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.)


4,041 negroes at work on Charleston defenses on November 25, 1863

In earlier posts, I’ve detailed the fortifications built through the late summer and early fall around Charleston, particularly James Island and Sullivan’s Island, as Confederate leaders adjusted to the Federal occupation of Morris Island.  At points I alluded to the complaints by Confederate officers regarding labor shortages. If one counted the actual shovel-fulls of dirt, the majority of the labor employed in these projects was from black hands – impressed, volunteered, or slaves lent, or hired out, by their owners.  This workforce, as mentioned before, presented several problems, some of which were exacerbated by the war situation.

On this day (November 25) in 1863, Major William Echols, an engineer posted at Charleston, reported the status of negro labor actively employed around Charleston.  He began by noting issues with impressing agents across South Carolina.  Only three of the five positions in the department were filled.  Echols simply stated, “Some of the agents have done their duty.”  He continued with a tally of negro laborers received from state calls and by way of the agents (volunteered or impressed).  The total from state calls over the months from July to November was 6,250. Under the “impressed or volunteered” heading, Echols recorded 3,150.  Echols then provided the laborers employed at the date of the report:

There are now at work on the fortifications 4,041 negroes, of which number 662 were either impressed or were volunteers, and 3,379 received by regular call.  Two thousand two hundred and eleven, in consequence of sixty days’ service, are entitled to discharge.

Receiving this report, Colonel D.B. Harris, Chief Engineer of the department, added:

If more energy is not infused into the system of impressment, it will be necessary, in order to keep the working force up to 3,500 effective hands, to retain the negroes now here, even beyond the sixty days recently ordered. Most of these negroes are thinly clad, and it is of importance they should be relieved by vigorous impressment, as the State authorities fail to supply the requisitions made upon them of monthly reliefs of 2,500 hands.

Keep in mind, the work for which these men were detailed (impressed… hired… forced… you pick a verb) was not teamster duties or some detail loading supplies.  These men were put to work at posts which included James Island, Sullivan’s Island, and Fort Sumter, where Federal shells landed in abundance on a daily basis.  Several journal entries from Fort Sumter mention wounding or deaths among the labor force, but with no other details.  The work was by no means safe, and in some regards presenting even more risk than that taken by soldiers at the same posting.

At the same time, the proximity of the work to the Federal lines offered the chance the labor force might escape.  One such example, documented in the Confederate Citizens Files, involved two slaves owned by Nathaniel Heyward (from Pocotalio, by the way) :

Heyward_Nathaniel_Page 18

Heyward included a snipped newspaper report, which he referenced in a claim to the Engineer Department:

August 7:  For the value of 2 Negroes named “Ned” & “Kit” who were working on fortifications for defense of the City of Charleston and who absconded to the enemy as will appear by the accompanying statement copied from Northern Papers and published in “Charleston Mercury” on 7th August 1863 ~ Say Two Negros @ $1800 – $3600.00.

According to a statement provided by a Confederate officer on James Island, the escape occurred on July 16, 1863.  The claim went through both Echols and Harris, the engineers responsible for the labor details.  Since the required sum could not be taken from engineering funds, the claim reached General P.G.T. Beauregard’s office.  His response went on the cover to the claim:

Heyward_Nathaniel_Page 15

Yes, I selected this claim because of that date – November 26, 1863.  The snip above includes only a portion of the response.  In short – any payment had to be authorized by the Confederate Congress.  Heyward would need to gather all the particulars and make his case there. Though Beauregard did call upon his officers to support Heyward.

Consider the cross threading between the Pocotalio raid of November 24, Echols’ report on November 25, and the disposition of Heyward’s claim on the 26th in evidence here.  Three unrelated events. Yet with enough in common to weave a narrative fitting a historical marker.

(Echols’ report is from OR, Series I, Volume 28, Part II, Volume 47, pages 525-6.)

