Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Nutmeg and bad shots: 3 tidbits about the victorious Federal siege of Fort Pulaski

Damage from Union artillery (Picket photo)

Today marks the 155th anniversary of the surrender of Fort Pulaski to Federal troops who laid siege on Cockspur Island east of Savannah, Ga. Once considered nearly invincible, this brick fortification fell to rifled artillery that began bombarding the Confederate garrison the day before. Col. Charles Olmstead, knowing the breach left his troops vulnerable to an infantry assault, surrendered after 2 p.m. on April 11. The Picket asked Joel Cadoff, spokesman and chief of interpretation at Fort Pulaski National Monument, to share some little-known facts about the 1862 siege.

1. When Maj. Gen. David Hunter's surrender demand was rejected, he sent the message: "The General sends his compliments and desires you to open the ball at once."  The siege began at 8:15 a.m. on Thursday, April 10, 1862, and the first shot fired was a shell from a 13-inch seacoast mortar in Batter Halleck on Tybee Island. A member of the 7th Connecticut Infantry chalked on the shell, "A nutmeg from Connecticut; can you furnish a grater?"

Quincy A. Gillmore
2. While there were 10 rifled cannon utilized by the Federals on Tybee Island. There were two rifled cannon utilized at Fort Pulaski by the Confederate garrison. In November 1861, a blockade runner, Fingal, later turned into the CSS Atlanta, brought in materials and supplies included Enfield muskets and two 24-pounder Blakely rifled cannon. Those two cannon would be emplaced at Fort Pulaski for the battle.

3. Members of the 46th New York Infantry manned the rifled guns of Battery Sigel. The regiment’s commander, Col. Rudolph Rosa disregarded his firing instructions and mounted the parapet. He drew his sword and directed all six guns to fire in a volley. He continued to do this, much to acting Brig. Gen. Quincy Gillmore's chagrin. The 46th New York "was making bad work of it," and Rosa was ordered away. When the men of the 46th refused to work their guns, they were replaced by sailors from the USS Wabash.   

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