Anna Moffett's Civil War - 3
Now, I really do have something of interest to write about. The war has properly started.
On April 12th, under the command of General Beauregard, (He is the one in charge of what happens in Charleston, a small, erect, handsome man, of great personal magnetism.) our troops (including Charles' bunch) were ordered to open fire on Fort Sumter in the harbor. I will try to tell about how it came about, as George has filled me in on most of the detail.
As you will remember me mentioning, back in January, all the Northern Union troops, 60 of them, under Major Robert Anderson, left the other forts & came together at Ft. Sumter. But because we controlled the harbor & all the other areas around Charleston, they have been unable to get in any supplies, & they were just about out of food. So they asked a relief ship to come in which it would have had to do with guns blazing, in order to get by our defences. We read in the Charleston Mercury & no doubt our army knew before that, about the relief ship being on the way. President
Lincoln said that the ship was to resupply the fort, not to reinforce it. But our army felt that this was the opportune time for us to take back that fort for our own use, before that Naval ship arrived.
All Charleston remembers how, before daylight, on the 12th of April, we were aroused from sleep by the signal gun fired from Fort Johnson. Although some miles from Charleston, the sound seemed to have passed like an electric shock through the length & breadth of the city, rousing even the heaviest sleepers. I do not think any would have been found willing to confess they did not hear
The whole community with one accord seemed to crowd towards the harbor & adjacent houses, where, with strained eyes, or the aid of opera glasses, telescopes - whatever one was fortunate
enough to possess - for two days we watched the battle, wondering what would happen, for there was scarcely a family that had not at least one son in the fight. Slowly & steadily our guns fired, &
occasionally Sumter answered them; & when, on the second day, the white flag was hoisted, on all sides came the cry, "They surrender! they surrender!" & soon we saw the little boat shoot out from Morris Island, with those whose job was to make the terms.
About 6000 men were stationed around the rim of the harbor. George says he heard that our friend
James Chesnut was the one who fired the first shot. He has been made an aide-de-camp to Beauregard's forces, apparently. After a 34-hour bombardment, Major Anderson raised the white flag
surrendering the fort. I think our men were very kind to them, for they allowed them to leave the fort with colors flying & drums beating, saluting the U.S. flag with a 50 gun salute before taking it down. During this salute, one of the guns exploded, killing a young Union soldier - the only casualty of this action & the first casualty of the war.
My third son, Alexander, has now joined the army too. He is one of the Mahon Volunteers in Georgia, as that is where he now lives.
There were two units of men (66 in the Volunteers & 80 in the Rifles) who marched off, going to Norfolk, Virginia to join in the fighting. He is in the 2nd Light Infantry. 200 people marched the streets with them & a band. He is pleased that his best friend, Sidney Lanier has volunteered with him. Sidney's father is a lawyer & owns a huge hotel in Macon. Alex says they felt like they were going off on a wonderful adventure.
Mary Chesnut has provided us with a few more personal details of what happened. Her husband, Colonel James Chesnut was sent over to send a message to Anderson. He was told he must surrender & accept our terms by 4 a.m. or he would be fired on.
While I await more information from her, I will relate a story that Mary told us. She said, "I have a sort of volunteer maid, the daughter of my husband's nurse, dear old Betsey. She waits on me because she so pleases. Besides, I pay her. She belongs to my father- in-law who has too many slaves to care very much about their way of life.
"So Marie Whitaker came, all in tears. She brushes hair delightfully & as she stood at my back I could see her face in the glass. 'Maria, are you crying because all this war talk scares you?' I asked.
'What is the matter with you?'
'Nothing more than common.'
'Now listen. Let his war end either way & you will be free. We will have to free you before we get out of this thing. Won't you be glad?'
'Everybody know Marse Jeems want us free & it is only Old Marster hols hards. He aint' going to free anybody, any way.'
"And then came the story of her troubles.
'Now Miss Mary, you see me married to Jeems Whitaker yourself. I was a good & faithful wife to him, & we were comfortable every way, good house, everything. He had no cause of complaint. But he has left me.'
'For heaven's sake. Why?'
'Because I had twins. He says they are not his, because nobody named Whitaker ever had twins.'
Poor Maria. She has had three children in two years. No wonder the man was frightened. But Mary says that Maria does not depend on him for anything. She was inconsolable & Mary said, 'Come now Maria. Never mind, Your old Missis & Marster are so good to you. Now let us look up something for the twins.'
“The twins are named John & Jeems, the latter for her false loon of a husband. Maria is one of the good colored women. She deserves a better fate."
Mary went on, "I saw for the first time the demoralization produced by hopes of freedom. My mother's butler (whom I taught to read sitting on his knife board) contrived to keep from speaking to us. He was as efficient as ever in his proper place, but he did not come behind scenes as usual to have a friendly chat. He held himself aloof so grand & stately that we had to send him a tip through his wife, Hetty, Mother's maid, who showed no signs of disaffection."
As I said before, nothing will ever be the same again - no matter what the outcome of this war.
