quincy Gillmore sent a dispatch north to Major-General Henry Halleck:

The city of Charleston and its defenses came into our possession this morning, with over 200 pieces of good artillery and a supply of fine ammunition.  The enemy commenced evacuating all the works last night, and Mayor Macbeth surrendered the city to the troops of General Schimmelfennig at 9 o’clock [sic] this morning, at which time it was occupied by our forces….

The last major port city of the Confederacy was in Federal hands.  And the place where the crisis which lead to the war had started was now firmly in Federal hands. Three years, ten months, and five days after it had been taken down, the United States flag flew over Fort Sumter at nightfall, February 18, 1865.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 1019; Part II, Serial 99, pages 469 and 483; The Campaigns of the Fifty-second Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, compiled by Smith B. Mott, Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1911, pages 170-2.)

Operations against Charleston, February 9-13, 1865, Part 1 – Togodo Creek

While Major-General William T. Sherman’s two wings maneuvered deeper into South Carolina, along the coast the Department of the South and the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron made several demonstrations and probes around Charleston.   As mentioned before, Sherman had no intentions to attack Charleston directly.  Such an effort, he feared, might bog down the campaign and add unnecessary delays.  So Sherman suggested and authorized operations around Charleston to distract and pin down Confederate forces that would otherwise move to oppose Sherman.   And if the big prize – Charleston itself – could fall by way of circumstances, there were several key Federal leaders waiting to grab that ring.

To demonstrate how wide-ranging these operations were, I must go to a large scale map of the Charleston area:


I’ve noted the main operations on the map with lettered boxes.  These are:

  • Point A – Naval operations to clear Togodo Creek, February 9, 1864.
  • Point B – Joint demonstration against James Island, February 10-11.
  • Point C – Army demonstration against Fort Johnson, February 11.
  • Point D – Joint demonstration at Bull’s Bay, starting February 13.
  • And… another demonstration against James Island to distract Confederates from the demonstration at Bull’s Bay (yes!)

There were several smaller operations, including a foray onto John’s Island, during this period.  And off the map to the southwest, Brigadier-General John Hatch’s forces were told to push the Confederates back to the Edisto. But that operation never really gathered steam.  Hatch spent several days waiting for the Confederates to leave the fortifications behind Combahee Ferry.  On February 12, Hatch announced the Confederates had abandoned the Combahee and he was following up… cautiously.  “I should have more troops to make this demonstration effective,” he complained.

Closer to Charleston, on the morning of February 9, Commander George Balch lead a force consisting of the USS Sonoma, USS Pawnee, and USS Daffodil up the North Edisto River to Togodo Creek.  The Federal gunboats had made forays up the river throughout February.  As with previous trips, boats and the tug Daffodil cleared the way checking for torpedoes.  At 9:50 a.m., the Pawnee and Sonoma opened fire on Confederate batteries further upstream on the Wadmelaw River.  While the gunboats found it hard to range the batteries, there was no return fire. That changed at 2:40 p.m. when six Confederate field guns opened a cross fire upon the gunboats.  Balch reported, “The rebel batteries, connected by rifle pits, were at distances varying from 1,000 to 2,000 yards.”  These were some of the many prepared positions the Confederates constructed earlier in the war.

The Pawnee was struck ten times, the Sonoma and Daffodil twice, respectively; nobody hurt on either vessel. A shot struck on the deck of the Pawnee, passing through an arms chest, setting it on fire, and going out the ship’s side….

At 5:20 p.m., [the Pawnee] and the Sonoma being afloat, we got underway and stood down the creek, but, owing to the extreme narrowness of it we grounded, were towed off by the Daffodil, and at 7:30 p.m. anchored off White Point, our usual station.

Both the Pawnee and Sonoma suffered minor damages, mostly to the masts and smokestack.  In return the Pawnee fired 382 rounds. Sonoma fired 256 rounds. And Daffodil contributed 30 rounds.  Other than the large ammunition expenditure, the affair on the Togodo was simply another loud diversion.

I’ll break for the moment there and pick up the story of these demonstrations in part 2 of this set.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 402, ; ORN, Series I, Volume 16, pages 225-7.)


