Skip to main content

Du Pont Storms Charleston

May 2024
19min read

Could ironclads successfully attack land positions? No one knew. Into the very “nest of the rebellion,” sewn with mines and ringed by bristling forts, steamed the proud monitors of the Union fleet

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was as flamboyant by nature as by name, and during the first two years of the Civil War this quality, coupled all too often with a readiness to lay down the sword and take up the pen in defense of his reputation, had got this Confederate general into considerable trouble with Jefferson Davis, who sometimes found it difficult to abide his Creole touchiness off the field of battle for the sake of his undoubted abilities on it. Called “Old Bory” by his soldiers, though he was not yet forty-five, the hero of Sumter had twice been relieved of important commands: first in the east, where he had routed Irvin McDowell’s invasion attempt at Manassas; then in the west, where he had saved his badly outnumbered army by giving Henry Halleck the slip at Corinth.

In September, 1862, he was put in command of the Department of South Carolina and Georgia, with headquarters at the scene of his first glory, Charleston.

Here as elsewhere he saw his position as the hub of the wheel of war.

Defiant of Union sea power, Mobile, on the Gulf, and Wilmington, Savannah, and Charleston, on the Atlantic, remained in Confederate hands, and of these four it was clear at least to Beauregard that the one the Yankees were most likely to attack was the last, referred to in their journals as “the cradle of secession.” Industrious as always, the General was determined that this proud South Carolina city should not suffer the fate of his native New Orleans, whatever force was brought against it. Conducting frequent tours of inspection and keeping up as usual a voluminous correspondence, he relaxed from his manifold labors only when he slept, and even then he kept a pencil and a note pad under his pillow, ready to jot down any notion that might come to him in the night.

“Carolinians and Georgians!” he exhorted by proclamation. “The hour is at hand to prove your devotion to your country’s cause. Let all able-bodied men, from the seaboard to the mountains, rush to arms. Be not exacting in the choice of weapons; pikes and scythes will do for exterminating your enemies, spades and shovels for protecting your friends. To arms, fellow citizens! Come share with us our dangers, our brilliant success, or our glorious death.”

Two approaches to Charleston were available to the Federals. They could make an amphibious landing on one of the islands or up one of the inlets to the south, then swing northeastward up the mainland to move upon the city from the rear; or they could enter through the harbor itself, braving the massed batteries for the sake of a quick decision, however bloody. They had already tried the former method twice, but both times—first at Secessionville, three months before Beauregard’s return from the west in mid-September, and again at Pocotaligo, one month after he resumed command—they had been stopped and flung back on their naval support before they could gather momentum.

By the beginning of 1863, Beauregard correctly assumed that they would attempt the front-door approach, using their new flotilla of vaunted ironclads to spearhead the attack. If so, they were going to find they had taken on a good deal more than they had expected, for the harbor defenses had been greatly improved during the nearly two years that had elapsed since the war first opened here.

Fort Moultrie, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Sumter, respectively on Sullivan’s Island, off the mouth of the Cooper River, and opposite the entrance to the bay, had not only been strengthened, each in its own right, but were now supported by other fortifications constructed at intervals along the beach and connected by a continuous line of signal stations, making it possible for a central headquarters to direct and consolidate their fire. First Beauregard, then John Pemberton, and now Beauregard again—both accomplished engineers and artillerists, advised moreover by specialists as expert as themselves—had applied all their skill and knowledge to make the place as nearly impregnable as military science and Confederate resources would allow.

A total of seventy-seven guns of various calibers now frowned from their various embrasures. The channels were thickly sown with torpedoes—mines, they would be called now—and other obstructions, such as floating webs of hemp designed to entangle rudders and snarl propellers. Not content with this, the sad-eyed little Creole had not hesitated to dip into his limited supply of powder in order to improve the marksmanship of his cannoneers with frequent target practice, and had set marker buoys at known ranges in the bay, with the corresponding elevations chalked on the breeches of the guns. As a last-ditch measure of desperation, to be employed if all else failed, he encouraged the organization of a unit known as the Tigers, made up of hot-blooded volunteers whose assignment was to hurl explosives down the stacks and ventilators of such enemy ships as managed to break through the ring of fire and approach the fortress walls or the citv docks.

The ironclads might indeed be invincible; some said so, some said not; but one thing was fairly certain. The argument was likely to be settled on the day their owners tested them in Charleston Harbor.

