For the holidays, lets each rehabilitate some Civil War general… I call Schimmelfennig!

This being the season of giving, I ask what have we given back to the Civil War field of study?  We all “take” from our studies – reading primary and secondary sources, walking the battlefields, and receiving knowledge all around.   But what do we give back in return?  How this season we “clean up” some corner of Civil War study that need be straightened or otherwise put in order?

Consider… Throughout the Sesquicentennial discussions we heard about some major figures from the Civil War being “rehabilitated” by historians.  Most notable is George B. McClellan.  We even heard mention of Joe Hooker.  Though I still lean towards strict twelve step process for Little Mac… someone skipped a few steps with McClellan in my opinion.  This is not a new notion for historians.  During the Centennial, US Grant was “rehabilitated” to some degree, mostly by that magical prose from Bruce Catton.  William T. Sherman was moved but a few shades to the good side of Lucifer himself.  Though we really should recognize the work of British admirers decades earlier, who sort of threw a mirror in our American faces.  However of late Grant is being “un-rehabilitated” back to a mere mortal.

What I have in mind is straight forward and altruistic – pick a figure due “historical rehabilitation.”  Name any figure from the Civil War – general, politician, or other.  Pick a poor figure.  Someone you think has not gotten a fair shake through the historians’ collective pens. Then offer up a few paragraphs explaining why this figure is worth a second look.  Think about it… are there any persons who are completely nonredeemable?  Totally incompetent? Without any merit?  Well… maybe there are some.  But I’d submit that to be a small number within the larger sample set.  Besides, even H. Judson Kilpatrick, Alfred Pleasonton, and Franz Sigel had good days to speak of!

I’ll make the first offering.  This is my target for rehabilitation:

Alexander Schimmelfennig.  Like most, my introduction to Schimmelfennig was the butt end of many jokes about “hiding with the hogs” at Gettysburg.  Schimmelfennig’s stay at the Henry Garlach house has come to epitomize the failings and faults of the Eleventh Corps in the battle.

Over the years, I’ve learned not to add an extra n, making his name an active present tense verb, to Schimmelfennig. Though you might find more than a few cases where I’ve slipped and not corrected.  Furthermore, I’ve come to recognize my characterization of Schimmelfennig’s actions were but one of many collective misunderstandings (being kind… maybe collective ignorance?) about the actions at Gettysburg.  Indeed, our myopic view of that battle has caused no short list of misconceptions.  Schimmelfennig is one of many receiving short treatment, and outright insult, due to the intellectual white elephant, named Gettysburg, stuck to history’s charge.

Let us first be fair about Schimmelfennig at Gettysburg.  Certainly his July 1, 1863 on the field is not fodder for any great story about military prowess and proficiency.  Though it was not an example of bumbling incompetence.  Why was he in the Garlach back yard to start with?  Well it was because, unlike many of his peers and superiors, he was not emulating General Gates’ flight from Camden in search of “high ground” south of town.

And in the two years that followed that stay in the shed, Schimmelfennig demonstrated he was indeed a very capable field commander… in the oft overlooked Department of the South.  I’ve chronicled those activities during the Sesquicentennial… and will mention a few key points here.   Schimmelfennig first went to the department as part of Brigadier-General George Gordon’s 1st Division, Eleventh Corps, sent as reinforcements in late July 1863. The Brigadier-General led a successful demonstration in February 1864 on John’s Island; assumed responsibility for the front against Charleston through the spring and early summer 1864, directing several bombardments of Fort Sumter, and mounting demonstrations to aid the main operations elsewhere;  And played an important role in Foster’s July 1864 “demonstration” that nearly broke through to Charleston.   After returning from leave (recovering from malaria), Schimmelfennig was in command of the forces that captured Charleston on February 18, 1865.

