Charleston’s ship channels – then and now

During our visit to Charleston last week, the Aide-de-Camp and I walked the Sullivan’s Island beach near sunset.  During our walk, our study of the harbor was interrupted as this big white thing passed:


That’s the Carnival Ecstasy outbound on a cruise to some tropical ports of call.  One escort boat paces to the stern.  There was a larger pilot boat on the other side.  We kept tabs on the liner’s progress as she worked out the channel to the sea.

2016-03-19 Charleston 090

The cruise liner is 150 years removed from the days of coal-fired steamships that attempted to run out of Charleston during the Civil War.  Sailors of those blockade runners might not recognize the modern diesel engines powering the liner.  For that matter, maybe the concept of luxury cruises might seem odd to the Civil War sailors….

But one thing that would look familiar are those boats tending to the big ship.  I wrote about the problems getting ocean going ships over the bar at Charleston on several occasions, in particular how that limited options during the crisis days at Fort Sumter.  During the war, the US Navy kept numerous armed tugs in the blockading force off Charleston.  These light-draft and maneuverable vessels were invaluable for working in the shallows and also for assisting the larger ships through the narrow confines of the channels.  Recall that during the Civil War the approaches to Charleston harbor offered four channels:


Of all the wartime maps of Charleston, I like this one best.. and not just because of the colors.  The US Coast Survey produced this map in 1865 by direction of Rear-Admiral John Dahlgren.  Annotations on the map supported Dahlgren’s reports filed at the end of the war.  So we see notes about the locations of significant wrecks, torpedoes, harbor obstructions, and batteries.

But look at the channels.  Charleston had four:

  • Main Ship Channel – coming up from the south in front of Morris Island.  The Federal ironclads used this channel to attack Fort Sumter on April 7, 1863. And later the Federals maintained a presence in the channel, first as they worked against Battery Wagner then later for operations against Fort Sumter.
  • Swash Channel – Somewhat a secondary route directly over the bar.  Federals often posted tugs or light draft gunboats in the Swash Channel overnight on blockade duty.
  • North Channel – Also a secondary route.  Used often by the blockade runners in the first half of the war (as evidenced by the wreck of the Georgiana.
  • Beach Channel, better known as Maffitt’s Channel – Running along Sullivan’s Island, this became the preferred channel for blockade runners.

Now let’s consider how the entrance to Charleston looks… from under the water… today:


I’ve called out some key points in red on this navigational chart.  Note the locations of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, still watching the passage of vessels at the harbor entrance.  But other than that, a lot of changes – above and below the water.

We see Morris Island Lighthouse on the lower left.  That’s not the location of the wartime light, but rather a postwar light built in 1876.  It servers to depict how much Morris Island has retreated. Keep in mind that the coastal survey teams documented rather alarming changes to Morris Island between the pre-war and 1863. So don’t get the idea that barrier island’s erosion is all a 20th century thing.  Barrier islands shift and move… that’s what they do.

Looking under the water, notice that Charleston now has just one channel.  Two jetties reach out from shore to help stabilize that channel.  For ships entering harbor, the first leg of the passage is the “Fort Sumter Range,” on which the vessel’s bearing is directly at Fort Sumter.  The Corps of Engineers maintains that channel to a depth of 49 feet mean low lower water (MLLW) but has plans to deepen that to 52 feet.  MLLW?  Yes, the “The average of the lower low water height of each tidal day observed over the National Tidal Datum Epoch.”  It’s a low tide thing.  Wonder what Dahglren would say about a 52 foot deep channel into Charleston for his ironclads?

Note the locations of the wartime channels, marked in red, on the modern chart.  Only a remnant of the Main Ship Channel remains in front of Fort Sumter.  Maffitt’s Channel is but a memory.  The modern channel splits the Swash and North Channels (and my annotation of those two channels there is somewhat a ballpark estimate… both channels wandered around a bit even during the war).  Some of these changes were prompted by all the activity off the coast in the 1860s.  Certainly the number of wrecks, to include the stone fleet, had some impact.  But the biggest issue was four years in which no channel maintenance was conducted.  After the war, Charleston needed a deeper channel.  Jetties built in the 1870s widened out the Swash Channel.  Now in the 21st century ships are getting bigger and thus the project to make it 52 feet deep, at low water.

Oh… and by the way, for that project to deepen the channel, the Corps of Engineers has conducted a “cultural resources assessment.”  On page 23 of Appendix O of the report, the Army has determined at least one anomaly within the channel deserves attention.  As a precaution, the Army will have “an archaeologist onboard the dredge when operating in the vicinity of the anomaly.”  Furthermore, “Remote sensing surveys will be conducted in all areas proposed for widening to ensure that incidental damage to any such resources will be avoided. It is anticipated that no cultural or historic resources would be affected by the project.”

