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Title: John Thompson, U.S.A. to Robert Thompson, Co. Londonderry
CollectionIrish Emigration Database
FileThompson, John/5
SenderThompson, John
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationarmy officer (private)
Sender Religionunknown
OriginFort Sumter, S. Carolina, USA
DestinationCo. Derry, N.Ireland
RecipientThompson, Robert
Recipient Gendermale
SourceT1585/1: Presented by Mrs Hawthorne, Co. Tyrone
ArchiveThe Public Record Office, Northern Ireland
Doc. No.9502244
Partial Date
Doc. TypeEMG
LogDocument added by LT, 23:02:1995.
Word Count1078
TranscriptFort Sumter So. Carolina
February 14th 1861

My dear Father
Your letter dated January 11th has been duly received, and
I am exceedingly glad to hear of your welfare. You are anxious you
say in your letter to know all the war, or properly speaking the
rebellion of South Carolina. I shall endeavor [endeavour?] to
describe what has come under my notice. Ever since the election of
President in November last great disatisfaction [dissatisfaction?]
has prevailed in the Slave States, and during December this State
[South Carolina] formally sexceded [seceded?] from the Union, and
openly threatened to take forcible possession of the Forts Arsenals
and other public property in this harbor. This they were certain
could be easily accomplished, as two of the three Forts in this
harbor were without any Garrison, and the third, Fort Moultrie being
garrisoned by only seventy five United States Artillerymen. Certain
of success they vigorously set about warlike preparations, all the
time keeping a very strict watch on the helpless little Garrison of
which I formed a member. Steamboats were nightly set to watch us to
prevent our moving to Sumter, a far more formidable, may I say
almost impregnable work situated directly opposite us, and distant
about a mile. Our Commander [Major Anderson]fortifying himself in
Moultrie, with such unparalleled vigor [vigour?] that our opponents
soon became thoroughly convinced that he intended to make a
desperate stand in the position he then held, and the duty of
watching us was performed with a laxity corresponding to the
strength of their conviction. So completely did our Commander keep
his own counsel, that none in the garrison officer or soldier ever
dreamed that he contemplated a move, until the movement had actually
been made. On the night of the 26th Dec. [December?] shortly after
sun down, we were formed in heavy marching order, and quietly
marched out of Moultrie leaving only a few men behind on Guard, and
embarking on board a number of small boats that were in readiness
were safely landed in Sumter. The consternation of the Carolinians
may be imagined next morning when they observed Fort Moultrie
enveloped in flames and smoke, and at noon saw the Stars and Stripes
proudly waving from the battlements of Fort Sumter. What they
feared, and endeavored [endeavoured?] to prevent, had taken place,
and they had the pleasure of witnessing Uncle Sam's troops in a
position scarcely assailable in any other way than by the slow
process of starvation. During the night of the 26th the men left
behind spiked all the guns, and then set fire to the gun-carriages
etc. at the abandoned Fort and then left it to quietly be taken
possession of by the troops of South Carolina. This they were not
long in doing, they can scale the walls of an occupied Fort with a
gallantry highly commendable. In fact their martial ardour seemed to
have taken a turn in this direction for the same day they assaulted
the remaining empty Fort in the harbor and amid shouts, exultantly
raised their Palmetto flag, to announce their bloodless victory. Of
course they were boiling over to attack Sumter, and tear down the
cursed Stars and Stripes, but of course they haven't done it yet,
and if they do and live it will only be to repent their rash folly
and mourn their loss. Fort Sumter which we now occupy is a five
sided brick work walls from 12 to 5 1/2 feet thick mounting three
tier of the heaviest calibre, and completely surrounded by water. It
is situated on the very edge of the ship channel, so that every
vessel passing in or out of the harbor passes directly under our
guns. In fact, it is the key of the harbor and completely commands
all the other fortifications. Sumter was far from being in a
defensible condition, very few guns were mounted and everything was
in admirable confusion. However we went to work assisted by 50 or 60
laborers [labourers?], and now we can say We are ready. The
Carolinians have been by no means idle all this time however. At the
nearest point of land on Morris Island about 1400 yds. distant they
have constructed very formidable batteries, and are now I may say
just as ready as we are. We are in daily expectation of a
commencement, which must come from them as our orders are to act
strictly on the defensive. That they intend to bombard us is
evident, and that they will attempt to breach this work at its
weakest point is equally sure, but we are sure their attempt will
prove a failure. They may starve us out and harass us meantime by
shelling our position, but we all feel confident that assault if
attempted will prove a signal failure. Inside here we are all thank
God in excellent health and spirits, in fact a more contented lot of
men would be hard to scare up. We are only seventy five in number
and have now only about twenty laborers [labourers?], the rest
having taken their leave of us, no doubt thinking discretion was the
better part of valor [valour?], and we are opposed to at least ten
or twelve thousand Carolinians, our Commissariat scarcely in a
condition to stand a long siege, cut off by the batteries of the
enemy from reinforcement or supplies, depending on them for mail
facilities etc and yet we are confident and contented because we all
see the strength of our position and know that the chivalry of South
Carolina are effectually scared to attack the frowning fortress the
possession of which they so much desire. So matters stand at
present, but how long they may continue so is a mystery.
You need not be in any unnecessary anxiety on my account, for
to tell the truth in spite of all their bluster I am almost sure
they never will fire a shot at us, indeed I think they are only too
glad to be let alone. I am in excellent health, and hope you all are
enjoying that same blessing. At the expiration of my time I shall
doubtless return to see you all and give you an account of America
verbatim. Keep up this correspondence a letter from home is very
refreshing in a place like this. I will endeavor [endeavour?] to
keep you posted when opportunity offers regarding events on this
side Jordan. Give my respects to all my friends and acquaintances,
and believe me
Your affectionate son
John Thompson