William Charles Henry Wood.

Captains of the civil war; a chronicle of the blue and the gray online

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Produced by Alev Akman, Diane Beane, James J. Kelly Library
of St. Gregory's University and Robert J. Hall


Scanned by Dianne Bean.

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[Illustration: _GENERAL U. S. GRANT_
Photograph by Brady. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington.]







Sixty years ago today the guns that thundered round Fort Sumter began
the third and greatest modern civil war fought by English-speaking
people. This war was quite as full of politics as were the other
two - the War of the American Revolution and that of Puritan and
Cavalier. But, though the present Chronicle never ignores the vital
correlations between statesmen and commanders, it is a book of
warriors, through and through.

I gratefully acknowledge the indispensable assistance of Colonel
G. J. Fiebeger, a West Point expert, and of Dr. Allen Johnson,
chief editor of the series and Professor of American History at


Late Colonel commanding 8th Royal Rifles, and Officer-in-charge,
Canadian Special Mission Overseas.

April 18, 1921.


I. THE CLASH: 1861











XII. THE END: 1865





Photograph by Brady. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington.


Photograph. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington


Photograph. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington.


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.


Photograph by Brady.


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.


Photograph by Brady. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington.


Map by W. L. G. Joerg, American Geographical Society.




States which claimed a sovereign right to secede from the Union
naturally claimed the corresponding right to resume possession of
all the land they had ceded to that Union's Government for the use
of its naval and military posts. So South Carolina, after leading
the way to secession on December 20, 1860, at once began to work
for the retrocession of the forts defending her famous cotton port
of Charleston. These defenses, being of vital consequence to both
sides, were soon to attract the strained attention of the whole

There were three minor forts: Castle Pinckney, dozing away, in
charge of a solitary sergeant, on an island less than a mile from
the city; Fort Moultrie, feebly garrisoned and completely at the
mercy of attackers on its landward side; and Fort Johnson over on
James Island. Lastly, there was the world-renowned Fort Sumter,
which then stood, unfinished and ungarrisoned, on a little islet
beside the main ship channel, at the entrance to the harbor, and
facing Fort Moultrie just a mile away. The proper war garrison of
all the forts should have been over a thousand men. The actual
garrison - including officers, band, and the Castle Pinckney
sergeant - was less than a hundred. It was, however, loyal to the
Union; and its commandant, Major Robert Anderson, though born in
the slave-owning State of Kentucky, was determined to fight.

The situation, here as elsewhere, was complicated by Floyd, President
Buchanan's Secretary of War, soon to be forced out of office on a
charge of misapplying public funds. Floyd, as an ardent Southerner,
was using the last lax days of the Buchanan Government to get the
army posts ready for capitulation whenever secession should have
become an accomplished fact. He urged on construction, repairs, and
armament at Charleston, while refusing to strengthen the garrison,
in order, as he said, not to provoke Carolina. Moreover, in November
he had replaced old Colonel Gardner, a Northern veteran of "1812," by
Anderson the Southerner, in whom he hoped to find a good capitulator.
But this time Floyd was wrong.

The day after Christmas Anderson's little garrison at Fort Moultrie
slipped over to Fort Sumter under cover of the dark, quietly removed
Floyd's workmen, who were mostly Baltimore Secessionists, and began
to prepare for defense. Next morning Charleston was furious and
began to prepare for attack. The South Carolina authorities at
once took formal possession of Pinckney and Moultrie; and three
days later seized the United States Arsenal in Charleston itself.
Ten days later again, on January 9, 1861, the _Star of the West_,
a merchant vessel coming in with reinforcements and supplies for
Anderson, was fired on and forced to turn back. Anderson, who had
expected a man-of-war, would not fire in her defense, partly because
he still hoped there might yet be peace.