Some other points of reference, since we are out looking at those waters.  Notice Rattlesnake Shoals remains a hazard to navigation out on the northeast approaches.  Walk down to the lower left of that shoal and you see a box outlined on the chart:


The chart indicates, in Note A, that we should refer to Chapter 2, US Coastal Plot 4, specifically part 165.714.  There we find the coordinates for a trapezoid and the following warning:

In accordance with the general regulations in §165.23 of this part, all vessels and persons are prohibited from anchoring, diving, laying cable or conducting salvage operations in this zone except as authorized by the Captain of the Port.

And what prompted such regulation?  Just off from lighted buoy #16 is where the H.L. Hunley was found.

One more bit of history comes by way of the notes on this chart.  Track to  “Danger Area (see note B)” just below the Hunley‘s box.  Note B states:

Area is open to unrestricted surface navigation but all vessels are cautioned neither to anchor, dredge, trawl, lay cables, bottom, nor conduct any similar type of operation because of residual danger from mines on the bottom. Anchorage in the designated area is at your own risk.

Minefields in that area (and others marked on the chart) date to the World Wars. So more than just Civil War history to consider.

And that history has me reflecting on changes… changes to the harbor entrance that we can document.  Often our thoughts about changing battlefields remains above the surface as we look at topology.  Things like new roads and development tend to obliterate what was heavily contested ground in the 1860s (as Phil recently wrote about).  But for some battlefields, there is another dimension to consider.  The waves on the surface of the ocean off Charleston still rise and fall just in 1863…


But what is beneath those waves has changed drastically.

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.


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?

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.

My opinion: Fort Sumter’s Confederate flags should stay

Fort Sumter is, for better or worse, in the news again this season.  And the news centers around this flag display:

Fort Sumter 4 Aug 11 1670A

In response to recent events, the National Park Service announced it was taking down flags in that display which were related to the Confederacy.  The Post-Courier covered this last week (I posted this to my Facebook page, but held off discussing here until full details came public):

Tim Stone, superintendent of the Fort Sumter-Fort Moultrie National Monument, said Fort Sumter’s four flags were lowered the day after the shooting.

“The tragedy has made all of us re-evaluate our role in the community and in the nation,” he said.

On Thursday, the National Park Service, which runs the fort, issued a directive to remove Confederate flag items such as banners, belt buckles and other souvenirs from its gift shops, though books, DVDs and other materials showing the flag in a historical context may remain for sale.

On the same day, the Park Service also instructed its parks and related sites to not fly flags other than the U.S. flag and respective state flags outside their historic context….

Stone said the fort’s wayside markers explaining the history behind the fort’s various flags will remain, “but we probably won’t be re-raising them per the director’s policy.”

The removed flags include the first and second national flags of the Confederate States of America as well as two earlier versions of the U.S. flag. Stone said the four banners had historical ties to the fort, which was surrendered by Union forces in 1861 as the war began but retaken by them as the war wound to an end.

The series of flags were first raised in 1972, and Stone said they brought few complaints. “There was on occasion some comment of why we were flying the Confederate flags,” he said. “We explained the historical context of that.”

The marker he mentioned is this one:

Ft Sumter 3 May 2010 287

Please consult the HMDB entry for the transcribed text.   The article continued with some explanation of the move by the park:

But Stone said he grew more sympathetic to concerns about the flags when he noted some boaters entering Charleston Harbor would pass by them without any interpretation explaining why they were there.

“I think that concern has some legitimacy, and we need to be sensitive to the community and the American people,” he said. “I hadn’t thought of it in that perspective.”

Stone said it is unclear what will become of the four flagpoles that were improved as recently as 2007 in preparation for the Civil War’s sesquicentennial but now no longer serve a purpose.

“A lot of this is happening very quickly,” he said.

Indeed, all happened very quickly.  Perhaps too quickly.  Yesterday the Post-Courier ran a story indicating the park is re-examining the decision and contemplating changes:

Linda Friar, a National Park Service spokesperson, said on Wednesday that the park has received a lot of calls about the decision to remove the flag, but they have not yet reached a decision on if the flags will be raised again….

“The National Park Service has many historic sites, and some of our history has a lot of different emotions attached to it by whoever’s looking at it,” Friar said. “Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie are about a particular part of our history and a lot of folks still have opposing views.”

