Soldiers’ Directory of Public Offices, Charleston, January 1864

On January 1, 1864, the Charleston Courier ran this listing of public offices on column six of the first page:


A lengthy list, but providing locations – in some cases the address – of all the important military offices, some government offices, and several hospitals.

Several years ago, when first encountering, I marked this of interest but really didn’t attach much importance.  While nice to know just where a general’s headquarters were located, in context of the Charleston campaign those are not as critical as, say, the same general’s headquarters at First Manassas or Shiloh.  After all, at Charleston, General P.G.T. Beauregard was not living out of a tent.  He had the luxury of a roof over his head, a bed, and a place to sit for breakfast.

One has to wonder why the paper would openly post such detailed information about military headquarters and offices.  Certainly this was useful information for Confederate soldiers and citizens of Charleston. But this issue of the paper was undoubtedly in Federal hands within a few days (if not the same day!).  And such detailed information about Confederate military offices was very useful to the men directing those Parrott rifles on Morris Island.

But the more I thought about those listings, the more I thought about the locations as part of the “set dressing” which the historian need consider.  The staff offices, in particular, were where Confederate Army’s business was conducted.  Knowing where those were, and importantly the physical proximity to other staff offices, gives us at least some small measure.

That said, let me take the Christmas Bombardment map from earlier posts and add to that indicators for these public offices:


As indicated, I’ve left the rough area of the “burnt district” and the area receiving attention of the Federal bombardments.  Yes, the Confederates kept their “business” out of the targeted area.  In fact most of the offices were clustered north of Cahloun Street and east of King Street.  In fact, I had to stack the ovals and circles so closely that many are “general” locations as opposed to specific street addresses.  So take these with that grain of salt. And by all means, if you have information that might improve the map, please drop a comment on this post.

Further, keep in mind this map is “off plumb” as I say, with the true north orientation actually not the top.  Rather we have to turn the map about thirty degrees to the left for proper orientation.

Let me crop the map for better visibility here:


Here’s my transcription from the directory, keyed to the numbers on the map:

  1. Headquarters of General P.G.T. Beauregard, southwest corner of Meeting and John Streets.
  2. Major General Jeremy Gilmer, Deputy Commander of District, No. 12 Charlotte Street.
  3. Chief Engineer, Colonel David Harris, northwest corner Charlotte and Alexander Streets.
  4. Chief of Artillery, Colonel A.J. Gonzales, 46 Rutledge Street.  (The map location is a guesstimate on my part, going the fourth block up on that street.)
  5. Quartermaster, Major Motte A. Pringle, Chapel Street, opposite Alexander.  Near the Northeastern Railroad terminal.
  6. Provost Marshal, Captain W. J. Gayer, Northeast corner King and Hudson Streets.
  7. Ordnance, Colonel John R. Waddy, southeast corner Charlotte and Elizabeth Streets, second story.
  8. Commander, Fifth Military District, Colonel Alfred Rhett, Washington Street, near Charlotte.
  9. Chief Quartermaster, Major Hutson F. Lee, Wragg Square.
  10. Staff Engineer, Captain Francis D. Lee, Alexander Street, one door north of Charlotte.
  11. Commissary, Department of SC, GA, and FL, Major Ferdinand Molley, Railroad Office, Ann Street, north side.
  12. Post Quartermaster, Captain John Kennedy, Tax in Kind, Hudson Street, near King.
  13. Chief of Subsistence, Engineer Department, Captain J.S. Ryan, northeast corner King and Citadel Square. (Likely in the same building as the Quartermaster office, #6 above.)
  14. Quartermaster, Captain George J. Crafts, King Street, near Spring.
  15. Soldiers’ Transportation Office, King Street, near Spring.  Three blocks down from the Southern Carolina Railroad passenger terminal.
  16. Naval Station Commander, Commodore Duncan Ingraham King Street, near Calhoun, west side.
  17. Paymaster, Army Department, Charlotte Street, southeast corner from Elizabeth Street.  (Perhaps co-located with the Ordnance office, #7.)
  18.  Chief Engineer, South Carolina, Major William Echols, 472 King Street, two doors south of Post Office.
  19. Quartermaster, Major Edward Willis, Wagg Square (along with #9).
  20. Negro Labor, Chief Superintendent R.L. Singletary, Meeting Street, west side, two doors south of Ann.  (I believe that is also the office of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad, which Singletary was president)
  21. Medical Purveyor, Dr. Thomas Lining,  10 Charlotte Street, north side.
  22. Medical Director, South Carolina District, Dr. N.S. Crowell, 570 King Street, east side.
  23. Medical Examining Board, 572 King Street, east side (next to the Medical Director’s office, #22.)
  24. Medical Director, Department SC, GA, and FL, Dr. R L. Brodie, southeast corner of Meeting and John Streets.  Brodie was long associated with Beauregard, and close to the general’s headquarters.
  25. Naval Paymaster, Charlotte Street, southeast corner of Elizabeth. (My map is cluttered, and the oval for this one is placed on the street at that location.)
  26. Commissary, Fifth Military District, Captain E. A. Rabb, the Church, corner of Elizabeth and Chapel Streets.
  27. Post Office, corner of King and Ann Streets.
  28. Charleston Courier office, corner of Meeting and Reid Streets.
  29. Charleston Mercury office, King Street, east side, one door from Hudson Street.
  30. Confederate Sub-Treasury, W. Y. Leitch, corner of Meeting and Wragg Square.
  31. Telegraph office, second story, South Carolina Railroad Office, John Street, south side.
  32. Military Telegraph office, 8 Ashley Street, near the Arsenal.  (Location presented on the map is a guess on my part.)
  33. Southern Express office, Orphan House, entrance on Philip Street.
  34. Mayor’s Office, Orphan House, entrance on Calhoun Street.
  35. Quartermaster, 5th Military District, Captain S.R. Proctor (?), John Street, three doors west of Alexander.
  36. Wayside Home, W.J. Wiley, Steward, southwest corner of King and George Streets.  (Note how close to the shelled areas.)
  37. Wayside Hospital, Dr. Robert Lebby, Sr., Surgeon, King Street, opposite Cannon Street.
  38. Soldiers’ Relief Hospital, Dr. W. H. Harper, Surgeon, corner of Blake and Drake Streets.
  39. First Virginia and Roper Hospital, Dr. J.D. Burns, Surgeon, corner of Smith and Morris Streets.  (The hospital was a former lunatic asylum and often used for Federal prisoners.)
  40. First Georgia Hospital, Dr. W.H. Cummings, surgeon, corner of King and Vauderhorst Streets.
  41. First North Carolina Hospital, Dr. J.B. Baxley, surgeon, corner of Mary and America Streets.
  42. Third North Carolina Hospital, Dr. J.A. Harold, surgeon, between Elizabeth and Alexander Streets.
  43. First South Carolina Hospital, Dr. G.R.C. Todd, surgeon, Rikersville.  Off the map about four miles north of Charleston.
  44. Confederate Naval Hospital, Dr. W.F. Patton, surgeon, corner of Spring and King Streets.
  45. Negro Hospital, corner of Spring and Rutledge Streets.

