Report of Lieut. Col. R. S. Ripley, South Carolina Army, commanding Artillery.
Sullivan's Island, Fort Moultrie, April 16, 1861.
MAJOR: I have the honor to report that on the evening of the 11th instant, at 9½ o'clock, the batteries under my command were supplied and manned, the furnace heated, and all was ready for action either against a fleet or Fort Sumter. They were the following:
The five-gun battery, east of Curlew ground, under Captain Tupper, of the Vigilant Rifles.
The Maffitt channel battery, two guns, and mortar-battery No. 2, two 10-inch mortars, under Captain Butler, of the Infantry.
Fort Moultrie, which was my headquarters, thirty guns, under Capt. W. R. Calhoun, of the Artillery assistant commandant of batteries; First Lieuts. Thomas Wagner and Alfred Rhett, Artillery, commanding Channel and Sumter batteries.
Mortar-battery No. 1, two 10-inch mortars.
The enfilade battery, four guns, under Capt. J. H. Hallonquist, Artillery, assistant commandant of batteries, and Lieutenants Flemming, Artillery, and Valentine, Infantry.
The Point battery, one 9-inch Dahlgren gun, and the floating battery, four guns, under Capt. J. R. Hamilton and First Lieutenant Yates, of the Artillery, and the Mount Pleasant battery, two 10-inch mortars, under Capt. Robert Martin, of the Infantry.
Of these three 8-inch columbiads, two 32-pounders, and six 24-pounders in Fort Moultrie; two 24-pounders and two 32-pounders in the enfilade battery; one 9-inch Dahlgren gun, two 32-pounders, two 42-pounders at the Point and on board the floating battery, and the six 10-inch mortars bore upon Fort Sumter.
A strict watch was kept all night, but no attempt to send re-enforcements into Fort Sumter was observed. At 4½ o'clock on the morning of the 12th a shell was seen from the batteries of Fort Johnson, and in accordance with orders the signal for general action was made at once. The commands went quickly and quietly to their posts, and very soon every battery bearing upon the fort had commenced. As it was still dark the firing was very slow, but after dawn the direct fire was quickened, until every gun which bore upon Sumter was in quick operation, and this was continued at the regular intervals presented throughout the day. The enemy at first only replied to the Cummings Point batteries, but in a short time opened a brisk fire on the Point and floating batteries of this command with great precision. Shortly afterward he commenced firing on the enfilade batteries, but did not open upon Fort Moultrie.
At about 8 o'clock I visited the batteries to the west of this fort, and noticed the admirable conduct of the officers and men. Lieutenants Blanding and Flemming, of the Artillery, at mortar battery No. 1, and Lieutenants Valentine and Burnet, of the Infantry, at the enfilade battery, were promptly and energetically performing their duties. Captain Hallonquist was directing his fire to enfilade and drive the enemy from his parapet. At the Point battery Capt. J. R. Hamilton was firing with great precision and skill, and from his battery I noticed First Lieutenants Yates and Harleston on board the floating battery working their guns with all the rapidity which the order of firing permitted. I next visited Captain Butler's mortar battery, which he was working energetically.
Fort Sumter opened upon Fort Moultrie about 8.30 o'clock in the morning, and from that time a steady and continuous fire was kept up on us from his casemate 32-pounders and 42-pounders throughout the day. This was replied to by the nine guns of the Sumter battery of this fort, under Lieutenants Rhett and Mitchell, and two guns of the oblique battery, under Lieutenant Parker, until 9 a.m., when Lieutenant Rhett's command was relieved by the detachment of Company A, under Lieutenants Wagner, Preston, and Sitgreaves.
Captain Calhoun arranged the reliefs, and the officers and men of Companies A, B, and D worked the Sumter battery of this fort alternately until evening. During this time Captain Calhoun kept his channel guns manned and ready for action against the fleet, which was confidently expected to attempt an entrance. At different times during the afternoon five hot shot were fired upon the quarters at Fort Sumter. I have learned that they were thrice set on fire. Meantime the enemy's shot had told with great effect upon the quarters of Fort Moultrie, continually perforating and breaking them up; but our defenses were strong, the merlons and traverses heavy and well secured, and no material damage was done to our defenses, although the principal fire of the enemy was directed on this fort during the whole of the afternoon. The direct fire ceased with the light, but the mortars kept up the bombardment at the prescribed intervals.
