Thursday, March 3, 2011

TODAY IN HISTORY, 1861: Beauregard Takes Command of Charleston

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard became the first Confederate general officer, appointed a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States on March 1, 1861. Two days later, March 3, Beauregard arrived in Charleston and inspected the city's defenses with Gov. Andrew Pickens and found them "in disarray." Beauregard's main job was to secure Ft. Sumter in Charleston harbor, which was manned by the 1st U.S. Artillery regiment commanded by Major Robert Anderson. Ironically, Major Anderson had been Beauregard's artillery instructor at West Point; the two had become close friends, and Beauregard had become Anderson's assistant after graduation

Beauregard sent several cases of fine brandy and whiskey and boxes of cigars to Anderson and his officers at Ft. Sumter. Anderson ordered that the gifts be returned. By April the Union troops had positioned 60 guns, but they had insufficient men to operate them all. Of the three levels of fort, the second tier of casemated gun positions was unoccupied.

Beauregard made repeated demands that the Union force either surrender or withdraw and took steps to ensure that no supplies from the city were available to the defenders, whose food was running low. A trained military engineer, he built-up overwhelming strength to challenge Fort Sumter.
  • Fort Moultrie had three 8-inch Columbiads. two 8-inch howitzers, five 32-pound smoothbores, and four 24-pounders. Outside of Moultrie were five 10-inch mortars, two 32-pounders, two 24-pounders, and a 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore.
  • The floating battery next to Fort Moultrie had two 42-pounders and two 32-pounders on a raft protected by iron shielding.
  • Fort Johnson on James Island had one 24-pounder and four 10-inch mortars.
  • At Cummings Point on Morris Island were stationed seven 10-inch mortars, two 42-pounders, an English Blakely rifled cannon, and three 8-inch Columbiads, the latter in the so-called Iron Battery, protected by a wooden shield faced with iron bars.
At 4:30 a.m. on April 12, Lt. Henry S. Farley, acting upon the command of Capt. George S. James, fired a single 10-inch mortar round from Fort Johnson. The shell exploded over Fort Sumter as a signal to open the general bombardment from 43 guns and mortars at Fort Moultrie, Fort Johnson, the floating battery, and Cummings Point. Under orders from Beauregard, the guns fired in a counterclockwise sequence around the harbor, with 2 minutes between each shot; Beauregard wanted to conserve ammunition, which he calculated would last for only 48 hours.

The Union garrison surrendered the fort to Confederate personnel at 2:30 p.m., April 14. No one from either side was killed during the bombardment.

Beauregard became the Confederacy's first national hero for his resounding victory of the Union troops. He was called to Richmond and on July 21, 1861, he was also victorious at the Bull's Run (First Manassas.) After that battle he advocated the use of a new battle flag, he had designed, the famous "Stars and Bars." It became the most famous flag of the South.

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