AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
In a rare (and I have to say unwelcome) change of my usual plans I have departed from what is my idea of chronological order (like history depending upon where I am at any given moment) to a more usual idea of chronological order - i.e. where everyone else was at a given moment. What I have been doing therefore is cutting out the details of any Civil War sites that I encountered on my voyage around the Eastern United States and pasting them here in strict chronological order, to make it easier to follow.
There are actually three pages to follow, namely
This is the first page
Having said that, however, you'll probably notice that many of these articles are somewhat spectacularly bare for the moment. In the words of the Harvard Lampoon, author of Bored of the Rings, "Whilst Tolkein's tale grew in the telling, my work grew in inverse proportion to my bank account".
As I've recently been engaged on some full-time work away from home, and I'm currently doing some freelance contracting, my bank account is growing in the general direction of the photovoltaic tiles I need for the roof of my farm. This means that this web site is growing only slowly, as I unravel from my dictaphone and my energy drink-sodden notes the story of my voyage around the east coast of the USA in late Spring 2005.
Keep looking back to see where I'm up to. Meantime, I shall leave you with the immortal words of Philaster Chase Johnson, who had similar challenges upon his time when writing his magazine, the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten.
"Cheer up. The worst is yet to come."
Actually, where I was when I wrote the article that led you here was in Fredericksburg. But, as you can see from the title above, I'm not there now. I have moved.
This is Fort Moultrie.
Originally called Fort Sullivan, after the island on which it is situated, it was built to guard the entrance to Charleston Harbour, which at the time of its construction was one of the most important ports on the eastern seaboard of North America.
The original fort was constructed by Colonel Willian Moultrie, and it still wasn't completed when he used it to fight off an attack by a British marine force in June 1776. The fort was thus renamed in his honour. It was abandoned at the end of the war, and a survey in 1791 showed that very little remained.
At the outbreak of war in Europe in 1793, authorisation was given to construct 20 new forts along the eastern seaboard to protect the USA's coastline in case England should decide to try to impose itself once more on the United States. Part of this authorisation was that Fort Moultrie should be rebuilt. It was completed in 1798 but destroyed in a hurricane in 1804.
Several other forts were in a poor state of repair, so authority was given to build new ones made of brick. The present Fort Moultrie, which you can see here, dates from this period and is in the "economy Vauban" style. It was completed in 1809.
Its first task was as a prison to house the Seminole Indians displaced from Florida, but it sprang to prominence at the start of the Civil War, when the Confederates used it to bombard Fort Sumter, which is just several hundred metres offshore.
From 1863, Union naval forces launched a continual 20-month bombardment of Sumter and Moultrie and although Sumter was reduced to rubble, Moultrie held out, due no doubt to the amount of sand around here that would absorb the force of any explosion from the Union's rifled shells.
The Confederates abandoned it in 1865 when Charleston fell to the Unionists, and it was rebuilt and modernised by the US forces in the 1870s. It was still being used as an active part of the USA's coastal defences until 1947, when it was finally abandoned.
It's now a museum, with an absolutely superb collection of artillery pieces, as you can see in the photograph here on the left. The part of the fortifications that you can see in the background is a part of the "modernisations" dating from the 1870s construction.
In due course I'll find the time to write much more about Fort Sumter, but in brief and for the time being, the urpose of Fort Sumter was to protect the entrance to Charleston harbour here in South Carolina.
It was occupied by Federal troops, so when South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861, the South Carolina state government asked these northern troops to leave. They refused, so the South Carolina army (such as it was) ... er ... obliged them to go, and the rest is history.
In other words, the first organised confrontation of what became the American Civil War was here.
The mouth of Charleston Bay just here is also famous for being the site of the world's first successful submarine attack.
Now you can either continue with the chronological history tour below, or follow the geographical tour and return to Charleston.
FIRST BATTLE OF MANASSAS OR BULL RUN
The area that is colloquially known as Bull Run is in fact just to the north of the town of Manassas, Virginia, not too far away from Washington Dulles Airport. It was here on the 21st July 1861 that the first major pitched battle of the Civil War took place.
Manassas is an important railway junction, where railway lines that stretch all over northern Virginia combine to head down to Richmond, the Confederate capital. The destruction of the Confederate Army of the Potomac that was gathering here and the capture of such an important city would have been a glittering prize for the Union so early in the war.
Seeing as how I've written so much about the battle, I've put the details on a separate page to make it easier to follow the pages around.
Today at the site of the battle here at Manassas, it is possible to walk all around the battlefield and visit the scenes of the crucial moments in the battle. The main impression that one gains from the battlefield is just how compact it is. It is very hard to believe that 60,000 troops were engaged here
The Henry farmhouse, which was the scene of a great deal of fighting, has been restored to more-or-less how it was prior to the battle, as you can see in the photograph here.
In 1865, however, a monument was erected close by in memory of the thousands of Union soldiers who died in the battle, as you can see in the photograph on the left. In this photograph you can actually see how close it is.
