Today in History:

703 Series I Volume XXVIII-I Serial 46 - Ft. Sumter - Ft. Wagner Part I


on her return from Cumming's Point, was, by some mistake-either not showing a signal, or its not being discerned-fired upon by the batteries on Sullivan's Island. Some 3 or 4 men were killed and knocked overboard, and the steamer disabled. She now lies on the shoal east of Fort Sumter, and I fear will soon prove a loss. It is barely possible that she may be gotten off to-night. The men got ashore at Fort Sumter, and have been in great part transported to Fort Johnson. The telegraph line between Sumter and Sullivan's Island was not in working order. Colonel Rhett telegraphed the circumstance of the firing to the city, and the quartermaster's department was directed to send a steamer to her assistance, but none were available of the proper draught of water.

The accident is a serious one, and I shall cause inquiries to be made as to its cause. The firing on our own steamers, and the loss of a valuable transport, cannot be too much regretted; and if fault there is, I shall hold those who have committed it to a strict accountability.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN,

Chief of Staff.


HDQRS. DEPT. SOUTH CAROLINA, GEORGIA, AND FLORIDA, Charleston, S. C., September 11, 1863.

Brigadier General R. S. RIPLEY,
Commanding First Military District, South Carolina:

GENERAL: On a review of the investigation made concerning the firing into the steamer Sumter, it would appear that that untoward casualty resulted from the omission of several ordinary precautions, which should have been taken, to wit:

The officer having charge of the movements of the steamer, when finding that the must re-enter the harbor by an unusual channel, ought to have caused a notifications of his purpose to be transmitted by signal from Battery Gregg. There was a signal station at the battery, and this simple precaution, which was in his power, would have averted the accident. Major Pringle's efficiency and zeal, and his general attention to his duties during the operations in this harbor, are at the same time fully appreciated by the commanding general, who regrets to find any reason for blame.

Had a system of signal for transports been arranged for such an emergency, this vessel would have been provided with the means of making known her true character in time to have prevented her loss, or any serious injury. Hereafter all transport steamers should be provided with some system of signals.

It is apparent that while the Sumter was mistaken for a monitor, under circumstances well calculated to induce that belief, yet she was fired at and sunk when at a range from the Sullivan 's Island batteries which the commanding general believes could not possibly have resulted in the least damage to any monitor. It is highly satisfactory to observe that officers are alert and vigilant, but the commanding general can but regret to see a somewhat persistent disposition on the part of battery commanders to fire their guns at range which make them really impotent against monitors.