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A. GRINEVALD, circa 1863*
A. GRINEVALD, circa 1863*

Assault on Fort Sumter, 7 April 1863

A. GRINEVALD, circa 1863*
Assault on Fort Sumter, 7 April 1863
signed l.l. A. Grinevald
oil on canvas
25x34¾in. sight

Lot Essay

If the union of these States, and the liberties of this people, shall be lost, it is but little to any one man of fifty-two years of age, but a great deal to the thirty millions of people who inhabit these United States, and to their posterity in all coming time...

Abraham Lincoln, 11 February 1861 1

The Secession Crisis of 1860-1861 and resulting Civil War of 1861-1865 challenged American loyalties in ways never before experienced in this country. In 1860, most Americans did not understand the concept of "Union" as it is understood today.2 By 1865, over 620,000 Americans had given their lives to its defense or dissolution. On 23 February 1861, barely more than two months after their secession from the Union, the Charleston Courier referred in its masthead to "The Confederate States of America," an important psychic shift in the evolving identity of the South in crisis. In South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union on 20 December 1860 and the site of the war's first battle, almost a quarter of the state's male population was killed in action, with even higher figures including those lost to disease.3

Although the devastation experienced by Americans living during the Civil War remains unmatched, the greater goals of a preserved Union and freedom for America's enslaved African-American population were finally achieved. With the war's conclusion, 10,000 former Confederates left the United States for Cuba, Europe and England, the largest single exodus of Americans from the United States as the result of military engagement until the Vietnam War. While purely conjectural, this painting's appearance in England may well be a function of post-War ex-patriation.

Fort Sumter
Even before P.G.T. Beauregard's Confederate assault on Fort Sumter on 12-13 April 1861, the plight of the Federal soldiers garrisoned there riveted America's attention. Central to the standoff in Charleston Harbor was the historical fact that Forts Sumter and Moultrie, as well as Castle Pinckney, had been state installations handed back to the Federal government early in the 19th century to implement a national coastal defense system. Upon South Carolina's secession, the state resolved to reclaim the forts. Aware of the implications of this demand, the United States government proclaimed the harbor forts Federal property. Initially stationed at less secure Fort Moultrie, Major Robert Anderson, the commanding officer of the Federal troops in Charleston Harbor, was acutely aware of increasing hostility in Charleston to his garrison's presence. In late December 1860 and under cover of night, Anderson slipped his troops to the better-fortified and otherwise empty Fort Sumter. There, denied supplies and reinforcements, the garrison starved, waiting for Charleston to attack.

Fort Sumter assumed enormous symbolic significance for South and North alike. For Charlestonians, it was their fort and their primary defense from sea attack. Sumter's occupation by what Charlestonians perceived as Federal renegades who had stolen their property was a direct threat to the city. To the North, Fort Sumter meant Federal troops held hostage. With Sumter's surrender on 14 April 1861, Charleston's identity was sealed as the heart of secession and rebellion. Americans who had little opinion on the secession issue were galvanized by Confederate shots fired at the American flag.4 The recapture of Fort Sumter became one of the Federal leadership's primary symbolic and strategic objectives; Charleston had to be punished.

By the end of 1862, the Union Army had already twice tried and failed to retake Charleston. Resorting to a less stealthy but more direct assault on the city, Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont was ordered to attack the city on 7 April 1863 armed with nine of the United States Navy's newest prize but untested warships, the ironclads.

Charleston, 7 April 1863
On the day Samuel Du Pont arrived in Charleston Harbor, the Charleston Courier reported news from Chattanooga (where General Bragg's Confederate forces had repulsed several minor skirmishes), riots in Richmond and war updates from Port Hudson and Vicksburg. Corporal W.H. Woodward of Company A, First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers was remembered for being "Among those who have offered their lives a sacrifice at the shrine of Southern liberty." He had survived battle wounds at Richmond, Manassas, Harper's Ferry, Sharpsburg, and Butler's Ford, but not Fredericksburg, where he was killed. Reverend E. H. Buist of Newberry was married to Miss Carrie Sebring of Charleston. Property, including humans, horses and buildings, was advertised for sale.5 The cycle of death, life and commerce continued. The morning of the battle, Samuel Du Pont wrote to this wife,

New Ironsides, 7 April 1863 10:30am.
Precious Sophie,
I sent off half an hour ago a letter written last night. We shall move at twelve and the contest will soon after commence.

The verse today is equally encouraging.6 I feel better physically today than yesterday having slept more last night-but Rodgers did not sleep so well...

Adieu, chérie de mon coeur-que Dieu to protège et bénisse. Ton devoué mari.

