Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Hawthornes Are In Charleston, South Carolina. Fort Sumter.

The Hawthornes are in Charleston, South Carolina,
to visit Fort Sumter National Monument,
 one of the most significant historic monuments
in the United States.

So that means you're going to get a quick history lesson
on the Civil War,
'cause that's the way Rosie rolls.

This is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge,
AKA the New Cooper River Bridge,
connecting Mount Pleasant to downtown Charleston.
The bridge has a main span stretching 1546 feet
between the two towers.
It is the third longest cable-stayed bridge
in the Western Hemisphere.
Two diamond-shaped towers
soar to a height of 575 feet.
The total length of the bridge is 13,200 feet.
128 cables are anchored to the inside of the towers,
suspending the deck 186 feet above the river.
The superstructure is designed to withstand shipping accidents
and natural disasters, capable of enduring wind gusts
in excess of 300 MPH and featuring the latest in seismic considerations.
The bridge can withstand earthquakes up to approximately
7.4 on the Richter scale.
The towers are flanked by one-acre rock islands,
and an uncontrolled ship would run aground on the islands
before colliding with the towers.
The bridge has eight 12-foot lanes, a 12-foot bicycle path,
and a pedestrian path


 This is the USS YORKTOWN (CV-10) at Patriots Point.  "The Fighting Lady" was built in an amazing 16 1/2 months in Newport News, Virginia, and was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy.  This Essex-class carrier (one of 24 built during World War I) was under construction as the BON HOMME RICHARD but was renamed YORKTOWN in honor of YORKTOWN (CV-5) which was sunk at the epic Battle of Midway in June of 1942.  Commissioned on April 15, 1943, she participated significantly in the Pacific Offensive, earning 11 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation for her service.  In the 1950s, she was modified with an angled deck to better operate jet aircraft in her role as an attack carrier.  After her Korean War duty, she was modernized for antisubmarine warfare and was deployed to Vietnam. She earned 5 more battle stars for her service off Vietnam from 1965 - 1968.   In December 1968, the YORKTOWN recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts and capsule (The first manned flight to orbit the moon.) In 1970, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.  In 1975, she was towed from Bayonne, New Jersey, to Charleston Harbor.  The USS YORKTOWN is now a National Historic Landmark.

The only way to get to Fort Sumter
is by boat.

The Carnival cruise ship Fantasy in Charleston Harbor.
If you look closely, 
you can see Kathie Lee Gifford.

We are approaching Fort Sumter.
And the sun is not in position
for me to take a proper photograph.

Looking back towards Charleston.

Fort Sumter, symbol of Southern resistance throughout the Civil War, is a brick fortification built 1829-1860 on a man-made island in Charleston Harbor.  This fort was one of a series of coastal fortifications built by the United States after the War of 1812. Named for Revolutionary War patriot Thomas Sumter, the opening shots of the Civil War were fired April 12, 1861.

After decades of strife and growing sectionalism between the North and the South, Civil War finally exploded in Charleston Harbor.  As the United States expanded westward, escalating crises over human rights, property rights, states rights, and constitutional rights divided the country.  Underlying all the social, political, and economic rhetoric was the volatile issue of slavery.  South Carolina's economic life had long depended on enslaved labor.  Because of this, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union when this way of life was threatened.

Plantation agriculture and African slavery characterized the Lower south more so than any other region in North American.  Englishmen were late in colonizing Carolina, but they brought with them an economic system perfected on the sugar islands of the Caribbean.  Initial trade was in furs and skins, naval stores, and timber.  Many early Carolina settlers arrived with slaves and the expectations of finding a staple crop for export.  Rice, indigo, and the slave trade transformed early Charleston into the fourth largest city in colonial America.

Rice was the main export crop that defined the lowcountry landscape.  Rice planting required a tremendous investment in swampland and slaves.  With the expertise and labor of enslaved West Africans, South Carolina planters became the richest colonists in British North America.  Following the American Revolution, planters perfected the tidal cultivation of rice, further increasing the extraordinary wealth of an elite few.  The slave labor of the agricultural South was the fuel that drove the region's economy, consisting primarily of the cash crops of rice, tobacco, and King cotton.

