Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The bombardment of Fort Sumter commenced at 4:30 a.m. April 12, 1861.
(Library of Congress)


The Charles Mercury – April 13, 1861

As may have been anticipated from our notice of the military movements in our city yesterday, the bombardment of Fort Sumter, so long and anxiously expected, has at length become a fact accomplished. The restless activity of the night before was gradually worn down, the citizens who had thronged the battery through the night, anxious and weary, had sought their homes, the Mounted Guard which had kept watch and ward over the city, with the first grey steak of morning were preparing to retire, when two guns in quick succession from Fort Johnson announced the opening of the drama.

Upon that signal, the circle of batteries with which the grim fortress of Fort Sumter is beleaguered opened fire. The outline of this great volcanic crater was illuminated with a line of twinkling lights; the clustering shells illuminated the sky above it; the balls clattered thick as hail upon its sides; our citizens aroused to forgetfulness of their fatigue through many weary hours, rushed again to the points of observation; and so, at the break of day, amidst the bursting of bombs, and the roaring of ordnance, and before thousands of spectators, whose homes, and liberties, and lives were at stake, was enacted this first great scene in the opening drama of what, it is presumed, will be a most momentous military act. It may be a drama of single act. The madness which inspires it may depart with this single paroxysm. It is certain that the people of the North have rankling at their hearts no sense of wrong to be avenged; and exhibiting to those who expect power to reconstruct the shattered Union, its utter inadequacy to accomplish a single step in that direction, the Administration of the old Government may abandon at once and forever its vain and visionary hope of forcible control over the Confederate States. But it may not be so; they may persist still longer in assertions of their power, and if so, they will arouse an independent spirit in the South, which will exact a merciless and fearful retribution.

There were several circumstances, however, developed by the day’s experience which it is important to notice.

Fort Moultrie and it’s garrison engaged in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. (Library of Congress)

It affords us infinite pleasure to record that Fort Moultrie has fully sustained the prestige of its glorious name. It fired very nearly ever gun for gun with Fort Sumter. We counted the guns from eleven to twelve o’clock, and found them to be 42 to 46, while the advantage was unquestionably upon the side of Fort Moultrie. In that fort not a gun was dismounted, not a wound received, not the slightest permanent injury sustained by any of its defences, while every ball from Fort Moultrie left its mark upon Fort Sumter. Many of its shells were dropped into that fort, and Lieut. John Mitchel, the worthy son of that patriot sire, who has so nobly vindicated the cause of the South, has the honor of dismounting two of its parapet guns by a single shot from one of the Columbiads, which at the time he and the office of directing.
Edmund Ruffin, Southern patriot,
serving as a volunteer at Charleston
during the bombardment.
(Library of Congress)
The famous iron batteries – the one at Cummings’ Point – named for Mr. C.H. Stevens, the inventor, and the celebrated Floating Battery, constructed under the direction of Capt. Hamilton, have fully vindicated the correctness of their conception. Shot after shot fell upon them and glanced harmless away, while from their favorable position their shots fell with effect upon Fort Sumter, and the south-east pancopee, under the fire of the Stevens’ battery, at nightfall, if not actually breached, was badly damaged. At this battery the honor of firing the first gun was accorded to the venerable EDMUND RUFFIN, of Virginia, who marched to the rendezvous at the sound of the alarm on Monday night, and who, when asked by some person who did not know him, to what company he belonged, replied, “to that in which there is a vacancy.”

It was vain to attempt an exhibition of the enthusiasm and fearless intrepidity of our citizens in every department of this eventful day. Boats passed from post to post without the slightest hesitation under the guns of Fort Sumter, and with high and low, old and young, rich and poor, in uniform or without, the common wish and constant effort was to reach the posts of action; and amid a bombardment resisted with the most consummate skill and perseverance, and with the most efficient appliances military art and science, it is a most remarkable circumstance, and one which exhibits the infinite good-goodness of an overruling Providence, that, so far as we have been able to learn from the most careful inquiry, not the slightest injury has been sustained by the defenders of their country.

It may be added, as an incident that contributed no little interest to the action of the day, that from early in the forenoon three vessels-of-war, two of them supposed to be the Harriet Lane and Pawnee, lay just beyond the bar, inactive spectators of the contest. Whether they will attempt to enter during the night and encounter the records of a bloody issue in our next.

Fort Sumter did not return the fire of our batteries for over two hours, and ceased firing at seven o’clock, p.m., though our men continued to the hour of our going to press.

Charleston civilians watching the bombardment of Fort Sumter.
(National Park Service)

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