The night set in dark and rainy, and it was feared that the enemy would certainly attempt to re-enforce. All the batteries on the island were visited, and especial vigilance enjoined. The channel batteries were kept manned, the various enfilading guns were all in readiness to sweep the faces and landings at Fort Sumter, and the mortar batteries to redouble their fire upon an alarm. The night passed away with one alerte, during which the mortar practice was increased in rapidity for a short time, and a few shots were fired from the different batteries; but it becoming apparent that the alarm was groundless the vertical fire was resumed, according to orders, and kept up until the day dawned.
Believing that it was impossible that the fleet outside would permit the cannonade to proceed without an attempt to re-enforce during the day and the men of my command having been exposed to a pelting rain during the night, and feeling confident that we had perfect command of the enemy's parapet, it had been determined to fire but two or three guns from the Sumter battery of Fort Moultrie, and, while keeping up a brisk mortar practice and fire from the enfilade battery, to save the ammunition of the Point and floating batteries to repel an attempt to re-enforce. Orders were given to such effect, and the two guns were opened from the Sumter battery of this fort, the other batteries firing in order. Fort Sumter opened early and spitefully, and paid especial attention to Fort Moultrie – almost every shot grazing the crest of the parapet, and crashing through the quarters. Our defenses were still uninjured and our losses trifling.
Finding that I could spare men and still keep the channel battery manned, the fire was somewhat increased, until about 9 o'clock on the morning of the 13th smoke was seen to issue from the roof of the quarters of Fort Sumter, and it was evident that a conflagration had commenced. The entire Sumter battery of Fort Moultrie was manned at once, and worked with the utmost rapidity, officers and men vieing in their energy. Captain Calhoun, First Lieutenants Wagner, Rhett, and Preston, Second Lieutenants Sitgreaves, Mitchell, and Parker, of the Artillery, and Mr. F. D. Blake, acting engineer, all superintended the working of the guns, which were manned by detachments from Company B, relieved at times by detachments from Company A, with a skill, and precision rarely excelled. Indeed, I doubt whether an artillery fire at such a distance with ordinary guns has ever equaled it in precision. The shot, both hot and cold, crashed into the quarters of Fort Sumter and along the parapet rendering the extinction of the flames difficult, and lighting up new places to windward. It became evident soon that the enemy was worsted, but to insure the result orders were passed to each of the batteries to redouble their fire.
Captain Hamilton, Captain Hallonquist and Lieutenants Yates and Valentine had anticipated the order, and Captain Butler soon increased the rapidity of his mortar practice; nevertheless from his casemates the enemy still poured shot thick and fast upon Fort Moultrie until about 12.45 p.m., when his flagstaff was cut away, and it slackened. The thick and stifling smoke arising from the ruins of his buildings told plainly that the time for surrender had nearly come. Nevertheless he hoisted a new flag over the crest of his parapet, and our fire, which had been ordered to cease when his flagstaff fell, was reopened with all the vigor we could command. The smoke still poured out of the ruins, and the fire from Fort Sumter having slackened again the order was again given to cease, but upon his recommencing we reopened.
While the enemy's flag was still flying and he was still firing upon us, a boat was observed to leave Cummings Point and pull towards Fort Sumter. By my order a shot was sent ahead of it, but it continued on and landed.
At 1.15 p.m., a white flag having been hoisted alongside the United States ensign, the firing ceased. Brigadier-General Dunovant, who was present in Fort Moultrie, immediately sent Captain Hartstene, C. S. N., Captain Calhoun, and Surgeon Lynch, C. S. N., to ascertain whether the surrender was made, and to tender assistance. Upon their arrival they found that the staff of the commanding general had just preceded them.
