First Shot Fired at Sumter

“. . . an incident occurred, which I have never seen recorded, but which seems to me worthy of not. A vessel suddenly appeared through the mist from behind the Bar, a passenger steamer, which was made out to be the Nashville (New York to Charleston). She had no colors set, and as she approached the fleet she refused to show them. Captain Faunce ordered one of the guns manned, and as she came still nearer turned to the gunner. ‘Stop her!’ he said, and a shot went skipping across her bows. Immediately the United States ensign went to her gaff end, and she was allowed to proceed. The Harriet Lane had fired the first shotted gun from the Union side.”
Civil War correspondent, G. S. Osbon
——————
Captain Faunce would record in his memoirs that he fired the first shot of the war for the U.S. Navy and he stated it was on the late morning of April 12th. Also, the Naval O.R. does not record the incident. Also the Union reports in the Naval O.R. makes it sound as if the bombardment was already in play as the ships approached the bar. The Confederate Army O.R. reports the fleet off Charleston well before they started firing on Fort Sumter. The following is the first Union account that contradicts the Union O.R.’s.
——————
“A sailor of fortune”: Personal Memoirs of Captain B. S. Osbon By Albert Bigelow Paine, 1906
But the Harriet Lane proved to be an excellent sea boat, and on the 11th of April we were off Charleston Bar, with all hands eager to learn what our real duties were to be. If I remember rightly, the Pawnee was already there, and perhaps the Baltic and Pocahontas. At all events, we arrived about the same time—all but the three tugs, of which we had been deprived in the heavy storm off Hatteras. We anchored a little closer to the Bar than the others, and Captain Faunce went aboard the Pawnee, the senior ship, to report our arrival, and to arrange for a code of signals which would be unintelligible to the enemy. The sea was still heavy, the sky dark and stormy, and all buoys had been removed from the channels. It was impossible for vessels of any size to go inside the Bar, and as our tugs still failed to appear we were at a loss what to do. As we lay there waiting and undetermined, an incident occurred which I have never seen recorded, but which seems to me worthy of note. A vessel suddenly appeared through the mist from behind the Bar, a passenger steamer, which was made out to be the Nashville. She had no colours set, and as she approached the fleet she refused to show them. Captain Faunce ordered one of the guns manned, and as she came still nearer turned to the gunner.
” Stop her!” he said, and a shot went skipping across her bows.
Immediately the United States ensign went to her gaff end, and she was allowed to proceed. The Harriet Lane had fired the first shotted gun of the war from the Union side. I may here note that the Nashville was subsequently converted into a Confederate privateer, to which we shall have cause to refer again in these papers, and it seems a strange coincidence that I should thus have seen the first shot fired upon her, and was to see the last, which ten months later would send her to the bottom of the sea.
Still at dusk on the evening of the 11th our ill fated tugs had not arrived, and without them our launches were of no avail. Captain Faunce looked out over the gloomy, unmarked channel.
” For God’s sake,” he said, ” I hope they don’t expect us to take these big vessels over the Bar.”
We knew that we had been located by the enemy, for small craft had been scouting around during the evening, returning to the Confederate forts. As for Anderson, it was unlikely that he knew anything of our arrival, or that the enemy would give him either time or opportunity to acquire this knowledge. Night came down, dark, stormy, and ominous.
There was no very sound sleep on any of the vessels. I turned in about midnight, but I was restless and wakeful. At length I was suddenly startled from a doze by a sound that not only wakened me, but brought me to my feet. It was the boom of a gun. From Fort Johnson a fiery shell had described an arc in the night and dropped close to the ill-fated Sumter. A moment later when I reached the deck, Morris Island had opened with a perfect roar of artillery. It was now half-past four in the morning, April 12th, 1861, and the Civil War, which was to continue through four years of the bitterest, bloodiest strife this nation has ever seen, had begun in earnest, at last.”


Read the entire account at http://southernheritageadvancementpreservationeducation.com/e107_plugins/forum/forum_viewtopic.php?2008496.0#post_2009468

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