First off, if you interpreted my post from last week to mean I wanted to purge all traces of the Confederacy, then you may have read something into the writing that was not there.  There are proper venues and reasons to display the Confederate flags.  And I contend that Fort Sumter is one of them.  I find the explanation for the flag removals lacking.   The action was in response to a blanket, knee-jerk reaction by government officials.  To categorize this as a problem for boaters passing the fort is to bend the limits of credibility here.  Should we also be worried that boaters might sense some danger with all the cannons pointed at them from Fort Moultrie and Sumter?  Please, we are adults here….

This is a great example of how complicated our history is.  As such, it is a perfect location for the public to be introduced to the story that is our history, for all of its complications, in order to gain a full, rich, and, dare I say, proper, understanding.  If we are to steer the public away from “emotional” displays, then our National Park system is going to be a very bland, joyless, and lonely place.  If we are going to go out of our way to address every “sensitivity” then our National Park system is going to resemble the intellectual equivalent to a kindergarten play room.

Are there “dangers” associated with the display of Confederate flags at a location, such as Fort Sumter, where historical context actually fits?  Yes.  Several dangers in fact…. two that come directly to mind are – that those pushing their version of heritage might actually have to confront the realities of history… and that some historians will have to admit the history trumps their political agendas.   We would do better at dispelling the former if the latter stop treating the audience as some naive lot.

Again, we are adults here. “Emotional” displays should not deter us from the history.  I’m pretty sure we can confront the “scary” side of the Confederate flag.

POSTSCRIPT: I meant to include mention of the sesquicentennial display done at Fort Pulaski over the last five years.  If you missed note of that, Fort Pulaski flew, at times to coincide with the sesquicentennial events associated with the fort, different historical flags.  Those included Confederate flags.  The display was very powerful, mature, meaningful… and positive.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part IV: A wartime photo of a surviving cannon, a rare 10-inch Columbiad

The next stop on this virtual tour of wartime Fort Johnson, outside Charleston, South Carolina, is the photo designated FJ3:


The location of this photo is plotted with that designation on the diagram below:


I love this photo.  Mostly because of that scene-stealing cannon right up front:


I’ve blogged a bit about this particular weapon and shared its history at length.  One thing I would add to that, since we are pointing out the connection of this rifled 10-inch Columbiad to Fort Johnson, is another photo from the collection of the Charleston Museum.  This large columbiad remained at Fort Johnson well after the war before being moved to Fort Sumter for display.

When I first read Warren Ripley’s Artillery and Ammunition of the Civil War, the story of this weapon captured my fancy.  It was a piece of history that I could see in a wartime photo and then, after a ferry ride over to Fort Sumter, actually touch.  So from there started a lasting appreciation for the story of Charleston’s long Civil War siege.

This being a digitized copy of the negative, once again we see the fine-grained details:


Again we see the result of Confederate details, who chopped at the carriage.  We can see individual hack marks and chips hanging loose.  Notice the bolts, square nuts, washers, and plates.  This was a pre-war pattern carriage, built by the Confederates – likely in Charleston – during the war.

Another effort to render the weapon ineffective for at least the near term was the removal of the truck wheels.


Another detail that stands out in this photo are the blemishes and dents on the gun’s reinforcing band:


If you look at the same spot today, some of those, particularly the circular mark, stand out to the sharp eye:


However, with all the scuffs, blemishes, and scratches from the last 150 years, the band is far from the relatively “clean” look it had in 1865.  The photo above was taken in 2011.  The columbiad received some maintenance and treatment recently, so I’m interested to see it again… maybe those scratches have more stories to tell.

Looking to the muzzle, we see a tall blade sight on the lip:


This was due to the need to provide a fixture above the line of sight over the large breech bands.

Turning from the big gun, we see an 8-inch Model 1841 Siege Howitzer looking out towards Morris Island.


This is a crisp study of the weapon and carriage.  Looking closely at the breech:


There’s an interesting marking to the left of the knob. That appears to be a range table of sorts.  We also see the number “7” at the top.  The January 1865 report listed no weapons of this caliber assigned to Fort Johnson.  I suspect this howitzer was from the South Carolina Siege Train.  But it could easily have been one assigned to the other batteries on James Island.  I’ve tried in vain to link the number on the breech to wartime documents.

Behind the howitzer appears to be an ammunition chest.  In front of it, or at least next to the right wheel, is a tampion.  And to the other side of the wheel is a canister round:


More canister are stacked on the foot of the works:


Looking past the howitzer, we see the posts in the harbor:


Again, I have speculations as to the reason for these posts.  And my leading speculation is in regard to the telegraph line to Fort Sumter.