While Charleston stood at gaze and Anderson at bay the ferment of
secession was working fast in Florida, where another tiny garrison
was all the Union had to hold its own. This garrison, under two
loyal young lieutenants, Slemmer and Gilman, occupied Barrancas
Barracks in Pensacola Bay. Late at night on the eighth of January
(the day before the _Star of the West_ was fired on at Charleston)
some twenty Secessionists came to seize the old Spanish Fort San
Carlos, where, up to that time, the powder had been kept. This
fort, though lying close beside the barracks, had always been
unoccupied; so the Secessionists looked forward to an easy capture.
But, to their dismay, an unexpected guard challenged them, and,
not getting the proper password in reply, dispersed them with the
first shots of the Civil War.

Commodore Armstrong sat idle at the Pensacola Navy Yard, distracted
between the Union and secession. On the ninth Slemmer received
orders from Winfield Scott, General-in-Chief at Washington, to
use all means in defense of Union property. Next morning Slemmer
and his fifty faithful men were landed on Santa Rosa Island, just
one mile across the bay, where the dilapidated old Fort Pickens
stood forlorn. Two days later the Commodore surrendered the Navy
Yard, the Stars and Stripes were lowered, and everything ashore fell
into the enemy's hands. There was no flagstaff at Fort Pickens; but
the Union colors were at once hung out over the northwest bastion,
in full view of the shore, while the _Supply_ and _Wyandotte_,
the only naval vessels in the bay, and both commanded by loyal
men, mastheaded extra colors and stood clear. Five days afterwards
they had to sail for New York; and Slemmer, whose total garrison
had been raised to eighty by the addition of thirty sailors, was
left to hold Fort Pickens if he could.

He had already been summoned to surrender by Colonel Chase and
Captain Farrand, who had left the United States Army and Navy for
the service of the South. Chase, like many another Southern officer,
was stirred to his inmost depths by his own change of allegiance.
"I have come," he said, "to ask of you young officers, officers of
the same army in which I have spent the best and happiest years
of my life, the surrender of this fort; and fearing that I might
not be able to say it as I ought, and also to have it in proper
form, I have put it in writing and will read it." He then began
to read. But his eyes filled with tears, and, stamping his foot,
he said: "I can't read it. Here, Farrand, you read it." Farrand,
however, pleading that his eyes were weak, handed the paper to the
younger Union officer, saying, "Here, Gilman, you have good eyes,
please read it." Slemmer refused to surrender and held out till
reinforced in April, by which time the war had begun in earnest.
Fort Pickens was never taken. On the contrary, it supported the
bombardment of the Confederate 'longshore positions the next New
Year (1862) and witnessed the burning and evacuation of Pensacola
the following ninth of May.

While Charleston and Pensacola were fanning the flames of secession
the wildfire was running round the Gulf, catching well throughout
Louisiana, where the Governor ordered the state militia to seize
every place belonging to the Union, and striking inland till it
reached the farthest army posts in Texas. In all Louisiana the
Union Government had only forty men. These occupied the Arsenal at
Baton Rouge under Major Haskins. Haskins was loyal. But when five
hundred state militiamen surrounded him, and his old brother-officer,
the future Confederate General Bragg, persuaded him that the Union
was really at an end, to all intents and purposes, and when he
found no orders, no support, and not even any guidance from the
Government at Washington, he surrendered with the honors of war
and left by boat for St. Louis in Missouri.

There was then in Louisiana another Union officer; but made of
sterner stuff. This was Colonel W. T. Sherman, Superintendent of
the State Seminary of Learning and Military Academy at Alexandria,
up the Red River. He was much respected by all the state authorities,
and was carefully watching over the two young sons of another future
Confederate leader, General Beauregard. William Tecumseh Sherman
had retired from the Army without seeing any war service, unlike
Haskins, who was a one-armed veteran of the Mexican campaign. But
Sherman was determined to stand by the Union, come what might.
Yet he was equally determined to wind up the affairs of the State
Academy so as to hand them over in perfect order. A few days after
the seizure of the Arsenal, and before the formal secession of
the State, he wrote to the Governor:

"Sir: As I occupy a _quasi_-military position under the laws of
the State, I deem it proper to acquaint you that I accepted such
position when Louisiana was a State of the Union, and when the motto
of this seminary was inserted in marble over the main door: "By
the liberality of the General Government of the United States. The
Union - _esto perpetua_." Recent events foreshadow a great change, and
it becomes all men to choose.... I beg you to take immediate steps
to relieve me as superintendent, the moment the State determines to
secede, for on no earthly account will I do any act or think any
thought hostile to, or in defiance of, the old Government of the
United States."