Sherman’s March, February 14, 1865: Hampton calls for “strong pickets” on Congaree Creek

Movements for Major-General William T. Sherman’s forces on February 14, 1865 were generally along the lines of the previous day.  While on the surface, to those looking back 150 years, this appears an inconsequential day, there were some important activities outside of the marching which framed the campaign.  But first let us look at those moving parts:


The Congaree River presented a tricky problem for Sherman’s movements.  Below Columbia, the river bottom was as wide as the Savannah River’s (a portion of that swamp is preserved today in Congaree National Park).  Furthermore, high ground overlooked the swamps.  The Congaree was not a river Sherman could simply bounce over.  To negotiate past this barrier, the Sherman’s wings would again pivot.  This time to the left.

For the Right Wing, the marching objective of the day was to concentrate near Sandy Run.  In addition to conforming to the required pivot, this allowed Major-General Oliver O. Howard’s wing to threaten points below Columbia and hopefully pin down some of the Confederate forces.  As a further precaution, Howard detached half of the Seventeenth Corps to complete destruction of the Columbia Branch Railroad and also feint towards Kingsville.  Brigadier-General Manning Force’s Third Division had the task of wrecking railroad that day and worked to a point just past Lewisville.  The Ninth Illinois Mounted Infantry returned to the railroad bridge at the Congaree, with Brigadier-General Benjamin F. Potts’ Brigade from Fourth Division in support.  Upon arrival, the mounted infantrymen again skirmished with the pickets.  This time their force was sufficient that the Confederates withdrew and fired the bridge.

The First Division of the Seventeenth Corps, along with the other brigade from Fourth Division, marched westward to link up with the Fifteenth Corps near Sandy Run.

The Fifteenth’s split columns of the previous day converged above Caw Caw Swamp on the 14th.  Major-General Charles Woods First Division led the advance that day:

Leaving my camp at Rucker’s plantation the morning of February 14, I marched by a plantation road as far as Sandy Run. I here struck the State road, and, crossing the stream about 2 p.m., I continued for some four miles farther in the direction of Columbia, reaching with my head of column the camp-ground assigned me at Wolf’s plantation at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I met with the rebel cavalry outpost at this point, but soon drove them back with my skirmishers, four companies being deployed across the road for that purpose. Encamping my division on a range of hills well adapted to defense, I threw up good earth-works on my front line, extending the embankment across the road to protect my battery that had there been put in position. During the night the rebel cavalry made a dash on my picket vedettes, capturing three of them, as well as First Lieut. David Rorick, G Company, Thirty-first Iowa Infantry, picket officer of the Third Brigade, who was at that time out superintending his line.

Of note here is the established practice, by these veteran troops, of setting up earthworks and picket lines when going into camp.  By nightfall, the entire Fifteenth Corps was compact along a section of the State Road roughly five miles long.  Imagine such a large perimeter simply appearing in a matter of hours as the corps stopped for the evening.

The Left Wing’s part in this pivot was to reach the town of Lexington, due west of Columbia.  The main road between Augusta and Columbia passed through Lexington.  With concerns of reinforcements from the Army of Tennessee arriving to concentrate in front of the Federals, Lexington became a prime objective.   On February 14th, the Twentieth Corps covered about half the distance to Lexington and stopped at a place the dispatches called Columbia Cross-Roads.

Still bringing up the rear, the Fourteenth Corps reached Horsey’s Bridge on the North Edisto on the 14th.  To their left, the Cavalry Division screened the movement.

Perhaps more important on the 14th were the movements, lack of movement, and decisions made by Confederates.  For starters, the day marked the first direct influence on the campaign by Wade Hampton.  I should say, Lieutenant-General Wade Hampton, as his promotion would take effect on February 15th.  Officially, Hampton’s command, according to orders on February 7th, was a formation including two divisions transferred from Major-General Joe Wheeler’s command.  But in practice, those troops fell under Lieutenant-General William Hardee’s control.  Effectively, Hampton was a commander without troops.  Then on February 13th with General P.G.T. Beauregard giving Hampton responsibility for defending Columbia.  That evening, Hampton began working to cover the state capital with the forces available (though still not directly under his command).  To Major-General Carter L. Stevenson, Hampton wrote on the night of the 13th:

I think the line of the Congaree Creek should be held by strong pickets at the fords, whilst we push on the work laid out to-day. If you will hold the bridge over Congaree Creek and the creek up to the mouth of the Six-Mile Creek, Butler will hold all the upper fords as long as he can. I have ordered pickets placed on this side of the river and scouts sent down the State road. If you will concentrate all the cavalry under Butler he will look out for your right flank. I shall have some guns placed on this side of the river, just above the mouth of the Congaree Creek, so as to protect your left, if you are forced from the creek.