Charleston dominated the political and commercial life of the Old south.  Lowcountry planters and merchants formed a ruling class, imitating the aristocracy of England.  A life of refined gentility mirrored the British ideal across the sea.  Lowcountry planters looked to Charleston as the center for trade, law, and social functions.  Planters built grand houses in the city where they spent the winter social season.  Wealthy Carolinians sent their sons north to college and to England for education in law and business.

By 1708, Africans made up the majority of South Carolina's population.  The white minority feared slave rebellions and efforts to escape slavery.  The Stono Rebellion near Charleston in 1739 led to escalated tensions, restrictive taxes on slave imports, and a severe slave code.  The successful 1791 slave rebellion on St. Domingue (Haiti) further heightened fears among mainland white slaveholders.

On December 20, 1860, South Carolina delegates to a special secession convention voted unanimously to secede from the Federal Union. In November, Abraham Lincoln had been elected president with no support from the southern states.  The critical significance of this election was expressed in South Carolina's Declaration of the Immediate Causes of Secession:

"A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery."

The Declaration justified secession, claiming the Federal Government had violated the Constitution by encroaching upon the individual rights of the sovereign states.

Within six weeks after South Carolina's secession, five other states - Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana - followed its example. In early 1861, delegates met in Montgomery, Alabama, and adopted a constitution, setting up a provisional government - the Confederate States of America.  Jefferson Davis was elected their president.  On the afternoon of February 10, 1861, Davis and his wife, Varina, received word that he had been elected President of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America.  Mrs. Davis remembered :  "Reading that telegram, he looked so grieved that I feared some evil had befallen our family.  After a few minutes, he told me what it contained, as a man might speak of a sentence of death."

 By March, Texas joined the Confederacy and nearly all the Federal forts and navy yards in the seven seceding states had been seized by the new government.  Fort Sumter, however, was one of the few that remained in Federal hands.

When South Carolina seceded, there were four Federal installations around Charleston Harbor:  Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island, Castle Pinckney on Shute's Folly Island near the city, Fort Johnson on James Island across from Moultrie, and Fort Sumter at the harbor entrance.  Fort Moultrie was the only post garrisoned by more than a nominal number of soldiers.  Major Robert Anderson commanded two companies, 85 men, at Fort Moultrie. Six days after South Carolina seceded, on December 26, 1860, Johnson concluded that Fort Moultrie was indefensible and secretly transferred his 85-man garrison to Fort Sumter, a mile away, setting in motion events that would soon tear the nation asunder a few months later. The next day, December 27, 1860, South Carolina volunteers occupied Forts Moultrie and Johnson and Castle Pinckney, and began erecting batteries elsewhere around the harbor.

South Carolina considered Anderson's move as a breach of faith and demanded that the Government evacuate the Charleston Harbor.  President James Buchanan refused.  In January a Federal relief expedition was attempted but the South Carolina batteries turned back the unarmed merchant ship, Star of the West, carrying 200 men and several month's supplies, as she tried to enter the harbor.  General Pierre G. T. Beauregard took command of the Confederate troops in early March and worked to fortify the harbor.  In the ensuing weeks, Fort Sumter became the focal point of tensions between North and South.

Lincoln assumed office March 4, 1861, and by April, he believed a relief expedition was feasible. Lincoln ordered merchant steamers, protected by war ships, to "carry subsistence and other supplies" to Anderson to resupply the fort. The Confederate Secretary of War telegraphed Beauregard on April 10 that if he were certain Sumter was to be supplied by force, "you will at once demand its evacuation, and if this is refused, proceed in such manner as you may determine to reduce it."

On April 11, Beauregard demanded that Anderson surrender Fort Sumter.  Beauregard's aides visited the fort on April 11 under a flag of truce and presented Anderson with the ultimatum, but without success.  Anderson refused.  At 3:20 AM, April 12, the Confederates informed Anderson that their batteries would open fire in one hour.  At 4:20 AM, 10 minutes past the appointed time, Captain George S. James, commander of Fort Johnson, was ordered to fire the first shot of the Civil War.  A single shell was fired from Fort Johnson on James Island.  This historic shell burst over Fort Sumter, signalling the Confederate batteries in Charleston Harbor to commence an assault on the fort.  Within minutes,  Edmund Ruffin of Virginia, commanding the ironclad battery at Cummings Point, fired upon Fort Sumter.  By daybreak, batteries at Forts Johnson and Moultrie, Cummings Point and elsewhere were assailing Fort Sumter.  For 34 hours, Charlestonians watched the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

Major Anderson withheld fire until 7:00.  At no time during the battle did the guns of Fort Sumter greatly damage any Confederate positions.  The cannonade continued throughout the night.  The next morning, a hot shot from Fort Moultrie set fire to the officers' quarters.  The flagstaff was shot away in early afternoon.  Around 2 PM, Anderson agreed to a truce and that evening he surrendered his garrison.  Amazingly, no one on either side was killed during the engagement and only five Federal soldiers suffered injuries.