Schimmelfennig readily adapted to situations and was innovative.  He successfully used of Hales rockets in an assault role and urged the troops to use rudimentary camouflage to disguise their activities.  To the many USCT regiments in his command, he offered fair and complementary leadership, advocating for pay equality.  The naval officers working with him, particularly Rear Admiral John Dahlgren, considered Schimmelfennig the better of the Army generals to work with at Charleston.

And we should remember, as if a name like Schimmelfennig would allow us to forget, that the general was not American-born.  Thus he faced much of the institutional bias within the Federal officer corps.  Schimmelfennig, a Prussian, was a veteran of the revolutions and wars of 1848.  Pulling on our historian sensibilities, Schimmelfennig was a bit of a military historian himself, providing context to the conflicts between Russia and Turkey in the years leading up to the Crimean War.

Oh, and I should add, Schimmelfennig “pioneered” the use of petrochemicals to ward off mosquitoes…. Um… by smearing kerosene over his exposed skin while on duty at Folly and Morris Islands.  Not exactly DEET, but you know.  Fine… he was a bit far short of a renaissance man.

At any rate, you get my point – Schimmelfennig’s service is done a dis-service by overly emphasizing those three days in July 1863… or even after weighing in his (and the Eleventh Corps) performance at Chancellorsville months before.  Maybe he was not among Grant’s Generals depicted in Balling’s painting, but Schimmelfennig served with distinction during the war.  He is at least deserving of more consideration than “a brigade commander at Gettysburg.”

That’s my proposed target for rehabilitation.  What’s yours?  And why?

“Richmond cannot be saved if Charleston falls”: Grim assessment from Governor MacGrath

Andrew Gordon MacGrath was among the leading secessionists in 1860.  Having resigned his position as a US District Court Judge after the 1860 elections, he played a role in the South Carolina secession convention.  Later he served briefly as the state’s Secretary of State.  And when the Confederacy was formally established, MacGrath was for all practical purposes re-instated to his judgeship, though for a “C.S.” instead of a “U.S.” district. At a rather ominous moment in the state’s, and the Confederacy’s, history, on December 18, 1864, the South Carolina General Assembly named MacGrath the Governor of South Carolina.

Within days of MacGrath’s assumption of the office, Savannah fell.  And the Federal forces there were poised to move into South Carolina next.  As his predecessor, MacGrath appealed to President Jefferson Davis in Richmond for assistance.   On Christmas Day, 1864, he sent a lengthy letter, by way of Colonel Henry Buist, to the Confederate president.  After opening pleasantries, MacGrath put in perspective what the loss of Savannah meant to South Carolina:

The fall of Savannah has, of course, very much affected the people of this State. The question which naturally presents itself is, why the force which penetrated Georgia cannot penetrate South Carolina. And at this moment it is not an unwillingness to oppose the enemy, but a chilling apprehension of the futility of doing so, which affects the people. I am endeavoring, and I will remove that chill and dispel that apprehension; but upon you must I rely for that material aid which will assist the people of the State to make good their determined opposition. As rapidly as it can be done I am reorganizing the militia; its effective force I cannot yet estimate–I hope larger than has been supposed. If you will send us aid (although for the moment it falls short of effectual aid), if it be that aid which now foreshadows other aid to come, that spirit can be vitalized which when aroused to a certain extent supplies the place of numbers, and is of itself strength.

So, after over three years of war at its doorsteps, South Carolina’s militia was still unorganized for defense of the state?  Recall the correspondence from the previous winter in which authorities in Richmond called into question the state’s practices in regard to conscription and recruiting for state regiments.

