April 14, 1865: The war turns full circle as “the same dear flag” is raised over Fort Sumter

By all contemporary accounts, April 14, 1865 was a momentous day at Fort Sumter.  For weeks, Federal authorities planned a ceremony at the fort, timed to the fourth anniversary of the surrender which started the Civil War.  Dignitaries, reporters, sketch artists, and photographers gathered for the much anticipated moment.  And, thanks to the latter, we have a wealth of photographs dated to April 1865 from the Charleston area.


As I draft this post, the Library of Congress’ website is throwing some odd errors with thumbnails.  Otherwise I’d fill this post with images taken on, or about, April 14, 1865 at Charleston.

One of those photographs, taken at Fort Strong, a.k.a. Battery Wagner, captured members of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery going through inspection.


On Morris Island, members of the 3rd Rhode Island Heavy Artillery prepared to play a role in the ceremonies.  Having served through the long siege of Fort Sumter and Charleston, the 3rd was aptly tasked to provide details of honor guards and, most prominently, manned the guns to fire ceremonial salutes.

The 3rd Rhode Island regimental history recorded the day’s events:

April 14. At the hour named the army, the navy, the national authorities of Washington, dignitaries of every civil and professional rank, and eminent strangers – a multitude of notables – by war-ships, transports, and boats, landed on the war-swept walls.  Full 3,000 persons, men and women, crowded on the ruin.  And now commenced the services: –

I. Prayer by Rev. Matthias Harris, Chaplain United States Army, who offered the prayer at the raising of the flag when Major Anderson removed his command from Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter, Dec. 27, 1860.

II. Reading the Scriptures by Rev. R. S. Storrs, Jr., D.D., and the audience alternately, from sheets prepared at The New South office, and distributed for use. The selected portions were [Palms 126, 47, 98, and part of 20]; closing with a doxology. A profound impression was made by this reading, following the Chaplain’s prayer, that recalled the past.

III. Reading of Major Anderson’s dispatch to the Government, dated Steamship Baltic, off Sandy Hook, April 18, 1861, announcing the fall of Fort Sumter. The reading was by Brevet Brig.-Gen. E. D. Townsend, Assistant Adjutant General, United States Army.

IV. At the full hour of noon – all things in readiness – the battlements thronged with excited beholders – Major Anderson again lifted to its lawful place on the walls and to the breath of heaven, the same dear flag that floated during the assault of 1861.  Who can describe the scene? Who can utter the deep feelings that choked the bravest men and wet the eyes of all the thousands present.

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V. And now came the eloquence of artillery. Rhode Island opened the ponderous lips and spoke the thundering notes. Lieut. J.E. Burroughs and his men (Company B), pronounced the “one hundred” with the guns of Sumter. Capt. J.M. Barker and his command, Company D, answered with the national salute from Morris Island. Lieut. C.H. Williams and his men, Company B, responded from Sullivan’s Island.  And the air-reading chorus came in from the guns of Fort Johnston. Meanwhile, what cheers and tears, what joys and shouts, what waving of flags, hats, and handkerchiefs. Memorable hour!  Exultantly did our veterans emphasize it, and count it an honor to handle the captured heavy guns in avenging the flag of the free and the brave.

We need not ask how this music sounded to the Charlestonians. Where now was historic disgrace and shame?

VI. The band – the joyous band – struck and played as never before, while the host of army, navy, and citizens present, joined in singing The Star Spangled Banner.

“O say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light” –

…. …. ….

Like a billow of inspiring sound rolled the chorus: –

“And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave

O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave.”

Such a rapturous hour was worth fighting for. How the hearts of all soldiers, and of the loyal millions in our land, beat with a thankful unutterable joy that our flag’s humiliation was now canceled.

Aloft, behold their banner rose!

Fit the ensign for the land we prize;

A flag the breezes fond, caress,

The flag that freemen ever bless,

And stars of heaven delight to kiss;

Henceforth in spotless fame to wave,

The pledge of freedom to the slave,

The standard of the free and brave.

