Sunday, October 2, 2016

Captain Truman Seymour & Lieutenant George W. Snyder to Major Robert Anderson, April 3, 1861

fort Sumter, April 3, 1861.
Maj. Robert Anderson, First Artillery, U. S. Army,
Commanding Fort Sumter, Charleston Harbor:

Major: In obedience to your directions, we visited Cummings Point, and the schooner bearing the United States flag, which was fired into by the batteries on Morris Island, and respectfully present the following statement concerning the affair:

The commanding officer on Morris Island, Lieutenant-Colonel W. G. De Saussure, stated that a schooner with the United States flag at her peak endeavored to enter the harbor this afternoon about 3 o'clock; that in accordance with his orders to prevent any vessel under that flag from entering the harbor, he had fired three shots across her bows, and this not causing her to heave to, he had fired at her, and had driven her out of the harbor; that he thought one or two shots had taken effect, and that if he had a boat that could live to get out to her he would send and see if she were disabled, and inform Major Anderson at once, but that he had no proper boat, as the schooner was at anchor in a very rough place; that the revenue cutter had gone out to examine her condition. We ascertained the schooner to be the Rhoda B. Shannon. Joseph Marts, master, of Dorchester, N. J., bound from Boston to Savannah with a cargo of ice, having left the former place on March 26. On account of unfavorable weather, the master had obtained but one observation, and that was an imperfect one on yesterday. On his arrival off Charleston Bar, supposing himself to be off Tybee, and seeing a pilot-boat, he directed one of his men to hold the United States flag in the fore rigging as a signal for a pilot. As none came, the flag was taken down in a few minutes, and the master undertook to bring his vessel into the harbor without a pilot. He did not discover that he was not in Savannah Harbor until he had crossed the bar and had advanced some distance in the harbor. As he was passing Morris Island, displaying no flag, a shot was fired from a battery on shore across the bows of the schooner. The master states that he thought they wished him to show his colors, and that he displayed the United States flag at his peak. One or two shots were then fired across the schooner's bows, but he did not know what to do or what the people on shore wished him to do; that he kept the vessel on her course until they fired at her, and one shot had gone through the mainsail, about two feet above the boom, when he put her about and stood out to sea, anchoring his vessel in the Swash Channel, just inside of the bar; that the batteries kept on firing at his vessel for some time after he had turned to go out to sea.

The master of the schooner stated that before leaving Boston, he had learned how affairs stood in Charleston Harbor, and that Fort Sumter was to be given up in a few days; that they had established a new confederacy down South.

After satisfying ourselves that the vessel was uninjured, and as she was lying in a very rough place, we advised the master to move his vessel — either to stand out to sea and go on to Savannah, or to come into the harbor and anchor.

On our return we stopped at Cummings Point, and stated the facts to Lieutenant-Colonel De Saussure. He said that the vessel would not be molested if she came into the harbor.

The schooner weighed anchor a short time after we left, and stood in towards Morris Island for some distance, but finally turned about and went to sea.

Respectfully submitted.

T. Seymour, Captain, First Artillery.
G. W. Snyder, Lieutenant of Engineers.

SOURCES: Samuel Wylie Crawford, The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861, p. 379-80

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