Who was Turner anyway?

Who was Turner anyway?

Click on this image to find out who Turner was.

Field Musicians Wanted!

A Turner Bugler, 2004

Click on this image to learn about opportunities as a bugler, fifer or drummer with the Turner Brigade.

The Arrival and Departure of the Star of the West.


January/February 1861

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, January 16, 1861.





[From the Charleston Courier, 10th.]

After a night of expectancy and anxiety, yesterday morning was ushered upon us pregnant with events that may in all probability result in either a total cessation of all our troubles, or lead to the disastrous effects of a long, bloody and determined contest.  That the spirit of our troops, or our leaders, and indeed our whole population, is thoroughly aroused, all have seen.  The promptness and celerity of action on the part of the patriotic military with which we are surrounded, gives a feeling of universal confidence and security, that will result most beneficially in any event.  If we are to have war, we are assured of the preservation of honor at least by the valiant hearts and strong arms that fight our battles; and if victory crowns our efforts, we know it will be properly and justly used.  The spirit of our troops gives every evidence of this.  The seal and alacrity they have shown manifest it.  The hardships they have endured, exhibit the interest they have in the State, and the loyalty with which they stand up for the cause of South Carolina.

None, therefore, were surprised when the deep-toned cannon of the batteries and forts, occupied by the troops of the commonwealth, spoke in tones of thunder on Wednesday morning.  The telegraph had warned us of the approach of a vessel bearing reinforcements and supplies to the United States garrison in Fort Sumpter.  The fortifications that had been thrown up on the points commanding the stronghold had been notified of the intention of the Government at Washington, and for twelve or fourteen hours every one had prepared himself for the event that was sure to come, with the attempt to land reinforcements at Sumpter.

The aid expected for the garrison at this place did arrive.  Early in the morning, between the hours of six and seven o’clock, the city was intensely excited at the expected reports of heavy ordnance in the harbor.  “The Star of the West” was the exclamation of all.  “One,” “two,” “three,” “four” guns—the contest is begun.  In a few minutes, people from all parts of the city come from their houses and were seen rushing out to the water’s edge.  The streets were soon thronged with eager men, hurrying towards the Battery and the wharves to ascertain all that could be learned of the noises made by the guns in the offing.  The cannon, as long as they were discharged, went off in regular, deliberate succession, clearly evincing that in serving them the utmost military precision had been attained, and reflected great credit upon those managing them.

With the naked eye nothing of what was going on in the harbor could be discovered, and consequently the most intense excitement prevailed to find out what had caused the cessation of reports, after seventeen or eighteen had been discharged.

It was not until half an hour or so, that the populace, by this time fully aroused to the importance of the movement, evidently made by our troops, was put in possession of the facts of the affair.  In the meantime crowds of people had gathered in the most convenient localities, for procuring information.  The bulletin boards of the newspaper offices, the wharves and street corners, were filled with people, and every scrap of intelligence was speedily devoured.


From the most reliable authority, eye-witnesses of the affair, we are enabled to lay before our readers the following account of it:

About six and a half o’clock, or thereabouts, the steamer Gen. Clinch, Capt. Reives, having discovered the approach of the Star of the West, signalled the fact to the occupants of the battery lately thrown up on the beach at Morris’ Island.  This vessel, it is known, left her wharf sometime during the evening before, with a guard of eighty men from the ranks of the Palmetto Guards and the Irish Volunteers.

The duty assigned them was to keep strict surveillance over the harbor, and to make such signals as had been agreed upon in the event of the approach of reinforcements to the fortress in possession of the United States troops, as well as to report the approach of any vessel that may appear in the offing.  In the early gray of the morning, the guard boat first described the steamer heading in from the sea—and with as much celerity as possible, performed the remaining part of the task assigned to her.

As soon as signalled, the entire camp on Morris’s Island was astir.  There was no need for the reveille beat to quarters.  The men were already at their posts before the orders were given.  For some minutes they remained in anxious suspense, ready for what every one believed sure to come, and that—a volley from the heavy guns of Sumpter.

As soon as the Star of the West rounded the point, she took to what is termed “Ship Channel,” inside the bar, and proceeded straight forward, until nearly opposite the work on Morris’s Island, not more than three-quarters of a mile from the battery, and within excellent range of the guns.  At this posture of affairs the command was given to fire, and a ball was sent whizzing athwart the bows of the steamer.  This significant hint to proceed no further was noticed in no other manner by the vessel than by displaying a large flag of the federal union.  As soon as the stars and stripes were run up to the masthead, the act of defiance was met with a succession of heavy shots from the fortification.  The vessel continued on her way with increased speed, but one or two shots taking effect, she concluded to advance no further, and this conclusion was hastened by the shots from Moultrie, which, though harmless and out of range of the steamer, still gave evidence that hotter work was on hand if further attempt was made to proceed.

The Star of the West was clearly made out as the name of the vessel, so that there was no mistake on this point.  She was possessed of no armament.  As soon as five or six shots had been fired upon her from Morris’s Island, and as many more from Fort Moultrie, it was evident she would lower her colors to half-mast.  She veered about so as to avoid any further messengers of the kind from the fortification, which with one or two more discharges, finally ceased.


