Second. Small boats, intended to be employed that night for the transportation of troops to and from Morris Island could not be used, the navy failing to furnish their accustomed aid, on account of an expected attack.
Third. The steamer Sumter, with the relief troops on board, and succeeded in running almost directly from Fort Johnson to Cumming's Point, but on returning, the tide being low, was compelled to change her course and to follow the channel around the Cumming's Point buoy.
Fourth. Strict orders had been issued from district headquarters, enjoying upon both officers and men extra vigilance against any attempt of the enemy to pass our batteries under cover of night.
Fifth. The steamer had left the Cumming's Point landing, without giving any notice either to Sumter or Moultrie of her intention of rounding Cumming's Point buoy.
Sixth. She was approaching from the very direction of the enemy's fleet, from which several monitors had been seen previously to come.
Seventh. The steamer had no light displayed, and it was reasonable to suppose here one of the enemy's fleet, in view of the expectation that they would attempt to enter the harbor by this very channel.
It was acting upon this suspicion, or belief, that the commanding officer of Moultrie opened his batteries upon, what seemed to him, a vessel of the enemy. The statements made by the officers of Moultrie (see Exhibits A, C, D, E, F, G, H, &c.*) show that no fault lies with them. They did not hear the whistle of the steamer; they saw but a dim light, which was soon put out; and the lights on Battery Gregg and Fort Sumter were only displayed when the steamer had already been fired into several times. Lieutenant-Colonel Dantzler, then on the steamer, and in command of the Twentieth South Carolina (see Exhibit B+), says that the whistle was blown, but neither clearly nor loudly; and he doubts whether it could have been heard on the island amid the roaring of the guns. The officers at the fort did not hear it. True it is that Private A. J. Brock, Company E, Twentieth South Carolina, on detached service in the commissary department, says he saw a light, heard something like a whistle, and also the hallowing of men; but he said nothing to any of the officers at the batteries, and did not even leave the commissary house. Corporal [James A.] Bigby, of the same company and regiment, saw the same light and heard the same whistle; but he also was silent, and only knew of the fatal result the next morning. Private [J. N.] Corbett, of Company G, Twentieth South Carolina Regiment, on detached service at quartermaster's department, saw a boat coming, but thought it was a monitor; saw a light after the firing had commenced, but heard no sounds. The cry of distress, he says, was distinctly heard by several persons on the island, but, as the belief was that it came from a boat belonging to the enemy's fleet, no further notice of it was taken by him or others. In ordinary circumstances, and in the absence of all orders as to the intention of the enemy to effect a passage that night in the harbor, it is more than likely that the officers in command at Moultrie would have been less precipitate and less excited, and would not have opened their fire as soon as they did.
But, on the other hand, excess of prudence under the existing circumstances might have led to a far greater disaster than that which has befallen us, and, to the utter shame of the Moultrie garrison, a
*Exhibits printed as inclosures, following.
+See p. 695.