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11 : Charleston O ne week after the battle of Gettysburg, Federal troops began a campaign against Charleston, South Carolina, that would be the largest land attack on the defenses of that important city. Not only was it a highly visible symbol , the place where the first shots were fired in the Civil War, but Charleston was an important port for blockade runners. The operations against the city in the summer of 1863 involved extensive forti fications for both offensive and defensive purposes. In fact, Charleston was one of the most heavily fortified cities in America. Confederate authorities had sought to protect the place as soon as the Yankees had evacuated Fort Sumter in April 1861, and Union commanders had pondered how best to tackle this citadel of the South. Various Federal officers had proposed plans for operations against Charleston for some time. Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman commanded the expeditionary corps that cooperated with the navy in the capture of Port Royal in November 1861. He passed on the recommendation of his chief engineer, Capt. Quincy A. Gillmore, who proposed a plan for taking Charleston. Gillmore advised seizing Morris Island and Sullivan’s Island, which flanked the throat of Charleston Harbor south and north. Gillmore then recommended using rifled artillery to reduce Fort Sumter, which was located on a sandbar near the middle of the throat. He also thought a similar strategy could be employed against Fort Moultrie on the southern end of Sullivan’s Island and Fort Johnson on the northern shore of James Island. This latter island comprised much of the land south of the harbor. Then Gillmore recommended bombarding Charleston itself. Alternatively, Gillmore noted that the Federals could advance up the Stono River, which constituted the western and southern border of James Island. Once the island was in Union hands, the forts at the entrance to the harbor would eventually fall like ripe apples. Gillmore thought it would take 14,000 men, a dozen field guns, and twenty siege guns to take James Island. Sherman agreed with his engineer but thought more resources were needed to accomplish either of the two plans. Almost the same proposal was advanced a few weeks later by Lt. Col. Daniel P. Woodbury , aide-de-camp to John G. Barnard.∞ 242 Charleston The Confederates had invested a great deal of time, energy, and resources in preparing Charleston’s defenses. Col. Roswell S. Ripley took charge of the project after the fall of Fort Sumter. A West Point graduate who had been commissioned into the artillery, Ripley was a good engineer. He strengthened the masonry forts guarding the harbor, put sand against the sea face of Moultrie, and erected earthworks around it. He protected James Island by strengthening Fort Johnson and constructed batteries at the mouth of the Stono River to block Federal ships. These works were sited on Coles’s Island, and they not only protected the entrance to the Stono but also blocked the approaches to Folly Island and Morris Island. Fort Johnson was the oldest fortification at Charleston. Its site was first fortified in 1704, and the current work was initially erected in 1780. That year the British bypassed the harbor altogether, ascended the Stono River, and compelled the surrender of Charleston by investing the city. Ripley extensively renovated the fort, building a giant earthwork mounting fifteen guns and mortars with supporting infantry trenches. The War Department created the Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in November 1861, and Robert E. Lee was named its commander. Port Royal fell to a combined Union force the day before he assumed command . This and other Federal strikes along the Atlantic coast convinced Lee that he did not have enough resources to hold all points. He adopted a strategy of concentrating his strength at key spots and planned to use the railroad to shift men to threatened areas.≤ Pemberton and the Defenses of Charleston Maj. Gen. John C. Pemberton replaced Lee in March 1862. Born in Pennsylvania and with little experience in the field, Pemberton had no engineering background and brought a weak staff to Charleston. He did not trust Ripley, who eventually went to Virginia to command a brigade, and sometimes borrowed the state engineer of Georgia for consultation. Pemberton essentially furthered Lee’s policy of consolidation. He abandoned the outlying defenses of the Stono River, including Coles’s Island, and built new works farther up the river. This exposed Folly Island, Morris Island, and the...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781469611778
Related ISBN
9781469609935
MARC Record
OCLC
68816449
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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