150 years ago: “labor of the proper kind cannot be secured” for Morris Island

On May 24, 1863 Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley complained of the “dilatory” pace of work fortifying Morris Island.  Ripley figured, as just about everyone from private up to full General might agree, the next step by the Federal forces outside Charleston would be an attempt to take Morris Island.  Ripley pinned the delay on the engineers assigned tasks to improve the works and lines of support.

But the engineers were allowed a rebuttal.  Major D.B. Harris, Chief Engineer at Charleston, polled his subordinates for responses before responding to Brigadier-General Thomas Jordan, Chief of Staff of the Department.  On this day (May 26) in 1863, Captain John Howard’s response (directed to his superior, Major William Echols) pointed out two shortfalls:

MAJOR: I have the honor to report the cause of the slow progress of the road or footway from James Island across the marsh to Morris Island:

1st. Want of hands. I have not been able to keep a force of white hands on the work on account of the mud, and have not been able to hire negroes enough to keep all parts going on at once.

2d. Want of material. Notwithstanding the limited number of hands I have been out of material until yesterday for most of last week, although the boat (Hibben) was loaded with it last Tuesday, the 19th.

Labor and materials. At this point, the reader is beginning to hear the broken record skip.  The defenders at Charleston never seem to have enough of either.  Howard pointed out material shortages were addressed by late May.  But regarding the labor force, contract engineer John Frazer Mathewes, added more details:

During the first five weeks after I commenced the work the health of the hands employed was so bad (they being from the upper districts and not accustomed to working in mud and water and the change of climate and diet) that the working force did not average daily more than 20 out of 100 hands then under my charge.

Mathewes further cited the tides (remember those?) and marsh as factors in the pace of work:

The negroes can only work from half ebb tide to half of the next flood tide, making an average of about seven hours’ work each day. The tide overflows the marsh during the rest of the time, making it impossible to proceed. The material piled up and complained of as not efficient for an epaulement is the only material except mud afforded at that place or any other around short of Morris Island, and though intended to be used for the battery with some modifications, was not especially collected for that purpose, it being simply the natural soil thrown up in the necessary process of digging the bed to float in the hulk intended to be used as a foundation for the battery erecting.

Given these factors, Mathewes asked for more than the 62 hands detailed for the work.  Another contract engineer, Langdon Cheves, complained that a fatigue detail from the 1st South Carolina (Heavy) Artillery, and the only work force at his disposal, went back to duties in the fortifications on May 28.  Cheves observed that the detailed men were then employed working on similar, but different, projects under direct orders of General Ripley.

Major Echols was likewise concerned details from the garrison were failing their obligations.

…labor of the proper kind cannot be secured.  When soldiers are employed not a great deal appears to be done…. Under the direction of General Ripley the laborers (soldiers) could probably be induced to perform more work under the immediate direction of their commissioned officers, as they have not heretofore been put.

But it is indeed hard to build a rampart while simultaneously manning said rampart.

Captain Howard added poor transportation to the list of deficiencies delaying efforts on Morris Island.  A rope ferry established between Fort Johnson and Battery Wagner could pass 50 men at a time.  However, it crossed the access channel to Secessionville, to which steamers had to cross.

… the rope was provided with a weight to sink it and allow the passage of a boat and with a couple of blocks to raise it out of the water after the boat had passed, but the boats, neglecting to lower it, ran against and broke it; it was repaired and broken a second time, and has not since been repaired. The one over the creek nearest Fort Johnson has been broken several times by the steam pile-driver used as a transport to carry hands to and from the work on Marsh Battery, and has not been repaired since last broken.

Reading these reports, Major Harris offered a report absolving his department:

From these communications it is manifest that this delay is not chargeable to the engineer department, but is chiefly owing to the want of labor and transportation, which has been and is still a serious drawback to the prosecution of the defensive works not only in this military district but in the whole department.