A history, Dear Flag, is thine,

Sung on the mountain and the sea;

Thy folds, like heaven’s pure stars, shall shine

Till earth is lit with Liberty.

VII. Now followed the eloquent, patriotic, inimitable address by Rev. Henry Ward Beecher; the vast multitude hanging on his lips, and well-nigh the fort itself, rocking to the greatness of his thoughts and the grandeur of the occasion.

VIII. The whole host, led by the band, in the grand tune of Old Hundred, then lifted up to the heaven the doxology: –

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow.”

IX. The closing prayer of thanksgiving and the benediction were by Rev. R. S. Storrs, Jr., D.D.

Poets have been moved to sing of sieges. We wonder if, in the bright years to come, a poet will not arise to celebrate in melodious phrase, the scenes of Sumter and the siege of Charleston.

At least to my knowledge, no poet has done so.  And the reason was not to any failing of the moment.

The ceremony was designed from the start to celebrate the grand victory over the rebellion and showcase the triumph of the Union.  This was, with all the bunting and bands, a “Mission Accomplished” moment. The scene was perfect.  And there were ample number of scribes, artists, and photographers to record the moment.  The ceremony was intended to serve notice for all – the rebellion was crushed.  This was to be the “big news” of the week.

But at 10:15 that evening, everything changed.  What happened at Fort Sumter on April 14, 1865 was eclipsed to rate only passing comment.

(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, page 308-9.)

March 30, 1865: “There is a profound feeling about Charleston…” Henry Ward Beecher excited about raising the flag at Fort Sumter

On March 30, 1865, abolitionist leader Henry War Beecher and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton exchanged telegrams.  Beecher, as mentioned earlier, was selected as the guest of honor at the ceremony to raise the surrender flag at Fort Sumter, scheduled for April 14.

Beecher sent a pair of telegrams starting around mid-day:

There is a profound feeling about Charleston celebration.  It grows daily. It is a grand national event. Many eminent men desire to see this great occurrence of their lives. Could not a passenger steamer under direction of Collector Draper be allowed to go?

Then later Beecher, having not heard from Stanton, pressed the matter again:

Have received no word.  I am at a loss to know what arrangements to make and for what date. Can I take some of my family? A.A. Low, president of New York Chamber of Commerce, wishes to go with his wife.  He is one of our first citizens, and early and late energetic for Union, with hand, heart, and purse.

Stanton, with a full slate of business in his office, did not respond until well into the evening:

In conference with General Anderson final arrangements for the celebration of Fort Sumter were concluded yesterday.

First. The Steamer Arago will sail with General Anderson and yourself from New York on Friday, the 7th of April.

Second. Your family can accompany you.

Third. Tickets for you and for them will be forwarded by mail to-day.

Fourth. Mr. Low and his wife can accompany you, and tickets for them will be sent with yours.

Fifth. I expect to join you at Fortress Monroe if it be possible to leave here.

Sixth. The arrangements and ceremonies will be directed by General Gillmore.

I will write you more at length.

Interesting the exchange.  Not so much for the details, but the effort evident by the relating of those details.  These two men were living minute by hour by day at a time which you and I read about in the books.  Certainly they expected great things to occur over the weeks following this exchange.  Their focus was on a celebration … a very proper and visible celebration … of victory and achievement.   Had Stanton or Beecher been asked to predict what we’d be anticipating for our sesquicentennial observances between April 7th or April 14th, 2015, they likely would have mentioned the Fort Sumter flag raising.

Between April 7 and 14, 1865, several events would turn, making that week one of the most important in American history.  Events that would overshadow the “grand national event” planned at Fort Sumter.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, page 59.)