Now bearing in mind that I'm a European who only ever visits the USA on occasion and who has never lived here, I'll tell something that I found so surprising. On many of the battlefields, regardless of whether or not the Union forces won, and whether or not the battles took place on what was Confederate soil, there always seems to be a monument to the federal forces, but nothing to the Confederate troops who died fighting for their own freedom.
Fort Macon was another Confederate fort along the eastern seaboard of what were the Confederate states during the Civil War. It was built over the period 1826 to 1834 as part of a chain of forts protecting the eastern seaboard of the USA - in this case with the intention of protecting Beaufort Harbour (or Beaufort Harbor) - following the war of 1812, and replaced a wooden fort, Fort Dobbs, of 1756 and another wooden fort called Fort Hampton, the destiny of which was to be swept away by the sea in a storm.
Fort Macon was beseiged by Union forces between March 3 and April 22nd 1862, when it fell into their hands and where it remained for the rest of the war.
As I have said on numerous occasions, forget the land warfare. The decisive action during the Civil War was the maritime blockade, which was always destined to bring the South to its knees no matter what the outcome of the land warfare. The fall of Fort Macon meant the loss of yet another deep water harbour to the south.
A quick look at the photo on the left will illustrate this point quite clearly. This is the entrance to Beaufort Inlet that the fort is guarding. It's not very wide, so incoming ships have to sail quite close to the shore to get into the harbour here.
And this rather large, impressive gun up here on the right overlooking Beaufort is a 32 pound rifled cannon. Now you know all about the benefits of rifling, if you've been reading the earlier pages of this site, so you can understand why a couple of heavy rifled cannon up here could put a whole port out of action. Rifled bores spin the shell round as it leaves the barrel, increasing the velocity and range, and of course, the accuracy.
A sailing ship coming into harbour close to land would have to travel slowly and safely, to avoid running aground. Just at the point where it would be staring down the barrel of a rifled 32 pound cannon. You wouldn't need too many rounds from this to bring the port to a standstill.
Incoming traffic would have to go to another port, and as the Federal maritime offensive intensified, those ports would become fewer and fewer. With the fall of Fort Fisher there weren't any ports left at all. The end was inevitable.
There was also a smooth bore 32 pound cannon here at Fort Macon, but I didn't take a photo of that, for some reason. Possibly because by the time the Civil War was under way, it was aleady obsolete.
Just here in the photo on the left, you can make out some 10 inch seige mortars. These are the only peices of artillery here that are original to the fort. Of course, mortars were feared by troops because of their trajectory.
Normal ordinance was fired horizontally, so troops could duck underneath it or dig themselves in, and be relatively safe.
Mortars on the other hand were fired up into the air and when the propellant was exhausted, they fell to earth. Being dug in or sheltering behind an object was therefore no guarantee of safety, because the shells simply dropped from the sky into your lap, or into your trench on top of you, and there was no protection.
After the end of the war, the fort settled down to something of a quiet life for 30 years or so until the Spanish-American war saw it once more become home to service personnel on a war footing. It was manned again by American forces during World War II as part of the United States's anti-submarine command along the eastern seaboard
Now, you can return to the guided tour of North Carolina or stay on this page for the chronological Civil War tour.
Fort Ocracoke Ocracoke Island
Fredericksburg - a historical panel
Fredericksburg - a historical panel
Fredericksburg battlefield visitor centre and sunken road
One thing though - I bet that the residents of Fredericksburg of the day were really impressed with having the Army of the Potomac's national monument overlooking their town. They must really have appreciated that.
Fredericksburg battlefield - Marye's Heights artillery
Fredericksburg battlefield - Marye's Heights map
Fredericksburg battlefield - Marye's Heights view into Fredericksburg
Gaines Mill battlefield
SECOND BATTLE OF MANASSAS OR BULL RUN
The Second Battle of Manassas took place some 13 months after the first, on 28/29/30 August 1862.
By this date, the battlegrounds had changed. The Union Army of the Potomac now under McClellan following their defeat at Manassas the previous year had invaded the south by water in an attempt to capture the Confederate capital of Richmond. The Confederates had thus withdrawn the army of Northern Virginia from Manassas and sent it to Richmond in order to confront the Union forces, at places such as Gaines Mill, in what became known as the Peninsula Campaign. This meant that such union forces remaining in the area of Northern Virginia had been able to occupy the city. There was still a substantial Confederate Army in the Shenandoah Valley however that had been threatening Manassas, and the North resolved to push it out.
Once more, there's rather a lot to read about this battle, so I've put it on a separate page to help you navigate around.
The next battlefield, in chronological order, is Chancellorsville. Alternatively, if you are following my journey around the Carolinas and Virginia, you need to pick up the story again at the Bull Run Visitor Centre.
Chancellorsville Battlefield - where Stonewall Jackson was shot
Chancellorsville Battlefield the Stonewall Jackson monument
Chancellorsville Battlefield - the foundry