Having explained the measures he would take, MacGrath then requested support from Richmond.  Specifically he wanted the South Carolina brigade from the Army of Northern Virginia, and if possible the services of Major-General Joseph Kershaw.  But MacGrath knew the release of those troops was contingent on the list of priorities.  So he advanced is argument that Charleston was the most important of those priorities:

You, of course, are much better informed of the number of troops on our coast and in the city of Charleston than I am. You are also aware of the necessities at other points which may control you; but it is considered that the force on the coast is not sufficient to make effectual resistance to General Sherman. If that is so, Charleston falls; if Charleston falls, Richmond follows. Richmond may fall and Charleston be saved, but Richmond cannot be saved if Charleston falls. If now I urge upon you the concentration of all available strength for the defense of Charleston I will be acquitted of all selfish consideration when I venture to remind you that two years ago, when it seemed as if then a necessity was about to arise in which you would be forced to decide between Charleston and Richmond, I gave you then the assurance of my support, however feeble, in sustaining you in the destruction of Charleston if it would accomplish the end we then desired. Now, however, I presume that, as between these places, there is no doubt that, if unable to save both, Charleston is that which from every consideration we must prefer to save.

Tastes like a cold cup of coffee in the morning for those who’ve grown fond of “Lee’s Lieutenants.” The notion that Richmond was not the cornerstone of the Confederacy?  That it could be sacrificed?  What a difference perspective makes!

MacGrath again pressed for men to defend South Carolina:

To save it we must have troops. It is in this connection that I must bring also to your attention the vital consequence of attending at once to Branchville as a place to be fortified and to which troops should be sent. Its strategic importance I am sure is too manifest to require from me any urgency in bringing it to your notice. There are no works there which are of the slightest consequence. I understand surveys are now making; it is difficult to understand why they were not made before this time. You will not understand from this that I wish to indulge in censure or criticism, but to indicate to you that a position of the utmost consequence is not prepared for resistance to the attempt which may be reasonably supposed will be made to possess it. If that attempt should be successful our future will be greatly clouded.

From that point, MacGrath also picked at an “interfearance” of the Confederate government into the state.  Specifically he noted the number of “detailed men” working in important positions supporting the war effort, and thus except from militia service.

It matters little how they may be, except in this respect: that their absence from all appearance of military service by so much diminishes the influences with which I am now attempting to quicken and excite our people not only to effective resistance, but to that confidence in the success of that resistance which will assist me in my efforts and sustain them in their conduct.

MacGrath asked for a “show.” He wanted the detailed men to appear on public parade so their service was clearly shown to the people.  This, he felt, would undercut criticism and demonstrate no favoritism was in play.

Closing, MacGrath wrote:

These suggestions I make to you with the conviction that you will assist me in every way to develop now all of our resources to aid you in the task that is before you and us. There are other matters concerning which I will at an early day communicate with you.

MacGrath had inherited a problem.  And the nature of the problem was not altered as the office-holder changed.  There was little he, or Davis, could do to forestall the advance that would step forward from Savannah.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 44, Serial 92, pages 986-8.)

Marching Through Georgia, December 5, 1864: Drama at Ogeechee Creek ends with a fizzle

Let me get all “science-y” on you to start today and talk about soils and vegetation.  As Major-General William T. Sherman’s armies marched today they crossed an important line, but one not marked on their maps.  Forward elements passed into the “Atlantic Coast Flatwoods” soil province:

OK, big deal?  As far as the army is concerned, soil is what they march over or dig in, right?  Well two points for consideration.  First, as the march transited from the Piedmont, over the sand hills and fall line, to the coastal plan areas, there was less and less of the famous “Georgia clay.”  Sand is the predominate soil type, but that is not to say it is not fertile.  Indeed, the area was good pasture-land and for root crops.  But less so for grains, except for rice.  That has, of course, some implications for an army foraging its way along.

Second change due to the soil type is the natural vegetation.  The soldiers’ diaries began to mention a lot of pine trees and different kind of grass.  Let me borrow an image from the University of Florida:

Aristida stricta… Wiregrass.  OK, but the army was not there to cultivate natural grasses.  So what is the big deal?  Well look at the line, “blooms only after a growing-season burn.”  The eco-system of the “Atlantic Coast Flatwoods”, or shall we call it “Pine Barrens,” depended upon a cycle of wild-fires.  Now with an army that is – shall we say – pre-disposed to the use of matches passing through, wild-fires were commonplace.  Fires marked the path of the army. And a haze of smoke covered it.  In short, soil types are important to armies, and even to historians.

