During the months leading up to the outbreak of the Civil War, the Union garrisons of Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter found themselves isolated by a hostile population. Both forts were ill prepared for service, particularly Fort Moultrie, which was largely indefensible due to cracks in the walls and sand piled up in front of the embrasures. For this reason the two garrisons concentrated their forces in Fort Sumter in late December 1860. For the next 13 weeks, they worked to improve the defenses of the Fort, which had been left in the hands of a solidary caretaker for years. When secessionist troops garrisoned Fort Moultrie and built new batteries facing Fort Sumter, it became a matter of time before before someone fired a shot. Finally, at dawn on April 12,1861, the first shot was fired from a mortar in Fort Johnson, a battery erected just over a mile to the west of Fort Sumter on James Island. The Civil War had begun.
Captain Abner Doubleday recalled the effectiveness of the confederate fire:
In a moment the firing burst forth in one continuous roar, and large patches of both the exterior and interior masonry began to crumble and fall in all directions... Nineteen batteries were now hammering us, and the balls and shells from the 10-inch ccolumbiads, accompanied by the shells from the 13-inch mortars which constantly bombarded us, made us feel as if the war had commenced in earnest.
Our fort had been built with reference to the penetration of shot when the old system of smoothbore guns prevailed. The balls from the new Blakely gun on Cummings Point, however, had force enough to go entirely through the wall which sheltered us, and some of the fragments of brick which were knocked out wounded several of my detachment.
The fort was not designed to fend off this kind of attack. While the garrison labored to contain the fires and save the powder, smoke filled the casemates, making it impossible to breath. All this time shot smashed into the casemates. "When at last nothing was left of the building but the blackened walls and smoldering embers, it became painfully evident that an immense amount of damage had been done."
The interior of the fort and the barrack block on its landward side lay in ruins. Shortly afterward, negotiations began under a flag of truce and the garrison surrendered. During the two day bombardment, the fort was subjected to a range of shot from almost every side, but the really damaging rounds came from mortars and the single rifled gun. Both were weapons that the Bernard Board had never imagined would ever be used against one of their coastal fortifications. The rules of fortification were being rewritten.
Young Reader Title|
A Yankee Girl at Fort Sumter
Tale of a girl and her family from Boston living in Charleston, SC during the months leading up to the beginning of the Civil War by the attack on Fort Sumter. The reader senses the inhunanity of slavery through Sylvia's experiences.