Shots at the Star of the West


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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

Below we present a leaf from the January 26, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly. This leaf was printed just as the Civil War was getting underway.  It presents an eye-witness account of the first shots of the Civil War, with South Carolina firing on the Union ship, the Star of the West. This page was created from the original, 140+ year old leaf from the January 26, 1861 edition of Harper's Weekly.




[ JANUARY 26, 1861,


" But tell him the wild wood twinkles green, And waves the tall fir-tree ;

And the hills might keep a shepherd, I ween, That have long kept thee and me, my son, That have long kept thee and me."


Lady Helen she look'd from a window down, Her face shone clear as the light:

"Now who comes walking thro' merry Troy town, A boy full fair to the sight.


"All men may see by his bearing free He comes of a royal race

By the eyes below his forehead of snow,
And the charm of his godlike face."


" 0 lady, I come from Ida hill, In sooth as I you say;

And I would speak with Lord Paris: Fair lady, say me not nay."


" Lo, I will bring thee to Lord Paris, For thou art a comely lad;

And take this mantle thy shoulder upon, I doubt it will make him glad."


She gave him a mantle so bright, so bright, Her hands wove long ago :

" Purdy," she said, " he will love the lad That I have engirded so."


Lord Paris lay in a chamber dark,

Apart from his Grecian wife : He saw the very comeliest lad

He had seen in all his life.


He raised him up from his couch of gold, IIe spoke the boy full fair;

Ay me, and spied the mantle bright That girt his shoulder there.

" Some trifle," quoth he, " she wove long syne For her Grecian husband true ;

And this young lad that wears it now,

He shall it dearly rue."


With that he rushed upon the lad,

He aimed a deadly blow:

The straight young limbs on the floor lay dead, And life's blood ran therefro.


Then up and spake the Lady Helen,

" Lord Paris, now what have you done ? The mantle I wove long sync for you,

And this was your sweet young son."


They told his lone mother on Ida hill, At the setting of the sun :

Never a sigh nor a shriek she utter'd—Of mother's tears there was none.


She looked with no word out over the sea, Then when the day was done

" 0 gods ! come never more help from me To the slayer of my young son!"


They buried the boy by salt-sea shore,

Waves came soothing his sleep ; Lord Paris at eventide wander'd forth,

And laid him down there to weep.


Lame Philoctetes bent his bow

Full well might he see him there lie

Said, " Greet now brave Hector, Lord Paris, below, For this hour thou shalt die."


He smote him right into the traitor heel, Smote him there as he lay

" Now bear me to Ida," said Lord Paris, " With all the speed ye may.


"'The lady CEnone bath cunning and skill, Never leech so mighty as she ;

And if to save me she but will,

This arrow is harmless to me."


But the gods had heard her bitter prayer, Then when the day was done :

And good came never more forth from her To the slayer of her young son.


She look'd on him dying—the shepherd she knew—And then she look'd on him dead :

"A false, false-hearted man he was,

But he was fair," she said.


When the stars began to look out from heaven, A corpse by his side she lay :

And down Scamander two silent ghosts

Simile into the evening gray.


WE publish on page 52 a fine illustration of the firing on the Star of the West from the Morris Island Battery, Harbor of Charleston, on 10th January, 1861. The event was mentioned in our last Number ; and it is only necessary to say here that she was on her way to Fort Sumter with men and supplies for the reinforcement of Major Anderson. The captain of the Star of the West, by name M'Gowan, gives the following account of the event:

"When we arrived about two miles from Fort Moultriefort Sumter being about the same distance—a masked battery on Morris Island, where there was a red Palmetto flag flying, opened fire upon us—distance, about five-eighths of a mile. We had the American flag flying at our flag-staff at the time, and, soon after the first shot, hoisted a large American ensign at the fore. We continued on under the fire of the battery for over ten minutes, several of the shots going clean over us. One passed just clear of the pilot-house. Another passed between the smoke-stack and walking-beams of the engine. Another

struck the ship just abaft the fore-rigging, and stove in the planking; and another came within an ace of carrying away the rudder. At the same time there was a movement of two steamers from near Fort Moultrie—one of them towing a schooner (I presume an armed schooner) —with the intention of cutting us off. Our position now became rather critical, as we had to approach Fort Moultrie to within three-fourths of a mile before we could keep away for Fort Sumter. A steamer approaching us with an armed schooner in tow, and the battery on the Island firing at us all the time, and having no cannon to defend ourselves from the attack of the vessels, we concluded that, to avoid certain capture or destruction, we would endeavor to get to sea. Consequently, we wore round and steamed down the channel, the battery firing upon us until their shot fell short."

A reporter of the Evening Post, who was on board, thus describes the scene:

" On we go; the soldiers are below with loaded muskets, and the officers are ready to give the word if there is anything to do. Now it is broad daylight, and we are making directly into the guns of Fort Moultrie, whose black walls are distinctly visible. The little steamer at our right is burning a signal light aft, and is making all possible head-way up the harbor. Now we discover a red Palmetto flag at our left on Morris Island, a little village called Cummings Point, and apparently but little more than a mile from Fort Sumter.

" 'Is it possible that those fellows have got a battery off here?' asks one.

'' No,' answers another, ' there is no battery there.'

"But there is. It is now a quarter past seven, and we are about two miles from Forts Sumter and Moultrie, which are equidistant from us, and, suddenly, whiz-z! comes a richochet shot from Morris Island. It plunges into the water and skips along, but falls short of our steamer. The line was forward of our bow, and was, of course, an invitation to stop. But we are not ready to accept the proffered hospitality, and the captain pays no attention to it, except to run up the stars and stripes at the mast-head—a garrison flag which was on board. A moment of anxious suspense, and bang! goes a heavy cannon from the same masked battery. The shot falls short of us a hundred yards or more, and bounds clean over our vessel aft, nearly on a line with the head of a sailor, but luckily a little above it.

" On we go, and—whizz ! again goes the smaller gun first fired, and another richochet shot skips along the water and falls short of us.

"' Booh !' exclaims the captain ; ' you must give us bigger guns than that, boys, or you can not hurt us.'

"On we go, without heeding the compliments of our Charleston friends. Another moment and bang! again goes the heavy gun. The ball now strikes our ship in the fore chains, about two feet above the water. A seaman was holding the lead to take the soundings, and the ball struck directly under his feet. It is not surprising that, under the circumstances, Jack was strongly inclined to take to his heels, and he begins to scramble up with might and main, when the captain assures him that there is no danger, one ball having struck so near him; on the principle, I suppose, that lightning never strikes twice in the same place. Jack, reassured, patiently takes his place and drops the lead again.

"The ball, fortunately, was too far spent to go through the side of our vessel, although it left an honorable scar.

The battery continues to play upon us, and a huge ball comes clean over us, near the wheel-house. We are not yet within range of the guns of Fort Moultrie, and yonder is a cutter in tow of a steamboat, preparing to open fire upon us. A moment longer, and we shall be in range of these three batteries. The gunners on Morris Island are growing confident; if they get the right range they will send a shot through our side, scattering death and destruction. Moultrie, directly in front, will bring her heavy guns to bear, and will drive their deadly missiles into our bow, while the cutter will open on our right.

" Why does not Major Anderson open fire upon that battery and save us? We look in vain for help; the American flag flies from Fort Sumter, and the American flag at our bow and stern is fired upon, yet there is not the slightest recognition of our presence from the fort from which we look for protection. The unexpected battery on Morris Island has cut off all hope of escape by running the vessel aground near Sumter and taking to the boats. Is it possible that Fort Sumter has been taken by the South Carolinians? If it has not, why does not Major Anderson show that he will protect us, or at least recognize us in some way ? To go within range of the guns of Fort Moultrie is to expose vessel, men, and stores to almost instant destruction, or to capture by the enemy.