The reason I am able to allocate space to talking about sand and grass is the “fizzle” to the drama that was expected on December 5, 1864.  The movements of Sherman’s force centered on one critical objective – Train Station 4½, where Ogeechee Creek gave the Confederates a good defensive position to block the march.  On December 4, scouts from the Seventeenth Corps reported defenders well entrenched there.  And that information governed the Federal movements of the day… even though the Confederates had already withdrawn the evening prior:


Sherman’s plan was to have Seventeenth Corps confront the Confederate positions in front, while the Twentieth Corps moved up on the left, and behind the Confederate line.  The Fifteenth Corps, with its pontoon train, would threaten a crossing of the Ogeechee River downstream, if necessary.

With the First Division under Major General Joseph Mower at the point, the  Seventeenth Corps advanced toward Station 4½ that morning. Behind a screen of mounted men was a pioneer section, followed by Second Brigade of Brigadier-General John Sprague.  Supporting that lead brigade was a battery of artillery and the corps’ pontoon train.  The formation was configured to secure and improve the approaches to the creek, assuming the need to “develop” the position while other forces maneuvered on the flanks.  But as the scouts approached the site of skirmishing on the previous day, they encountered no Confederates.  While the train bridge over Ogeechee Creek was destroyed, a wagon bridge would allow passage of at least the vanguard.  The engineers promptly went to work laying a better bridge.

Sherman, moving with the Seventeenth Corps, came forward later in the day the station.  In a dispatch to Major-General Oliver O. Howard, commanding the Right Wing, he provided his assessment of the situation and amended guidance for movements to follow:

Since sending the messenger to you this morning General Blair has entered this place almost unopposed. Some field works are fresh, and, so far as I have examined, would be such as would be thrown up by 5,000 inexperienced hands. General Slocum reports he will be to-night at the point where his road next north of this intersects the one from here to Poor Robin, but he has not heard from Generals Davis and Kilpatrick since he heard their firing yesterday morning. Davis has orders to move from the point where he separated from Slocum, viz, Buck Head Church, to Halley’s Ferry, abreast of this on the Savannah, via Sylvania. I have sent a courier to General Slocum, to communicate with General Davis at once and report to me at what moment he will be ready to move on. You will observe that, with Davis at Halley’s, we threaten South Carolina, and to that extent will confuse our enemy; but I will not lose a moment, only we must move in concert, or else will get lost. You may make all the dispositions to cross at 3, but the point 2 is the true one, unless modified by local geography. I will disturb the railroad but little south of this, as we may have use for it out this far. Still, Blair can burn the bridges and culverts, and also enough cotton-gins and barns to mark the progress of his head of column. I don’t want him to start till I know Davis is abreast.

Sherman wanted to setup the next move by closing, compacting his columns.  Take note here.  We often read about battles in which commanders commit their forces piecemeal, or “what ifs” that center on the late or tardy arrival of formations to the battlefield.  What Sherman did on December 5 is an example of how to avoid those problems.  And even though the most obtuse observer could see his objective was Savannah, Sherman kept options open with threats to Charleston.

Sherman sent orders for Major-General Henry Slocum to hurry the Left Wing forward, particularly bringing the Fourteenth Corps, under Major-General Jefferson C. Davis, to close up the gap.  For the day’s march, Davis recorded:

The 5th, after a hard day’s march over country roads which required much repairing, the whole corps, with Kilpatrick’s cavalry, encamped in the vicinity of Jacksonborough, the advance at Buck Creek Post-Office.

To facilitate the linkup of Brigadier-General Absalom Baird’s division and the cavalry, the engineers repaired a bridge over Beaverdam Creek during the night.  And verbally orders passed down to once again pull the bridge up after the last military units crossed, in an effort to discourage the growing number of former slaves who were following the corps.

