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On the rocky island of the Fort Sumter national monument, there is a tiny museum within the walls of the fort that holds a prodigy as haunting to many as the Shroud of Turin. Silent in the navy darkness behind the stars of a Federal storm flag is the emblazoned image of a bearded man in a navy uniform. The dark-haired man adorns a soldier's cap and a buttoned coat, facing the defiant city across the harbor that is believed to have indirectly taken his life. Many know the face, weathered inexplicably to the flag's fabric, as that of Union officer Daniel Hough, the first American killed in a Civil War that claimed six hundred thousand lives.
The island fort, made by large rocks hauled by ships to Charleston Harbor from the coast of Maine, is now a major tourist destination. There are bright, yellow harbor flowers that blow in the grass all summer long and halcyon gulls that glide over the brick embankments as they pass in between Charleston's sea islands. In the distance, there is the abandoned Morris Island Lighthouse looming in the sea like a floating tomb. On the other side of the fort, there is the active Sullivan's Island lighthouse and Fort Moultrie, as well as the historic Rebellion Road channel where ships could float undetected, hidden safely from cannon fire during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
Park rangers at Fort Sumter, known for their wealth of facts and historical accuracy, have been dumbfounded on how to handle the questions surrounding the face in the flag. Many have compared the flag to the Shroud of Turin, the most studied artifact in human history. The Shroud of Turin is a centuries-old cloth that bears the image of a crucified man; a manmillions believe to be Jesus of Nazareth. A complex chemical reaction between amines and saccharides emerging from the dead body is believed to have withered a carbohydrate residue on the burial shroud. Similarly, Daniel Hough may have been wrapped in the eight-by-fourteen-foot Federal storm flag he was saluting when a freak powder charge from a fort cannon took his life.
The war began on April 12, 1861, at 4:30 a.m. In the dark hour before the war began, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard, under pressure from General Wade Davis, sent a letter by rowboat to Union Major General Robert Anderson at Fort Sumter. In the letter, he made an ultimatum: "If you will state the time at which you will evacuate Fort Sumter we will abstain from firing upon you." Earlier, Major General Anderson had moved his men from Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island to Fort Sumter, an act local Confederates saw as aggression. It was in this same exact area of dark water at the mouth of Charleston Harbor that the first naval battle of the American Revolutionary War began. Another great war for independence, damper and bloodier, was about to begin again in this channel where the ocean that divided Charleston from Europe washed into the Holy City.
The ultimatum was denied, although Major General Anderson knew his soldiers only had two days of food on the island fort. Edmund Ruffin fired the first shot onto the island of Fort Sumter from Fort Johnson on James Island. A sixty-seven-year-old Confederate from Virginia when he fired the shot, Ruffin was later overcome with so much guilt and sorrow at the murderous outcome of the war. Six hundred thousand people had died and, as the starter of the bloodbath, he had lived to see the grave aftermath. He stood alone many moons later, wrapping himself slowly in a Confederate battle flag. He aimed his rifle at the anguish and turmoil of a gruesome war that wouldn't leave his psyche, and he blew his brains into the flag he had put so much faith into.
After Ruffin's first fateful shot on April 12, 1861, the initial bombardment on the fort lasted thirty-three hours in a row. During this time, the Federal garrison flag was ripped by a freak night gale below the fourth stripe to the hoist. This splitting of the flag signaled surrender to Beauregard, who sent men in rowboats over to the fort. Anderson, knowing he was out of food and fresh water for his men, decided to evacuate the island on April 14, after first raising the Federal storm flag for a final twenty-one-man salute allowed by the Victorian-style militants of the new Confederate States of America. (Later, after the war, Major General Anderson would return in a ceremony to accept the return of Fort Sumter. Had President Abraham Lincoln accepted the invitation to attend the event in Charleston, he would not have been present at the Ford Theater the evening he was assassinated.)
While Daniel Hough and the other men were firing cannons and rifles out into the harbor to salute the Federal storm flag at Fort Sumter one last time, a powder charge from one of the cannons caused an explosion that immediately struck Hough and Edward Gallway. Hough was killed on impact, while Gallway was rushed to the Confederate Roper Hospital on Queen Street where Union prisoners of war would later be held. At the hospital, Gallway bled to death as doctors amputated mangled body parts and wrapped tourniquets on him in efforts to save him. Gallway's dead dismembered body was delivered by boat to Major General Anderson as he left Fort Sumter.
To this day, nobody knows where Daniel Hough was laid to rest, as Major General Anderson did not take his body with him during the evacuation. Archeologists have probed the entire fort island looking for his bones. The closest anyone has come to finding Daniel Hough, the first man killed in the American Civil War, is the haunting face in the flag at Fort Sumter.
Posted February 28, 2012
The recent news of Somali pirates led me on a chase to find historic references to pirates here in the united States and I was not disappointed in what I read. The author earned my respect with his detailed account of what the pirate life was like. I reread it several times and had to wrestle with my previous stereotyped image or pirates. Are they heroes of a rebel lifestyle? Who knows, but the book was a good read that opened up what it was to be a pirate and what the lifestyle entailed, both alive and dead! The supernatural element still creeps me even though the book has been long closed.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 27, 2012
I started reading Haunted Harbor on a whim. The person in front of me in my local book store had two copies and left one so I picked it up and started reading. It was good enough that I decided to order my own copy. Now I think twice about watersports and beaches because the storytelling was so gripping. No spoilers here but "Face in the Flag" is excellent. Get this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2010
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