Then, to the lasting credit of all concerned, the future political
enemies parted as the best of personal friends. Sherman left everything
in perfect order, accounted for every cent of the funds, and received
the heartiest thanks and best wishes of all the governing officials,
who embodied the following sentence in their final resolution of
April 1, 1861: "They cannot fail to appreciate the manliness of
character which has always marked the actions of Colonel Sherman."
Long before this Louisiana had seceded, and Sherman had gone north
to Lancaster, Ohio, where he arrived about the time of Lincoln's

Meanwhile, on the eighteenth of February, the greatest of all surrenders
had taken place in Texas, where nineteen army posts were handed
over to the State by General Twiggs. San Antonio was swarming with
Secessionist rangers. Unionist companies were marching up and down.
The Federal garrison was leaving the town on parole, with the band
playing Union airs and Union colors flying. The whole place was
at sixes and sevens, and anything might have happened.

In the midst of this confusion the colonel commanding the Second
Regiment of United States Cavalry arrived from Fort Mason. He was
on his way to Washington, where Winfield Scott, the veteran
General-in-Chief, was anxiously waiting to see him; for this colonel
was no ordinary man. He had been Scott's Chief of Staff in Mexico,
where he had twice won promotion for service in the field. He had
been a model Superintendent at West Point and an exceedingly good
officer of engineers before he left them, on promotion, for the
cavalry. Very tall and handsome, magnificently fit in body and in
mind, genial but of commanding presence, this flower of Southern
chivalry was not only every inch a soldier but a leader born and
bred. Though still unknown to public fame he was the one man to
whom the most insightful leaders of both sides turned, and rightly
turned; for this was Robert Lee, Lee of Virginia, soon to become
one of the very few really great commanders of the world.

As Lee came up to the hotel at San Antonio he was warmly greeted
by Mrs. Darrow, the anxious wife of the confidential clerk to Major
Vinton, the staunch Union officer in charge of the pay and quartermaster
services. "Who are those men?" he asked, pointing to the rangers,
who wore red flannel shoulder straps. "They are McCulloch's," she
answered; "General Twiggs surrendered everything to the State this
morning." Years after, when she and her husband and Vinton had
suffered for one side and Lee had suffered for the other, she wrote
her recollection of that memorable day in these few, telling words:
"I shall never forget his look of astonishment, as, with his lips
trembling and his eyes full of tears, he exclaimed, 'Has it come
so soon as this?' In a short time I saw him crossing the plaza on
his way to headquarters and noticed particularly that he was in
citizen's dress. He returned at night and shut himself into his
room, which was over mine; and I heard his footsteps through the
night, and sometimes the murmur of his voice, as if he was praying.
He remained at the hotel a week and in conversations declared that
the position he held was a neutral one."

Three other Union witnesses show how Lee agonized over the fateful
decision he was being forced to make. Captain R. M. Potter says:
"I have seldom seen a more distressed man. He said, 'When I get
to Virginia I think the world will have one soldier less. I shall
resign and go to planting corn.'" Colonel Albert G. Brackett says:
"Lee was filled with sorrow at the condition of affairs, and, in a
letter to me, deploring the war in which we were about to engage,
made use of these words: 'I fear the liberties of our country will
be buried in the tomb of a great nation.'" Colonel Charles Anderson,
quoting Lee's final words in Texas, carries us to the point of parting:
"I still think my loyalty to Virginia ought to take precedence
over that which is due to the Federal Government; and I shall so
report myself in Washington. If Virginia stands by the old Union,
so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession
as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for
revolution) then I will still follow my native State with my sword,
and, if need be, with my life. I know you think and feel very
differently. But I can't help it. These are my principles; and I
must follow them."

