Fort Pulaski with Huge, Gaping Holes Surrenders! Some Yankees Spy a Train

April 11, 1862 (Friday)

Fort Pulaski

Just after dawn, the Confederate and Union guns in and opposing Fort Pulaski opened upon each other once again. The duel of the previous day had yielded some promising results for the Federals, breaching one of the walls of the Rebel fort. This morning, however, the Confederate gunners were firing with much greater accuracy and rapidity, perhaps knowing that they had to do everything in their power to hold the fort.

Whatever accuracy the Rebels could bring to the fight was met with a similar precision by Union gunners. The breach in the nine-foot thick walls was targeted and enlarged to nearly ten square feet, and another breach was started, and the projectiles picked away at the mortar. By noon, after five hours, the entire wall collapsed. An adjoining wall soon followed, allowing the shots and shells to pass directly into the fort.

It seemed inevitable that soon the entire southeastern portion of the fort would be disintegrated, allowing the infantry to easily storm the works. Boats and scaling ladders were readied for the purpose, though it wasn’t supposed that any attempt would be made until two additional days of bombardments.

Map of the action.

Such an inevitability must have been obvious to the Rebels as well. Around 2pm, with their fort in shambles, a white flag was hoisted above the parapet, as the Confederate flag was slowly grounded.

The firing was ceased and the terms demanding the surrender of the garrison and all of the weapons were prepared for delivery. Union General Quincy Gillmore, who had first conceived of reducing Fort Polaski with the use of new rifled guns, took a small boat to the fort to accept the surrender.1

The terms were unconditional surrender. The garrison was taken prisoner, but allowed to take with them personal items, though not side arms. The officers were sent north, while the soldiers were paroled. Fort Pulaski contained forty-seven guns, ample ammunition, 40,000 barrels of gunpowder, and abundant supplies, all of which fell into Union hands.

Wide shot of the fort.

The fall of a fort was nothing new. But the expeditious fall of such a fort as Pulaski was surprising. Three years earlier, before the use of rifled guns, it would have been impossible to take it in but a day and a half of shelling. General Gillmore, and other officers, realized that, just as the battle of the Monitor and Virginia had signaled a new beginning in naval warfare, so did the fall of Pulaski symbolize the future of artillery and fortifications.

Gillmore was most impressed with the 42-lbs. James rifle, which fired an eighty-four pound solid shot. These shots penetrated the wall of the fort twenty-six times during the short bombardment. Two lighter James rifles also performed well. This was all new information, and Gillmore went on for pages in his report, musing over the results, with suggestions how to make the rifled guns even more effective. If he could do it all again, pondered Gillmore, “the eight weeks of laborious preparation for its reduction could have been curtailed to one week, as heavy mortars and columbiads would have been omitted from the armament of the batteries as unsuitable for breaching at long ranges.” From here on out, when it came to bombarding forts, Gillmore wanted only rifled guns, like the James and Parrott. 2

Though the Union would hold Fort Pulaski through the end of the war, no attempt would soon be made to take Savannah, only fourteen miles up river. Its fall did, however, close its port.

32 lbs James Rifle in the foreground. The 42 lbs just above it.


Andrews and His Raiders About to Strike!

The Union spy, James Andrews, had concocted a plan to steal a locomotive on a Confederate-held railroad, drive it north, burning bridges as he went. He had approached General Ormsby Mitchel, commanding near Shelbyville, Tennessee, who not only approved the plan, but helped in its finer details. If successful, it would leave the door open to Memphis. The raid was to happen on April 11, and Mitchel agreed to capture Huntsville, Alabama on the same day as the raid, with designs then upon Chattanooga.

The General

In the five days that had passed since Andrews and Mitchel talked, twenty-three men, mostly soldiers from Ohio regiments (though one was a civilian), had been selected to take part in the raid. They split up, planning to meet in Marietta, Georgia, 200 miles south, on April 10. Traveling such a distance in four days was quite a feat, especially considering that the first ninety had to be on foot.

Most traveled in groups of two or three. They had changed from their uniforms into civilian clothes, most claiming to be recruits headed for Southern armies. They lathered thick “Kaintuck” drawls over their Ohio accents. “We’re bound fo’ Geo’gia, sir,” one of the raiders told a Confederate picket, “to Ma’ietta, Geo’ria, sir, to jine the Confede’ate a’my.” They had come from “Kaintucky, sir, left thar to git rid o’ Yankess rule, sir.” Andrews himself rode a horse, so as to travel ahead of the group, making preparations for the heist.

Two of the raiders were captured by Rebels. Rather, they were questioned, and coaxed into the Confederate Army. The picket, who didn’t believe that two boys from “Kaintuck” would travel to Georgia to “jine the Confede’ate a’my,” when there were plenty of fine Rebel units nearby. They were placed in an artillery company defending Chattanooga.

The raid was supposed to begin on the 11th, but on the 9th, Andrews decided that due to the deluge of rain, Mitchel and his division would probably be delayed a day, and so he postponed his adventure for twenty-four hours.

Meanwhile, General Mitchel and his division had trudged through the mud, wind and rain like it was nothing. Huntsville was his at dawn on the 11th. Mitchel seized the post office, telegraph office, fifteen locomotives, whatever rolling stock was at the station and several hundred Rebels. He now waited for Andrews and his crew to arrive on the stolen locomotive, bridges burned behind them.

Engineer E. Jefferson Cain

But Andrews had delayed his mission by a day, and the raiders were merely in Chattanooga, boarding a train south to Marietta as Mitchel took Huntsville. Around midnight, they arrived in Marietta, taking up quarters at a hotel run by Henry Cole, a New Yorker and fellow Union spy.

As the Union raiders slept, in Atlanta, engineer E. Jefferson Cain and fireman Andrew Anderson, readied their engine, the General, for her morning run on the Western & Atlantic. Tagging along would be foreman, Anthony Murphy. Ironically, both Cain and Murphy hailed from Pennsylvania, coming south in 1854 and 1857, respectively. The General was scheduled to disembark at 4am, making the 138-mile trip to Chattanooga in a little less than twelve hours.

The first stop after Marietta was the station at Big Shanty. This is where Andrews and his raiders would make their move. But for the time being, the engineer and fireman readied the General, as the Union men caught a few short hours of sleep.3

  1. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p136-137; 159. []
  2. Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 6, p134; 163-165. []
  3. Stealing the General by Russell S. Bonds, Westholme Publishing, 2007. []
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Fort Pulaski with Huge, Gaping Holes Surrenders! Some Yankees Spy a Train by CW DG is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International


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