-- Dilemmas of Compromise --


The Charleston Mercury, December 13, 1860

--- --- --- --- --- --- --- --- ---


Activity at Fort Moultrie - The Strength of the Garrison - Details of the construction of the Moat and Glacis - New and Formidable Outworks - Armament of the Forts - What is Going on at Fort Sum- ter and Castle Pinckney, &c, &c, &c.

The silent energy with which work is now being pushed forward upon the fortifications erected for the protection of the harbor of Charleston, is something at once new and extraordinary. To keep the readers of the MERCURY fully posted in regard to events transpiring around them, we present below an interesting account of these active operations of the Federal authorities. It is proper, however, that the people of Charleston should know that the Executive of the State is fully cognizant of all that is going on in relation to these forts, and that their honor and defence is safe in his keeping. Until late in the past summer the defences of Fort Moultrie have remained in an unfinished condition; the sand of the beach, piled up by the wind against the south walls, had rendered them easily accessible almost by a single leap, and the empty guns were suffered to gaze out in harmless majesty upon the whole bay. A fortnight has worked a marvelous change.


is an enclosed water battery, having a front on the south, or water side, of about 300 feet, and a depth of about 240 feet. It is built with salient and re-entering angles on all sides, and is admirably adapted for defence, either from the attack of a storming party, or by regular approaches. Below we give a rough diagram of the line of fortifications.


A. Gate
B. New abutment commanding the approach to the gate.
C. C. Old sally-ports, now closed up with masonry.
D. Portion of the moat already finished.
E. E. Newly erected bastionettes, commanding the moat.
F. Furnace for preparing hot shot.
G. Powder magazine.

The outer and inner walls are of brick, capped with stone, and filled in with earth, making a solid wall 15 or 16 feet in thickness. The work now in progress consists in cleaning the sand from the walls of the fort; ditching it around the entire circumference, and erecting a glacis; closing up the postern gates in the east and west walls, and instead, cutting sally-ports, which lead into strong out-works on the southeast and southwest angles, in which 12-pounder howitzer guns will be placed, enabling the garrison to sweep the ditch on three sides with grape and canister. The northwest angle of the fort has also been strengthened by a bastionette, to sustain the weight of a heavy gun which will command the main street of the Island. The main entrance has also been better secured, and a trap-door two feet square, cut in the door for ingress and egress. - At this time, the height of the wall, from the bottom of the ditch to the top of the parapet, is 20 feet. The ditch is from 12 to 15 feet wide at the base, and 15 feet deep. The nature of the soil would not seem to admit of this depth being increased, quick-sand having been reached in many places. The work on the south side is nearly finished. The counterscarp is substantially built of plank, and spread with turf. The glacis is also finished. It is composed of sand, and covered with layers of loam and turf, all of which is kept firmly in place by the addition of sections of plank nailed to uprights sunk in the sand, and crossing each other at right angles - making squares of about 10 feet each. The purpose of the glacis, which is an inclined plane, is to expose an attacking party to the fire of the guns - which are so placed as to sweep it from the crest of the counterscarp to the edge of the beach. On the north side, all the wooden gun cases have been placed close together on the ramparts, apparently for the purpose of securing it against an escalade, but possibly as a screen for a battery of heavy guns. A good many men are engaged in clearing the ramparts of turf and earth, for the purpose of putting down a very ugly-looking arrangement, which consists of strips of plank 4 inches wide, 1 1/2 inches thick, and 6 or 8 feet long, sharpened at the point, and nailed down, so as to project about 3 feet horizontally from the top of the walls.

A noticeable fact in the bastionettes to which we have above alluded, is the haste in which one of them has been built. The one completed is formed of solid masonry. In constructing the other, however, a framework of plank has been substituted. Against the inside of this wooden outwork loose bricks have been placed. Both bastionettes are armed with a small cannonade, and a howitzer pointed laterally so as to command the whole intervening moat by a cross-fire.

In the hurried execution of these extensive improvements, a large force - about 170 men - are constantly engaged. Additions are daily made to this number, and the work of putting the post in the best possible condition for defence, is carried on with almost incredible vigor.


A few days ago Col. GARDNER, who, for years, had held the post of Commandant, and whose courtesy and bearing had won the friendship of all who knew him, was relieved in the command by Major ROBERT ANDERSON, of Kentucky. Maj. ANDERSON received his first commission as Brevet 2d Lieut. 2d Artillery, July 1, 1825, was acting Inspector-General in the Black Hawk war, and received the rank of Brevet Captain August, 1838, for his successful conduct in the Florida war. On September 8, 1847, he was made Brevet Major for his gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Molino del Rey.

The other officers are: Capt. ABNER DOUBLEDAY, Capt. T. SEYMOUR, Lieut. T. TALBOT, Lieut. J.C. DAVIS, Lieut. N.J. HALL - all of the First Regiment Artillery.

Capt. J.G. FOSTER and Lieut. G.W. SNYDER, of the Engineer corps.

Assistant Surgeon S.W. CRAWFORD, of the Medical Staff.

The force, under these gentlemen, consist of two companies of Artillery. The companies, however, are not full, the two comprising, as we are informed, only about seventy men, including the band. A short time ago, two additional companies were expected, but they have not come; and it is now positively stated that there will be for the present at least, no reinforcement of the garrison.


While the working men are doing wonders on the outside, the soldiers within are by no means idle. Field pieces have been placed in position upon the green within the fort, and none of the expedients of military engineering have been neglected to make the position as strong as possible. It is said that the greatest vigilance is observed in every regulation at this time, and that the guns are regularly shotted every night. It is very certain that ingress is no longer an easy matter for an outsider, and the visitor who hopes to get in, must make up his mind to approach with all the caution, ceremony and circumlocution with which the Allies are advancing upon the Capital of the Celestial Empire.


a work of solid masonry, octagonal in form, pierced on the north, east and west sides with a double row of port-holes for the heaviest guns, and on the south or land side, in addition to openings for guns, loop-holed for musketry, stands in the middle of the harbor, on the edge of the ship channel, and is said to be bomb proof. It is at present without any regular garrison. There is a large force of workmen - some one hundred and fifty in all - busily employed in mounting the guns and otherwise putting this great strategic point in order. The armament of Fort Sumter consists of 140 guns, many of them being the formidable ten-inch "Columbiads," which throw either shot or shell, and which have a fearful range. Only a few of these are yet in position, and the work of mounting pieces of this calibre in the casemates is necessarily a slow one. There is also a large amount of artillery stores, consisting of about 40,000 lbs. of powder, and a proportionate quantity of shot and shell. The workmen engaged here sleep in the Fort every night, owing to the want of any regular communication with the city. The wharf or landing is on the south side, and is of course exposed to a cross fire from all the openings on that side.


is located on the southern extremity of a narrow slip of marsh land, which extends in a northerly direction to Hog Island Channel. To the harbor side the so-called castle presents a circular front. It has never been considered of much consequence as a fortress, although its proximity to the city would give it importance, if properly armed and garrisoned. From hasty observation we find that there are about fifteen guns mounted on the parapet; the majority of them are eighteen and twenty-four pounders. Some "Columbiads" are, however, within the walls. There are also supplies of powder, shot and shell. At present there is no garrison at the post; the only residents are one or two watchmen, who have charge of the harbor light. Some thirty or forty day laborers are employed repairing the cisterns and putting the place generally in order.

This concludes our sketch of the present aspect of affairs at the three forts, which were meant to be, and should always remain, at once the pride and the safeguard of our city.