Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Tar Heel’s views of Fort Sumter

What We Saw in Charleston

We left Wilmington on Thursday night last to witness, and, if allowed to participate in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Our journey was full of excitement which one might expect to realize when on his way to the field of battle for the first time. On Friday morning, when about twenty-five miles from Charleston, we heard the heavy ordnance of Sumter and the different batteries on the islands, and as the jarring thunder steadily and a regular intervals broke upon the early morning air. The excitement on the cars increased to fever heat and the passengers could scarcely restrain their impatience at one or two very brief stoppages of the train to take up several South Carolinians who were hurrying to the scene of action. As the train approached the city, the dull, heavy explosions shook the air in rapid succession like thunder-claps, and at last the clouds of smoke from the different batteries became visible, and the smell of burnt powder was wafted pleasantly on the breeze. We found the streets comparatively quiet--the citizens and strangers of both sexes having crowded down to the Battery—and, eating a hurried break fast, we ascended to the roof of the Mills House, with a friend, to take a view. And such a view!

There lay the waters of the beautiful harbor, sparkling and heaving gently to the kiss of the morning breeze. Directly before us arose out of the deep the beleaguered fortress, all its angles softened by the distance—the once glorious ensign of a once glorious republic floating proudly over its walls, and the whole scene looking as peaceful and beautiful as God intended it should be. But see! from a point on the right a white puff of smoke is sent, and, ere the report reaches us, a red flame burst over the flag-staff of Fort Sumter and the dreadful bomb scatters its fragments over the doomed fort and comes to the ear with a report almost equal to that of the mortar from which it proceeded. Another puff from the opposite wise where the floating battery and Fort Moultrie are located, an answer from Maj. Anderson, a round shot hurtles through the air from Cumings Point; and so it goes. We hurry down, passing the bulletin boards of the Mercury and Courier offices, and learning there that, as yet, “nobody is hurt.” Arrived at the Battery… we find several thousand ladies and gentlemen, citizens and strangers gazing at the conflict and all impressed with the character of the drama which was being enacted. Soldiers on horback and on foot, messengers and aids hurry to and fro. There was no weeping—no apparent distress—but upon the faces of all,--men, women and children, Determination was stamped in unmistakeable characters. We took our stand and watched every shot from every battery on each of the islands and from Fort Sumter. “There goes Stevens’ Battery,” ‘There goes Anderson,” “Look at that shell,” “now for the Floating Battery,” “Ripley keeps up the fire from Fort Moultrie gloriously,” “I’d give $100 to be there,” and a thousand other similar expressions constantly greeted the ear, while every time a should would explode over Sumter, leaving its little cloud of white smoke, a cheer would go up from the large concourse of spectators. Major Anderson generally alternated his shots with the different batteries (five or six in number) that were playing on him; but sometimes he would open fire from both sides at once.—He seemed about 9 o’clock on Friday to be paying his particular respects to Fort Moultrie, and a rumor reached the city that 30 or 40 men had been killed there, and that the battery was terribly exposed; but a short time proved these and various other rumors to be false. Moultrie kept pegging away slowly and steadily, as did the others. Fort Sumer replied briskly. Dispatches now came that the iron battery (Stevens) on Cummings’ Point, was rapidly making a breach in the Southwest wall of Sumter, and we think Major Anderson did not fire at Cummings’ Point after 2 o’clock on Friday. Cheering news arrived from all quarters, of the harmlessness of Anderson’s shots and the good spirits of the “boys.” The firing was kept up under dark, which there seemed to be only one gun about every ten or fifteen minutes, as it intended to keep Major Anderson awake.

To be continued….

No comments: