Lieutenant Snyder is directed to give your excellency a detail of the statement made to him yesterday by the captain of the schooner which was fired upon by the batteries on Morris Island. I regret very much that there were no boats to warn her, or to give her instructions as to the course of conduct she would have to pursue in entering the harbor, and I regret, too, that the firing was continued after she had turned and was attempting to leave the harbor. Believing that the fortunate issue of this affair, without injury or loss of life, was providential, and still hoping that God will so direct the counsels of all in authority that we shall soon be relieved from our unpleasant position,
I have the honor to remain, with sincere regard, your obedient servant,
Major, U. S. Army, Commanding.
FORT SUMTER, S. C., April 4, 1861.
General JOS. G. TOTTEN,
Chief Engineer U. S. Army, Washington, D. C.:
GENERAL: The permit for my men* to leave did not arrive yesterday, and I have put them at work again until it does arrive.
Yesterday, at about 2 o'clock, the batteries on Morris Island commenced firing at a schooner that was entering the harbor when she was about up with the channel buoy (channel buoy Numbers 3, Coast Survey Chart of 1858), or about one mile from this fort.
The first shots were fired in front of her, and the subsequent ones directly at her. The schooner hoisted the American flag. After receiving a few shots the turned about to run out through the Swash Channel. After a few more shots she lowered the American flag, but stood on her course until nearly or quite out of range of the guns of the batteries, when she came to and anchored. The batteries on Morris Island continued firing at her-at least, one of them did-until she anchored. Major Anderson sent a boat with Captain Seymour and Lieutenant Snyder to ask the reasons for the firing from the commanding officer on Merris Island, and also to obtain permission to board the vessel and ascertain her condition, object of visit, &c.
The main points of the reports of these officers upon their return were, that the officer in command of Morris Island, Colonel Wilmot De Saussure, acted by orders from his Government, one of which was to force a vessel to show her colors by firing across her bows, and another to fire on any vessel attempting to enter with the American flag flying.
The vessel was ascertained to be the Rhoda H. Shannon, from Boston to Savannah, loaded with ice. She was a schooner of 180 tons burden.
Her captain was an ignorant man, and, owing to thick weather and making a mistake in his reckoning, mistook this harbor for the one to which he was bound. He did not know what they wanted him to do.
None of the shots struck his vessel, and only one struck anything about the vessel, and that passed through one of his sails, about two feet above the boom.
I obtained more important information through Lieutenant Snyder of the channel batteries than I possessed before.
In the short time before this letter is to go I can only say that all the
*Thirty discharged employes.