March 25, 1865: General Robert Anderson heading back to Fort Sumter to raise the flag

On March 25, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was visiting the lines at Petersburg and the Confederates were making quite a show around Fort Stedman.  But, in spite of the push made by the Army of Northern Virginia, dispatches on the Federal side seemed routine.  Among the routine traffic passed from Washington to City Point that day was this message from Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:

I have invited Henry Ward Beecher to deliver an address on raising the flag upon Fort Sumter, and will give direction to General Gillmore to make all suitable military arrangements for the occasion and fire a salute of 500 guns. The flag will be raised by General Anderson. Please let me know if these arrangements have your approval.  What does General Grant say about Yeatman?  I congratulate you and General Grant on the operations of t0-day.

As I’ve pulled this note out of context, let me walk it backwards into context.  The last line references the successful defense against the Confederate attack launched earlier in the day.  But standing in stark contrast to the desperate fighting on the lines, Stanton was planning a grand ceremony for Fort Sumter.

James Yeatman was a St. Louis businessman, president of the Western Sanitary Commission, and very much active politically.  Yeatman was under consideration to head the commission organizing the ceremony.  But more back-and-forth over that selection would follow.

Though weeks away, Stanton already selected particular details to serve a symbolic purpose – Beecher to speak, Major-General Robert Anderson to raise the US flag, and a 500 gun salute.  Not specifically mentioned in the message to Lincoln, but the plan called for the ceremony to occur on April 14, 1865 – on the anniversary of the fort’s surrender in 1861.  Further details went into General Orders No. 50, issued on March 27 from the War Department:

First. That at the hour of noon on the 14th day of April, 1865, Brevet Major-General Anderson will raise and plant upon the ruins of Fort Sumter, in Charleston Harbor, the same U.S. flag which floated over the battlements of that fort during the rebel assault, and which was lowered and saluted by him and the small force of his command when the works were evacuated on the 14th day of April, 1861.

Second. That the flag, when raised, be saluted by 100 guns from Fort Sumter, and by a national salute from every fort and rebel battery that fired on Fort Sumter.

Third. That suitable ceremonies be held upon the occasion, under the direction of Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, whose military operations compelled the rebels to evacuate Charleston, or, in his absence, under the charge of Maj. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore, commanding the department.  Among the ceremonies will be the delivery of a public address by the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher.

Forth. That the naval forces at Charleston, and their commander on that station, be invited to participate in the ceremonies of the occasion.

Recall that before evacuating the fort in 1861, Anderson received permission to fire a 100 gun salute from the fort’s batteries.  That 1861 salute ended with fifty shots when an accidental explosion mortally wounded two privates.  Embrace the intended symbolism at many different levels in regard to that salute.

The ceremony at Fort Sumter was intended to cement in the public mind the victory – complete or pending – over the Confederacy.  Reporters, sketch artists, and photographers were invited to cover the event.  April 14 was the date that, regardless of what was going on at the front lines, the people of America would be told the Federal Union has won this Civil War… even as the messy details were being worked out.  To tread upon a modern analogy at my own peril, this was intended to be a “Mission Accomplished” banner:

However, fate often plays tricks with the plans laid by man.  Events on April 15 would leave this ceremony somewhat a footnote to history.

Closing note here.  Fort Sumter National Monument has a number of events scheduled through April to observe the end of the war in Charleston.  If you are, like me, trying to catch every last minute of the sesquicentennial’s last hours, these are worth adding to the calendar.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part III, Serial 100, pages 18 and 34.)

Marching Through Georgia, November 26, 1864: “A Rapid Ride to Millen” by the Cavalry

Often the discussion of cavalry operations during the March to the Sea begins with “Kill-cavalry again?” and ends somewhere with references to silver platters.  The real story is a bit more complex.  During portions of the campaign, Brigadier-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s division provided security for the two wings of the march.  At other times, Kilpatrick’s command also went out on long range raids of the type that always seemed to bring trouble.

