A YANKEE GENERAL’S FIXATION
Posted By : manager
Posted : February 28, 2022
By: Mike Thomas
April 1861 found then-Captain John G. Foster as one of the U.S. officers at Fort Sumter when surrendered to Confederate forces. Foster returned to Charleston in May 1864 as a Major-General in command of U.S. troops around Charleston but under strict orders to assume a defensive posture. The U.S. War Department felt it would require “60,000 men three months to take Charles-ton,” and its resources were expected to be stretched in support of the campaigns of Grant in the east and Sher-man in the west. Nevertheless, Foster became intensely fixated on Fort Sumter and planned to capture it.
Foster’s stance was that Sumter simply had not been shelled enough. His viewpoint seems to ignore that the fort had endured about 29,000 heavy shells hurled at it in 2 major and six minor bombardments in less than a year. Shortly after his arrival, he ordered another minor bombardment that sent 220 shells at the fort over seven days.
His guns remained silent again until July 7, 1864, when he initiated the 3rd terrific bombardment. Foster intended to breach and weaken the remaining walls, then bring them down with torpedo rafts exploding close by. In his mind, the Confederate garrison would be forced to evacuate or be captured by a strong follow-up landing force. Over 60 days and nights, heavy Union guns pounded Fort Sumter, firing almost 15,000 shells at her. The bombardment ended on September 4 in complete failure. Sumter remained in Confederate hands. Her indomitable engineers worked wonders in keeping abreast of dam-age, and in the end, the fort was more substantial than before. A final minor bombardment of 570 shells from September 6-18 closed out the heavy shelling.
Foster was much disappointed at the turn of events. He had exhausted his ammunition supply and the war department would not send him a replenishment. Additionally, this heavy bar-rage wore out many of his heavy guns amid the shelling. To get around this, he had to call on the navy to send him “…six 11- inch guns, with officers, crew, and ammunition…” to supplement his bombardment. With a limited ammunition capability, Union guns could do no more than fire intermittently at the fort until Charleston’s evacuation in February 1865.
From August 1863 until her evacuation, Sumter was targeted by an estimated 47,000 heavy shells weighing approximately 3,500 tons [7 million pounds]. Successfully withstanding this unparalleled shelling was an astonishing achievement adequately acknowledged by the “Confederate Defenders” monument on Charleston’s Battery.