Thursday, August 11, 2016

Diary of Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle: Saturday, June 13, 1863

Colonel Rice, aide-de-camp to General Beauregard, rode with me to "Secessionville" this morning. I was mounted on the horse which the General rode at Manassas and Shiloh. We reached James Island by crossing the long wooden bridge which spans the river Ashley. The land of James Island is low and marshy, and is both by repute and in appearance most unhealthy. Three years ago no white men would have dreamed of occupying it at this time of year; but now that the necessity has arisen, the troops, curiously enough, do not appear to suffer.

“Secessionville,” the most advanced and most important of the James Island fortifications, is distant by road eight miles from Charleston bridge, with which it is connected by a chain of forts. It was surprised by the enemy just a year ago (June 1862), and was the scene of a desperate conflict, which resulted in the repulse of the Federals with a loss of nearly 800 men. The Confederates lost 150 men on this occasion, which as yet has been the only serious loss of life at Charleston during the war. Colonel Lamar, who commanded the garrison with great gallantry, was one of the few victims to yellow fever last year. The Yankees attacked the fort three times with much bravery and determination, and actually reached the superior slope of the parapet before they were driven back. They were within an ace of being successful; and although they deserved great credit for their behaviour on that occasion, yet it is understood that the officer who organised the attack has either been dismissed the service or otherwise punished.

Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, the commandant, who showed me over the fort and bomb-proofs, is quite young, full of zeal, and most anxious to be attacked; he has artillerymen to man this and the neighbouring works, and two regiments of infantry are also encamped within a short distance.

At the time of the attack on Charleston last April there were 30,000 men to defend it; since that time 20,000 had been sent into Mississippi to reinforce Johnston. I imagine that, as the fortifications are so very extensive, the Charleston garrison ought to consist of at least 30,000 men.

SOURCE: Sir Arthur James Lyon Fremantle, Three Months in the Southern States: April-June, 1863, p. 198-200

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