Lee reached Washington on the first of March. Lincoln, delivering
his Inaugural on the fourth, brought the country one step nearer
war by showing the neutrals how impossible it was to reconcile
his principles as President of the whole United States with those
of Jefferson Davis as President of the seceding parts. "The power
confided to me will be used to hold, occupy, and possess the property
and places belonging to the government." Three days later the
provisional Confederate Congress at Montgomery in Alabama passed
an Army Act authorizing the enlistment of one hundred thousand
men for one year's service. Nine days later again, having adopted
a Constitution in the meantime, this Congress passed a Navy Act,
authorizing the purchase or construction of ten little gunboats.

In April the main storm center went whirling back to Charleston,
where Sherman's old friend Beauregard commanded the forces that
encircled Sumter. Sumter, still unfinished, had been designed for
a garrison of six hundred and fifty combatant men. It now contained
exactly sixty-five. It was to have been provisioned for six months.
The actual supplies could not be made to last beyond two weeks.
Both sides knew that Anderson's gallant little garrison must be
starved out by the fifteenth. But the excited Carolinians would
not wait, because they feared that the arrival of reinforcements
might balk them of their easy prey. On the eleventh Beauregard,
acting under orders from the Confederate Government, sent in a
summons to surrender. Anderson refused. At a quarter to one the
next morning the summons was repeated, as pilots had meanwhile
reported a Federal vessel approaching the harbor. Anderson again
refused and again admitted that he would be starved out on the
fifteenth. Thereupon Beauregard's aides declared immediate surrender
the only possible alternative to a bombardment and signed a note
at 3:20 A.M. giving Anderson formal warning that fire would be
opened in an hour.

Fort Sumter stood about half a mile inside the harbor mouth, fully
exposed to the converging fire of four relatively powerful batteries,
three about a mile away, the fourth nearly twice as far. At the northern
side of the harbor mouth stood Fort Moultrie; at the southern stood
the batteries on Cummings Point; and almost due west of Sumter stood
Fort Johnson. Near Moultrie was a four-gun floating battery with an
iron shield. A mile northwest of Moultrie, farther up the harbor,
stood the Mount Pleasant battery, nearly two miles off from Sumter.
At half-past four, in the first faint light of a gray morning,
a sudden spurt of flame shot out from Fort Johnson, the dull roar
of a mortar floated through the misty air, and the big shell - the
first shot of the real war - soared up at a steep angle, its course
distinctly marked by its burning fuse, and then plunged down on
Sumter. It was a capital shot, right on the center of the target,
and was followed by an admirable burst. Then all the converging
batteries opened full; while the whole population of perfervid
Charleston rushed out of doors to throng their beautiful East Battery,
a flagstone marine parade three miles in from Sumter, of which and
of the attacking batteries it had a perfect view.

But Sumter remained as silent as the grave. Anderson decided not to
return the fire till it was broad daylight. In the meantime all ranks
went to breakfast, which consisted entirely of water and salt pork.
Then the gun crews went to action stations and fired back steadily
with solid shot. The ironclad battery was an exasperating target;
for the shot bounced off it like dried peas. Moultrie seemed more
vulnerable. But appearances were deceptive; for it was thoroughly
quilted with bales of cotton, which the solid shot simply rammed
into an impenetrable mass. Wishing to save his men, in which he was
quite successful, Anderson had forbidden the use of the shell-guns,
which were mounted on the upper works and therefore more exposed.
Shell fire would have burst the bales and set the cotton flaming.
This was so evident that Sergeant Carmody, unable to stand such
futile practice any longer, quietly stole up to the loaded guns
and fired them in succession. The aim lacked final correction;
and the result was small, except that Moultrie, thinking itself
in danger, concentrated all its efforts on silencing these guns.
The silencing seemed most effective; for Carmody could not reload
alone, and so his first shots were his last.