P.S. Do all you can for Rodgers children if he falls.7

The Union Assault
Du Pont's orders for battle were simple. Eight monitor-class ironclads and his own larger twenty gun ironclad, the New Ironsides, were to steam up the main shipping channel of Charleston Harbor, where they were to open fire on Fort Sumter. After leveling the fort, Du Pont was to continue to Charleston, firing on the city's additional harbor installations en route. Leading the eight ironclads was the Weehawken, commanded by Du Pont's long time friend, John Rodgers, followed by the Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, Catskill, Nantucket, Nahant, and Keokuk , with the New Ironsides in the middle.

Upon entering the harbor, the Weehawken quickly discovered the channel had been obstructed by Beauregard's forces with pilings and casks. Unbeknownst to the fleet, the harbor had also been seeded with underwater mines, all of whose detonators malfunctioned during the battle. Du Pont's battle line immediately fell into disarray. The pilot of the New Ironsides panicked, and the ship quickly ran aground and was out of the battle. Difficulties beset the entire fleet and many of their gun turrets jammed. Of the Union vessels that entered the harbor that day, Confederate shells tore the bolts off the Nahant, killing its quartermaster and knocking unconscious its pilot; the deck of the Weehawken was blown off; and the pilot house of the Passaic was virtually destroyed. The Keokuk , the last ironclad to enter the harbor, was the only vessel to come in range of Fort Sumter. Although her guns did relatively little damage to the fort, Sumter's cannons fired ninety point-blank hits into the double-turreted ironclad. Within five hours, Du Pont called off his fleet. The Keokuk sank that night. Since Confederate guns had fired 2,209 rounds at the Union armada, the loss of only one ship was remarkable. Du Pont wrote to his wife the next day, "We have failed, as I felt sure we would."8

The following morning, the Charleston Courier described the battle,
...At three P.M. the action was opened, by Fort Moultrie firing the first gun. Fort Sumter opened ten minutes later, Battery Bee, Forts Wagner and Beauregard, and the Battery at Cummins' Point, also opened, firing by battery. The fleet fired with great rapidity; our Forts and Batteries replied with spirit and singular accuracy...

About forty-five minutes after the engagement began, steam was seen issuing, in dense volumes, from the Ironsides, and she withdrew from the action, taking position to the South of Fort Sumter but remaining a silent spectator of the exciting scene. It is believed she was seriously damaged...9

In addition to the Charleston Courier lauding General Beauregard for his defense of their city, the commanding officers of Forts Sumter and Moultrie, Colonels Rhett and Butler, were also acknowledged for their particular bravery. Three days after the battle had ended, the Charleston Courier noted of the Keokuk, "...this redoubtable monster, which now lies off Morris' Island, with only a portion of her turrets visible, will be...remembered with great pleasure..."10

Grinevald's painting illustrated here shows the double-turreted Keokuk, below right of Fort Sumter, which centers the canvas, and seven of the eight other ironclads present that day. Painted as if from the roof of Moultrie House, the famous hotel on Sullivan's Island where Charlestonians used to socialize when visiting the forts, Grinevald also included Fort Moultrie, at the lower right. The Confederate and Palmetto flags wave from Fort Moultrie as its guns fire toward the ironclads and smoke from Battery Bee wafts from behind. Visible across the harbor from Fort Sumter toward James Island are the sunken piles that impeded Du Pont's passage. Cannon smoke, possibly from Battery Gregg on Morris Island or more likely Fort Johnson on James Island, appears on the left. Out of range and in the safety of the inner harbor on the right of the canvas, Grinevald depicted Castle Pinckney and the Charleston waterfront.

Although little known today, A. Grinevald was an artist known to Charlestonians. Grinevald advertised a panoramic view of Charleston Harbor to South Carolina Secession Convention members and patriots in 1861, a mere six days before the start of the war:

Mr. GRINEVALD, at the request of members of the Convention, has been induced to have photographs prepared from [View of Charleston Harbor], and no doubt every member who enjoyed Gen. BEAUREGARD'S invitation, will be pleased to procure a copy as a memorial of their agreeable excursion to the forts...
Charleston Courier, 6 April 1861 11