The Twentieth Corps, just to the south, also closed up its formation that day.  The lead division marched only a few miles before halting.  But the trail divisions labored forward on bad roads.  Brigadier-General John Geary recorded:

December 5, moved at 6.30 a.m. Crossed during the day Little Horse Creek, south fork of Little Ogeechee, destroying all bridges after crossing. Much of the route to-day was through swamps, which had to be corduroyed for my trains. At the south fork of Little Ogeechee I destroyed a large saw-mill. Here we heard what the inhabitants stated to be cannon in Charleston Harbor, about 100 miles distant.  Weather pleasant; country poor. Distance t0-day, twelve miles.

The next day, the Charleston Courier ran this update for the “Five Hundred and Fifteenth Day” of the siege of the city:

The agreement … for a suspension of all firing in the harbor and upon the city during the continuance of the exchange of prisoners at this point, was unintentionally violated by a sharpshooter at Fort Sumter Monday…. One of our men observing a body of men at [Battery] Gregg, fired his rifle, the ball taking effect upon one of the party and, it is believed, killing him.  The enemy thereupon opened all their batteries upon Fort Sumter, and kept up a heavy fire for about an hour, firing twenty-six shots.

Soon afterward an apology silenced the guns, allowing Charlestonians, and Geary in Georgia, a quiet evening.

At Ogeechee Creek, staff-officer Major Henry Hitchcock accompanied Sherman forward.  Waiting their turn to cross the creek, Sherman remarked, “This is better than having to fight those fellows in the bushes, ain’t it?”  Later, as he explained how the abandoned line changed the situation, Sherman explained the military maneuvers to Hitchcock, “Now you understand what a flank movement means.”  In conclusion, Hitchcock would add in his diary, “Flanking is good – very.”

Following the march by markers, today you would look again at the marker located in modern day Oliver and one where the town of Jacksonboro once stood.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 44, Serial 92, pages 165, 275, and 628; Charleston Courier, December 6, 1864, page 1, column 3; Henry Hitchcock, Marching with Sherman: passages from the letters and campaign diaries of Henry Hitchcock, Yale University Press, 1927, pages 145-8.)


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:


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.


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:


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:


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.)

The decline of Charleston as a blockade runner port of entry

Among the justifications for operations against Charleston was the use of the port by blockade runners.  If Charleston to fall into Federal hands, of course this would close the port to such trade.  But several situations well short of the city’s capture could curtail, if not stop, blockade running at the port.  And that is precisely how events played out over the late summer and fall of 1863.

After the April ironclad attack on Fort Sumter, blockade running activity continued as if nothing had changed.  That’s because for all practical purposes nothing had changed.  The Confederates still held positions overlooking the approaches to Charleston.  When the Ruby ran aground at Lighthouse Inlet on June 11, 1863, it was the treacherous waterway stopping the blockade runner, not Federal guns.  Turning to Lifeline of the Confederacy: Blockade Running During the Civil War, and historian Stephen R. Wise’s   appendices listing details of blockade runner activity by port, there were twenty-three departures from Charleston between May 1 and July 10, 1863.  Two of those runners were captured after departing port and three were destroyed (including the former USS Isaac Smith) before leaving port.  At the same time, twenty times runners successfully dodged the blockade to enter Charleston.  So Charleston remained “open for business.”

That changed with the July 10 landings on Morris Island and the long summer siege of Confederate positions on the north end of the island.  Again, turning to Wise’s appendices, the activity was:

  • July 20 – Margaret and Jessie arriving from Nassau.
  • July 22 – Alice arriving from Nassau.
  • July 23 – Fannie arriving from Nassau.
  • August 1 – Margaret and Jessie outbound for Nassau.
  • August 3 – Antonica outbound for Nassau.
  • August 15 – Alice outbound for Nassau.
  • August 16 – Spaulding arriving from Nassau.
  • August 22 – Fannie outbound for Nassau.
  • September 18 – Spaulding outbound for Nassau.