Plotted on the map, there’s a new perspective to consider.  The clustering of quartermaster, commissary, and other supply related offices seems logical.  Many of them are in close proximity to the railroads, with some close between the depots and the wharves of the Cooper River.  But now it is possible to suggest the paths of correspondence around Beauregard’s staff, as well as between Beauregard’s headquarters and subordinate staffs.

Another good point to consider is the distribution of hospitals around Charleston.  If nothing else just the number of care facilities.

I am searching to see if a similar listing appeared for earlier periods in the war.  Would certainly be interesting to see if the Federal bombardment brought on the movement of offices.  As it stands, in January 1864, those offices were several blocks away from the most heavily hit sections of the city.

Lastly, let me again ask that if any reader has information that might refine the map, please drop a comment here.

(Source: Charleston Daily Courier, Friday, January 1, 1864, page 1, column 6.)


A tragic accident: The loss of the Confederate steamer Sumter

An old military quip says, “friendly fire, isn’t friendly.”  That held true at the entrance to Charleston, South Carolina on the morning of August 31, 1863.  A series mistakes, miscues, and turns, coupled with plain old bad luck resulted in the loss of the steamer Sumter.  (NOTE:  This was NOT the raider CSS Sumter, later turned into the blockade runner Gibraltar.  Rather this Sumter was one of many steamers used by the Confederates around Charleston.)

The chain of events started on August 30.  Major Motte A. Pringle organized a routine resupply and replacement operation to Morris Island.  Just as the Federals rotated troops on the siege lines, the Confederates rotated troops stationed at Batteries Wagner and Gregg.  Given the danger of operating ships in those waters, normally the Confederates staged troops and supplies at Fort Johnson.  From there the Confederate Navy provided a rowboat shuttle to Cummings Point.  Analogous to the famous “Tokyo Express” of World War II, the boats ran at night to avoid the Federals.  In spite of Federal attempts to interdict, that method served the defenders of Morris Island well.

But on that particular evening, the Confederate Navy was unable to provide sailors for the rowboat detail.  Recall that during the day, the Federals blasted Fort Sumter with renewed vigor, sending 634 shots towards the Confederate bastion.  That and the posturing of the ironclads signaled a much anticipated naval assault on Fort Sumter was in the works.  With the Confederates on high alert, Commodore John Tucker kept all hands on board the CSS Chicora.

Pringle might have stopped right there, with justification, and waited for the next evening.  But with the replacements needed at Battery Wagner, and weary troops on the island needing rest, Pringle pressed on.  The steamer Chesterfield, which he’d taken to Fort Johnson, was unable to continue due to breakdown.  So Pringle turned to the steamer Sumter, and ship’s captain James R. Riley, to complete the night’s work.