On April 14, Major Anderson and his men marched out of Fort Sumter and boarded ship for transport to New York.  They had defended Fort Sumter for 34 hours, until "the quarters were entirely burned, the main gates destroyed by fire, the gorge walls seriously injured, the magazines surrounded by flames."

The Civil War had begun.

Following the evacuation of Fort Sumter on April 15, 1861, President Lincoln issued a call of 75,000 volunteers to put down the Southern rebellion.  His call resulted in Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Arkansas joining the Confederacy, with Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri threatening to do likewise.

Following the eruption of war, Fort Sumter became a symbol to both North and South.  The South regarded it as an emblem of the Confederacy's independence and resolve to resist Northern domination.  The North, smarting from an early defeat and the surrender of the fort, viewed Sumter as the Confederacy itself.  Consequently, the North became determined to retake it; the Confederacy, to hold it at any cost.

For the next four years, Fort Sumter remained a Confederate stronghold despite frequent Union attempts to capture it.  During the Civil War, while the struggle for Charleston Harbor centered on Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island became a formidable obstacle for Federal forces.  Together, Forts Sumter and Moultrie were Charleston's chief defenders. Although repeated Federal land and sea forces hammered at them, they remained Confederate strongholds throughout the war.  Both were eventually evacuated, but they never surrendered.  Between 1863 and 1864, determined Confederate soldiers kept Federal land and naval forces at bay for 587 days - one of the longest sieges in modern warfare.  By February 1865, the fort was virtually demolished, the brick walls pounded into rubble, and the Civil War was nearly at an end.  The stalemate between Northern and Southern forces in Charleston Harbor came to an end in February of 1865 as Union General William Tecumseh Sherman marched north from Savannah through the interior of South Carolina.  His arrival in Columbia on the 17th separated the small Confederate force remaining on the coast from the Southern army to the west.  Cut off, Fort Sumter and the other Confederate fortifications in the Harbor were quietly evacuated, but not surrendered. The Confederates reluctantly abandoned the fort, leaving the ruins to be reclaimed by Federal troops.

When the Civil War ended on April 9, 1865, Robert Anderson, now a retired Major General, returned to Fort Sumter to raise the US flag he had lowered in defeat four years before.  Sumter was no longer the symbol of the Confederacy.  It was now the symbol of the victorious Union.  Ironically, the North's jubilation was cut short with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln that very evening in Washington, DC.

Fort Sumter today bears only a superficial resemblance to its original appearance.  It is no longer the looming presence that it was in 1860.  It's five-foot-thick brick walls no longer stand 55 feet above the water, but range from 9 to 25 feet high.  A stabilized ruin,  now the fort is a powerful symbol of the Civil War, its very walls telling the story of destruction.

Decommissioned in 1947, Fort Sumter was turned over by the War Department to the National Park Service.  It became a national monument in 1948.

Notice the track that the cannon rotates on.

The fort's center is now dominated by Battery Huger,
a huge, black, concrete artillery emplacement,
built in 1898-1899 in response to the Spanish-American War.

Battery Huger was named for Revolutionary War hero Isaac Huger
and was part of a seacoast defense system
that protected Charleston Harbor.

15-inch Rodman
Designed by Thomas J. Rodman,
U.S. Army Ordnance Officer,
this type of cannon was the largest gun used
in combat during the Civil War.
These two Rodmans
were brought to Fort Sumter
as part of the 1870s modernization program.

Tube Weight: 50,000 pounds
Maximum Range:  5579 yards

8-Inch Columbiad

When the Confederates opened fire in April 1861,
several 8-inch Columbiads were mounted in Fort Sumter.
This weapon probably has remained here since then,
weathering the Union bombardment of 1863
and the clean up of the 1870s.
Archeological excavations uncovered this Columbiad in 1959

Maximum Range:  4800 yards

10-Inch Mortar, Model 1819

This 10-inch mortar, unearthed during the excavations in 1959,
is similar to the one which fired the signal shot
from Fort Johnson on April 12, 1861.
Later in the war, the confederate defenders of Fort Sumter
mounted several of these weapons near this spot
as added defense against the anticipated assaults
of the Union Army and Navy.