And that was it for the year.  With Federals turning Battery Gregg into Fort Putnam, the main entrance to Charleston was under the guns.  With those batteries covering the channels, the Navy could concentrate steamers to better intercept those entering port. Not until March would any blockade runners register successful calls at Charleston.

Of those runners listed above, all save one became regulars at Wilmington, North Carolina.  That one, the Spaulding, was captured by Federals on October 11, 1863 while preparing a return to Charleston. There were “runs” at Charleston, but no successes.  Given that situation, Wilmington rose to prominence as the main port of call for blockade runners on the Atlantic Coast.

Likewise encounters in the waters off Wilmington increased.  On November 16, the USS Lodona stopped and seized the British schooner Arctic, just southwest of Frying Pan Shoals.  Although the captain of the schooner maintained he was bound for Baltimore with his load of salt, Acting Lieutenant Edgar Brodhead of the Lodona thought otherwise:

Her cargo was found to be salt, and the following papers were found on board, viz: Her register at the port of Nassau, shipping articles and list of her crew, clearance from Nassau for Baltimore, a bill of lading for 450 bags of salt, a sealed document addressed to “Kirkland, Chase & Co., consignees, Baltimore,” and a seal letter to Mr. _ Jenkins, Baltimore.  No long book was on board, her master stating that he had had none. Some of my crew who boarded her informed me that some of her crew stated that she had been “knocking about” the place of her capture for several days, and that they believed she intended to run the blockade.

Her position, course, etc., led me to believe that she was trying to violate the blockade of Wilmington, N.C., and that it was consequently my duty to seize her.

The Lodona was a captured blockade runner herself.

The emerging importance of Wilmington would prompt a shift of steamers in the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.  And of course, you are probably thinking that Truman Seymour’s plan of action against Wilmington would have been right on queue.  After all, as proven at Charleston, the most effective and efficient way to blockade a port is to have a few well placed batteries at the approaches.

(Citation from ORN, Series I, Volume 15, pages 116-7.)

150 years ago: Jefferson Davis visits Charleston

At around 1 p.m. this afternoon 150 years ago (November 2, 1863), President Jefferson Davis arrived by train at the Saint Andrews Parish depot across the Ashley River from Charleston.  Davis had visited with the Army of Tennessee in October and was returning to Richmond by way of Savannah, Charleston, and,  Wilmington.  According to newspaper accounts General P.G.T. Beauregard, Judge A.G. Magrath, and other dignitaries met Davis at the depot and escorted him into Charleston:

The procession, being formed, took up its line of march up Spring street to Rutledge, from Rutledge to Calhoun, up Calhoun to Meeting and down Meeting to City Hall.

The streets along the line of procession were thronged with people anxious to get a look at the President. The men cheered and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs in token of recognition.

One of the most pleasing incidents of the day, was the display which met the President and his cortege as the passed down Rutledge street.  At the corner of Bee and Rutledge streets, Maj. Trezevant, commanding the Confederate States Arsenal here, had arranged a pyramid of ten-inch shell manufactured at the Arsenal.  This was topped off with a beautiful “Harding” shell, called so after its inventor, Capt. Harding, also an accomplished officer connected with the arsenal.  In this was the staff of an elegant battle flag, and the whole surrounded with Yankee trophies of all sizes. On each side of this striking pyramid were the sturdy artisans of the arsenal, with their aprons on, their hats off, their tools in their hands just as they had left their shops but a few moments before….

Arriving at City Hall, Mayor Charles Macbeth offered a greeting the President.  Then Davis gave an address to the “large crowd present”:

He commenced by making  a graceful allusion to his former visit to Charleston, when he accompanied the remains of the lamented and illustrious statesman, John C. Calhoun, back to his beloved state.  If it be that the departed spirit can look down upon the events of life, with what interest can we not believe he views our present struggle, and in our trial watches over us with all a guardian angel’s care.  [Davis] came because his feelings drew him here in this trying time.  He desired also to confer with our commanding general, and by personal observation acquire some of that knowledge which would enable him to understand more clearly the reports which would be submitted to him….