At nightfall Sumter ceased fire while the Confederates kept on
slowly till daylight. Next morning the officers' quarters were set
on fire by red-hot shot. Immediately the Confederates redoubled
their efforts. Inside Sumter the fire was creeping towards the
magazine, the door of which was shut only just in time. Then the
flagstaff was shot down. Anderson ran his colors up again, but the
situation was rapidly becoming impossible. Most of the worn-out men
were fighting the flames while a few were firing at long intervals to
show they would not yet give in. This excited the generous admiration
of the enemy, who cheered the gallantry of Sumter while sneering
at the caution of the Union fleet outside. The fact was, however,
that this so-called fleet was a mere assemblage of vessels quite
unable to fight the Charleston batteries and without the slightest
chance of saving Sumter.

Having done his best for the honor of the flag, though not a man
was killed within the walls, Anderson surrendered in the afternoon.
Charleston went wild with joy; but applauded the generosity of
Beauregard's chivalrous terms. Next day, Sunday the fourteenth,
Anderson's little garrison saluted the Stars and Stripes with fifty
guns, and then, with colors flying, marched down on board a transport
to the strains of _Yankee Doodle_.

Strange to say, after being four years in Confederate hands, Sumter
was recaptured by the Union forces on the anniversary of its surrender.
It was often bombarded, though never taken, in the meantime.

The fall of Sumter not only fired all Union loyalty but made
Confederates eager for the fray. The very next day Lincoln called
for 75,000 three-month volunteers. Two days later Confederate letters
of marque were issued to any privateers that would prey on Union
shipping. Two days later again Lincoln declared a blockade of every
port from South Carolina round to Texas. Eight days afterwards he
extended it to North Carolina and Virginia.

[Illustration: _GENERAL ROBERT E. LEE_
Photograph. In the collection of L. C. Handy, Washington.]

But in the meantime Lincoln had been himself marooned in Washington.
On the nineteenth of April, the day he declared his first blockade,
the Sixth Massachusetts were attacked by a mob in Baltimore, through
which the direct rails ran from North to South. Baltimore was full
of secession, and the bloodshed roused its fury. Maryland was a
border slave State out of which the District of Columbia was carved.
Virginia had just seceded. So when the would-be Confederates of
Maryland, led by the Mayor of Baltimore, began tearing up rails,
burning bridges, and cutting the wires, the Union Government found
itself enisled in a hostile sea. Its own forces abandoned the Arsenal
at Harper's Ferry and the Navy Yard at Norfolk. The work of demolition
at Harper's Ferry had to be bungled off in haste, owing to shortness
of time and lack of means. The demolition of Norfolk was better
done, and the ships were sunk at anchor. But many valuable stores
fell into enemy hands at both these Virginian outposts of the Federal
forces. Through six long days of dire suspense not a ship, not a
train, came into Washington. At last, on the twenty-fifth, the
Seventh New York got through, having come south by boat with the
Eighth Massachusetts, landed at Annapolis, and commandeered a train
to run over relaid rails. With them came the news that all the
loyal North was up, that the Seventh had marched through miles of
cheering patriots in New York, and that these two fine regiments
were only the vanguard of a host.

But just a week before Lincoln experienced this inexpressible relief
he lost, and his enemy won, a single officer, who, according to
Winfield Scott, was alone worth more than fifty thousand veteran
men. On the seventeenth of April Virginia voted for secession.
On the eighteenth Lee had a long confidential interview with his
old chief, Winfield Scott. On the twentieth he resigned, writing
privately to Scott at the same time: "My resignation would have been
presented at once but for the struggle it has cost me to separate
myself from a service to which I have devoted the best years of my
life. During the whole of that time I have experienced nothing but
kindness from my superiors and a most cordial friendship from my
comrades. I shall carry to the grave the most grateful recollections
of your kind consideration, and your name and fame shall always be
dear to me. Save in the defense of my native State I never desire

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Online LibraryWilliam Charles Henry WoodCaptains of the civil war; a chronicle of the blue and the gray → online text (page 1 of 22)