Kilpatrick’s division consisted of two brigades.  The First Brigade, under Colonel Eli Murry, contained the 8th Indiana Cavalry; 2nd, 3rd, and 5th Kentucky Cavalry; and 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  Murry’s command was 2,800 strong at the start of the campaign.  Second Brigade, with 2,700 troopers under Colonel Smith Atkins, had the 92nd Illinois Mounted Infantry; 3rd Indiana Cavalry; 9th Michigan Cavalry; 5th, 9th and 10th Ohio Cavalry; and the McLaughlin (Ohio) Squadron.  Not brigaded were the 1st Alabama (US) Cavalry and 9th Illinois Mounted Infantry, which were employed to security details supporting the infantry columns.  The 10th Wisconsin Battery, under Captain Yates Beebe provided the only horse artillery for the march.  Initially four guns, Beebe “upgraded” to a six gun battery with two captured Ordnance Rifles at Lovejoy’s Station.

Kilpatrick’s chief opponent, Major-General Joseph Wheeler, had three divisions, but saw those detailed out over the campaign for various assignments.  At Sandersville on November 25, he had portions of Brigadier-General Alfred Iverson’s, Brigadier-General William Humes’, and Brigadier-General William Allen’s divisions.

When Kilpatrick left Milledgeville on November 24, his orders were to launch a raid aimed at breaking the railroad connecting Augusta and attempt a rescue of prisoners at Camp Lawton outside Millen.  Such a move would also raise alarms in Augusta, with the hope of the same effect as at Macon a week earlier.  As mentioned earlier, Kilpatrick’s division moved out along the same route as the Fourteenth Corps, then began the run northeast.  These were long marching days.  Beebe recorded his battery covered 123 miles between the 24th and 27th. The troopers continued on to the Shoals of the Ogeechee, some reaching that point by the evening of November 25.  There the Federals tripped the Confederate picket line.

When notified that Federals had hit Confederate pickets at the Shoals of the Ogeechee in the evening of the 25th, Wheeler left part of Iverson’s command to delay at Sandersville, and moved on the main road to Augusta.  I’m not completely sure as to what units Wheeler had with him, but his reports reference Humes’ Division (with brigades under Brigadier-General Thomas Harrison and Colonel Henry Ashby) and brigades under Brigadier-Generals Robert Anderson and George Dibrell from Iverson’s (I have fragmentary evidence that Allen’s Division remained with Iverson at that time).

Through the 26th both cavalry columns raced towards a point labeled Sylvan Crossroads on the map (which generally presents the respective routes of march).


During the night, Kilpatrick dispatched a flying column under his Adjutant-General, Captain Llewellyn Estes, to complete the raiding tasks.  While Estes would drive on toward Camp Lawton, Captain Edward Hayes (another of Kilpatrick’s staff) would lead a detail to destroy the railroad bridge over Briar Creek.

The only lengthy first hand account I’ve ever located appeared in an 1883 issue of the National Tribune, written by Julius B. Kilbourne.  In a section titled “A Rapid Ride to Millen,” Kilbourne described Estes’ advance:

A little after daylight we stopped at a farmhouse where there was corn and fodder for our horses, and rested an hour or so.  While the boys made coffee to soften up their “hardtack,” the servants of the horse brought us some sweet potatoes and a little bacon, which gave us a good breakfast. Shortly after sunrise we were again in the saddle, having ridden within the past twenty-four hours over sixty miles. During the night we had passed several towns, the names of which we did not know; but the negroes told us we were still forty miles from Millen.

During the forenoon we made good progress, meeting with no opposition. About the many plantations which we passed we saw no one but now and then some gray-haired man walking about the house, looking at us as we passed. Their sons and their sons’ sons were all in the rebel service.

At noon we made another short stop to feed and water.  Here we in some way got the impression that the prisoners had been sent away from Millen, but could not altogether credit the report, but as we advanced the evidence became more conclusive.  About 4 o’clock we came in sight of the prison pen in which our poor boys had suffered so keenly – even death itself. How our hearts leaped with joy at the sight and at the thought that we should be able to effect their release!

