For those living in South Carolina and Georgia, the Fall of Fort Pulaski was a shock and, perhaps, a wake-up call. Here are some of their reactions, taken from A Scratch with the Rebels.
For the Yankee teachers and missionaries newly arrived on St. Helena Island, their first exposure to the realities of war was frightening. Susan Walker, assigned to Pope's plantation, wrote: "Heavy firing all morning yesterday and commenced again at 10 last evening, still continued till about 2 P.M.—probably cannonading Fort Pulaski 30 miles distant—so heavy as to shake our house. If Sesech gain, we will hang from the highest tree. I look at these tall pines in the grove near my window and wonder which branch will hold me."
On the Confederate side, Mary Chesnut realized how serious the loss was. In her diary, she wrote, "Pulaski fallen! What more is there to fall?"
Emma Holmes, that staunch daughter of the Confederacy, was shocked by the news. On 15 April, she wrote in her diary: "Willie Guerard has just arrived & says that [Fort] Pulaski has really fallen which many doubted. But nothing further is known as none of the garrison have escaped as was reported. We only know that the detested flag of U.S. now waves over it . . . Later, refusing to believe that the Union forces could be stronger than those of the Confederacy, she tried to explain the loss away: "Our men fought gallantly . . . but the fort was in such a dilapidated condition that the walls trembled and tottered."
Confederate soldiers, too, recognized the blow that had befallen the Southern cause. Gus Smythe commented: "No news except for the fall of Pulaski! What a blow to our cause! & on the 12 of April, too [the anniversary of the taking of Fort Sumter]. We are in good spirits, however, on the whole, tho' this bad luck has staggered us somewhat."
Milton Maxcy Leverett admitted that the fall of Pulaski caught him by surprise and blamed it on "treachery or cowardice." He warned his family that the fall of Savannah was now "only a question of time." He had not heard a full explanation of the Federals' use of the new rifled guns, which might have made him even more morose about the outcome. He still thought that the shells had been from mortars, fired into the air "very much like a monkey dropping a cocoanut out of the tree on the ground in order to burst it."