January 2, 1861
|South Carolina militia taking possession of Castle Pinckney.|
(Harper's Weekly, January 12, 1861)
[From the Charleston Mercury, Dec.31st.]
All day Saturday and yesterday, our gallant troops were busy in the performance of the various duties assigned them by the State. At Fort Moultrie, we are glad to be able to state that matters are progressing swimmingly. The most vigorous measures are on foot to remount the dismantled guns, and every hour is working wonders towards that end.--At various exposed points along the bay, breastworks are being rapidly erected. The details of these fortifications we shall give at another time. But whoever glances at the earnest manner in which these defences are pushed forward, must acknowledge that Carolinians have lost none of the zeal and bravery which distinguished them of old.
Sunday was to idle day for the garrisons. At Castle Pinckney service was duly performed, but the rest of the day was devoted to energetic action.
The State of affairs at Fort Sumter.
From the accounts of a number of laborers who were sent from Fort Sumter on Friday night, our reporters have gleaned a mass of highly interesting details in relation to the strength and present condition of the great fortress which now forms the last stronghold of Federal authority within the limits of our State.
About six weeks ago, when there were no troops in Fort Sumter, the Federal officers in charge of that post proposed to the workmen employed in completing the fortifications, and who then numbered about 150 men, that they should enlist in the United States service, and thus vary the monotony of handling the trowel and the derrick, by a little daily practice with the musket and the howitzer. The workmen, most of whom were from a Southern city, at first demurred at this somewhat extraordinary proposal, alleging that they came to work and not to fight; and, finally, after consultation among themselves, they flatly refused to become the thankless tools of coercion.--The benevolent officers, as there was no help for it, suffered the matter to drop for awhile, and the work of getting the guns in position and otherwise strengthening the fortress was resumed by the stalwart Baltimore mechanics and laborers without any more martial propositions.
Thus matters wore on until the transfer of the garrison of Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. On Thursday evening, when the Palmetto banner floating over Castle Pinckney; and the rockets from Fort Moultrie announced to the lookouts on the ramparts of Fort Sumter the occupation of both those works by the State troops, the impression was quite prevalent among the United States officers that a sudden attack upon their own position would follow. The laborers were again hastily summoned together — again the officers endeavored to coax them to don the blue cloth and brass buttons in defence of the fort, and again the sturdy sons of toil declined the tempting offer. Finding that the workmen were immovable in their resolve not to participate in any contest with the forces of South Carolina, the officers thought that the next best thing was to get men who could evince no sympathy for Federal tyranny out of the way as soon as possible. The boats were accordingly manned shortly after nightfall, and the larger portion of the workmen were quietly taken over to Fort Johnson. The workmen say that this was done by order of Capt Foster, who, it will be remembered, was in Charleston that same morning (Thursday.)
The dreaded attack not having taken place, the laborers and mechanics returned on Friday morning, when about eighty of them, including all the master mechanics, weary of a position so full of danger and alarms, announced their intention to quit. On demanding their pay, they received drafts on the North, instead of the specie in which the Government usually pays its employees, and glad to get away, they embarked at 4 o'clock on Saturday morning on a schooner for Charleston. On arriving in Charleston, they found themselves in a strange city, and destitute of means. A purse was promptly made up for them among some of our liberal citizens, and on Saturday afternoon they departed for their homes on the steamship Keystone State. Previous to leaving, however, they related the following facts concerning the post they have just left:
The force now remaining in Fort Sumter consists of about one hundred and thirty men, fifty of whom are laborers, and the rest troops belonging to the artillery branch of the United States service. These latter are sufficient to man about one-half the guns of the fort, supposing the guns were all mounted. Fortunately, however, this is far from being the case. Out of seventy- five pieces of heavy ordnance now in the fort, only eleven are fully mounted. These are all casemate guns in the lower tier, and include the nine guns of that face of the fortress fronting towards Sullivan's Island. Two more of these casemate guns were nearly mounted on Friday evening, but the work of getting them in position is necessarily slow and tedious, and, with the force now at work, it is impossible to mount more than three guns per day at the utmost. The heaviest guns, too, which are the ten-inch Columbiads, have yet to be mounted. One of the casemate guns at one of the angles of the walls has been placed in position so as to cover Castle Pinckney. The garrison were on Friday evening getting ready to mount some of the casemate guns on the south side of the walls.
Besides these heavy pieces, four of the lighter barbette guns are mounted upon the ramparts, pointing towards Morris' Island. These are so arranged upon pivot carriages as to sweep around the whole horizon. The magazine of the fortress is well stocked with an immense quantity of grape, canister and shells, and about seven hundred barrels of powder. All the small arms and stores of Fort Moultrie have been transferred with the garrison, and there is a sufficient accumulation of provisions to last, in case of necessity, for six months at least. Four large cisterns contain an ample supply of fresh water; but it is now well understood that Fort Sumter has no fuel to spare. The rumor current in the city that a number of the guns in Fort Sumter, which are not yet mounted, had been spiked by the Southern workmen, is without foundation.
About two o'clock, yesterday afternoon, the Federal flag, which until that time had been suffered to wave over the Arsenal, was hauled down, and the glorious Palmetto banner run up in its stead. As the State flag for the first time flapped in the breeze from that fine staff, a salute of cannon was fired to celebrate the event. We fancy that the guards will watch more zealously than ever, now that they know that the flag of their redeemed country is floating proudly over them.
The Charleston Courier of Saturday has the following:
Our reporter visited the Island yesterday, and found matters at Fort Moultrie progressing quietly and satisfactorily. The rubbish left by the Federal troops is being cleaned away, and the fortress assuming a defensible aspect. Many apprehended difficulties, of a nature we need not name, have been removed, and the volunteer companies constituting the garrison are making merry over the hardships of the soldier. Some of the guns are, it is supposed, badly injured by the burning of the carriages. Activity prevails at the garrison, and its vigilant officers are determined on the course that guides their action.
Fort Sumter, as viewed at a distance, presents an appearance of lively activity Schooners and barges were plying between the fort and the channel during the day. Everything seems to indicate active preparation.
Castle Pinckney was reinforced in the afternoon by a detachment of the Marion Artillery from Fort Moultrie, under the command of Captain King. A detachment of the Washington Light Infantry was transferred from the former to the latter place in the forenoon, thus retaining at Fort Moultrie the same force as first occupied it.
The garrison at Castle Pinckney consists of about two hundred men. Ten twenty-four pound cannon are mounted on the ramparts, besides some fifteen pieces — a few of which are case mated — in the lower tier. The work is well provided with munitions of all kinds, and under the command of its field officers, Col. Pettigrew and Maj. Ellison Capers, will make itself felt, if need be, when the time comes. It is far from being the insignificant position of which it has the reputation. Although a defective construction has impaired the power of the lower batteries to a considerable extent, it has an effective tier of rampart guns, which, from its eligible position, are capable of much service. It is beyond the reach of the largest guns of Fort Sumter, and commands the entire line of wharves and shipping along Cooper River, and in the hands of an enemy would be capable of doing vast injury to the city.