For those of us who live in Tennessee, the Battle of Shiloh was the most important event of April 1862, but there were even more important battles occurring in the Deep South at the same time.. Here's a partial account of the Fall of Fort Pulaski, taken from my book, A Scratch with the Rebels.
General Hunter turned his attention to Fort Pulaski, which most had believed to be invincible because of its isolated location on Cockspur Island. Even though Federal gun ships managed to cut off all supply lines to the fort, it was prepared to withstand a long siege. It was manned by 385 Georgia troops, with forty-eight cannon and a six-month supply of rations that could have been stretched even further if necessary. Its walls, made of brick and backed by massive masonry piers, were seven-and-a-half feet thick. General James Totten, the U. S. Chief of Engineers, had observed, "You might as well bombard the Rocky Mountains." The nearest landmass from which a bombardment could be mounted was on Tybee Island, well over a mile away from the fort and nearly two miles in some places—a seemingly insurmountable distance for effective cannon fire. In the months leading up to the final battle, Captain Quincy A. Gilmore had erected eleven batteries and installed some thirty-six guns in the marshy terrain of Tybee Island. Several of these were heavy Columbiads that could shake the wall of Fort Pulaski, along with heavy thirteen-inch mortars. But the jewels of his armament were five heavy rifled James guns, ranging from forty-eight pounders to eighty-four pounders, capable of penetrating the massive walls with their new cast-iron lined barrels and conical, powder-filled shells.
. . .
Hunter had been wise enough to adopt Sherman's deployments and to retain Quincy Gillmore to direct the planned bombardment of Fort Pulaski. The attack began at sunrise on 10 April, just as the Roundheads were moving off in the opposite direction. The Union guns were manned by detachments from the 7th Connecticut, the 3rd Rhode Island Artillery, the 46th New York, and the 8h Maine. The strategy so carefully worked out by Sherman and Gillmore proved astonishingly effective. At the end of the first day of the battle, the Union forces could not tell that their efforts had accomplished much, but that was only because they were too far away to see the extend of the damage. Inside the fort, however, the damage was all too evident. Nearly every gun had been dismounted or put out of operation. One whole section of the wall had been chipped away until it was less than half its original thickness. When firing resumed the next morning, the full extent of the destruction was apparent even to the Yankee observers. The inside of the fort itself could be seen from Tybee Island through two large holes in the wall, and shots were now sailing through those holes to land dangerously close to the fort's powder magazines. The eager General Benham planned to lead a direct assault on the fort, but before he had a chance to move, the young Confederate commander, Col. Charles H. Olmstead, raised a white flag of surrender. At 2:00 P.M. on 11 April 11, the "invincible" walls of Fort Pulaski had crumbled, both literally and figuratively.
Tomorrow we'll take a look at some of the southern reactions to this disaster.