Fort Sumter flag display update … Flags staying, moving to new section of fort

Yesterday Fort Sumter National Monument posted this update to their Facebook page:

I haven’t found the corresponding “official” press release on their website.  Probably because Facebook is easier to update than the website (darn you “company who outbid the company I used to work for” and your clunky user interface!!!!).  But let me pull the text for the Facebook update here:

Press Release Regarding Fort Sumter National Monument’s Historical Flag Display:

Fort Sumter National Monument Moves Historical Flag Display to Original Parade Ground

Charleston, SC – Fort Sumter National Monument officials announced today that the historical flag interpretive display flying over Fort Sumter will be moved to the fort’s original parade ground. The new display will include every national flag that flew over the fort during the Civil War. It will be located on the same ground and near the same location where the original flags flew 150 years ago.

“As a focal point of Charleston Harbor, it is important that the only flag seen flying atop Fort Sumter National Monument is the current United States flag,” said Superintendent Tim Stone. “The historical flag display will be in the fort so visitors can learn about the fort’s history and the history of the flags that flew here.”

The new display will feature the 33-star United States flag, the First National Flag of the Confederacy, the Second National Flag of the Confederacy, and the 35-star United States flag. These flags represent the national flags that flew over the fort during the Civil War between 1861 and 1865.

Since the tragedy at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston only the current 50-star United States flag has flown above Fort Sumter. The National Park Service is looking closely at how interpretive displays featuring flags of the Confederacy help visitors understand the Civil War. As part of this process, Fort Sumter National Monument reviewed its historical flag interpretive display. The park determined that the display would be modified and moved and only national flags flown at the fort during the Civil War will be part of the new display.

The park uses interpretive displays, museum exhibits, signs, brochures, a website and social media platforms to tell the story of Fort Sumter. Many of these feature flags or reproductions of flags used during the Civil War. These displays change from time to time as new tools become available and more information is learned about the war and the fort. Only the historical flag interpretive display at Fort Sumter is being changed at this time.

Short version – the flag display pictured here….

Fort Sumter 4 Aug 11 1547

… which were taken down earlier this summer (the photo below is from a bad weather day in 2010, and a trick on my part)….

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 268

… minus the large flagpole where the current 50-star US flag is flown, will relocate onto the Endicott Era Battery Huger…

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 316

…  onto the area near the railings to the far left of the photo above.  Basically, cut and paste the smaller flag poles on the right to a place on the left.

That is, in my opinion, good placement.  That will require no small expenditure, which some might call into question.  But the outcome is to retain the interpretive display, which I think is for the best.

I would point out that during the Federal bombardments of Fort Sumter, the Confederates placed their flag at the left corners of the fort.  This was captured in Conrad Wise Chapman’s paintings:


And in wartime photos from Morris Island:


And as indicated on the NPS diagram from Facebook, the fort’s original flagpole stood on the parade ground.  Neither of those historical locations would work within the fort’s layout today.  I applaud the decision to retain the display, and think the placement is actually better for interpretive needs.

Battery Haskell or Haskall or Haskel?

Daily Observations from the Civil War is another “must subscribe to” blog I recommend.  The “writing” on that blog pulls from several contemporary sources, offering daily views of the war as things occurred 150 years ago.  One of the sources has been Conrad Wise Chapman – not his writings, but his series of paintings depicting scenes around Charleston, South Carolina.  I’m no art historian-type.  So you won’t find me writing about the style points or brush strokes here.  But what I do find fascinating is how Chapman and other Confederate artists were able to capture such vivid scenes.  I’ve written about the Federal photographers and offered analysis of the scenes they captured on glass plate.  Likewise, we should consider Chapman and his cohorts as the other half of the “dueling artists” at Charleston – Federal photographers vs. Confederate painters if you will.

These serve an additional purpose, reminding me of the need to offer posts focused on the details of each fortification around Charleston.  That said, let’s take this painting for a starting point:


Daily Observations records the name of this painting as “Battery Haskel, March 4, 1864.”  Chapman offered a brief description, “This battery was placed very far out and therefore occupied a more than ordinarily dangerous position, attendant with much risk.”  (And by the way, the Museum of the Confederacy offers a very high resolution photo of this painting, as part of the online exhibit of Chapman’s paintings.) Battery Haskell (and I’ll deal with the miss-matching of the name below) sat at the left end of a line of works fronting Light House Creek, and directed towards Morris Island:


Notice that long line of works to the background left of Chapman’s painting.  Although Battery Cheves filled the gap between Haskell and Battery Simkins, the extent of the marsh left Haskell exposed on a hot corner, so to speak. Between mid-August 1863 and April 1864 the battery was frequently mentioned as either engaging Federal batteries on Morris Island, receiving fire from Morris Island, or both.  No surprise then Battery Haskell has shown up in many posts of late.