This was not to say that Beauregard had abandoned all notion of assuming the offensive, however limited his means. He had at his disposal two homemade rams, the Palmetto State and the Chicora , built with funds supplied by the South Carolina legislature and the Ladies Gunboat Fair. The former mounted an 80-pounder rifle aft and an 8-inch shell gun on each broadside, while the latter had two g-inch smoothbores and four rifled gs-pounders. Both vessels were balky and slow, with cranky, inadequate engines and armor improvised from boiler plate and railroad iron; but as January drew to a close the General was determined to put them to the test by challenging the blockade squadron off the Charleston bar. Orders were handed Flag Officer Duncan Ingraham on the thirtieth, instructing him to make the attempt at dawn of the following day.

Beauregard, in addition, had in mind a limited offensive of his own, to be launched against the nine-gun screw steamer Isaac Smith , which had been coming up the Stono River almost nightly to shell the Confederate camps on James and John’s islands. That night he lay in wait for her with batteries of field artillery, allowed her to pass unchallenged, then took her under fire as she came back down. The opening volley tore oft her smokestack, stopped her engines, riddled her lifeboats, and killed eight of her crew. Her captain quickly surrendered himself and his ship and the ninety-four survivors, including seventeen wounded. Repaired and rechristened, the Smith in time became the Stono and served under that name as part of Charleston’s miniature defense squadron.

Meanwhile, the Palmetto State and the Chicora , followed by three steam tenders brought along to tow them back into harbor in case their engines failed, were over the bar and among the wooden-walled block aciers by first light. The Federal squadron, mounting a total of one hundred guns, included the i.aooton sloop of war Housatonic , two gunboats, and seven converted merchantmen. A lookout aboard one of these last, the nine-gun steamer Mercedita , was the first to spot the misty outline of an approaching vessel. “She has black smoke!” he shouted. “Watch, man the guns! Spring the rattle! Call all hands to quarters!” This brought the captain out on deck, clad only in a pea jacket. When he too spotted the stranger, nearer now, he called out: “Steamer, ahoy! You will be into us! What steamer is that?”

It was the Palmetto State , but for a time she did not deign to answer. Then, “Halloo!” her skipper finally replied, and with that the ram put her snout into the quarter of the Mercedita and fired her guns. Flames went up from the crippled warship. “Surrender,” the Rebel captain yelled up, “or I’ll sink you!” The only answer was a cloud of oily smoke shot through with steam. “Do you surrender?” he repeated.

This brought the reply, “I can make no resistance. My boiler is destroyed.”

“Then do you surrender?”


So the Palmetto backed off and turned to go to the help of the Chicora , which meanwhile had been serving the ten-gun sidewheeler Keystone State in much the same fashion. Riddled and aflame, the latter hauled down her flag to signify surrender, then ran it up again and limped out to sea as the two rams moved off in the opposite direction. At the far end of the line, the Housatonic and the gunboats, thinking the racket had been provoked by a blockade-runner venturing out, held their stations. By full daylight, the two improvised ironclads were back in Charleston Harbor, their crews accepting the cheers of a crowd collected on the docks.

Beauregard was elated. Quick to claim that the blockade had been lifted, at least momentarily, he took the French and Spanish consuls out to witness the truth of his words that “the outer harbor remained in the full possession of the two Confederate rams. Not a Federal sail was visible, even with spyglasses.” Next day the enemy was back again, presumably too vigilant to permit him to risk another such attempt, but he did not admit that this detracted in the slightest from the brilliance of the exploit. He bided his time, still improving his defenses for the all-out attack he believed was about to be launched. “Already six monitors … are in the waters of my department, concentrating about Port Royal, and transports with troops are still arriving from the North,” he reported in mid-March. “I believe the drama will not much longer be delayed; the curtain will soon rise.”

Three more weeks went past before his prediction was fulfilled. Then on Monday, April 6, the day after Easter—it was also the first anniversary of Shiloh and within a week of the second anniversary of the opening of the war in this same harbor—not six but nine brandnew Union ironclads, some single and some double-turreted, crossed the Charleston bar and dropped anchor in the channel, bringing their great 11- and i5-inch guns to bear on the forts and batteries Beauregard had prepared for their reception.

The curtain had indeed risen.

Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont had the flag. It was he who, back in early November of 1861, had conceived and executed the elliptical attack on Port Royal, thereby giving the North its first substantial victory of the war, and it was hoped by the Federal Navy Department that he would repeat the triumph here in Charleston Harbor. Son of a wealthy New York importer and nephew of an even wealthier Delaware powder-maker, the Admiral was approaching sixty, a hale, well-set-up aristocrat with a dignified but genial manner and a growth of luxuriant whiskers describing a bushy U about his chops and under his clean-shaven mouth and chin, all of which combined to give at least one journalist the impression that he was “one of the stateliest, handsomest, and most polished gentlemen I have ever seen.”

Gideon Welles admired him, too, up to a point. “He is a skillful and accomplished officer,” the Secretary of the Navy confided in his diary. “Has a fine address, [but] is a courtier with perhaps too much finesse and management.” This edge of mistrust was returned by the man who was its object. It seemed to Du Pont, whose enthusiasm had been tempered by close association, that the Navy Department was suffering from an affliction described as “ironclads on the brain.”

This had not always been the case, particularly in lire days when John Ericsson was trying to persuade the brass to give him authority for construction of the Monitor . Grudgingly and over grave misgivings, they had finally let him go ahead with a contract which stipulated that he would not be reimbursed in case of failure. But after Hampton Roads and the drawn engagement that put an end to the depredations of the Merrimack , the department not only reversed itself but went all out in the opposite direction. Ericsson received an order for half a dozen sister ships to the prototype already delivered, and other builders were engaged for the construction of twenty-one more, of various shapes and sizes.

Assistant Secretary Gustavus Vasa Fox was especially enthusiastic, informing Du Pont that after he had used the monitors to reduce Charleston, he was to move on Savannah, then send them down to the Gulf to give Mobile the same treatment. Ironclads were trumps, according to Fox. He told Ericsson he had not “a shadow of a doubt as to our success, and this confidence arises from a study of your marvelous vessels.” The Swede was less positive. “The most I dare hope is that the contest will end without the loss of that prestige which your ironclads have conferred u])on the nation abroad,” he replied, adding the reminder that “a single shot may sink a ship, while a hundred rounds cannot silence a fort.”

Unwilling to have his confidence undermined or his ebullience lessened, Fox assured a congressional committee that the monitors could steam into Southern harbors, flatten the defenses, and emerge unscathed. His only caution was addressed to Du Pont. “I beg of you,” he pleaded, “not to let the Army spoil it.” He wanted the show to be all Navy, with the landsmen merely standing by to be ferried in to pick up the pieces when the smoke cleared. In late March he informed Du Pont that it was up to him to make up for reverses lately suffered in the west: “Farragut has had a setback at Port Hudson and lost the noble old Mississippi . It finally devolves upon you by great good fortune to avert the series of disasters that have fallen upon our Navy. That you will do it most gloriously I have no misgivings whatever.”

In point of fact, Du Pont by this time had misgivings enough for them both. What was more, they were shared by a majority of his ironclad skippers- and with cause. Near the mouth of the Ogeechee River, just beyond the Georgia line, the Confederates had constructed as part of the Savannah defenses a nine-gun earthwork called Fort Mc Allister, which Du Pont decided to use as a sort of test range to determine how well the ironclads would do, offensively and defensively, under fire. He gave the assignment to the Montauk , which meant that he was giving the best he had; for her captain was Commander John L. Worden, who had skippered the Monitor in her fight with the Merrimack .

Worden made his first attack on January 27. After expending all his ammunition in a four-hour bombardment, he withdrew undamaged despite repeated hits scored by the guns of the fort, which was not silenced. Returning February i, he tried again, with like results. Neither the ship nor the fort had done much damage to the other, aside from the concussive strain on the eardrums of the Montauk ’s crew as a result of the forty-six hits taken on her iron decks and turret. A third attack, February 27, was more fruitful, although not in the way intended. Finding the Confederate cruiser Nashville aground beyond Fort McAllister, Worden took her under long-range fire with his big guns, set her afire, and had the satisfaction of watching her destruction when her magazine exploded.

Struck only five times by the guns of the fort, the ironclad pulled back without replying, well satisfied with her morning’s work, only to run upon a torpedo which blew such a hole in her bottom that she had to be beached in the mud. While she was undergoing repairs that soon restored her to full efficiency, three more monitors came down from Port Royal and tried their hand at reducing the fort, with similar results. Neither silenced or seriously damaged the other, and the ironclads withdrew, to try no more.

