By Ronald S. Coddington, featuring an artifact from the Glen Hayes Collection
The Fort Sumter story encompasses two unique moments in time.
On April 12, 1861, the bombardment of the fort and its garrison of U.S. Regulars by military forces in the seceded state of South Carolina inaugurated civil war. Major Robert Anderson surrendered the garrison after a 36-hour artillery assault and, on April 14, marched out with his men and the national flag that had flown above the beleaguered fort.
Anderson later told an acquaintance, “I knew that it would never come down in disgrace.”
He was correct.
Four years later, on April 14, 1865, Anderson, 59, now a retired brigadier general, returned to the ruined fort reoccupied by U.S. forces. In a stirring ceremony, he broke down and cried before proclaiming to the gathering that it had been “the cherished wish of my heart” to restore the flag to its rightful place. “I thank God that I have lived to see this day and to be here to perform this duty to my country,” he stated to great applause. At the conclusion of his remarks, Anderson gripped the halyard and began pulling it, raising the identical flag, with a wreath of evergreens and roses attached, above the fort. Sergeant Peter Hart, who had served in the 1861 garrison and famously reattached the flag after it had been shot down during the original bombardment, assisted his old commander.
The crowd exploded with feeling. “Gen. Anderson could with difficulty restrain his emotions, and whilst some shouted themselves hoarse, others embraced and wept like children,” reported one New York newspaper, The Buffalo Commercial. The columns of newsprint were lined in thick black rules mourning the death of President Abraham Lincoln by an assassin’s bullet.
The flag’s restoration “completed a cycle of time in which has been developed the wonderful energy of a nation of freemen, and in which the world has seen the evidence of a patriotism which has lain upon a nation’s altar immense sacrifices of blood and treasure for its sake,” noted one writer, who continued, “vindication of human rights and popular government against the most formidable attempt to subvert them, belongs to our day and generation. The event of this formal re-occupation of Sumter, will naturally carry the thoughts of the nation back to the beginning of the struggle. No human forecast foresaw in its full magnitude the strife then begun, and all calculations formed upon the records of history, have fallen short of the reality of the past four years.”
At the conclusion of the flag raising ceremony, eyewitnesses, then as today, picked up items left behind and brought them home as souvenirs—proof that they bore witness to history. The collage of artifacts pictured here were artfully arranged on a mount with a descriptive caption: “Some of the leaves & ferns that fell from the boquet on the flag raised in position from where the Confederates made us take it down at Fort Sumpter SC in the Civil War. 1865”
Flanking the relics are two cartes de visite.
One is a portrait of Maj. Anderson by Mathew B. Brady’s New York City gallery. A glass negative of this view is in the National Portrait Gallery. The other is a uncommon scene inside the fort on April 14, 1865, showing the Stars and Stripes attached to two poles decorated with bunting. The same view appears on a stereo card with the imprint of Brooklyn, N.Y., photographer William E. James.
The person or persons responsible for this collage are not known. The back of the page contains a possible clue: a portrait of Robert Carey (1872-1963). A New Jersey native, his father, William (1845-1886) has no Civil War military record.
Carey worked his way through law school as a newspaper reporter, became a county judge, and launched two unsuccessful bids to become the Garden State’s governor on the Democratic ticket. His obituary described him as “a chipper man” who “ate lightly, slept soundly, liked at occasional Manhattan, and avidly tended to his hobbies—stamps and Indian relics.”
References: The Sun, New York City, July 12, 1911; The Buffalo Commercial, April 18, 1865; The Burlington Patriot, Burlington, Kansas, April 15, 1865; The Jersey Journal, Jersey City, N.J., Oct. 7, 1963.
Ronald S. Coddington is Editor and Publisher of MI.
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