Sunday, April 7, 2013

April 8, 1863 (Wednesday): Inside of Charleston Bar

USS New Ironsides (

Inside of Charleston Bar, April 8, 1863.
Major General D. HUNTER,
Commanding Dept. of the South, U. S. S. Ben. De Ford, off Charleston:
    GENERAL: The iron-clads weighed anchor at nor yesterday to go forward to attack Fort Sumter, but were delayed for nearly two hours by the accident which fouled the anchor and raft of the leading vessel (the Weehawken).
    The Ironsides became unmanageable in the narrow channel and occasioned further delay under fire, so that finding that, I should not reach the obstructions before 5 o'clock, I ordered the vessels withdrawn from action, with the intention of renewing in this morning.
    During the night I received the statements of the commanding officers, and find the ships so much damaged during their engagement as to force me to the conviction that they could not endure the fire to which they would be exposed long enough to destroy Fort Sumter or reach Charleston. I am now satisfied that that place cannot be taken by a purely naval attack, and I am admonished by the condition of the iron-clads that a persistence in our efforts would end in disaster, and might cause us to leave some of our iron-clads in the hands of the enemy, which would render it difficult for us to hold those parts of the coast which are now in our possession.
     I have therefore determined to withdraw my vessels, and have written to the Navy Department to that effect.
     I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

     S. F. DuPONT,
     Read-Admiral, Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 14, Part 1, Page 442.

The traditional narrative is that masonry forts were no match for the forces arrayed against them.  But at Fort McAllister (largely of earth construction) and Fort Sumter (where damaged rubble was reinforced with earthworks) naval forces were exposed to a destructive fire which drove them away.


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