Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, April 13, 1863


Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, April 13, 1863


Capers talks about a trip out to Morris Island where he was able to spy on Yankee ships. He describes the ships and the crews as well as the sunken vessel, Keokuk. He also describes a Columbiad cannon on the island that their troops have laid of wreath of myrtle on and a raft known as the "Devil". He then goes on to discuss the reportage of the Daily Mercury and how he admires its tone. Capers ends the letter by telling Lottie how he treasures her letters and asking after their new daughter, Sue, and their son, Frank.


1961.1, Box 3, Folder 9


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Ellison Capers Collection









Date Valid


[Page 1]
Secessionville, Monday
April 13th, 1863

My precious wife

[Illegible] came into the office before I got up this morning (I slept late) and brought me your letters of the 8th, 9th, and 10th, with the Mercury. The editorial somewhat anticipates what I had intended to write you. What in the name of sense our enemy means is beyond my ken. His counsels are truly the counsels of children, and his ships of war, & Battalions of men, seem to move about without knowing what to do or where to go to. I got into a small boat on yesterday afternoon, and rowed over to Morris Island. I got in the magnificent sand hills just in time to witness six Turrets, and the Iron Sides, cross the Bar, at about 3 P.M. I found Col. Graham in the Hills, with the splendid Marine Glass of the Keokuk marked “U.S.N. No. 72”. With this fine glass I could see the fine Turrets and the Iron Sides plainly. Their crews were promenading the decks, &

[Page 2]
the beautiful sloop of war, Powhattan, with most of the Blockaders, collected about them, to talk over the Bombardment, no doubt, though, I take it, it was by no means a subject gratifying conversation; for in full view of them and the Victory crowned hills, lay the sunken Keokuk and her stranded [illegible]! It was a grand sight, to stand upon these splendid hills towering up, & now mounting Columbiads and Whitworth Guns, & witness the baffled fleet of our boastful enemy! To watch their retreat through the glass of the most formidable of their number, & to walk over the deck of the wrecked torpedo and obstruction destroyer, gave me the highest pleasure. The guns in these hills on the southern end of Morris Island are intended to prevent a passage of the enemy from Folly to Morris Isld. One of these grand hills, on the summit of which, an 8 inch Columbiad is mounted, in sunken battery, has been encircled by our noble troops with a wreath of myrtle, which

[Page 3]
with the Palmetto, is the native growth of the Isld. Holmes, who went with me, & I, walked up the beach to the stranded “Devil,” & to the beautiful and efficient work. Ft. Wagner, (named in honor of our Wagner) which runs across the narrow neck of the Isld. near where the “Star of the West” Battery was. This “Devil” is simply a large raft, built of heavy 15 inch timbers, with heavy iron hooks & bars projecting from the bottom, which were meant to hook up our torpedoes, & break up submarine obstructions. They have, however, all been sent to Cameron’s foundry to be run into ten inch shot, for the guns of glorious Moultrie, & Sumter, & our strong batteries. The enemy were evidently worsted. I told you the 15th shot of the Iron Clads could knock down Sumter, & so they can, if the Turrets can remain long enough under the fire of our Batteries, to do it! The result of the 7th looks very much as if they cannot. The Keokuk was “stove in”, as the sailors say, in her bow, & several

[Page 4]
of our steel bolts pierced her. I think the fact of the Iron Clads going out, & all of the turrets, but one, going South, looks very much like they were in for the repair of damages. I send you the Editorial of the Mercury. While I don’t trust the discretion & judgement of the Mercury, nor always approve its politics, I admire its tone on all questions of sentiment. Its Editor is a blooded man, and does not smell of mud. You know I believe in blood. Only seven vessels in Stono Harbor today, & but one encampment to be seen on [illegible] Isld. If the enemy’s force is not all, or nearly all, on Folly Isld. then he has not troops enough in [illegible words] to meet, in our front, to meet the 24th, & Restin’s Battery. I have just read over what I have written, & the thought struck me, [illegible words]. It is written to you & Frank & Sue, & on no account is it public. I trust that I may be spared the vulgar paragraphs of the cousins. Thank you, Lottie, my

[Page 5]
dear wife, for your letters & for the wild violet. I will keep these little mementos of your love, & you know how I will cherish them. I hope if Frank gets the measles, he will get through safely. How much longer are you going to nurse Sue? Do you give her much nourishment from a single breast? If not, I think you might wean her. Bless my daughter! I hope she may be like her angel sister. Thank you for your part Frank took in my letters. Tell him his Papa loves him with all of his heart, & expects him to be a noble man, like his Uncle [illegible] & Oddy, & then, if it be providential that his Papa should pass away, he will be the support & protection of his Mother and Sister. I will send the bundle spoken of in a previous letter as soon as I get a piece of good wrapping paper.

You wonder how long it will be before it will be determined about our dear old city. I can’t tell, my darling. The retreat of the iron clads defers matters, & we must continue to watch & wait, & be ready. Charleston will never fall into Yankee hands. I will bid

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you good bye now, my dear wife, & wish you God’s blessings. Your affectionate husband. Ellison

P.S. Marion King is here at Ft. Lamar. He looks very well. E.C.

By way of showing you how an official paper gets up to Genl. Beauregard, I sent you one, which started from Co. “F” 8th Geo. Batt. here under my command. The Batt. is a support to Ft. Lamar, which Brown commands, & makes its reports to me through mine, & so on up the “ascending channel of communication”, as the Red Tapes call it. Holmes, who says good things frequently, said of a communication which had been returned by one of the intermediate commanders, because it was not properly endorsed, that it “got aground in the ascending Channel, the author not knowing how to navigate said Channel”. You see the paper first comes from Hd. Qrs. Ft. Lamar, of which 8th Geo. is the support. Then Hd. Qrs. Secessionville, of which post, Ft. Lamar and 8th Geo. constitute a part, then Hd. Qrs. [illegible words] to which Secessionville is attached, and so on up. E.C.


Capers, Ellison, 1837-1908, “Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, April 13, 1863,” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed July 13, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/483.