Range 2225 yards

The walls show the effects of Union shelling.

A close look at the wall reveals Union artillery shells
embedded in the brick.
They were fired during one of the longest sieges in 
U.S. military history.
Batteries on Morris Island and guns on Union warships
shelled this stronghold for 22 months during 1863-1865.

Fort Sumter was designed with its strength toward the sea.
The gorge is the lightly-armed rear wall facing inland.
Vulnerable to attack from Morris Island,
this wall was left in ruins from early shelling.
Continued bombardment reduced the gorge to rubble,
but Confederate soldiers and slaves reinforced the debris
with sandbags and cotton bales,
creating an earthwork that made the fort even stronger.

On the night of February 17, 1864, 
the H.L. Hunley set out from Sullivan's Island,
directly in front,
with a torpedo attached to a 17-foot spar on her bow.
Her target was the USS Housatonic,
anchored 4 miles offshore.
A Union lookout spied the suspicious object
moving toward the ship and sounded an alarm.
Engines started, but before the ship could move away,
an explosion ripped through the Housatonic's wooden hull
and she quickly sank.
The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine
in history to sink an enemy ship.

The H.L Hunley disappeared after sinking the Housatonic.
After searching for 131 years, in May 1995,
the submarine was finally found 1000 feet seaward
of the Housatonic.
The H.L. Hunley returned home on August 8, 2000,
when she was recovered from her watery grave.

Built from an iron steam boiler,
the H.L. Hunley was 40 feet long
and had a crew of 9 men.
The submarine's sleek design helped her glide
through the water up to 4 knots. 
 The air supply was limited.
Once the candle went out after 30 minutes,
the crew quickly returned to the surface for fresh air.

Two earlier accidents and the final sinking
resulted in the death of 22 men who volunteered 
on this "peripatetic coffin."

This 10 x 20 foot tattered flag flew over Fort Sumter during the bombardment of April 12 - 12, 1861.  On the second day, a Confederate projectile shattered the flagstaff causing members of the Federal garrison to rush onto the parade ground, amid exploding shells and burning timbers, to retrieve the fallen flag.  They carried it to the ramparts where it was hastily nailed to a wooden pole and re-raised. The tiny nail holes are still visible along the flag's felt border.

This is the Palmetto Guard flag, the first flag over Fort Sumter raised by the Confederates.  The Palmetto Guard was a Charleston militia unit and Private John S. Byrd of the Guard placed this flag on the fort's wall facing Charleston.  The flag proudly shows in its design the Palmetto tree which is seen in South Carolina's state flag today.  The tree refers to a fort constructed of Palmetto logs in Charleston Harbor's Sullivan's Island in 1776.  The resilient palmetto logs are said to have withstood the barrage of British cannon balls during the Revolutionary war.  The palmetto is also a central part of South Carolina's Great Seal.  The palmetto became a symbol of American independence and defiance.  In 1861, South Carolina adopted the palmetto as a symbol of Southern independence and defiance.

Morris Island, seen across the water here,
was the scene of the Civil War's first hostile cannon fire,
preceding even the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
By January 1861, Union troops occupying Fort Sumter
were surrounded by Southern defenses.  
To reinforce Sumter,
President James Buchanan secretly sent the 
unarmed coastal steamer, Star of the West, to Charleston.
However, news of the mission arrived first,
and when Star of the West appeared,
a South Carolina battery opened fire from Morris Island.
Their outdated guns did little damage,
but when the powerful guns of Fort Moultrie fired,
Star of the West retreated, abandoning the mission.

Confederate batteries hidden in the dunes of Morris Island, commanded the approach to Charleston Harbor.  Union forces needed Morris Island, a key location from which to attack Fort Sumter, less than one mile away.

On July 18, 1863, a direct assault failed against Fort Wagner, a Confederate stronghold near Morris Island's north end.  The Union then changed tactics, subjecting Fort Wagner to a two-month siege.  The Confederates finally evacuated, abandoning Morris Island on September 6, 1863.  Union gunners then aimed powerful rifled cannon at Fort Sumter.  In the next two years, massive bombardments reduced most of Sumter to rubble.