Speaking of Fort Sumter, there it is again:


In this image, we can see more details of the dock and second three gun battery.

Further to the left of frame is the shoreline of Sullivan’s Island:


Before leaving this photo, let us look at the foreground… and I do mean ground:


Remember this was taken in the spring of 1865.  I can make out grass and weeds growing here.  Again, let’s consider the natural colors which should replace the grey-scale.

Even more of the growth on the berm behind the columbiad:


Fort Johnson needed some Roundup!

But there is something to say about those weeds.  Those are “growth” and coming at the end of a long war.  No longer “frowning” works that bristled against the threat of attack.  Instead, we see nature taking over the works of man and beginning to transform them from the wartime appearance.

Next, we will go a few steps beyond the columbiad and look back along the gun line from the other side.

Fort Johnston Photo Analysis, Part III: Brooke 7-inch Rifle in the third gun pit

Continue along with me in this “virtual” walk… back in time… to Fort Johnson as it appeared in the spring of 1865.  We move now to the second photo of the set:


I’ve given this photo the label of “FJ2” on the diagram below, so that we know the perspective from which we are looking:


Please note the photo we are using here is not a scan from the original glass plate.  Rather it is a scan from a mounted print. Still that affords detail worthy of discussion.

The “star” of this photo is a 7-inch Brooke Rifle.


Throughout my sesquicentennial narrative covering Charleston’s siege, I’ve written about the 7-inch Brookes.  These featured prominently in the Confederate defense of Charleston, particularly against the Federal ironclads.  Brookes of this caliber did substantial damage to the ill-fated, ill-designed USS Keokuk.  This particular example in place at Fort Johnson at the end of the war was a double-banded, as opposed to the single-band seen early in the production run or the triple-band version used on Sullivan’s Island.  The 7-inch Brooke at Fort Johnson was one of six at Charleston through the winter of 1865.

Looking at the gun and carriage in detail, we see, like the 10-inch columbiads, the Confederates used axes to damage the carriage:


While this could be repaired, the damage at least ensured the Federals could not make immediate use of the big rifle.  We can’t see any details of the vent.  But I’d assume that was jammed.  I’ve often wondered why the Confederates did not do more to disable the weapons.  But we an be thankful they did not blow up the guns, magazines, and forts. Not only did that save lives at the time, but left a lot of artifacts behind for our viewing.

The relatively intact carriage allows us to peruse other details.  Notice the trunnions and trunnion plate:


This was a standard 10-inch columbiad carriage, but used an adapter with the trunnion plate for the smaller trunnion of the Brooke.  Notice no cap square on the seacoast carriage.  Notice also the square nuts for the ties.  Those on the trunnion plate do not have washers.  But the transverse tie (below the trunnion, facing us) has a washer-like fitting.

Shifting back to the breech, we see a good profile of the Brooke with bands and blade cascabel:


At the top of the breech is the rear sight base with brackets and fittings:


The Brooke casabel was pierced for an elevating screw.  Such was standard outfit for naval mountings.  On land, the seacoast carriage was not easily adapted for use of the elevating screw.  So we see in the photo an anachronistic throwback:


Yes, a quoin wedged in there under the breech.

As for the forward sights, the sight base over the trunnions is bare:


There is another sight base on the muzzle:


Also note the tampion in the muzzle.  Again, I’m amazed that the Confederates would leave the weapon’s accouterments in place.

Beyond the Brooke is the last gun position in Fort Johnson and an 8-inch siege howitzer.  Even with the lower resolution of this scan, we can see one of the posts in the line between Battery Simkins and Fort Sumter.


Also within range of this resolution are the details of the turf making up the fort’s walls:


Bricks or cut sod?

The crown of this portion of the wall is already showing harm from neglect and wear:


And beyond Fort Johnson, we have another glimpse of Fort Sumter:


The resolution does not provide many details.  Perhaps the masted vessel seen to the right of the fort in FJ1 had moved on by the time the photographer snapped FJ2.

Before leaving this photo, let me mention the “star” of this photo as a possible survivor.  The Charleston Museum’s archives include a photo of what may be the same Brooke Rifle (or at least a similar one) being excavated at the fort.  That photo is undated, but likely from the first quarter of the 20th century.  The gun in the photo was later placed in “The Battery” at White Point:

Charleston 4 May 10 035

I’d give it about 90% odds that the Brooke in the wartime photo is the same pictured being excavated and thus is the same on display today.  As if you didn’t have enough reasons to visit Charleston’s Battery, there’s a chance to connect with a wartime artifact with a story to tell.

Next up, we’ll “walk” a bit further down the line to the last gun position at Fort Johnson.