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1861 April 13: The Surrender of Fort Sumter

April 13, 2011

Following are articles, all dated April 13, 1861, from the April 17th issue of The Hudson North Star.

For a map of where each of the islands, forts, and batteries are located in relation to Fort Sumter, see the To the Sound of Guns’ blog entry for April 12, 2011.

Morris Island and Cumming’s Point as Seen from Fort Sumter (see footnote 1)

The cannonading is going on fiercely from all points from the vessels outside and along our coast. It is reported that Fort Sumpter [sic] is on fire.

The entire roof of the barracks at Sumpter [sic] is in a vast sheet of flames. Shells from Cummings Point and Fort Moultrie are bursting in and over Fort Sumpter [sic] in quick succession. The Federal flag still waves. Maj. Anderson is only occupied putting out fire; every shot on Fort Sumpter [sic] now seems to tell heavily. The people are anxiously looking for Maj. Anderson to strike his flag.

It is stated from a reliable source that Fort Sumpter [sic] is undoubtedly on fire. The flames are now raging all around it. Major Anderson has thrown out a raft loaded with men, who are passing buckets of water to extinguish the fire. The Fort is scarcely discernable [sic]. The men on the raft are now objects of fire from Morris Island. With glasses balls can be seen skipping over the water, striking the unprotected raft. Great havoc is created among the poor fellows. It is surmised that Major Anderson is gradually blowing up the Fort. He scarcely fired a gun. At half past eleven flames were bursting from all the port holes. The destruction of Fort Sumter is inevitable. Four vessels, two of them large steamers, are in sight over the bar. The largest appears to be engaging Morris Island. The flames have nearly subsided in Fort Sumpter [sic], but Major Anderson does not fire any guns. Gen. Beauregard left the wharf just now in a boat for Morris Island.

A 10-Inch Columbiad Mounted as a Mortar at Fort Sumter (cropped), from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (1866), p. 57

The excitement if anything is increasing. I have received a letter from S. C. Boylston,2 dated Moultrie, 6 o’clock this morning. He says not one man killed or wounded. The iron battery had been damaged. The rifle cannon of the battery did great execution on Fort Sumter, were all aimed into Major Anderson’s embrasures. Three of Sumter’s barbette guns were dismounted, one of which was a ten inch Columbiad.3 A corner of Fort Sumpter [sic] opposite Moultrie was knocked off. The steamer[s] Water Witch, Mohawk and Pawnee, it was said, were the three first vessels seen in the offing. Another correspondent says the bombardment was answered from the city, and a boat is on the way to Fort Sumter. The breach made in Fort Sumter is on the side opposite Cumming’s Point. Two of the port-holes are knocked into one. The walls from the top are crumbling. Three vessels, one of them a large sized steamer, are over the bar and seem to be preparing to participate in the conflict. The fire of Morris Island and Moultrie is divided between Sumpter [sic] and the ships of War. The ships have not yet opened.

Half-past one o’clock P.M.
The firing has ceased and an unconditional surrender made. Carolinians are surprised at the fight being over so soon. After the flag staff of Sumpter [sic] was shot away, Mr. Wigfall4 was sent by Mr. Beauregard to the Fort with a white flag, and offer assistance to subdue the flames. He was met by Major Anderson, who said he had just displayed a white flag, but the batteries had not stoped [sic] firing. Mr. Wigfall replied that Maj. Anderson must hand down the American flag and surrender, or fight was the word. Anderson then hauled down the flag. Several of Beauregard’s staff came over and stipulated for the surrender, it to be unconditional for the present, subject to term from Beauregard.—Anderson is allowed to remain in actual possession for the present.

Gen. Beauregard has just gone to Sumpter [sic]. Also three fire companies, who will extinguish the fire before it reaches the magizine.[sic] Two of Major Anderson’s magazines exploded. Only occasional shots are fired at him from Fort Moultrie. The Morris Island battery is doing heavy work. It is said that only the smaller magazines have exploded.

Fort Sumter has Surrendered.  The Confederate flag floats over its walls.—None of garrison or the Confederate troops are hurt. The greatest excitement prevails. The wharves, steeples, and every available place is blocked with people. United States ships are in the offing, but have not aided Major Anderson. It is too late now as the tide is ebbing. The ships in the offing appear to be quietly at anchor. They have not fired a gun yet.

Boston, April 13.

Scene Around a Bulletin-Board, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War” (1866), p. 61

Intense excitement exists here. The surrender of Fort Sumpter [sic] is not believed by many.

Lancaster, PA., April 13.
The stars and stripes were displayed in honor of Major Anderson. Volunteers are being enrolled.

Memphis, April 13.
Great Excitement exists—crowds, cannons, rockets, bonfires, music and speeches.

Montgomery, April 13.
Major Chambers has arrived, bringing Lieut. Wardner a prisoner of war from Pensacola. He was a bearer of despatches to Fort Pickens. Guns fired and great rejoicing over the victory at Sumpter [sic].

Washington, April 13.
There is comparatively little excitement here relative to affairs at Charliston.[sic]

The reply of the President to the Virginia Commissioners repeats his purpose to hold and occupy possession of property and places belonging to the Government, and collect duties on imports, but not use force except when necessary for this object. An unjustifiable assault has been made upon Fort Sumpter [sic], and I shall repress it if I can, and take places which have been seized, and shall to the best of my ability, repel force by force. If the war news proves true, I shall probably withdraw the mails from the seceded states. I consider that the forts and property in these states yet belong to us. I shall not attempt to collect duties by armed invasion. I don’t mean however that I may not use land force to relieve forts. He reaffirms his inaugural.

1.  This drawing is one of three made on February 13, 1861, by T. Seymour, Brevet Captain U.S.A., and published as Plate I in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 1861-1865 (available in the UWRF University Archives & Area Research Center, E 464 .U6 Atlas).
2.  Samuel Cordes Boylston (1844-1913) was a graduate of The Citadel, and as part of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets had helped build the “Star of the West Battery” on Morris Island in December 1860. During the April 1861 Fort Sumter battle he is stationed at the “Mortar Battery.” On August 22, 1861, he is commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Confederate Army and is stationed at Fort Sumter from August 1861 to August 1863. Boylston is honorably discharged in Greensboro, North Carolina, on April 26, 1865, with the surrender of Johnston’s army.
3.  “The Columbiad was a large caliber, smoothbore, muzzle loading cannon able to fire heavy projectiles at both high and low trajectories. This feature enabled the Columbiad to fire solid shot or shell to long ranges, making it an excellent seacoast defense weapon for its day.”
4.  Louis Trezevant Wigfall (1816-1874) was a Texas politician who served in the U.S. Senate, 1859-March 23, 1861, and in the Confederate Senate, 1862-1865.  He arrived in Charleston as the siege of Fort Sumter commenced. While he was indeed serving as a volunteer aide to General Beauregard, he had not see the General in two days when he took it upon himself to row out to Fort Sumter. The official delegation from Beauregard’s staff—Major Lee, Porcher Miles, Senator Chesnut, and Roger A. Pryor—arrived later with the General’s terms.

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