It is hard to say whether any distinction can be made in the conduct of the officers and men under my command. From the senior captain to the prisoner turned out of the guard-house just before the action all did their duty. The conduct of several came under my special notice, and I mention them accordingly. Captains Calhoun and Hallonquist, assistants to commandant of batteries; Capt. J. R. Hamilton, First Lieutenants Wagner, Rhett, and Yates, and Second Lieutenant Flemming, of the Artillery, and Captain Butler and Lieutenant Valentine, of the Infantry, were all in command of batteries, and deserve especial mention. In addition to the officers whose names appear in the report above I take pleasure in mentioning the conduct of the engineer and assistants, First Lieutenant Earle, and Messrs. F. D. Blake and J. E. Nash, volunteers, acting.
No repairs being needed for the defenses, these gentlemen acted as staff and lookout officers, and were very efficient. Lieut. T. S. Fayssoux, of the Cavalry, assistant commissary of subsistence, acted well in the same capacity. Capt. C. F. Middleton, an old resident of Sullivan's Island, remained with his family during the cannonade, and was especially useful. All of these gentlemen were active and prompt in communicating orders and doing whatever duty devolved upon them.
Surg. Arthur Lynch, C. S. N., and Assist. Surg. Walter Taylor, South Carolina Volunteers, the permanent surgeons of the post, had made every preparation for the discharge of their duties, and would have been assisted by Drs. Raoul, Barnwell, and Porcher, who volunteered, but fortunately our casualties were so few that their services as surgeons were needless. They acted as staff officers. The Rev. Mr. Aldrich was present during the cannonade. Dr. Maddox acted as surgeon at mortar battery No. 1, and Drs. Daviga and Logan at the Point and on board the floating battery. Mr. John Wells, of South Carolina, acted as an ordnance officer at the Point battery under Captain Hamilton.
Our escape with only four slight casualties I conceive to be in a great measure due to the strength of our defenses, the material of which had been furnished under the direction of Maj. Walter Gwynn, chief engineer, in large quantities since the 1st of January last. Major Gwynn had also given his personal supervision to the construction of several of the works. The batteries exterior to the fort and many of the works adjacent were built under the superintendence of Captain Trapier, whose accomplishments as an engineer are well known, and certainly are appreciated by those who garrison works constructed by him.
Several times during the action I had the pleasure of meeting the brigadier-general commanding, and of receiving valuable assistance from Captain Bruns and other officers of the staff. I wish to draw particular and special attention to the valuable services of Messrs. John Henery and Charles Scanlan, acting military storekeepers, who have been on duty with my command since January last. These gentlemen have given every attention to their duty, and to them is due, in a great measure, the high state of efficiency of our guns and ordnance. They were indispensable during the action.
The Ordnance Department deserves and has my thanks for the material furnished under so many adverse circumstances since the 1st of January last.
Among other volunteers, Maj. John Dunovant, of the Infantry, came to Fort Moultrie early on the morning of the 13th, and was present during the action, doing all that lay in his power.
I was deprived of the services of the commissioned battalion staff during the cannonade. First Lieut. James Hamilton, adjutant, was absent sick on the 11th instant, but hearing of the probability of an engagement, left his bed and came to report for duty. He remained until some time after the action, when it was evident that his strength was gone. Lieutenant Yates, battalion quartermaster, preferred the command of the floating battery, and I excused him from staff duty.
Lieut. Col. Hatch, quartermaster-general, had made preparations for the extinguishment of fires. Mr. Prioleau Ravenel was present with the engines and a body of men to put them out should they occur. We were fortunate, and he did what duty he was called on to perform.
I have the honor to inclose a return of the few wounded, a statement of shot fired, and such reports from commanding officers as I have received. To them I beg to refer for the names of meritorious individuals not mentioned above.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
R. S. RIPLEY,
Lieutenant-Colonel of Artillery, Commanding.
Return of shot and shell fired from the batteries of Fort Moultrie Sullivan's Island, and Mount Pleasant, commanded by Lieut. Col. R. S. Ripley, Artillery, South Carolina Army, during the cannonade and bombardment of Fort Sumter, April 12 and 13, 1861.
SOURCES: The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series I, Volume 1 (Serial No. 1), p. 39-43; This report is quoted in Samuel Wylie Crawford’s The Genesis of the Civil War: The Story of Sumter, 1860-1861, p. 435.