Fruitless though the experiment had been in positive results—aside, that is, from the fortunate interception of the Nashville —ZL lesson had been learned on the negative side as to the capabilities of the monitors. “Whatever degree of impenetrability they might have,” Du Pont reported, “there was no corresponding degree of destructiveness as against forts.” He felt much as one sailor had felt on a test run. “Give me an oyster scow,” the man had cried; “anything; only let it be of wood, and something that will float over instead of under the water!” Most of the captains were of a similar mind, and when they looked beyond the present to the impending future, their doubts increased. If these vaunted engines of destruction could not humble a modest nine-gun sand fort, what could they hope to accomplish against multi-gunned bastions such as Moultrie and Sumter?

They asked the question and shook their heads. “I do not feel as sure as I could wish,” one skipper admitted privately, while another was more positive in expressing his reservations, “f begin to rue the day I got into the ironclad business,” he wrote home.

Still, orders were orders, and as April came in, Du Pont completed his final preparations for the attack. In addition to his flagship, the New Ironsides , a highbulwarked, sj,5oo-ton screw steamer whose ponderous armor and twenty heavy guns mounted in broadside made her the most powerful warship in the world, he had eight low-riding monitors, mounting one or two guns each in revolving turrets; which meant that, in all, he would be opposing seventy-seven guns ashore with thirty-three afloat. These odds were rather evened by the fact that the naval guns, in addition to being mounted on moving targets, which made them far more difficult to hit, were heavier in caliber. Other odds were irreducible, however, one being that in order to reach the city from the sea his ships would have to steam for some seven winding miles in a shoallined channel, much of which had been obstructed and practically all of which was exposed to the plunging fire of the forts.

On April 2, despite increasing doubts and reservations, Du Pont left Port Royal and reached Edisto Island, twenty-five miles below the entrance to Charleston Harbor, before nightfall. There the ships were cleared for action, the exposed armor of decks and turrets covered over with untanned hides anil the bulwarks slopped with grease to lessen the “bite” of enemy projectiles, with the result that they stank fearfully under the influence of the Carolina sun.

On the fifth, Easter Sunday, he left North Edisto, and he crossed the Charleston bar next morning, intending to attack at once. But finding the weather hazy, which as he said “prevented] our seeing the ranges,” he decided to drop anchors and wait for the morrow, which he hoped would afford him better visibility. It would also afford the same for the gunners in the forts; but Du Pont was not thinking along those lines, or else he would have made a night attack. Finally, against his better judgment—and after much prodding from above, including charges that he had “the slows” and taunts that identified him as a seagoing George McClellan, overcautious and too mindful of comparative statistics—he was going in.

The next day—April 7—brought the weather he thought he wanted, and soon after noon the iron column started forward, the nine ships moving in single file, slowly and with a certain ponderous majesty not lost on the beholders in the forts. Originally the Admiral had intended to lead the way in the flagship, but on second thought he decided to take the center position from which “signals could be better made to both ends of the line,” so that the resultant order of battle was: Weehawken, Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco; New Ironsides; Catskill, Nantucket, Nahant, Keokuk .

There was an exasperating delay of about an hour when the lead monitor’s heavy chain became entangled with the bootjack raft designed to protect her bow from torpedoes; then the column resumed its forward motion, passing Morris Island in an ominous silence as the Rebel cannoneers on Cummings Point held their fire. As the ships approached the inner works, however, the Confederate and Palmetto flags were run up over Sumter and Moultrie, while bands on the parapets struck up patriotic airs and the guns began to roar in salute.

At this point Captain John Rodgers of the Weehawken , spotting floating rope obstructions just ahead, commanded the helmsman to swing the monitor hard to starboard in order to avoid becoming tangled in the web. This was well short of the point at which Du Pont had intended to open fire, and the result was that the whole line was thrown into confusion. Moreover, as Weehawken turned, she encountered a torpedo which exploded directly under her. “It lifted the vessel a little,” Rodgers later reported, “but I am unable to perceive that it has done us any damage.”

Aboard the flagship, with her deeper draft, the confusion was at its worst. When she lost headway she had to drop anchor to keep from going aground, and as she hung there, trying to get her nose into the tide, she received two disconcerting butts from two of the monitors astern as they swept past in response to her signal to join the action. Hoisting anchor at last, the Ironsides chugged forward a short distance, only to have to drop it again in order to avoid piling up on a shoal. This brought her, unbeknownst, directly over a huge submerged torpedo which the Confederates had fashioned by packing an old boiler with explosives and connecting it to an observation post on Morris Island with an electric wire, to be used to detonate the charge at the proper time.