Charleston was now singled out as a particular point of hatred to the Yankees, as the nest of the rebellion; but just in proportion to that hatred so is the love of every true son of the Confederacy gathered around us.  There is no where a generous spirit in the land that does not watch our progress with the most anxious solicitude….

While they had felt this anxiety, they had not been wanting in confidence.  They remembered how the Palmetto logs of Moultrie, in former times, resisted the then dreaded British fleet, and we can point to the defense now against the still more formidable attack on Sumter as but the renewal of the deeds of the past.  Though crumbling in her ruins, she yet stands, and every one looks with the anxious hope that the Yankee flag will never float over it.  Nobly has the little heroic garrison that now holds it responded to every expectation.  The commanding officer there is worthy to be the descendant of that heroic band that defended the pass of Thermopylae, and future records will record his name as glorious, for the defense of the approach to your harbor.  Whatever may be in the future, which is in the hands of the Supreme Being, we have written a proud page in our country’s history.

He hoped it would not be, as our enemies desire, that they should ever set foot upon the soil of Charleston.  But should it ever be otherwise, he trusted ours would be the glory he had desired for his native country-town, Vicksburg, and the whole be left one mass of rubbish…. It is only a question whether you will leave it a heap of ruins or a prey for Yankee spoils.  [Cries of “ruins, ruins.”] Such he believed to be the spirit of the land.

But he did not believe Charleston would ever be taken.  It was not his expectation.  Just in proportion as the enemy advanced upon us, they increase their difficulties – difficulties which they have not yet overcome.  They are yet brought under a concentrated fire, and as they approach the inner lines of circumvallation their difficulties will be still further increased as they progress….

When they attempt to attack us upon every side, and beleaguer us at different points, other arms will be released, and other arms will come to your assistance.  In any event, therefore, he looked forward to a glorious record of the close of the struggle for Charleston.  In any probability he looked forward for her honor to be preserved. On other fields South Carolinians have already added luster to the brilliant victories of the present day and to their glories of the past….

South Carolinians, like the plume of Henry the Fourth, have been a rallying point wherever their banners were borne.  We will have more glorious names to record and proud incidents for our descendants.  The new has overshadowed the old.  Every man has now an opportunity to carve out his own name and fame, and to be the author of his own history.  We all like to trace back to the fame of our fathers and to leave some glorious record for our descendants….

He who would now seek to drag down him who is struggling, if not a traitor, is first cousin to it.  For he is striking the most deadly blows that can be made in our limits.  He who would attempt to promote his own personal ends; he who is not willing to take a musket and fight in the ranks, is not worthy of the Confederate liberty for which we are fighting….

After his address, Davis thanked the people and retired to the council chamber where he greeted officers, civilian leaders, and some citizens. During the day, Federal batteries on Morris Island and ironclads in the channel continued the bombardment of Fort Sumter.  The big guns fired between 735 and 765 shots depending on which journal entry is referenced.  During daylight hours, the rate was at least one round every three to four minutes (likely higher).  So one might imagine Davis’ speech punctuated at points by the distant rumble of artillery out at the harbor’s mouth.

The following day, Beauregard showed Davis the defenses on Sullivan’s Island.  And then on November 4th, the President toured James Island’s defenses.  President Davis had seen the siege of Charleston, and now made his way to Wilmington.

(Newspaper account cited above is from the Memphis Appeal, at that time published in Atlanta, Georgia, for the day of November 4, 1863.  The Memphis Appeal cites the Charleston Courier as the original article source.)