With a mind to establishing a standard practice for discussing these fortifications like Battery Haskell, allow me to proceed with a raw listing of the battery’s particulars:

Name:  Battery Haskell, sometimes incorrectly Haskall (mostly on Federal maps) or Haskel (seen on the original version of the map above, and Chapman’s title).  I’m guilty of this myself!

Named for: Captain Charles Thomson Haskell, Jr., 1st South Carolina Infantry.  Charles died while leading troops in defense of Morris Island on July 10, 1863 (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, page 370).  His brother, Captain William Thomson Haskell, died just days earlier at Gettysburg.  Headquarters, Department of South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia, Special Orders No. 162, issued on August 21, 1863 designated “Work at Legare’s, as Battery Haskell” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 299).

Location: James Island, overlooking Lighthouse Creek, near Legare’s Plantation.

Description:  An open (to the rear) earthwork battery.  Front face of approximately 110 yards.  Parapet around 16 feet high and 20 feet thick (see diagram below).  Twelve positions for guns.  A detached work for two mortars.

Purpose:  Originally built to oppose the Federal siege batteries on Morris Island.  Also to target Black Island and Lighthouse Inlet.

Established:  Work began in late July 1863.  By July 26, the battery was ready for “four mortars and eleven siege guns; also one chamber ready to receive the platform (columbiad)” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 232).

Plans, photographs and other depictions:  Aside from Chapman’s painting above, Federal engineers made detailed surveys of the work after Charleston fell in February 1865.  Though named “Haskall,” the plans showed a work very similar to that captured in the painting.  Haskell was open to the rear with a large epaulment on the left side.  A central magazine served the main guns.

Battery Haskall Plan1

Profiles show two guns mounted at the time of the survey, though embrasures for six to eight guns existed.  Three traverses lay inside the battery’s inside firing platform (see Sectional Profile 1).  Two bombproofs appeared in the profile diagrams.  In addition to the main magazine, the left flank epaulment contained a bombproof.

Battery Haskall Plan2

A ditch ran across the front of the work, covered by a meager counter-scarp.  This is also seen in the Capman painting.

Armament:  Based on reports and inventories, the armament evolved over time:

  • September 25, 1863: “One sea-coast howitzer, 8-inch siege-carriage, one 4-inch Blakely, one of the James bronzed field pieces, captured at Shiloh, one 20-pounder Parrott, one smooth 24-pounder, two 4.62-inch, one 24-pounder double-banded rifle, and two mortars, 10-inch; in all, ten pieces.” (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, page 377)
  • Changes proposed October 20, 1863: One 4-inch Blakely, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, one 8-inch columbiad (as shell gun), one 20-pdr Parrott, one 24-pdr rifled and double-banded gun, one 24-pdr smoothbore, two 42-pdr carronades, and two 10-inch mortars. (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 433)  See post about the changes made that month to other works on James Island.
  • May 3, 1864: One 8-inch columbiad, one 24-pdr rifled and double banded, one 24-pdr smoothbore, two 42-pdr carronades, and two 10-inch seacoast mortars. (OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part II, Serial 67, page 466)
  • January 1865: One 8-inch columbiad, one 8-inch seacoast howitzer, two 42-pdr carronades, one 32-pdr rifled and banded (mounted as mortar), and two 6-pdr field guns. (OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part II, Serial 99, pages 1024-6)

Units assigned and commanders:  During the summer months of 1863, Major John V. Glover, of the 25th South Carolina Infantry, commanded Battery Haskell.  Companies of the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer (Heavy) Artillery provided cannoneers for the fort.

Significant actions and activity:  As mentioned above, almost daily actions during the siege of Charleston from August 1863 to February 1865.