Harris proceeded to highlight the shortage of labor:

The number of slaves furnished by this State for the defensive works in the First Military District was 400 for March, 350 for April, and but 80 for this month, in the face of a requisition for the two former months of 3,000 and for this month of 2,500 hands.

The dependence on slave labor, as mentioned in earlier posts, continued to be a sore point with the Confederate officers charged with these works. However, Harris turned to the bright side and made light of progress.  If the ferry suffered interruptions due to damage, the causeway between James and Morris Islands was nearly complete.  The engineers would also support Ripley’s employment of the 30-pdr Parrott (brought over from the Confederate Navy, by the way) and a 10-inch mortar, provided materials and labor were supplied.

Harris closed with, what I find to be, an clumsy attempt to decompress a potentially explosive situation.

Believing no good can result to the service by meeting the reflections upon the engineer department in General Ripley’s communication in the spirit in which they are made, especially in its closing paragraph or postscript, I content myself with the mere statement of facts embraced in my own and the accompanying communications, all of which are respectfully submitted in response to your indorsement on the general’s communication, which I return herewith.

Setting aside the apparent, and expected, friction between commanders and staff departments, the material and transportation issues were resolvable.  The labor shortage was not.  I’ve already mentioned the planter’s reluctance, expressed through government officials, to provide much more labor. But there’s a flip side to this coin.  The Federals were not aloof to the Confederate labor shortages, and indeed were taking actions designed to exacerbate the issue.  We need to look at some General Orders and Federal raids to see how this played on the other side.

(Major Harris’ report along with reports of his subordinates appear in OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, pages 956-9.)

Not enough labor at Charleston either: The planters of S.C. were not “alive to the impulses of duty”

Within the board assembled at Charleston to discuss the harbor defenses, the interest was not isolated to the big guns.  In order to build the defenses and place those guns, the Confederates needed labor.  To help fill the need, General P.G.T. Beauregard issued several calls for the loan of slaves.  In mid-February, he had asked for 3,000 from “the planters of South Carolina, who have ever been found alive to the impulses of duty….”

That in mind, just before the board convened Brigadier-General Roswell Ripley inquired about the numbers of negro laborers (the description from the report) used in response to these calls.   Major William Echols, of the department’s engineers, responded with a report on March 14, 1863:

In compliance with your letter of this date, concerning the negro labor, I would respectfully state that numerous calls have been made, in the form of requisitions, from this department, the substance of which is that 2,500 negroes were necessary, in monthly reliefs, to carry on the works, as follows:

The month of November a call was made for … 2,500

The month of December a call was made for … 2,500

The month of January a call was made for … 2,500

The month of February a call was made for … 3,500

In all four months ….  11,000

The number received in the same months was as follows:


Average monthly labor for the four months, 755 for duty, labor of the sick excluded….

The term “negro labor” might include both slaves or employed freedmen.  So while I’ll not assume one or the other within the total, I will say indications are the majority of the number employed were slaves.

The raw numbers tell a story.  Beauregard only receive a quarter of the labor requested.  Of those furnished, a significant portion – nearly a third – ran away or were too sick to perform the duties.  That loss reduced the labor force to barely a fifth of what was required.

I wish there was a way to separate the number of sick from the runaways.  In some of the allocations, more than half the labor force fit into those categories.  And did “runaway” automatically translate to “went to Hilton Head and joined up with the Yankees”? Furthermore I’d like to see the number of sick and runaway by month.  Particularly after the first days of the new year.  Certainly both planters and slaves alike were aware of what Robert Smalls accomplished the spring before.  They were also aware of the 1st South Carolina (US) Infantry then employed in the department.

The historian in me would love to put faces and names to the numbers listed in the table.  There are stories there, perhaps lost with time, but stories worth looking for.  Still, the overall numbers tell the story at the high level – that Charleston’s defenders were short of strong backs that could build the defenses.

(Citation and table from OR, Series I, Volume 14, Serial 20, page 827.)