Millen is situated on the Savannah and Charleston Railroad, and the stockade some distance to the north and near the branch road running to to Augusta.  Maj. Estis, with his scouts, made a reconnaissance, capturing the guard, – some thirty that had been left behind, – who informed us that the prisoners had been removed the Tuesday before, and that most of the officers had been sent to Columbia, S.C., while the privates had been taken south on the Gulf Railroad. After destroying the stockade and its surrounding buildings, Major Estis, with his command, as ordered, joined Kilpatrick south of Waynesboro’….

I would point out, in the interest of clarity, that it was the Augusta & Savannah Railroad running through Millen.

While Estes came up empty at Camp Lawton, Hayes managed to damage the railroad and burn part of the bridge.  To cover these advanced forces, Kilpatrick planned to move towards Waynesboro in force on November 27.  At the same time, Wheeler planned to move in force on his own – to intercept Kilpatrick.  These movements setup the first in a series of cavalry actions around the town that would take place over the week to follow.

(Citation from The National Tribune, Volume II, No. 40, May 17, 1883, page 1, column 5. Digital copy in LOC collection, online.)

Barbette or Casemate?

On several occasions I’ve mentioned barbette and casemate carriages.  In the 19th century, seacoast fortifications used both mountings for their main armaments.   To maximize the firepower on each facing of the fort, engineers stacked tiers, each supported by strong arch structures.   This cutaway model display at Fort Pulaski provides a good visual reference.

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Cutaway of Fort Pulaski

On top, the model has pads and fixtures for front pivot guns.  Manuals of the period identified these as “barbette”. The guns mounted there fired over the parapet, mounted on tall barbette carriages.   A good example of such supports a 32-pdr seacoast gun at Fort Moultrie, South Carolina today.

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32-pdr Seacoast Gun on Barbette Carriage, Fort Moultrie

The gun sits on a truck, formed by an angle brace, sort of a triangle, which slides upon a bed.  The bed consisted of two side rails and a center rail.  Most pre-war (1840s or earlier) featured a large “wheel” for handling.  This allowed the crew to roll the truck forward on the supporting Later examples, particularly for the columbiads, used handspikes for running the gun out.

“Eccentric” axles, which were slightly off true center axis, baffled the recoil when the gun was fired.  As anyone who has experienced an out of balance tire on their car knows, such off-center wheels tend to reduce speeds.  When running the truck forward, a leaver lifted the gun and truck up to “true center” axis, so the crew didn’t have to work as hard.  But crews had to engage the eccentrics before the gun was fired, else the recoil was dangerous.  (And some will recall that failure to engage the eccentrics caused some damage to guns at Fort Sumter in April 1861.)

By the late 1850s, wrought iron replaced wood in many situations (although iron did not replace wood during the Civil War).  Located a few yards away from the 32-pdr at Fort Moultrie is a pair of 15-inch Rodmans on front pintle iron barbette mounts.

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15-inch Rodman on Barbette Carriage, Fort Moultrie

Generally similar in layout with the wooden carriages, the iron versions relied on two side rails and dispensed with the center rail.  Regardless of wood or iron, the design of barbette carriages allowed the guns to stand over the parapet, and also afforded higher angles of elevation.  Because of this, the heaviest, longest-range guns in a seacoast fort usually sat on the barbette tier.  Of course, the height of the carriage profiled the gun and crew who had no overhead cover.

Looking back to the Fort Pulaski model, below the covered way are a series of arches, between which are more pads and fixtures for front pivot guns.  These form a gallery of casemates.  The casemate guns fired through an embrasure (seen to the right of the model).  An example of a gun on a casemate carriage greets visitors to Fort Sumter today.

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42-pdr Seacoast Gun on Casemate Carriage, Fort Sumter

Ordnance officers designed the casemate carriage with the cramped space of the gallery in mind.  Instead of a tall triangle truck, the casemate guns sat on a truck very similar in profile to navy carriages.  The casemate crews used handspikes to work a small wheel when running the gun out.

