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diagram of Fort Sumter
Horizontal section, Fort Sumter, February 1865. The Gorge is at the base of the plan.
Courtesy National Archives.

Sherman's March Forces Sumter's Evacuation

The last great bombardment of Fort Sumter had taken place. The firing was no more than desultory after September 1864; less than a hundred rounds were hurled at the fort in the months of December and January; none at all in February. During the autumn months it was all Foster's batteries could do to make a "decent defense" of Morris Island, let alone carry on any offensive operations. Wrote one of the commanders in mid-September:

"The shelling from the enemy's mortars was severe ... and having but little mortar powder, we were unable to reply effectually. . . . I regret that our ordnance supplies are so scanty. . . . No powder for the mortars; no suitable fuses for the fire on Charleston; no shells for the 30-pounder Parrotts, a most useful gun for silencing the enemy's fire; no material for making cartridge bags, or grease for lubricating the projectiles. . . . More ammunition for the 300-pounder, the most useful guns in these works, is also very much needed...."

interior of Fort Sumter
Interior of the Gorge as seen from atop the Left Flank, February 1865. The central bombproof is at the left.

And Sumter itself was more than irritating:

"Within the last 2 days the work ... has been greatly interfered with by a corps of sharpshooters . . . stationed on Fort Sumter. The bullets came in very thick when I was at the front this morning...."

In February 1865, the long stalemate came to an end. In that month, General Sherman commenced his march north from Savannah through the interior of South Carolina, slicing between the remnants of Hood's army on the west and the small Confederate force remaining along the coast. On the 17th, with Sherman in Columbia, Fort Sumter and the other Confederate fortifications in Charleston harbor were quietly evacuated. At 9 o'clock on the morning of the 18th, the United States flag was once more raised over Fort Sumter. The fortunes of war had accomplished what 3,500 tons of metal, a fleet of ironclads, and thousands of men had failed to do.

exterior of Fort Sumter
Exterior, Fort Sumter, February 1865. The Gorge is at the right;the Left Flank is at the left.


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