The lighthouse in the distance marks the southern tip of Morris Island.  In July, 1868, Union troops landed there and advanced 2/3 of the way up the island to a Confederate stronghold known as Battery Wagner.  Unable to capture the battery by direct assault, they brought up heavy guns, and after two months drove the defenders out. Union artillerists then set up powerful siege batteries at Cummings Point and from there shelled fort Sumter at point-blank range, reducing its once proud walls to a mere pile of rubble.  Ironically, the more they damaged the walls the stronger they became.  Slaves piled the debris into huge breastworks, twenty feet thick, and reinforced them with cotton bales, sandbags, and other material, rendering the fort impregnable to artillery.

In honor of
Major Robert Anderson USA
and the one hundred twenty eight men of his command
who for thirty four hours April twelve - thirteen
eighteen hundred sixty one withstood the destructive
bombardment of Fort Sumter and withdrew with the
honors of war.  The war of secession began here.

The flags flying from the five shorter flagpoles that surround the American flag represent the flags flown over Fort Sumter during the Civil War.

Flags of the Fort

The first official flag of the Confederacy, known as the "Stars and Bars," or "First National," was raised in April 1861 when Southern forces occupied Fort Sumter at the start of the Civil War.

The United States flag with 33 stars was the flag of the Union garrison which occupied the fort from December 1860 until Confederate bombardment forced their surrender in mid-April 1861.

The second official Confederate flag, called the "Second National," replaced the first banner in 1863.  it flew over the fort until Confederate troops withdrew from all Charleston harbor defenses
 in February 1865.

The United States flag with 35 stars was raised in February 1865 when Union forces reoccupied the fort at the end of the Civil War.  Two new states, Kansas and West Virginia, had joined the Union during the war.

The color and symbols of the South Carolina state flag represent important events in South Carolina's military history.  Early South Carolina regiments wore blue uniforms with a silver crescent on their caps.  In 1776, a flag with a silver crescent on a blue field flew over the palmetto log fort on Sullivan's Island, now the site of Fort Moultrie.  In a key Revolutionary War battle, the small garrison of the palmetto log fort repulsed an attack by British warships; the white palmetto tree on the blue field commemorates this battle.  The flag was officially adopted in 1861 and is still used today.

Fort Johnson is in the background. The shot that began the Civil War came from Fort Johnson.  If a Union soldier looked toward Fort Johnson at 4:30AM, April 12, 1861, he would have seen an ominous flash as a mortar fired.  The shell arched high across the sky, and upon reaching Fort Sumter, burst almost directly overhead.  That mortar shot from Fort Johnson was the signal for Confederate batteries around Charleston Harbor to open fire on Fort Sumter.  The Civil War had begun.  For 34 hours, Confederate batteries bombarded Fort Sumter, firing more than 3000 shells.  Fort Sumter fired back with little effect.  The Union commander, Major Robert Anderson, would not risk his men on Sumter's open parapet to man the largest guns.  On April 13, Confederate shelling endangered Fort Sumter's powder magazine and Anderson surrendered.

In 1861, the port of Charleston prospered.  Keeping the city open to trade was crucial for Confederate survival.  Confederate forts in Charleston Harbor - including Fort Sumter - protected Charleston throughout the war despite Union blockade, warship attack, and two years of bombardment and siege.

Despite military conflict in the harbor, relative peace prevailed in the city until 1863, when Union forces captured nearby Morris Island and began shelling Charleston.  This was a deliberate bombardment of civilians;  the North hated Charleston for leading the secessionist movement and firing the first shots of the war.  The Union bombardment, along with a devastating fire in 1861 and other fires set by evacuating Southern forces in February 1865, destroyed much of the lower city.

A northern newspaper correspondent wrote in 1865 about Charleston:

A city of ruins, of desolation, of vacant houses, of widowed women, of rotting wharves, of deserted warehouses, of weed-wild gardens, of miles of grass-grown streets, of acres of pitiful and voiceful barrennessthis is Charleston, wherein Rebellion loftily reared its head five years ago.

Back to Charleston.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the information about Fort Sumter. As I mentioned to you before, we didn't have a chance to go on that tour when we were in Charleston and I have always regretted it. Love your photos. BTW, I could never get a decent shot of Fort Sumter either, dang it.