Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 1863: Small boat assault on Fort Sumter fails

The September 9, 1863 Union small boat attack on Fort Sumter failed at this rubble-strewn point. 
Early on the morning of September 9, 1863, a federal storming party consisting of sailors and marines in small boats from the Union fleet off Charleston attempted to storm the ruins of Confederate-held Fort Sumter. The storming party expected little resistance, but found to their shock that the artillerists in Fort Sumter had been replaced with infantry. The following is an excerpt from a war journal kept at the headquarters of Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard.
September 9, 1863.-At 1 a.m. a fleet of boats and barges was seen approaching from the eastward. Fire was reserved until the enemy approached within a few yards of the fort. They attempted to land on the southeast and south faces, but were received with a well-directed fire of musketry and hand-grenades. Fragments of the epaulements were also thrown down upon them. The crews near shore sought refuge in the recesses of the foot of scarp, those farther off in flight. The repulse was decided, and the assault was not renewed. The attacking force is represented by prisoners at 400 men, but is thought to have been much larger. The enemy's loss is 4 men, killed, 2 officers and 17 men wounded, and 10 officers and 92 men captured. We also secured 5 stand of colors and five barges. The Sullivan's Island batteries enfiladed, and contributed to prevent a renewal of the attack. Many of their shots, however, struck the fort.

1.15 a.m. Enemy assaulting Sumter with infantry; Moultrie opens.

1.35 a.m. Assault upon Sumter still continues. Moultrie, Beauregard, Bee, and Simkins firing upon that point. Rocket thrown up from Sumter.

2.15 a.m. Musketry fire fallen off in last twenty minutes; now only scattering. Johnson and Cheves in action.

2.50 a.m. Simkins and Cheves still firing; other batteries silent.

6 a.m. Since 6 p.m. the enemy's batteries have been silent. Our batteries have thrown 292 shot and shell.

10 a.m. No change in fleet since last night's report.

7.45 a.m. Cutter from Ironsides with flag of truce off Cumming's Point. Barge left Sumter to meet it.

Captain [T. S.] Hale made the following observation this afternoon from Sullivan's Island, to wit: Four barges stove in and washed ashore on Morris Island; men repairing smoke-stack of Monitor No. 2; turret of Monitor No. 1 has a dent in it, and apparently deranged; Ironsides has several layers of sand amidships abaft smoke-stack; 200 men, black and white, working on interior of Wagner; enemy at work on Black Island; also on a new battery on Morris Island bearing on James Island.

6 p.m. Batteries Moultrie, Bee, Simkins, and Cheves have been in slow action during the day, throwing in all 135 shots. The enemy still quiet, and have not fired a gun since 6 a.m.

Major Manigault reports that when the enemy were heard attacking Sumter this morning, the commanders of Batteries Haskell, Tatom, Ryan, and Redoubt No. 1 were notified to hold themselves in readiness. Battery Haskell did not fire, but was ready to do so.

Captain Walpole telegraphs that Pawnee came up to Legare's place, John's Island, at 10 a.m.; returned in two hours, and fired 8 shots on James Island and 8 at Legareville.

One company of the enemy went from Dixon's Island to small island south of it, where they are repairing a causeway from Cole's Island.

A flag of truce was received by boat from Sumter about 9 a.m. in reference to the prisoners captured at that post this morning.

Another flag was received at 4 p.m., bringing baggage, &c., for the prisoners.

A flag was sent to the enemy at about 6 p.m., bearing dispatch from General Jordan, and the bodies of the dead.

The prisoners, excepting the wounded, sent to-night to the city.

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