More on Pinckney

19 12 2006

I found more in Lonnie Speer’s Portals to Hell, though it’s tough to figure out where he gets some of his information – the loose standards of footnoting these days!  Anyway, it appears that Castle Pinckney was captured by South Carolina forces under Col. James J. Pettigrew (better known as Reverence N. Awe at Chapel Hill) on December 27, 1860.  The first Union prisoners held there made up a small work detail that was quickly permitted to retire to Ft. Sumter.

The first batch of prisoners arrived at Castle Pinckney from Richmond on September 13, 1861 (after first spending a disturbing night in the city jail), and consisted of 154 men primarily from the 11th, 79th, and 69th NY regiments.  Speer says there were also some men from the 8th MI, but since this regiment did not leave Michigan until September 29, I think he got the regiment number wrong.  These were men of the 1st MI of Willcox’s Brigade, per Willcox’s diary and memoir; meaning the whole kit and caboodle were taken at Bull Run.  Willcox also reports that Chaplain Eddy of the 2nd CT and Maj. J. D. Potter of the 38th NY – both BR1 regiments – were also at Castle Pinckney, so it would appear that a hodgepodge of prisoners taken at the battle were held there.

Probably due in part to the less crowded condition and the fair treatment of their guards – about 40 young men of the Charleston Zouave Cadets – conditions were pretty good at Castle Pinckney.  Willcox said that only one man died while he was there – Porter, Co. D., 1st MI, of typhoid – and that there was little sickness.

By the end of October, the Castle had become so crowded that the men were once again sent to the city jail.  Eventually, that building became so crowded that the enlisted men were sent to the Charleston Race Course.  I believe it was the cemetery of this same race course, in which at least 257 Union soldiers (known as The Martyrs of the Race Course) were buried, that became the scene of the nation’s first Decoration Day, conducted by thousands of the city’s black residents on May 1, 1865.  This is vividly described in David Blight’s Race and Reunion.

On December 11, 1861, the city was engulfed in flames.  The guards at the city jail and the Guard House, which was also being used to house POW’s, rushed to assist in putting out the flames as the fire grew.  The prisoners, trapped in the path of the fire, were left to fend for themselves.  The men in the city jail managed to escape the burning building, and kept together throughout the night.  The next day, they were not too gently herded back into captivity and over 300 men from the various facilities were sent to a now very crowded Castle Pinckney.  After being held in exposed conditions for over a week, the prisoners were transferred out to various locales.  By the beginning of 1862, Castle Pinckney had been converted back to a defensive work.

During the early days of the Castle’s use as a prison, the commandant, Captain C. E. Chichester, brought in a professional photographer to record the images of the prisoners and their guards.  I’ve seen a few of these, which show the guards on a parapet above the prisoners and their makeshift camp signs.  I haven’t been able to locate any online yet, but when I do I’ll post them here.  Here’s one:

cp2.jpg








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