The loss of Battery Wagner in September 1863 prompted some improvements to Battery Haskell in anticipation of Federal batteries advancing to the north end of Morris Island.  Those included strengthened parapet and bombproof, along with traverses specifically to protect from former Batteries Wagner and Gregg, which became Federal Forts Strong and Putnam (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 350).   Inspections in late September found the magazine in poor condition (OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Serial 47, page 377).  Heavy rains also rendered the gun platforms unsuitable until repairs and improvements made.

General P.G.T. Beauregard considered firing phosphorus shells from Battery Haskell, before that idea was abandoned for lack of lucrative targets (OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, page 504).

Abandoned when Confederates evacuated Charleston on February 17, 1865.

Status today:  Portions of Battery Haskell remain today and are protected by the South Carolina Battlegrounds Preservation Trust.  A South Carolina state marker provides interpretation.  My friend, the late Mike Stroud, provided photos for that marker entry:

Along with a view across the marsh:

Photos courtesy HMDB, Mike Stroud, January 6, 2011.

A Chapman painting and “a striking proof of their liberality”

Earlier today, Daily Observations of the Civil War ran this Conrad Wise Chapman painting:


The caption for this painting reads:

“This scene was sketched by the artist from the top of St. Michaels Church in Charleston, by means of a telescope. There is a gunboat out in the harbor; every time there was a flash, the artist states that the yankee soldiers in the batteries would disappear as if by magic.” – Conrad Wise Chapman, 1898

Such refers to the “skirmishing” seen at Charleston from the fall of 1863 until the city fell in 1865.  Unlike other sectors, this skirmishing took the form of heavy guns trading shots.  For every shot fired, there is an “outgoing” story and an “incoming” story.  Chapman provided some of the “outgoing” part.  Let me call upon the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery’s history for an example of “incoming” side of this sort of “skirmishing” with heavy guns:

Near the entrance, in Fort Putnam, was a battery of two guns facing the harbor and Sullivan’s Island, and on its parapet was a platform to admit of a howitzer in case of an attack.  On this platform stood General Gillmore, Colonel Brayton, Capt. A.E. Greene, Lieut. G.W. Greene, and other officers, surveying the front, and holding a consultation.  The enemy on Sullivan’s Island, seeing this group of officers, aspired to have a voice in their councils by opening on them with a huge mortar.  Our officers saw the puff of smoke, heard the loud report, and discovered the huge shell making its curved way directly towards them.  Our men in the fort saw the affair and intently looked to see the officers fly to cover.  Said one of the officers: “Though we saw the bomb had us in line, our pride and rank forbade our flinching, and we stood firm, and would have stood if our heads had been blown off. Providentially, the shell burst a little in front of us, right in our faces, and not a fragment of it injured us. We were then glad that we had not shown the white feather (whatever we felt) in the presence of the men.”

The account above is attributed to February 1, 1864.  While Chapman was generally good with dates, I am unable to find a corresponding Federal account for his February 12 caption.  Such would be of interest, as it might reference the rare use of Confederate gunboats in the “skirmishing.”  However, the 3rd Rhode Island did record this entry for February 12:

Feb. 12. For some uncommunicated reason the rebels chose to open simultaneously all their guns on our front, which occasioned special inquiry for the moment.   Major Ames, being Chief of Artillery on the island, at once ordered his horse and dashed up to the forts to investigate the matter.  Reaching Fort Putnam (Gregg), he had no sooner dismounted than his horse was struck in the neck by the fragment of an exploded shell, and instantly killed.  Of necessity our officers had frequently to be exposed more than the gunners, who usually had the protection of traverses and parapets.  Always, however, all of us were targets when approaching and leaving our batteries.  On this day the rebels tossed us more than 400 shells – quite a striking proof of their liberality.

This of course, referenced Beauregard’s “distraction” designed to facilitate operations on John’s Island,fired in the early morning hours. Perhaps the shots that Chapman witnessed were the tail end of that bombardment.  Or just another round of “skirmishing.”

Chapman’s painting is remarkably detailed, considering he was looking through a telescope.  Compare to this wartime photo of Fort Putnam:

The angle of the photograph is opposite that of Chapman’s, with Charleston just out of frame to the right.  I’ve referenced this photo before, but not offered a detailed examination as of yet.  There’s a lot of interesting things in the photo, so I’ll have to get to that!

As for the location where Gillmore and other officers braved Confederate fire:

I give you two guns facing Sullivan’s Island and a howitzer platform.

(Citation 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, pages 235-6.)