The Prayer at Fort Sumter


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, January 26, 1861

Other Pages from this Newspaper Include:

Fortress Moultrie | First Shot of the Civil War |  

Civil War Pictures of Fort Moultrie |  

Shots at the Star of the West | 

Civil War Illustration of Fort Sumter |  

The Guns of Fort Sumter | 

Charleston During the Civil War  | 

Civil War Charleston Story |  Civil War Scenes of Fort Sumter

More Civil War News

In order to allow you to see the major events of the Civil War unfold just as the people living at the time, we present original Harper's Weekly articles in their entirety.  Below we present the cover leaf of the January 26, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.  We have digitized an image of the original leaf, and have converted it to readable text.  We acquired the original, 140 year old newspaper for the purpose of permanently archiving it on this WEB site, for your research and perusal.  If you would like to acquire the original 140 year old leaf used to create this page, we are making it available to you for a price of $165. Your purchase of this piece allows us to continue to expand the resources on this site.  For more information contact



VOL. V.—No. 213.]



Entered according to Act of Congress, in the Year 1861, by Harper & Brothers, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of New York.


WE publish herewith an illustration of one of the most striking scenes in the present national crisis—we may say in the history of the nation. The scene is described in a letter from Fort Sumter.

It is known that, on leaving Fort Moaltrie, Major Anderson brought away with him

the flag which he had been in the habit of hoisting over that fort. He entered Sumter on the night of 26–27th Dec., and determined to hoist the flag at noon on 27th. We give the scene in the words of an eye-witness :

" A short time before noon Major Anderson assembled the whole of his little force, with the workmen employed on the fort, around the foot of the flag-staff. The national ensign was attached to the cord, and Major Anderson, holding the end of the lines in his hands, knelt reverently down. The officers, soldiers, and men clustered around, many of them on their knees, all deeply impressed with the solemnity of the scene. The chaplain made an earnest prayer—such an appeal for support, encouragement, and mercy, as one would make who felt that ' Man's extremity is God's opportunity.' As the earnest, solemn words of the speaker ceased, and the men responded Amen with a fervency that perhaps they had never before experienced, Major Anderson drew the ' Star Spangled Banner' up to the top of the staff, the band broke tut with the national air of 'Hail Columbia,' and loud and exultant cheers, repeated again and again, were given by the officers, soldiers, and workmen. ' If,' said the narrator, ' South Carolina had at that moment attacked the fort, there would have been no hesitation upon the part of any man within it about defending that flag.'"


BY the kindness of two officers of Major Anderson's command, who forwarded sketches to us by Lieutenant Talbot on his recent mission to Washington, we are enabled to lay before our readers, in this Number, a complete series of illustrations of Fort Sumter, the work toward which every eye in the country is now directed. We publish on page 56 an exterior view of Sumter; on page 57 a large engraving of the great battery of Fort Sumter; and on page 60 several views of the interior of the work. All of these, as we stated, are from pictures drawn, within a day or two, by officers of Major Anderson's command.

The following description of the fort is from high authority : " Fort Sumter is a modern truncated pentagonal fort, built upon an artificial island at the mouth of Charleston harbor, three and three-eighths miles distant from the city of Charleston. The island has for its base a sand and mud bank, with a superstructure, if we may so term it, of the refuse chips from several Northern granite quarries. These rocks are firmly imbedded in the sand, and upon them the present fortification is reared. The island itself cost half a million of dollars, and was ten years in construction. The fortification cost another half a million dollars, and at the time of its occupancy by Major Anderson was so nearly completed as to admit the introduction of its armament. The walls are of solid brick and concrete masonry, built close to the edge of the water and without a berme.

They are sixty feet high and from eight to twelve feet in thickness, and are pierced for three tiers of guns on the north, east, and west exterior sides. its weakest point. is on the south side, of which the masonry is not only weaker than that of the other sides, but it is not protected by any flank fire, which would sweep the wharf. Once landed, an entrance

may, at the present state of the construction, be easily made ; for the blinds of the lower embrasures, though six inches in thickness, may yet be easily blown away, and even if this was impossible, sealing ladders can reach those of the second tier, which are not protected in this manner.

