Today, the Fort Moultrie at Fort Sumter National Monument America the Beautiful Quarter Coin remembers the beginning of the fighting of the Civil War when the confederates fired at the federals on April 12, 1861.
From the Rebellion Record, compiled and edited by Frank Moore, published in 1861:
On Thursday the demand to surrender the fort was made and declined, all the officers having been consulted by Major Anderson in regard to the summons.
At about 3 o’clock on Friday morning notice was given us that fire would be opened on us in one hour unless the demand to surrender was instantly complied with.
Major Anderson resolved not to return fire until broad daylight, not wishing to waste any of his ammunition. Fire was opened upon us from all points at once.
To our astonishment a masked battery of heavy columbiads opened upon us from the part of Sullivan’s Island near the floating battery, of the existence of which we had not the slightest intimation.
It was covered with brush and other material, which completely concealed it. It was skillfully constructed and well secured; seventeen mortars firing 10-inch shell, 33 heavy guns, mostly columbiads, being engaged in the assault.
The crash made by those shots against the walls was terrific, and many of the shells took effect inside the fort.
We took breakfast at 6 1/2 o’clock, leisurely and calmly, after which the command was divided into three reliefs, equally dividing the officers and men.
The first relief was under the command of Capt. Doubleday, of the Artillery, and Lieut. Snyder, of the Engineer corps.
This detachment went to the guns and opened fire upon the Cumming’s Point battery, Fort Moultrie, and Sullivan’s Island.
The iron battery was of immense strength, and most of our shots struck and glanced off again.
The fire was so terrific on the parapet of Sumter that Maj. Anderson refused to allow the men to man the guns.
Had they been permitted to do so every one of them would have been sacrificed.
Fort Moultrie was considerably damaged by our cannonading, a great many of our shots having taken effect on the embrasures.
Several shots are known to have penetrated the floating battery; but little damage was done to it.
The reliefs were changed every four hours.
We succeeded in dismounting two of the guns on Cumming’s Point battery.
A new English gun which was employed by the enemy, was fired with great accuracy.
Several of its shots entered the embrasures of Sumter, one of them slightly wounding four men.
The full effect of our firing we have been unable to ascertain, having nothing to rely upon but the reports of the enemy.
Our men owed their safety to the entirely extraordinary care exercised by the officers in command.
A man was kept constantly on the look-out, who would cry “shot” or “shell” at every shot the enemy made, thus affording our men ample opportunity to seek shelter.
The workmen were at first rather reluctant to assist the soldiers in handling the guns, but they gradually took hold and rendered valuable assistance.
But few shots were fired before every one of them was desperately engaged in the conflict.
We had to abandon one gun on account of the close fire made upon it. Hearing the fire renewed with it, I went to the spot.
I there found a party of workmen engaged in serving it. I saw one of them stooping over, with his hands on his knees, convulsed with joy, while the tears rolled down his powder-begrimed cheeks.
“What are you doing here with that gun?” I asked. “Hit it right in the center,” was the reply, the man meaning that his shot had taken effect in the center of the floating battery.
The aim of the enemy was principally directed at our flag-staff, from which proudly waved the Stars and Stripes.
After two days’ incessant firing, the flag-staff was finally shot away.
The effect of the enemy’s shot on the officers’ quarters particularly, was terrific.
One tower was so completely demolished that not one brick was left standing upon the other.
The barracks caught fire on the first day several times, and were put out several times by Mr. Hart, of New York, a volunteer, who particularly distinguished himself for his coolness and bravery, assisted by others.
Half a million dollars will hardly suffice to repair the damages to the fort.
On the second day it caught fire from a 10-inch shell, the danger to be encountered in the attempt to extinguish it being so great that the Major concluded not to attempt it.
The effect of the fire was more disastrous than we could have supposed.
The subsequent shots of the enemy took more effect in consequence; the walls were weakened, and we were more exposed.
The main gates were destroyed by the fire, thus leaving us exposed to the murderous fire of the enemy.
Five hundred men could have formed on the gorge and marched on us without our being able to oppose them.
The fire surrounded the fort on all sides.
Fearful that the walls might crack, and the shells pierce and prostrate them, we commenced taking the powder out of the magazine before the fire had fully enveloped it.
We took 96 barrels of powder out, and threw them into the sea, leaving 200 barrels in.
Owing to a lack of cartridges, we kept five men inside the magazine, sewing as we wanted them, thus using up our shirts, sheets, blankets, and all the available material in the fort.
When we were finally obliged to close the magazine, and our material for cartridges was exhausted, we were left destitute of any means to continue the contest.
We had eaten our last biscuit thirty-six hours before.
We came very near being stifled with the dense livid smoke from the burning buildings.
The men lay prostrate on the ground, with wet handkerchiefs over their mouths and eyes, gasping for breath.