Now the proper time was very much at hand; the Rebel electrician later said that if he himself had been allowed to spot the Yankee flagship he could not have placed her more precisely where he wanted her. However, his elation quickly faded, turning first to dismay and then to disgust, when the detonating mechanism failed time after time to send a spark to the underwater engine of destruction. Meanwhile, happily unaware that he and his ship were in mortal danger of being hoisted skyward in sudden flame and smoke, Du Pont signalled the monitors to “disregard motions of commander in chief” and continue to press the attack without his help. The Ironsides , as one of her unemployed surgeons complained, was as completely out of the fight as if she had been moored to a dock in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, but this did not prevent her taking long-range punishment from the Rebel guns. Presenting as she did the largest and least mobile target in the harbor, she was struck no less than fifty-five times in the course of the engagement. Despite the din, according to one of her officers, “the sense of security the iron walls gave to those within was wonderful—a feeling akin to that which one experiences in a heavy storm when the wind and hail beat harmlessly against the windows of a well-protected house.”

No such feeling was experienced by the crews of the monitors, the officer added, “for in their turrets the nuts that secured the laminated plates flew wildly, to the injury and discomfiture of the men at the guns.” Up closer, they were harder hit. “The shots literally rained around them,” a correspondent wrote, “splashing the water up thirty feet in the air, and striking and booming from their decks and turrets.” The flagship was a mile from Sumter, the nearest monitors about half that far, but the captain of the twin-turreted Nahant quickly found what it would cost to close the range.

“Mr. Clarke, you haven’t hit anything yet,” he protested to the ensign in charge of the 15-inch gun, which was throwing its 42o-pound shells at seven-minute intervals. When the young man replied, “We aint near enough, Captain,” the skipper went into a rage: “Not near enough? Damn it, I’ll put you near enough! Starboard your helm, Quartermaster I” As the ship came about, a Rebel projectile slammed against the pilothouse sight-slit, killing the helmsman and man- ” gling the pilot. “Retire! Retire!” the captain shouted.

Others were hit as hard or harder, with similar results: smokestacks perforated, turrets jammed, decks ripped up, guns knocked out of action. The only effect on the enemy a journalist could see, examining the brick northeast face of Sumter through his glasses, was that of “increasing pock marks and discolorations on the walls, as if there had been a sudden breaking out of cutaneous disease.” But there was no corresponding slackening of fire from the fort, whose cannoneers were jubilant over the many hits they scored. Frenzied at being kept from a share in the fun of pummelling the ironclads, Confederates locked in the Moultrie guardhouse screamed above the roar of the bombardment: “For God’s sake, let us come out and go to the guns!”

After peering through the drifting smoke for about two hours, Du Pont was told that it was nearly five o’clock. “Make signal to the ships to drop out of fire,” he said quietly. “It is too late to fight this battle tonight. We will renew it early in the morning.” Below decks, when the gun captains, whose crews had stood idle all this time, received word of this decision, they sent up an urgent request that they be allowed to fire at least one broadside before retiring. It was granted, and as the Ironsides turned to steam down the channel an eight-gun salvo was hurled at Moultrie, the only shots she fired in the course of the engagement. This brought the total to an even 150 rounds expended by the whole flotilla, and of these 55 were scored as hits. The Confederates, on the other hand, had fired 2,209, of which no less than 441 had found their mark, despite the fact that the targets had not only been comparatively small, and moving, but had also been mostly submerged. That this was remarkably effective shooting Du Pont himself began to appreciate when the retiring monitors came within hailing distance of the flagship and he got a close-up look at their condition.

The first to approach was the Keokuk , limping badly. Last in and first out, she had ventured nearest to Sumter and she had the scars of 90 point-blank hits to prove it. She was “riddled like a collander,” a witness remarked, “the most severely mauled ship one ever saw,” and that night she keeled over and sank at her anchorage off Morris Island. Others also had been roughly handled: Weehawken had taken 53 hits; Nantucket , 51; Patapsco , 47; Nahant , 36; Passaic , 35; Catskill , 20; and Montauk , 14. In general, the damage suffered was in inverse ratio to the distance between them and the Rebel guns, and none had been elfter than six hundred yards.