" The work is designed for an armament of one

hundred and forty pieces of ordnance of all calibers. Two tiers of the guns are under bomb-proof casements, and the third or upper tier open, or, in military parlance, en barbette ; the lower tier for fortytwo-pounder Paixhan guns; the second tier for eight and ten inch Columbiads, for throwing solid or hollow shot, and the upper tier for mortars and

twenty-four-pound guns. The full armament of the fort, however, had not arrived there when Major Anderson took possession ; but since its occupancy by the present garrison no efforts have been spared to place the work in an efficient state of defense, by mounting all the available guns and placing them in salient points. As we before

marked, the full armament of the fort is not in position, as only seventy-five of the one hundred and forty guns required for it are now mounted. Eleven Paixhan guns are among that number—nine of them commanding Fort Moultrie, which is within easy range, and the other two pointing toward Castle Pinckney, which is well out of

range. Some of the Columbiads, the most effective weapon for siege or defensive operations, are not mounted. Four of the thirty-two-pounder barbette guns are on pivot carriages, which gives them the entire range of the horizon, and others have a horizontal sweep of fire of 180 degrees. In addition to these weightier preparations for defense, the

walls are pierced every where for muskets, of which there are endless numbers ready and loaded. The magazine contains seven hundred barrels of gunpowder and an ample supply of shot, powder, and shells for one year's siege, and a large amount of miscellaneous artillery stores. The garrison is amply sup. plied with water from artificial wells, which are supplied by the frequent showers of rain.

"In a defensive or strategical point of view, Fort Sumter radiates its fire through all the channels from the sea approach to Charleston, and has a full sweep of range in its rear, or city side. The fort is sufficiently out of range from a land artillery attack, se that all apprehensions for breaching it from that source may be put at rest. The maximum range of the guns from Sumter is three miles; but for accurate firing, sufficient to hull a vessel, the distance would require to be reduced one-half of that figure. The war garrison of the fort is six hundred men, but only seventy-nine of that number are within its walls."

Some military men have communicated to the herald a plan for taking Fort Sumter, which is likely to he adopted by the South Carolinians in the event of an attack. The Herald says :

"The question so often mooted, Is Fort Sumter impregnable against any attack that may be made by the South Carolina troops? We answer emphatically in the negative. In making this statement we have the opinion of an officer who has served twenty-seven years in the American army, who says the work can be carried by an assault on the south or gorge side of the fort—its weakest point—and thus force the main gateway entrance to the work, and by attacks with smaller detachments effecting an entrance through open embrasures of the fort, at which no guns are mounted. The attack would no doubt be made just before daybreak, so that the movements of the assailants would be covered by darkness. At all events, the only obstacle to the approach of a flotilla from Charleston would be exposure to the fire of a few barbette guns; and if the attacking force should be so fortunate as to gain a position within one-half a mile of the fort these guns could not be depressed enough to keep the assailants in short range; hence the defense of the fort would depend upon the musketry of the garrison, and, when the assailants shall approach near the walls of the fort, to complete the defense with hand-grenades and shells dropped from the ramparts. That the assault of Fort Sumter is fully planned we have not the slightest doubt ; and that that attack, when it shall be put into execution, will be made upon the most scientific and strategical principles."

The same authority gives us the following about Columbiad guns: "Many persons are under the impression that cannon of very large size, such as those with which Fort Sumter is armed, can do great damage at a distance of four or five miles ; but such is not the fact, as ascertained by actual experiment by the United States Board of Ordnance. Commander Dahlgren, in his work on heavy artillery, has given the result. The furthest range of a hundred-pound shell, even at an elevation of thirty-five degrees given to the gun, is 4828 yards; the time of flight being thirty-five seconds. The great twelve-inch Columbiad, the largest gun made, loaded with twenty-five pounds of powder. a shell of 172 pounds, and the

piece at an elevation of thirty-five degrees, has made a range only of 5409 yards, the projectile occupying thirty-two seconds in its flight. By increasing the elevation to thirty-nine degrees, only 100 yards more was gained in the range. From the same gun, with a charge of powder twenty-eight pounds, a shell of 180 pounds, and an elevation of thirty-five degrees, a range of 5671 yards has been attained; and at an elevation of thirty-nine degrees, a (Next Page)


Major Anderson's Prayer at Fort Sumter



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