August 17, 1863
--- Siege of Charleston -- Today, after months of preparation, Federal guns open fire in a massive siege campaign against Charleston, in an effort to capture the city or at least the fortifications surrounding it. Maj. Gen. Quincy Adams Gillmore commands the U.S. Army forces and the ground-based artillery; Admiral John A. Dahlgren commands the U.S. Navy fleet (seven ironclads and six wooden warships) operating in cooperation at the mouth of Charleston Harbor.
The principal goals are the seizure of Charleston itself, Fort Sumter, and Morris Island (the location of Fort Wagner, which the tragic assault of the 54th Massachusetts had failed to capture). Federal batteries on other part of Morris Island and other locations, at 5:00 AM, begin to shell the Rebel fortifications in a concerted effort. Dahlgren’s gunboats move in close to Fort Wagner and open fire. Federal artillery fire does great damage to the walls of Fort Sumter, after firing over 900 shots at it, disabling seven of the fort’s guns. The Navy hammers Fort Wagner so heavily that the fort’s guns all fall silent---some of them disabled, and the rest abandoned as the crews seek shelter in the fort’s bombproofs.
---An interesting look into the President’s private life, such as it is: Pres. Abraham Lincoln confesses himself not much of a theater fan, although he writes this letter to actor James Hackett, whose role as Falstaff Lincoln enjoyed, and hopes to see more:
To J. H. HACKETT.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, WASHINGTON August 17, 1863.
JAMES H. HACKETT, Esq.
MY DEAR SIR:—Months ago I should have acknowledged the receipt of your book and accompanying kind note; and I now have to beg your pardon for not having done so.
For one of my age I have seen very little of the drama. The first presentation of Falstaff I ever saw was yours here, last winter or spring. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay is to say, as I truly can, I am very anxious to see it again. Some of Shakespeare’s plays I have never read, while others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any un-professional reader. Among the latter are Lear, Richard III., Henry VIII., Hamlet, and especially Macbeth. I think nothing equals Macbeth. It is wonderful.
Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the soliloquy in Hamlet commencing “Oh, my offense is rank,” surpasses that commencing “To be or not to be.” But pardon this small attempt at criticism. I should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of Richard III. Will you not soon visit Washington again? If you do, please call and let me make your personal acquaintance.
---Christopher M. Spencer meets Pres. Lincoln at the White House and presents him with a complimentary Spencer Rifle, a repeater that is his own invention.
---David Lane of the 17th Michigan Infantry, recently from the Vicksburg Campaign, are now in Nicholasville, Kentucky. Lane comments on some of the habits of Kentuckians:
Their manners, forms of speech and customs all point to past ages. They are very loyal and very friendly when sober, but when filled with corn whiskey, hypocrisy and self-interest take a back seat, and they speak their real sentiments with a frankness and fluency that is not at all flattering to us “Yanks.” From what I have seen, I conclude all Kentuckians drink whiskey. There are distilleries in every little town, where the “genuine article” is turned out. I called at a farm house one day for a drink of water. The good woman was catechising her son—a lad of ten or twelve years—about ten cents she had given him with which to buy some little notion at the store. She gave me a drink of water, then, turning to the young hopeful, angrily inquired, “But where’s that ten cents I gave you?” “I guv five cents to Bill.” “Where’s the other five?” “Bought my dram with it.” The explanation appeared satisfactory.
---The steamer Nita, a Rebel blockade runner, is captured by the USS DeSoto while trying to run the blockade.