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Banded and Rifled 42-pdr, Fort Sumter

Like the barbette carriage, the casemates relied upon an eccentric to reduce recoil force.  One of those eccentric rollers is at the back of the truck in the view above.   Also in this view, note the slots for the handspikes in the wheel on the left of the carriage.

As with the barbette carriages, the Army began using wrought iron carriages just before the Civil War.  Several excellent examples of such carriages sit just a few yards away from the 42-pdrs at Fort Sumter.

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6.4-inch Parrott on Iron Casemate Carriage, Fort Sumter

Following similar evolutions to the barbette carriages, the iron casemates featured only two side rails.  Ordnance officers did not intend the casemate guns to fire at elevation, as the embrasure limited the angle of fire.  But the gunners were protected behind the fort’s structure.  Shutters (in some cases spring-loaded iron types) closed the embrasure when the gun ran back.  This gave the casemate gun crew much more protection than those exposed on the barbette.

Keep in mind that carriages allowed mounting even the largest guns on either the barbette or casemate tiers.  In operation, the Army left the employment to the opinions of the fort’s commander.  During peaceful times, many commanders kept the guns and equipment in the casemates to reduce exposure to the elements.

Not all American seacoast forts featured casemate tiers, but the major forts did.  Fort Sumter had two casemate tiers in addition to the barbette level.  In April 1861, Major Robert Anderson, considering the risks of manning the barbette tier of Fort Sumter, confined his crews to the casemate guns.  While better protecting the men, this also meant Fort Sumter’s guns were unable to effectively reply to the Confederate bombardment.  Yet, a few years later Confederate gunners sat in the relative safety of the casemates while responding, and damaging, Federal ironclads attacking Fort Sumter.

Each mounting had advantages and disadvantages, which the commander on the ground had to consider against the tactical situation.

Christmas Day – 1860

On Christmas Day 1860, Major Robert Anderson, commanding Fort Moutrie probably glanced a few times across the channel entering Charleston Harbor toward Fort Sumter.

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View of Fort Sumter from Fort Moultrie

That early winter day, Anderson’s view of the channel would have been cold and forbidding (unlike my mild South Carolina spring view above).  But the channel offered perhaps more promise than the fiery political storm raging at that time.

Positioned at the south-west end of Sullivan’s Island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, Fort Moultrie was the only U.S. Army post in the state with a garrison worth mentioning.  And at that only around 75 men.  When South Carolina seceded on December 20, 1860, Anderson and his command were, from the strategic perspective, isolated.  Tactically, what made Anderson’s position most tenuous was the condition of Fort Moultrie.

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Sea Face of Fort Moultrie and Location of Caponnieres

Sand dunes banked up against the walls of the fort on the sea-facing sides.  Early in December, Captain J. G. Foster, engineer assigned to the fort, cut out passages in the walls to build a set of bastions or caponnieres.  Armed with flanking howitzers, these strengthened the defenses but were not enough.

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Barbette Gun on the Fort Moultrie Parapet

Foster and others complained that civilian dwellings near the fort dominated the fort.  (Note the overlook balcony on the modern house to the left of the gun’s muzzle.) But without orders, even with a direct threat, the garrison could not destroy civilian property.   There wasn’t a war going on… yet.

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Barbette Gun with Stella Maris Church

The civilians living nearby were familiar to the garrison.  Many of the work crews working on the fort lived nearby.  Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church, used by many of the Irish immigrants working on the fort, stood just west of Fort Moultrie.  (The church in the photo is a post-war structure, built between the original wood structure and the fort.)  Anderson could not afford a confrontation which might involve the work crew, or families of the fort’s garrison.

Looking Across Fort Moultrie Today - Wikipedia Commons

Anderson faced a bleak situation, which could easily spin out of control.  What he needed was time.  Time for his leaders to negotiate away from confrontation.  So Anderson traded space….

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Fort Sumter Today

… for time.

And Anderson would buy some time by moving his garrison on the day after Christmas, 1860.