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Forts in Charleston Harbour

The Illustrated London News, vol. 38, no. 1070, p. 68.

January 19, 1861

Forts in Charleston Harbour.—Fort Moultrie is situated on Sullivan's Island, at the mouth of the harbour, and about three miles, in a direct line, from the city. It is (if not destroyed) an inclosed water battery, with a front on the water side of about 300 feet, and a depth of about 250 feet. The work was constructed with salient and re-entering angles on all sides, so as to adapt it admirably for defence, either from the attack of a storming party or regular approaches. The outer and inner walls are of brick, capped with stone, filled in with earth, so as to make a solid structure 16 feet in thickness. Within the last month the fort has been very much strengthened by closing the postern gates, by cutting sallyports, by placing 12-pounder howitzer guns in the angles, so as to command all points, by the digging of a ditch 15 feet wide and 15 feet deep, and by other improvements that added materially to its defensive capacity. The garrison consisted of about 70 men, including officers and musicians. Fort Moultrie is memorable for the victory gained by the American troops, commanded by Colonel Moultrie, over a British squadron, commanded by Sir Peter Parker, Jan. 28, 1776. The British force consisted of a fleet of 40 or 50 sail, and the opposing force of 433 men, rank and file. The fort was hastily constructed. In its general plan it presented a square, with a bastion at each angle, built of palmetto logs, dovetailed and bolted together, and laid in parallel rows 16 feet asunder; between these rows the space was filled with sand. In the engagement, which lasted from ten a.m. till nine p.m., and which was one of the fiercest of the Revolutionary war, the British were defeated, their loss being 225 killed and wounded, while the American loss was 11 killed and 26 wounded. Fort Moultrie was subsequently rebuilt on an enlarged scale, so as to render it one of the most extensive fortresses on the coast. Fort Sumter is a work of solid masonry, octagonal in form, is classed as one of the strongest fortifications in the country, and is generally regarded as being as nearly impregnable as possible. It is situated about the centre of the harbour, on the edge of the ship channel, some three-fourths of a mile from Fort Moultrie, and near three and a half miles from the city of Charleston, which it commands, as it also does Fort Moultrie and Castle Pinckney. It is situated on an island, though it seems to rise directly out of the water. It is pierced on the north, east, and west sides with a double row of portholes for the heaviest guns, and on the south or land side, in addition to openings for guns, is loopholed for musketry, and is bombproof. The armament of Fort Sumter consists of 140 guns, many of them being the formidable 10-in. "Columbiades," which throw either shot or shell, and which have a fearful range. There is in the magazine a large amount of artillery stores, consisting of about 40,000 lb. of powder, in addition to what has now been removed there from the abandoned fortress, and a proportionate quantity of shot and shell. The wharf or landing of Fort Sumter is on the south side, and is, of course, exposed to cross fire from all the openings on that side. A large number of workmen have been engaged for several weeks in mounting guns and placing this fort in condition for any emergency that might arise. General Scott, it is said, pronounces the fortification, when manned, one of the strongest in the world. Castle Pinckney 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 harbour side the so-called castle presents a circular front. It has never been regarded as a work of first magnitude, although its proximity to the city would, if garrisoned, give it importance. Recently some improvements have been made in and about the fort, with a view of strengthening it. Commanded as it is by Fort Sumter, it cannot be assailed. It has several Columbiades, and a full supply of powder, shell, and shot.— New York Tribune.

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