“Ideas of advance from North Edisto”: Confederates strengthen Saint Andrew’s Parish

Back in the spring, while going “round the horn” examining the Charleston defenses, I held off discussing the defenses to the west of Charleston in Saint Andrew’s Parish.  Two very important transportation links to Savannah passed through the Parish – The Charleston & Savannah Railroad and the Charleston-Savannah Turnpike.  To the south of the mainland part of Saint Andrew’s, the Stono River turned west and then back south. Further south, the North Edisto River meandered through the backwater to join the Stono and form a channel leading towards Charleston.  These rivers ran dangerously close to the railroad and turnpike.  From the time of the Federal capture of Port Royal, small garrisons screened the transportation lines in small, light batteries.


Prior to the Morris Island Campaign, the threat to St. Andrews was mostly from Federal raids.  But with a large infantry force just marking time on the barrier islands, Confederate authorities assessed the risk of a little more than a raid.  In early October, 1863, General P.G.T. Beauregard called upon Brigadier-General Johnson Hagood to assess that risk, in particular a Federal advance up the North Edisto River.  Hagood felt such a Federal offensive might resemble that seen on Morris Island:

The enemy’s object in selecting this line would be to obtain a pointd’appui from which a sap could be pushed with decisive results against the body of the place, and at the same time to effect a practical investment of the town. Charleston Neck would be the point aimed at. In reaching this point, he would probably adopt the plan of pushing a strong column of light troops at once for a point above Bee’s Ferry, on the Ashley, where the river may be pontooned or is fordable, and effecting the investment of the town, while he would, for the purpose of securing his communications, primarily direct his main operations against our defenses in Saint Andrew’s Parish. Under the difficulties he would have to encounter in field transportation, I take it that water transportation to a point on the main in Saint Andrew’s east of Rantowles would be of the highest consequence with him.

Hagood felt the most likely line of advance would cross from Seabrook Island on the coast, up the North Edisto River, onto John’s Island.  A small force could delay the advance.  And a strong line of defense would use the marshes to constrain the Federals.

However, Hagood pointed out that if the Federals allocated sufficient strength, they could bypass Saint Andrew’s entirely and move around to Charleston Neck directly. But he turned that into a stratagem, “for the cardinal idea in our defense should be to compel the enemy, in his efforts get on the Neck, to swing round with as long a radius as possible, Charleston being the center.” Hagood felt the longer that line was drawn out, the more vulnerable any Federal operations.  Hagood proceeded to outline three separate lines of resistance across St. Andrew’s Parrish to contest such a sweeping advance.

But in summation, Hagood complained that the command assigned to protect Saint Andrew’s Parrish – called the Second Military District in his report, but after October 22nd the Sixth Military District – lacked the resources to conduct the defensive operations he mentioned.  However through October the Confederates did improve the works defending the important railroad line and approaches from the Stono River.


The same board that recommended the improved lines on James Island also called for improvements in the batteries along the Upper Stono and in Saint Andrew’s Parish.  These included:

  • Battery Wilkes with one 24-pdr siege gun and one 18-pdr siege gun (to be rifled).
  • Battery Haig with two 24-pdr rifles (which needed banding).
  • Battery Geddes with one 24-pdr smoothbore and one 12-pdr rifle.
  • Turnpike “Line of Inundation” with one 32-pdr navy gun, one 24-pdr smoothbore, one 18-pdr smoothbore, and one 12-pdr smoothbore.

In addition, Battery Palmer, off my map to the west, had one 8-inch Shell Gun, two 32-pdr seacoast guns, two 24-pdr siege guns, and one 12-pdr rifle. On the inland side of these works were a set of battery positions for field pieces.  The largest of these was called Fort Bull and covered a bridge over the Ashley River.

These works were sufficient to deflect a Federal raiding party.  But in the face of a major offensive, would need reinforcement.  While the defenses of Saint Andrew’s was never directly tested by the Federals, as we consider the plans and possibilities at Charleston the inadequacies of these works must factor in.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, pages 393-395.)