It didn't take very long for President Lincoln to make his next move. He decided that the best strategy for controlling this area was to have a blockage of ships patrolling up & down the
sea, 3500 miles of coastline, covering twelve major ports, including New Orleans, Mobile, Richmond, Savannah, Wilmington & of course, Charleston & stopping any approaching ships which might be
carrying food, ammunition or troops to aid our cause. George says that by taking this action, Lincoln was affectively confirming that we had seceded & that the two countries were now at war.
I've copied out his declaration.
On April 19, 1861, Proclamation of Blockade Against Southern Ports:
Whereas an insurrection against the Government of the United States has broken out in the States of South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, & Texas and the laws of the United States for the collection of the revenue cannot be effectually executed therein comformably to that provision of the Constitution which requires duties to be uniform throughout the United States:
And whereas a combination of persons engaged in such insurrection, have threatened to grant pretended letters of marque to authorize the bearers thereof to commit assaults on the lives,
vessels, & property of good citizens of the country lawfully engaged in commerce on the high seas, and in waters of the United States: and whereas an Executive Proclamation has been already issued, requiring the persons engaged in these disorderly proceedings to desist therefrom, calling out a militia force for the purpose of repressing the same, and convening Congress in extraordinary
session, to deliberate & determine thereon:
Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, with a view to the same purposes before mentioned, and to the protection of the public peace, and the lives and property
of quiet and orderly citizens pursuing their lawful occupations, until Congress shall have assembled and deliberated on the said unlawful proceedings, or until the same shall cease, have further
deemed it advisable to set on foot a blockade of the ports within the States aforesaid, in pursuance of the laws of the United States, and of the law of Nations, in such case provided. For this purpose a
competent force will be posted so as to prevent entrance and exit of vessels from the ports aforesaid. If, therefore, with a view to violate such blockade, a vessel shall approach, or shall attempt to leave either of the said ports, she will be duly warned by the Commander of one of the blockading vessels, who will endorse on her register the fact and date of such warning, and if the same vessel shall again attempt to enter or leave the blockaded port, she will be captured and sent to the nearest convenient port, for such proceedings against her and her cargo as prize, as may be deemed
And I hereby proclaim and declare that if any person, under the pretended authority of the said States, or under any other pretence, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons
or cargo on board of her, such person will be held amenable to the laws of the United States for the prevention and punishment of piracy.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this nineteenth day of April, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-one, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-fifth.
George says, by effectively declaring the Confederate States of America to be belligerents - rather than insurrectionists - who under international law would not be legally eligible for recognition by foreign powers - Lincoln opened the way for European powers such as Britain & France to recognize the Confederacy. We have good friends & relatives in England, due to much of the cotton we produce being sold to them, & I am sure (& George is too) that they will help us in our hour of need.
George has been sent off to England, with James Bullock, to try to secure armaments for our side. He was chosen partly because of his work connections in Liverpool, established over many years. It
is dangerous work he is doing, as the ship, if they manage to secure one, will be running the blockade, & the consequences if they are caught will be dire. I pray for him daily.
We have another recruit to our Confederacy. Arkansas joined us on the 5th of May.
Today, President Jefferson Davis called for 400,000 recruits to volunteer for three years or until the end of the conflict & my son James was among them. I feel like we are being left with only women to defend us. We have black Samuel, who is 12, but he is the only male in our household now.
After the fall of Sumter, nearly all of our volunteer companies were relieved from duty & a season of recreation followed. We went to an elegant fete champetre, in honor of General Beauregard, which was given by Mr. William Izard Bull, at his beautiful home, "Ashley Hall," which had been the home of the Bulls since colonial days. It was a beautiful day, but some of us felt that this might be the last festive day for some time.
I read in the paper that Queen Victoria formally declared a neutral status in the conflict between the Northern & Southern States. I hope George will not be hampered in his endeavors in England because of that. But at least, England did not come out in favor of the North.
North Carolina has finally made up her mind & joined us in the Confederacy. It has been decided to move our capitol from Montgomery to Richmond, Virginia.
There are now five ships blocking the coastline, but even so, my son James says that nine out of ten ships get through, so that you could say it is pretty ineffective. The trouble is that the big ships who are patrolling are too big to get properly into the harbor, so anything smaller can slip by them. Also with having such a large amount of coastline to patrol & needing to go into other harbors (as they can't get into ours) to refuel & get supplies, there are many times when there is no problem with even the bigger ships getting in & out.
Mr. Davis says we must prepare for a long war & unmerciful reverses at first, because they are readier for war & so much stronger numerically. Men & money count so in war. We need patience & persistence. There is enough & to spare of puck & dash among us.
Mary Chesnut tells Elizabeth about her husband who has gone to war. "He is to join Beauregard, somewhere beyond Richmond. He said that before the end came we would have many a bitter experience. He said only fools doubted the courage of the Yankees, or their willingness to fight when they saw fit & now we have stung their pride, we have roused them till they will fight like devils."
She shared bits of one of her letters from her husband.
"You have no idea how dirty & irksome the camp life is. You would hardly know your best friend in camp guise. The weather is exceedingly hot & dusty. We send three miles for water. With most of them, ablution is limited to face & hands, which rarely show the proper application of water. I write upon my knee, at present, as our table is otherwise employed."