It was a moment of imminent peril. If an eddy of wind had not ensued, we all, probably, should have been suffocated.
The crashing of the shot, the bursting of the shells, the falling of walls, and the roar of the flames, made a pandemonium of the fort.
We nevertheless kept up a steady fire.
Toward the close of the day ex-Senator Wigfall made his appearance at the embrasure with a white handkerchief on the end of a sword, and begged for admittance.
He asked to see Major Anderson. While Wigfall was in the act of crawling through the embrasure, Lieut. Snyder called out to him, “Major Anderson is at the main gate.”
He passed through the embrasure into the casemate, paying no attention to what the Lieutenant had said.
Here he was met by Capt. Foster, Lieut. Mead, and Lieut. Davis. He said: “I wish to see Major Anderson; l am Gen. Wigfall, and come from Gen. Beauregard.”
He then added in an excited manner, “Let us stop this firing. You are on fire and your flag is down. Let us quit.”
Lieut. Davis replied, “So, Sir, our flag is not down. Step out here and you will see it waving over the ramparts.”
“Let us quit this,” said Wigfall. “Here’s a white flag, will anybody wave it out of the embrasure?”
One of the officers replied, “That is for you to do, if you choose.”
Wigfall responded, “If there is no one else to do it, I will,” and jumping into the embrasure waved the flag toward Moultrie.
The firing still continued from Moultrie and the batteries of Sullivan’s Island.
In answer to his repeated requests one of the officers said “one of our men may hold the flag,” and Corporal Binghurst jumped into the embrasure.
The shot continuing to strike all around him, he jumped down again, after having waved the flag a few moments, and said, “Damn it, they don’t respect this flag, they are firing at it.”
Wigfall replied, “They fired at me two or three times, and I stood it; and I should think that you might stand it once.”
Wigfall then said, “If you will show a white flag from your ramparts they will cease firing.”
Lieut. Davis replied, “If you request that a flag shall be shown there while you hold a conference with Major Anderson, and for that purpose alone, it may be done.”
At this point Major Anderson came up.
Wigfall said, “I am Gen. Wigfall, and come from Gen. Beauregard, who wishes to stop this.”
Major Anderson, rising on his toes, and coming down firmly upon his heels replied, “Well, Sir.”
“Major Anderson,” said Wigfall, “you have defended your flag nobly, Sir. You have done all that is possible for men to do, and Gen. Beauregard wishes to stop the fight. On what terms, Major Anderson, will you evacuate this Fort?”
Major Anderson’s reply was, ” Gen. Beauregard is already acquainted with my only terms.”
“Do I understand that you will evacuate upon the terms proposed the other day?”
“Yes, Sir, and on those conditions only,” was the reply of the Major.
“Then, Sir,” said Wigfall, “I understand, Major Anderson, that the fort is to be ours?”
“On those conditions only, I repeat.”
“Very well,” said Wigfall, and he retired.
A short time afterward a deputation, consisting of Senator Chesnut, Roger A. Pryor, Capt. Lee, and W. Porcher Miles, came from Gen. B., and had an interview with Major Anderson; when it came out that Wigfall had no “authority to speak for Gen. Beauregard, but acted on his own book.”
“Then,” said Lieut. Davis, “we have been sold,” and Major Anderson, perceiving the state of the case, ordered the American flag to be raised to its place. The deputation, however, requested him to keep the flag down till they could communicate with Gen. Beauregard, as matters were liable to be complicated.
They left, and between two and three hours after, the garrison meanwhile exerting themselves to extinguish the fire, another deputation came from Gen. Beauregard, agreeing to the terms of evacuation previously proposed, and substantially to the proposals of Wigfall.
This was Saturday evening. That night the garrison took what rest they could.
Next morning the Isabel came down and anchored near the fort.
The steamer Clinch was used as a transport to take the garrison to the Isabel, but the transfer was too late to allow the Isabel to go out by that tide.
The terms of evacuation were that the garrison should take all its individual and company property, that they should march out with their side and other arms with all the honors, in their own way and at their own time; that they should salute their flag, and take it with them.
The enemy agreed to furnish transports, as Major Anderson might select, to any part of the country, either by land or water.
When the baggage of the garrison was all on board of the transport, the soldiers remaining inside under arms, a portion were told off as gunners to serve in saluting the American flag.
When the last gun was fired, the flag was lowered, the men cheering.
At the fiftieth discharge there was a premature explosion, which killed one man instantly, seriously wounded another, and two more not so badly.
The men were then formed and marched out, the band playing “Yankee Doodle,” and “Hail to the Chief.”
Vast crowds of people thronged the vicinity.
Remaining on board the Isabel that night, the next morning they were transferred to the Baltic, this operation taking nearly the whole day.
On Tuesday evening they weighed anchor and stood for New York.
The Fort Moultrie at Fort Sumter National Monument America the Beautiful Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of Major Robert Anderson, circa 1861.