The transit to Cummings Point went without incident.  After completing the transfer of cargo and personnel, the Sumter left the docks there around 2 a.m.  On board were troops from the 20th South Carolina, 23rd Georgia, and Matthew’s Light Artillery, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Olin M. Dantzler.  But the delays meant the Sumter was returning to port much later than expected.  Pringle later wrote:

The troops and all their supplies were landed on Morris Island, and those that were relieved were taken on board without any molestation from the enemy, although the night had changed into an exceedingly bright one, and at the upper end of the island there was a powerful calcium light. the tide had become so low that we were unable to cross directly over from Morris Island, and we were obliged to go a considerable distance around Fort Sumter.

The general route to and from Morris Island is depicted below (Point 1 is Fort Johnson. Point 2 is Cummings Point.  Point 3 is the entrance to the main ship channel.  Point 4 is the general location where the Sumter later sank.) :


The dashed yellow line is the return route not taken due to tides.  As depicted on the map, the wide route taken instead placed the Sumter in front of the batteries of Sullivan’s Island.   Those batteries had been engaged the previous day supporting Battery Wagner.  And the crews were that morning sleeping near the guns in anticipation of an attack by the ironclads.   At Fort Moultrie, Major Robert De Treville, First South Carolina Infantry, reported:

About 3 a.m. the officer of the day reported one of the enemy’s vessels approaching and on going out I saw a low, black steamer coming in from the direction of the enemy’s fleet. As soon as she was in easy range, I ordered fire opened, and she apparently stopped her course.

Dantzler, who was technically just a passenger on the Sumter, later wrote:

Being the senior officer present, I immediately ordered a light to be displayed, which was done for four or five minutes, but nothing better than a common tallow candle could be had.

The firing continued rapidly, and with more accuracy after the light was put up than before, and I therefore ordered it to be put out.  The whistle was also blown, but from some cause it did not blow clearly or loudly; I doubt if it could be heard at Sullivan’s Island amidst the noise of manning the batteries.  A brilliant light was also displayed on the parapet of Fort Sumter and at Battery Gregg.

Riley, in the wheelhouse, later stated he had the ship heel over to the shoal near Fort Sumter.  Other observers said the ship’s wheel was abandoned and the steamer drifted aground.  Either way, the Sumter stopped. While this was going on, Pringle ordered the ship to blow off steam, as an indication the Sumter was not attempting to force passage.  In addition, Pringle himself took an oil lantern up on deck to signal the friendly batteries.  Lastly, he ordered Riley to take a boat to shore in order to establish direct communication with the shore.  Finally, with the opening of the light from Fort Sumter and other signals, the firing from Sullivan’s Island ceased.

But the damage was done.  Dantzler assessed the injury in his report of the action:

I would judge that some 30 shots were fired, and 3 took effect, 2 striking her below low-water mark, and the third cutting down 2 of the men of the Twentieth, on the lower deck, and wounding another.  The men were relieved by small boats and barges, which were sent from Fort Sumter and Fort Johnson, but lost nearly all their guns, accouterments, and ammunition.  I had some 70 guns gathered up on the upper deck by a boat’s crew after the men got off.  I have made requisition for the guns, &c., needed, and solicit your aid in having us speedily supplied.

Thus without a single shot fired by the Federals, the Confederates lost a valuable transport, two men, and couple regiment’s worth of equipment.  The Sumter collapsed later that day and became another obstruction at the mouth of Charleston’s entrance.  Underwater archeologist E. Lee Spence places the wreck “fifty to seventy yards inside the Cumming’s Point buoy and about eight hundred to a thousand yards from Fort Sumter.”  (Spence identifies this as wreck 1863-8-US-SC/GA-5 on his list of shipwrecks on the Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina coast.)

Following this debacle, an official inquiry found Pringle at fault for not communicating the changes to standing plans on the night of August 30 and the morning of August 31.  However, General P.G.T. Beauregard waved any punitive action against Pringle, save an admonishment.  “Major Pringle’s zeal, energy and valuable services in keeping up nightly communications with Morris Island… alone shield him from trial by court-martial...”  To prevent any similar mistakes from occurring again, the Confederates established a system of signals across the harbor for day and night use.

From my blogging perspective, this story allows me to mention another of the interesting cannons found today around Charleston.  One of the guns in action was a 7-inch Brooke Triple-banded Rifle.

Fort Moultrie 3 May 2010 567

It was not the one on display at Fort Moultrie today. Rather the gun that fired on August 31, and at later engagements in the week that followed, was a similar weapon.  It was damaged beyond repair that September.  The gun presently at Fort Moultrie was the replacement.   So calling my next post out… let’s look at the 7-inch Triple-band Brooke.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part I, Serial 46, pages 689, 694-5, 700, and 706 .)