Fort Sumter

Research in a time of Covid

Like many of you, I have found my life altered by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thankfully no one in my family has been inflicted with the virus, however, the closing of libraries and archives and restrictions on travel have limited my research. As libraries have slowly begun to reopen I have been able to return to research on women of the Civil War.

Although I will always feel great affection and gratitude for the women in Such Anxious Hours, I am now working on the histories of other women during the Civil War-the women who were housed in federal military facilities in Charleston during the siege of Fort Sumter and the women of Indiana during the Civil War.

Just as today’s military bases house the families of soldiers, so did the federal installations in Charleston, South Carolina at the beginning of the Civil War. The women of the garrison were members of Charleston society, and Fort Moultrie was the site of frequent concerts and social events attended by the citizens of Charleston. Two of the women of the federal garrison are especially intriguing-Kate Skillen, the daughter of the Sergeant assigned to Castle Pinckney and Annie Davis, the sister of Lt. Jefferson C. Davis who was a member of the Fort Moultrie/Fort Sumter garrison.

Kate Skillen’s family had lived in Charleston for many years and returned to Charleston after the war. When South Carolina troops seized Castle Pinckney, Kate’s home, she is cited in contemporary accounts as crying with dismay when the Palmetto flag replaced the Stars and Stripes. Kate and her family were captured on December 30th and sent North.

Annie Davis was a student at a boarding school in Charleston during the siege of Fort Sumter. When other ladies of Charleston sent flowers to General Beauregard to welcome him to the command of Confederate forces, Annie sent flowers to her brother who was trapped at Fort Sumter. Annie experienced the terror of the destruction of Fort Sumter during the battle on April 12 and was the only female member of the garrison to return to the North along with the surviving Union soldiers of that battle.

Kate and Annie were just two of the many Union women whose lives were entwined with this precipitating event of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln consulted with Mary Doubleday on conditions at Fort Sumter who had fled to Washington early in January 1861. The wife of a Sergeant Davis almost began the war months earlier when she had to be restrained from firing upon a South Carolina ship. And the unnamed women and children who were relatives of the soldiers at the Federal Arsenal are described as being kept in very poor conditions after South Carolina forces seized the Arsenal in December 1860.

I hope that in time I will be able to learn more about the contributions of these gallant women and share more of their stories with you.