"' Helm out of port!' shouts the Captain, and the Star of the West is turned about without any great loss of time, as you may well imagine. We turn without accident, and steam away, with the stars and stripes still floating, and the battery still playing upon us by way of a parting salute."

A person who was on Morris Island at the time of the firing thus describes the excitement:

"The shots were fired by the Citadel Cadets, under command of Major Stephens, who has thus had the honor, which he so much coveted, of opening the impending conflict. Major Stephens is at the head of the State Military Academy, which occupies the Charleston Citadel. He is apparently about thirty-five years of age, with rather thin black hair, black and heavy beard, and large black eyes. He is about the medium size, of lithe form, with quick, nervous motions. His guns were directed at the steamer with scientific accuracy, and even the shot which failed to strike the ship fell very near her. Her flag was pulled down, and she immediately retreated. She was struck certainly three times, and perhaps five. The last shot which took effect was fired after she had turned to go out. The steamer was seen to shoot forward with a jerk the instant this shot struck her. Two balls were seen to strike her hull; one just forward of her wheel-house, the other upon the larboard quarter."


ON Saturday, January 12, in the Senate, Senator Seward made his great speech on the crisis, expatiating on the injury that would be done to the whole country by the dissolution of the Union, and offering certain concessions, which are given below. The Senate was crowded to hear him, and all the diplomatic corps were present. Nothing of importance was done after he ended.—In the House, Mr. Clark, of Missouri, asked leave to offer a resolution in reference to the reported occupation of the Government buildings at St. Louis by United States troops, and moved a suspension of the rules ; but objections were made, and the resolution was not entertained. The Speaker laid before the House a letter from the Mississippi delegation, announcing their withdrawal from Congress. An attempt was made by Southern members to have their names, and those of the South Carolina delegation, stricken from the roll of the House, but it did not succeed. The Navy Appropriation Bill was then taken up, and a long debate followed a motion to strike out all appropriations, on the ground that the Navy was to be used to make war upon the seceding States. The Southern members announced their intention to defeat appropriations for the Army and Navy, by the usual Parliamentary expedients, until a full

debate could be had. A compromise, however, was finally effected, on an agreement that a three days' debate should take place on the Army Appropriations, and the Navy bill was allowed to pass.

On Monday, 14th, in the Senate, Senator Bigler presented a bill embracing a compromise similar in tenor to Senator Crittenden's. Senator Brown announced that in consequence of the secession of his State he should abstain from taking part in any further proceedings of the Senate. Senator Grimes, of Iowa, asked for information as to any obstructions of the Mississippi by bodies of men. A speech on the political crisis was made by Senator Polk, of Missouri.—In the House, Mr. English, of Indiana, asked leave to offer a resolution instructing the Committee of Thirty-three to report the proposition of Mr. Crittenden for the pacification of the country, but objections were made. Several measures were introduced bearing on the present condition of affairs, which were referred to the Select Committee of five on the President's Message. A resolution was adopted instructing that committee to consider and report as soon as possible upon that portion of the Message which recommends that a vote of the people be taken upon the great questions at issue between the North and South. Mr. Stanton, of Ohio made an effort to appoint today for the consideration of the bill providing for the organization and discipline of the militia of the District of Columbia, but he failed by one vote. The House then went into Committee of the Whole on the Army Appropriation Bill, and the general debate, which was on Saturday agreed to, was commenced by Mr. M'Clernand, of Illinois, who took strong ground against the right of secession, and closed with an appeal to all conservative men to rally to the support of the Constitution and the Union. He was followed by Mr. Cox, of Ohio. Mr. Corwin, of Ohio, presented the majority report of the Committee of Thirty-three; Mr. Taylor, of Louisiana, obtained leave to have the minority report printed, and the House adjourned.