Grinevald emigrated from Germany probably in the 1840s and settled in Charleston and Columbia, South Carolina. In addition to his advertisement in the Courier, Grinevald was on friendly terms with many of South Carolina's Confederate elite, including Dr. Gibbes, the Surgeon General of South Carolina, for whom he produced a watercolor landscape.12 Grinevald appears in the 1859 Columbia City Directory and the 1860 Charleston City Directory. Although not explicitly appearing in any Federal Census for either 1850, 1860 or 1870, an "A. Grindell," possibly a phonetic mis-spelling of the artist's name, does appear in the 1850 South Carolina Census. Listed in St. Phillips and St. Michael's Parish, an area of Charleston, Grindell was a 29-year old born in Germany and living in the household of C. Leo Grindell. He is also listed as a white smith. Seven months after advertising his View of Charleston Harbor, Grinevald reported for duty as a private in Company F, 16th Regiment South Carolina Militia in November 1861. If Grindell is Grinevald, his age in 1850 would make him 40 in 1861, a viable age for service in the state militia, and exempt from army service given the eventual age requirements of the Confederate Army (18-35 years old). Headquartered in Charleston, the 16th Regiment South Carolina Militia provided important support for the Confederate Army. By performing security and surveillance duties for areas of the city important to the war, such as the local arsenal and train station, units such as the 16th Regiment South Carolina Militia allowed the army to focus on its battle fronts.13

In addition to this oil on canvas and the watercolor made for Dr. Gibbes, an oil and colored crayon on paper landscape, View of the Congaree River is in the Columbia Museum of Art.14

Until 1863, Rear Admiral Samuel Du Pont's career in the navy had been a series of repeated successes. At the outset of the Civil War, he was the best known and most respected officer in the United States Navy. Du Pont's reservations regarding both an assault on Charleston un-assisted by the army and almost exclusive use of the relatively un-tested new technology, the ironclads, is well documented in his correspondence. Despite this, Navy Secretary Gideon Welles and First Asst. Navy Secretary Gustavus Vasa Fox placed the responsibility for the failure of the United States' naval assault on Charleston entirely on Du Pont. The defeat and resultant damage to Du Pont's reputation destroyed his career. After a long illness contracted in March 1865, Du Pont died in Philadelphia on 23 June 1865.

On 14 April 1865, a few days after Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, four years to the day after Anderson's surrender to Beauregard and 105 weeks after Du Pont's defeat, a ceremony was held in Charleston and at Fort Sumter to re-raise the Union flag over the remains of the fort where the war began. The same flag that survived the original assault was re-hoisted by now Brigadier General Robert Anderson, who came out of retirement and spoke to the gathered crowd. That night, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.15

For Footnotes and Bibliography, please see pages 123-124 of this catalogue.

1 Abraham Lincoln reply to Oliver P. Morton, 11 February 1861. Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953, 1990), vol. 4. p. 194.

2 David Detzer, Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War. (New York: Harcourt, 2001), pp. 11, 66.

3 Battle casualties from http://www.researchonline.net/sccw/scunits.htm
4 Detzer, p. 284.

5 Charleston Courier, 7 April 1863, front page.

6 John D. Hayes, ed. Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection from his Civil War Letters. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press printed for the Eleutherian Mills, 1969), v. 2, p. 553. The verse referred to is ISAIAH 59:19

So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

7 Ibid. John Rodgers, the commanding officer of the Weehawken, was a long time friend of Du Pont's from the outset of SFDP's naval career.
8 Hayes, v. 3, p. 3

9 Charleston Courier, 8 April 1863, p. 2.

10 Ibid, 10 April 1863, p. 2.

11 Anna Wells Rutledge, Artists in the Life of Charleston, Through Colony and State from Restoration to Reconstruction. (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1949), p.170.

12 Christie's gratefully acknowledges the research of Sumpter Priddy, Sumpter Priddy Antiques, Inc., Alexandria, Virginia, providing the life information, circle and known works of A. Grinevald.

13 Christie's gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Patrick McCawley, Department of Archives and History, South Carolina State Archives Inc., in providing the city directory information, census information, military records and likely service of A. Grinevald.

14 Ibid, regarding additional works by Grinevald in museum collections.
15 Detzer, p. 319-320.

Charleston Daily Courier. Charleston: A.S. Willington, 1861-1865.

Davis, William C., ed. A Fire-Eater Remembers: The Confederate Memoir of Robert Barnwell Rhett. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2000.

Detzer, David. Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War. New York: Harcourt, Inc., 2001.

French, J. Clement. The Trip of the Steamer Oceanus to Fort Sumter and Charleston, S.C. Comprising the programme of exercises at the re-raising of the flag over the ruins of Fort Sumter, April 14th, 1865. Brooklyn: The Union Steam Printing House, 1865.

Foote, Shelby. "Du Pont Storms Charleston," American Heritage, 1963, pp. 28-34.

Hayes, John D., ed. Samuel Francis Du Pont: A Selection of his Civil War Letters. vols. 1-3. Ithaca, NY: Published for the Eleutherian Mills, 1969.

Merrill, James. Du Pont, The Making of an Admiral: A Biography of Samuel Francis Du Pont. New York: Dodd, Meade, 1986.

Rutledge, Anna Wells. Artists in the Life of Charleston, Through Colony and State from Restoration to Reconstruction. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1949.


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