Young South Carolinian woman writes of watching bombardment of Sumter

Nancy Bostick De Saussure (1837 – 1915) describes the evening she watched the bombardment of Fort Sumter from a roof top in Charleston on April 12, 1861. She was in her mid 20s.

It was an all-day journey with a drive of twenty miles to the railway. We reached Charleston about eight o’clock in the evening. My father-in-law met us, and after a warm greeting to the little stranger and ourselves, said, “You are just in time to see the fight at Fort Sumter, for it begins to-night.” I was terrified and begged to be taken home, but there was no train until morning and, therefore, we had to remain.

That night I was too frightened to sleep. Toward morning, about four o’clock, the first gun was fired, and it seemed to me as if it were in my room. I sprang up, as I suppose everyone else did in the city. I hurriedly dressed myself and went down to cousin Louis De Saussure’s house, which is still standing on the corner of South and East Battery.



From its numerous piazzas, which commanded a fine view of the harbor, we watched every gun fired from the two forts, Moultrie and Sumter. The house was crowded with excited mothers and wives, who had sons and husbands in the fight, and every hour added to their distress and excitement, as reports, which afterwards proved false, were brought to them of wounded dear ones. It was a day I can never forget.

That night we returned to Grandfather De Saussure’s and when morning came we spent another most anxious day following an anxious night, but when Fort Sumter took fire and the white flag was raised, our spirits rose over the Southern victory, to confidence and hope.

We little realized the long years of struggle that were to follow ending in defeat, and ruined homes and country. Later on I was in Charleston several times when it was under shot and shell and heard the explosions of the shells as they shrieked over our houses. Those were sad and exciting times, the awful memories of which are still active with me.

By Mrs. Nancy Bostick De Saussure (1837 – 1915), who lived just outside of Beaufort, South Carolina. This excerpt, and her war record is found in OLD PLANTATION DAYS : BEING RECOLLECTIONS OF SOUTHERN LIFE BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR. NEW YORK. DUFFIELD & COMPANY. 1909; which she wrote.

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