The Admiral’s intention “to renew [the battle] early in the morning” was modified by the sight of his crippled monitors. Five of the eight were too badly damaged to be able to engage if ordered, and of these five, one would sink before the scheduled time for action. Equally conclusive were the reports and recommendations of the several captains when they came aboard the flagship that evening. “With your present means,” John Rodgers advised, “I could not, if I were asked, recommend a renewal of the attack.” The redoubtable Worden was no less emphatic. “After testing the weight of the enemy’s fire, and observing the obstructions,” he reported, “I am led to believe that Charleston cannot be taken by the naval force now present, and that had the attack been continued [today] it could not have failed to result in disaster.”

This gave Du Pont pause, and pausing, he reflected on the risks. Here was no New Orleans, where the problem had been to run the fleet through a brief, furious gantlet of fire in order to gain a safe haven above the forts and place a defenseless city under the muzzles of its guns; this was Charleston, whose harbor, in the words of his chief of staff, “was a cul-de-sac , a circle of fire not to be passed.” The deeper you penetrated the circle, the more you were exposed to destruction. Moreover, as the Admiral saw it, even if he pressed the attack, “in the end we shall retire, leaving some of our ironclads in the hands of the enemy, to be refitted and turned against our blockade with deplorable effect.” This last was unthinkable—though he thought about it in his cabin all night long. By daybreak he had made up his mind. “I have decided not to renew the attack,” he told his chief of staff. “We have met with a sad repulse; I shall not turn it into a great disaster.”

Next afternoon he recrossed the bar. “I attempted to take the bull by the horns, but he was too much for us,” he admitted to the army commander whose troops had been standing by to pick up the pieces. By the end of the week the flotilla again was riding at anchor inside Port Royal, swarmed over by armorers hammering the vessels back into shape. The Admiral knew the reaction in Washington would be severe, coming as it must on the heels of such great expectations, but he also knew he had the support of his monitor captains, who stood, as one of them said, “like a wall of iron” around his reputation, agreeing with the chief of staff’s opinion that “Admiral Du Pont never showed greater courage or patriotism than when he saved his ships and men, and sacrificed himself to the clamor and disappointment evoked by his defeat.”

In point of fact, however, part of the expressed disappointment, if not the clamor, occurred within the fleet itself. A chief engineer was clapped in arrest for complaining in his ship’s mess that the attack had not been pressed to the victory point, and at least one junior officer remarked wryly that “the grim sort of soul like Farragut was lacking.” Welles and Fox were reluctant to bring the matter out into the open with the publication of the adverse battle reports. After all, it was they—especially Fox—who had announced that the monitors were irresistible, and contracts already had been signed for the delivery of eighteen more of the expensive naval monsters. Two weeks after the repulse, Welles was attempting to shrug it off by telling his diary: “I am by no means confident that we are acting wisely in expending so much strength and effort on Charleston, a place of no strategic importance.”

The grapes had soured for him; but not for Beauregard. The Louisiana general’s only regrets were that the boiler-torpedo had not gone off and that the Yankees had slunk away without a renewal of the assault. In a congratulatory order to his troops, his enthusiasm knew no bounds; he spoke of “the stranded, riddled wreck” of the Keokuk , whose big guns now were part of the harbor defenses, and of the ignominious flight of “her baffled co-adjutors,” whose repulse had rein spired world-wide confidence in the ultimate and glorious triumph of the Confederate cause. In his official report to Richmond, though—for he confided to a friend that, from now on, he was adopting a more restrained style in his dispatches, in order to counteract a rumor that he was prone to exaggerate his accomplishments—the little Creole, with his bloodhound eyes and his hair brushed forward in lovelocks at the temples, contented himself for the most part with factual observations. “It may be accepted, as shown,” he wrote, “that these vaunted monitor batteries, though formidable engines of war, after all are not invulnerable or invincible, and may be destroyed or defeated by heavy ordnance, properly placed and skillfully handled.”

Moreover, in the light of congratulations that Sumter had become “a household word, like Salamis and Thermopylae,” he could not resist the temptation to add: “My expectations were fully realized, and the country, as well as the State of South Carolina, may well be proud of the men who first met and vanquished the iron-mailed, terribly armed armada, so confidently prepared and sent forth by the enemy to certain and easy victory.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this magazine of trusted historical writing, now in its 75th year, and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.