On Tuesday, 15th, in the Senate, a number of memorials were presented urging the passage of the Crittenden resolutions, and they were taken up as the special order. After a short discussion, however, they were laid over to make way for the Pacific Railroad bill, which had also been appointed as a special order. A motion to postpone its consideration indefinitely was defeated—Ayes, 12 ; Nos, 39. Subsequently two other motions to postpone it—one of them made by Senator Crittenden—were defeated, and after considerable debate the Senate adjourned pending a motion by Senator Benjamin, of Louisiana, to amend the section relating to grantees.—In the House, Mr. Harris, of Maryland, presented a petition signed by twelve thousand citizens of Baltimore, irrespective of party, praying for the adoption of Mr. Crittenden's Compromise Resolutions. The House then went into Committee of the Whole on the Army bill, and the general debate on the condition of the country, commenced on Monday, was continued by Messrs. Reagan of Texas, M'Clernand of Illinois, Stanton of Ohio, Crawford, Hill, Love, and Hardeman of Georgia, Rust of Arkansas, Adrain of N. J., and Anderson of Missouri.

On Wednesday, 16th,, in the Senate, a Message was received from the President, explaining the appointment of Mr. Holt to perform the duties of Secretary of War ad interim. Senator Crittenden's resolutions were then taken up, and on motion of Senator Bigler, the Senate voted, '27 to 26, to postpone the consideration of all other business until they were disposed of. Senator Powell's amendment, extending the provisions relative to the Territories to all territory that " may hereafter be acquired," was adopted, 29 to 24. Speeches were made by Senators Simmons and Anthony, of Rhode Island. A vote was taken on a motion to postpone consideration of the resolutions, and take up and fix a day for the consideration of the Kansas Bill, and it failed by a vote of 25 for and 30 against it. The Senate also refused to amend by striking out, the preamble and resolutions, 21 to 20—Senators Benjamin, Slidell, and Wigfall not voting. A motion to lay the resolutions on the table was then carried, and the Senate adjourned pending a motion to reconsider, after a short Executive Session.—In the House, the general debate on the condition of the country was continued. Mr. Cox, of Ohio, presented a series of resolutions, passed by the Legislature of that State, expressing attachment to the Union and declaring against the right of secession. After considerable discussion they were laid on the table and ordered to be printed. Messrs. Garnett of Virginia, Gurley of Ohio, Maynard of Tennessee, Holman of Indiana, and Morris of Illinois, addressed the House on the great questions at issue before the country.

On Thursday, 17th, in the Senate, Senator Hunter called up the Deficiency Bill, which was passed, after being amended in various particulars. The item for the support of the captured Africans was reduced from $900,000 to $450,000. An item was audited for the payment of $300,000 for the establishment of a coaling station for the Navy at Chiriqui. Provision was made for a Bureau of Public Printing. After the Deficiency Bill was disposed of the Senate took up the Pacific Railroad Bill. Various amendments were proposed and voted upon, and several Senators expressed their views for and against the measure. The proceedings were finally interrupted by a motion to go into Executive Session, which prevailed, and the Senate soon afterward adjourned.—In the House, the Senate's joint resolution allowing Commodore Paulding to accept rewards from Nicaragua was reported from the Navy Committee, but objection was made to its consideration, and it was laid over. Mr. Clemens, of Virginia, presented a memorial signed by 28,000 persons in his Congressional District, asking for an adjustment of the Slavery question in the Union. The House, in Committee of the Whole on the Army Bill, then continued the general discussion of the condition of the country, the speakers being Messrs. Thomas of Tennessee, Sickles of New York, Ashley of Ohio, and Perry of Maine.

On Friday, 18th, in the Senate, the Crittenden resolutions were again brought up, and again action upon them, was postponed until Monday. The Pacific Railroad Bill was made the special order for Tuesday. Senator Green, of Missouri, introduced a joint resolution recommending that the several States take immediate steps, by Convention or otherwise, to make propositions for a compromise of the existing difficulties. It was ordered to a second reading. The bill to authorize a loan, to fix the duty on imports, and relative to the outstanding Treasury notes, was made the special order for Wednesday. The Kansas bill then came up as the special order, and the debate on it continued until 2 o'clock, when the Senate went into Executive Session to pass upon the nomination of Mr. Holt as Secretary of War.--In the House, the general debate in Committee of the Whole on the Army bill was concluded, and the bill was passed through the Committee after the failure of a resolution offered by Mr. Burnett, of Kentucky, to the effect that no forces authorized by the bill should be used to subject any seceding State. The principal speech made was by Mr. Sherman, of Ohio, refusing to make any concessions.