Note that Congaree Creek is a tributary, running generally west to east, of the Congaree River.   Stevenson held the line of the Congaree River between Columbia and the Wateree River near Kingsville (and beyond the Wateree was Hardee’s problem).  Hampton organized troops to extend a defensive line along the Congaree Creek on the 14th.  And more importantly for the operations of the 15th, Hampton deployed an effective cavalry screen to cover that line.  Hampton might not have a substantial force on the creek, but at least he would know what was coming.

Thus far in the campaign, only Stevenson’s troops (Major-General Stephen D. Lee’s old corps) from the Army of Tennessee had seen any substantial action.   On the 13th, Major-General Benjamin Cheatham’s Corps remained around Augusta.  Major-General Daniel H. Hill didn’t wish to part with those men, noting “Two divisions of the Fourteenth Army Corps encamped last night near Johnson’s Turn-Out.”  Hill wanted to wait until Major-General A.P. Stewart’s Corps arrived in Augusta before releasing Cheatham.  However, late in the afternoon of the 13th, Hill’s objection was overtaken by events.  Cheatham began movement to Columbia under orders from Beauregard.  Following him was Major-General Edward Walthall’s Division of Stewart’s Corps.  Cheatham’s men had a sixty mile march, give or take, to reach Columbia.  At least three days, if not more.  And that march would take them through the town of Lexington, mentioned above.  In short, reinforcements for Columbia were already late and the fight had not yet begun.

The other source of reinforcements for Columbia, under Beauregard’s plan, were those holding Charleston.  With Sherman playing his hand by crossing the Edisto, some, if not all, of the Charleston garrison was needed.  But with the rail lines cut, those troops could not arrive in time to be of aid.  However, authorities in Richmond wanted to hold on to Charleston if possible.  President Jefferson Davis wrote directly to Hardee on the matter:

The enemy may, and probably does, intend to attack Charleston, but it is by no means manifested by present operations. It is proper under the view presented to remove whatever is not needful for defense of the place, and then to postpone evacuation as long as prudent. If General Beauregard can beat the enemy in the field, the cause herein indicated may preserve the city and harbor for future use, and save us the pain of seeing it pass into the hands of the enemy.

But, as he often did, Davis stopped short of ordering the city be held.  Instead he left the matter to the judgment of Hardee and Beauregard.  While Davis was dictating his message, Beauregard was already cutting movement orders for the evacuation of Charleston.  I’ll examine those instructions in detail in a separate post to follow. But Beauregard’s justification for evacuating Charleston was set forward in his conclusion:

In view of the facility the enemy has at Branchville and Orangeburg and in the direction of Columbia, to cut the line of retreat of the garrison of Charleston, as above referred to, it becomes necessary to commence the evacuation as soon as the necessary preparations can be made. The holding of Charleston is now reduced to only a question of a few days. Its loss does not jeopardize the safety of the State of South Carolina, but the loss of its garrison would greatly contribute to that end.

To provide for the safety of South Carolina, Beauregard drew a new line on the map at the Catawba River (go to a map, draw that line, and think about “safety” for a moment… ).  Running the numbers, Beauregard estimated it would take between 15 and 17 days to reposition the troops and their supplies from Charleston.  Two weeks!  The latter was very important, as the troops stationed at Charleston were largely garrisons which were not outfitted for field duty.

Again, let me belabor a point here… the reason Beauregard could not rush troops from Charleston to Columbia was because the railroad was cut.  The railroad was cut because the Federals had managed to push their way over the North Edisto outside Orangburg after finding unguarded crossing points.  The reason there were unguarded crossing points was because the Confederate cavalry was busy chasing Federal cavalry outside Aiken.

Sometimes a defeat can be a victory in disguise.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 242; Part II, Serial 99, pages 1172, 1178, and 1180.)