The steamer was very trifling; only two of about seventeen shots—all that was fired—took effect upon her.  One struck the vessel about the forward part of the bow, the other amidships, in the vicinity of the wheel house.  No idea of the extent of the damage done could be ascertained; indeed it could not have been known whether she had been struck at all, had it not been for the heavy, dull sound, and subsequent crash, always accompanying the ball that “makes its mark” in a naval engagement.  At all events, she could not have been badly injured or disabled, for even while the firing continued, she rounded to and started off seaward.  As soon as this intention was shown, all firing was instantly suspended.


While the engagement lasted, no demonstration whatever was made by the command in possession of the frowning fortress—Sumpter—except the opening of the port-holes and running out of the guns which bear upon Morris Island and Moultrie.  Major Anderson, however, prudently forebore to fire, and no doubt experienced great relief when he saw the vessel steaming out of the harbor.


At Castle Pinckney, under command of Col. Pettigrew, the ardor of the men knew no bounds.  The greatest eagerness was shown by all to have a shot at the stranger, with the intention of bringing out the fire of Fort Sumpter.  The guns of the castle were all manned simply upon the spontaneous movement of the men themselves.  Each sprang to his post, without command of the officer in charge.  It was with the greatest difficulty that he could restrain them from firing; and it was nto until a peremptory order to that effect was given that they held themselves aloof from the batteries.  The eagerness at Forts Moultrie and Johnson was equally great, though the garrison at the former were gratified in the privilege of a number of harmless shots.  Better luck next time.


Since the event of the crisis, much curiosity has been excited to learn the man who fired the first shot.  After diligent inquiry, we believe it settled that the honor belongs to the Washington Light Infantry.  Though this corps is not stationed in the entrenchments on Morris’ Island, from which the first gun was fired, still, a single representative of the corps, we are informed, was at one of the guns, and to himself befel[l] the duty.  We believe the name of the gentleman was Lieutenant J. L. Branch.


After all the facts of the affair in the harbor had become generally known throughout the city, the excitement is no wise abated.  Several companies of troops, never before in actual service, were called out, and sent to different localities where their presence might be needed, and every precaution was taken by the energetic administration to secure all points that might be useful.

In the streets, military uniforms were numerous.  Old and young assumed the “cloth of war,” and took their places in the ranks.  War, actual war, seemed inevitable; but with the thousand and one rumors that flew about, nothing could be set down as certain.


Towards 11 o’clock, a boat from Fort Sumpter, bearing an officer in full uniform, with a white flag, was seen to approach the city.  The officer was met at the wharf by one or two gentlemen, and was suffered in quietness to land.  He gave his name as Lieutenant Hall, U. S. A., bearer of dispatches from Major Anderson, commanding Fort Sumpter, to the Governor of South Carolina, and enquired the way to the Governor’s quarters.  Under the guidance of several gentlemen the Lieutenant was taken to the City Hall, followed by an immense though orderly and unexcited throng, attracted by curiosity to learn the object of his mission.

After arriving at the City Hall, it was found that the Governor did not occupy any portion of the building, and after a delay of several minutes to learn where the Executive could be found, the officer was joined by a gentleman in military habit, who undertook to give him conduct.

While waiting at this point, the crowd outside increased at a tremendous rate.  The court room was filled; the stairs were filled, and even the street was densely thronged, though not the slightest indignity, either by word or deed, was inflicted on the representative of the United States.  In perfect security he was allowed to take his way to the Governor, with whom he afterwards remained for over two hours.

The object of the mission, not being known, created great excitement among the people—so much so that many of them lingered in the vicinity of the Gubernatorial quarters until after two o’clock, at which time Mr. Hall ended his interview.  He was then escorted to a carriage, and driven, in company with two aids of the Governor, to the wharf, where he re-embarked for the fort.


This date, the Mercury insists, is to be forever memorable in the world’s history, as an incident of that great event of the century upon the Western hemisphere, the dissolution of the Union.  The Mercury jubilantly adds:

The expulsion of the steamer Star of the West, from the Charleston harbor yesterday morning, was the opening of the ball of the revolution.  We are proud that our harbor has been so honored.  We are more proud that the State of South Carolina, so long, so bitterly, so contemptuously reviled and scoffed at, above all others, should thus proudly have thrown back the scoff of her enemies.  Entrenched upon her soil, she has spoken from the mouth of her cannon, and not from the mouths of scurrilous demagogues, fanatics and scribblers.

Contemned the sanctity of her waters violated with the hostile purpose of reinforcing enemies in our harbor, she has not hesitated to strike the first blow, full in the face of her insulter.  Let the United States bear, or return at their good will, the blow still tingling about her ears—the fruit of her own bandit temerity.  We would not exchange or recall that blow for millions!  It has wiped out a half century of scorn and outrage.  Again, South Carolina may be proud of her historic fame and ancestry, without a blush upon her cheek for her own present honor.  The haughty echo of her cannon has ere this reverberated from Maine to Texas, through every hamlet of the North, and down the great waters of the Southwest.

The decree has gone forth.  Upon every acre of the peaceful soil of the South armed men will spring up, as the sound breaks upon their ears; and it will be found that every word of our insolent foes has indeed been a dragon’s tooth sown for their destruction.  And though grisly and traitorous ruffians may cry on the dogs of war, and treacherous politicians may lend their aid in deceptions, South Carolina will stand under her own Palmetto tree, unterrified by the snarling growls or assaults of the one, undeceived or deterred by the wily machinations of the other.  And if that red seal of blood be still lacking to the parchment of our liberties, and blood they want, blood they shall have, and blood enough to stamp it all in red.  For, by the God of our fathers, the soil of South Carolina shall be free!