In his great speech on Saturday 12th, the concessions which Senator Seward declares his readiness to make are these:

First.—That each Slave State has the right to decide for itself whether the bondsman, made such by its laws, is, within the State, still a man or only property. Second.—That all laws of the States, Free or Slave, which relate to fugitive slaves, or to "persons recently coming from, or resident in other States, which contravene the Constitution, ought to be repealed." This covers the repeal of Personal Liberty laws, coupled with that of all laws in Slave States which improperly restrain the freedom of citizens from other States.

Third.—That he is willing to vote for an amendment to the Constitution, declaring that it shall never be so altered as to confer on Congress the power to abolish or interfere with Slavery in any State.

Fourth.—That he will vote for any properly guarded laws which shall be deemed necessary to prevent invasions of States by citizens of other States, and to punish those who may aid or abet them.

Mr. Seward also declares his disposition, after this disunion movement shall have come to an end, to vote for a Convention to revise the Constitution, on the general principle that its excellence depends on its being a true embodiment of the sentiments and wishes of the people, and that amendments naturally become necessary from time to time for this purpose. He says nothing, however, of the particular amendments growing out of the present crisis, which such a Convention might be expected to make.


On 17th the President vent to the Senate the nomination of Mr. Holt as Secretary of War. It was considered in Executive Session, and, from all accounts, the preliminary discussion was of an exciting character. An effort was made by its opponents to refer it to the Committee on Military Affairs, but this was strenuously and successfully resisted, by the motion of reference being defeated by a vote of 34 against 13. The objection to Mr. Holt by his opponents is that, in their opinion, he is a coercionist, and this some of them openly avow. On 18th Mr. Holt's nomination was confirmed by 38 to 13.

The nomination of Mr. McIntyre as Collector of Customs in the neighborhood of Charleston is still suspended in the Committee of Commerce.


The following letter has been published :

" WASHINGTON, D. C., January 11, 1861. " MY DEAR SIR,—It has not been in my power, as you are aware, to agree with you, and with a majority of your constitutional advisers, in the measures which have been adopted in reference to the present condition of things in South Carolina; nor do I think it at all probable that I shall be able to concur in the views which you entertain, so far as I understand them, touching the authority, under existing laws, to enforce the collection of the customs at the port of Charleston.

" Under such circumstances, after mature consideration, I have concluded that I can not longer continue in your Cabinet without embarrassment to you, and an exposure of myself to the just criticism of those who are acquainted with my opinions upon the subject. I therefore deem it proper to tender my resignation of the commission I now hold as Secretary of the Treasury, to take effect when my successor shall be appointed and qualified. In doing so I avail myself of the occasion to offer you the assurance of the high respect and regard which, personally, I entertain for you, and with which I have the honor to he

" Your friend and obedient servant,

 "PHILIP F. Thomas.




The following is the text of that document: "An Ordinance to dissolve the Union between the State of Mississippi and other States united with her under the compact entitled " The Constitution of the United States of America.'

The people of Mississippi in Convention assembled do ordain and declare, and it is hereby ordained and declared, as follows, to wit:

"Section 1. That all the laws and ordinances by which the said State of Mississippi became a member of the Federal Union of the United States of America be, and the same are hereby repealed; and that all obligations on the part of said State or the people thereof to observe the same be withdrawn, and that the said State shall hereby resume the rights, functions, and powers which by any of said laws and ordinances were conveyed to the Government of the said United States, and is dissolved from all the obligations, restraints, and duties incurred to the said Federal Union, and shall henceforth be a free, sovereign, and independent State.

" Section 2. That so much of the first section of the seventh article of the Constitution of this State as requires members of the Legislature and all officers, legislative and judicial, to take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, be and the same is hereby abrogated and annulled.

"Section 3. That all rights acquired and vested under the Constitution of the United States, or under any net of Congress passed in pursuance thereof, or under any law of this State, and not incompatible with this ordinance, shall remain in force, and have the same effect as if this ordinance had not been passed.

" Section 4. That the people of the State of Mississippi hereby consent to form a Federal Union with such of the States as have seceded or may secede from the Union of the United States of America, upon the basis of the present Constitution of the said United States, except such parts thereof as embrace other portions than such seceding States.

"Adopted. Yeas 84, nays 15."


On Monday, January 14, communication passed between the Governor and Major Anderson. The Legislature passed unanimous resolutions declaring that any attempt to reinforce Fort Sumter would be regarded as an act of war. The Governor sent a Message to the House of Representatives detailing plans for guarding the coast and for the purchase of three steam propellers. He prefers small iron screw propellers of light draft, each propeller to be provided with thirty-two seamen; one propeller to be stationed at Charleston, one at Beaufort, and one at Georgetown; also to fortify all the inlets and months of the rivers with redoubts and ordnance, and for boats to keep up a constant communication between them as a protection against sudden invasion and lawless bands. On Tuesday and Wednesday a bill passed the House staying the collection of all debts due to persons in the non-slaveholding States till after December next. Governor Pickens sent in a Message given below. On Thursday the Military Committee reported in favor of raising more troops, and placing the State on a war footing. The following telegraphic message has been received from Governor Pickens:

"G. B. Lamar, President Bank of the Republic, New York:

"SIR,—Please have it authoritatively published that no flag and no vessel will be disturbed or prevented from entering our harbor unless bearing hostile troops or munitions of war for Fort Sumter.

"All trade is desired, and all vessels in commerce only will be gladly received.   F. W. PICKENS."


The following Message has been sent to the South Carolina Legislature:

" EXECUTIVE OFFICE, January 7, 1881. "To the Members of the Senate and House of Representatives:

"The Convention has passed resolutions authorizing the Governor to raise two regiments of enlisted men—one regiment for a service of twelve months and the other of six months. Under these resolutions, I have commissioned officers from first-lieutenant down to third-lieutenant, and in one instance I have commissioned a captain to raise immediately an artillery company. To make it as little expensive as possible to the State, I have for the present confined myself to the appointment of these officers. Perhaps it may not be necessary to enlist for the second regiment.

"The Convention also, by resolution, authorizes the Governor to call immediately into service companies with their officers, somewhat on the principle of volunteers, and to form them into a regiment by appointing of field-officers. I have made a call of this kind for one regiment at present, and appointed Colonel Maxey Gregg, a brave and able officer, to command it. A portion of this company is in actual position on Sullivan's Island, and other companies for it are rapidly arriving. This regiment is for six months. If as regiment of men enlisted for twelve months be raised, it will require about $200,000 to equip and support it.

"The regiment for six months, tinder Colonel Gregg, will be at an expense of about $100,000. If the other regiment of enlisted men for six months be found necessary, it will be an additional expense of $100,000.

"I therefore most respectfully recommend that some provision be made for the pay and support of these regiments in such manner as the wisdom of the Legislature may adopt. I recommend also that the bill which is before the Legislature, entitled 'a bill for the establishment of a Coast Police for South Carolina; be passed. This, it is supposed, will involve an expense of $150,000.

"The act passed to provide an armed military force may involve an expenditure of $50,000, and provision has been made for raising $400,000 more for the purchase of arms and munitions. These several sums amount to $1,400,000. It is hoped that circumstances may arise which will give a pacific settlement to our difficulties; and if so, every reasonable endeavor shall be made to prevent the expenditure of the whole amount; but the more certain way to produce a pacific turn to events its to be thoroughly prepared to meet any emergency.   F. W. PICKENS. "



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