“A Remarkable Cannon”: The Blakely of Grant Park
“We have a remarkable rifled cannon, 12 pdr., superior to any other here. Others ought to be ordered.” (As reported by General P.G.T. Beauregard to Confederate Sec’y of War L.P. Walker, April 15, 1861.)
At 4:30 A.M. on April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery batteries ringing the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina opened fire upon the Federal garrison occupying Fort Sumter. Of these batteries, the “Point Battery,” emplaced on Cummings Point of Morris Island, possessed a then truly novel weapon…an English-made 3.67 inch Blakely rifled gun…which despite a shortage of suitable ammunition, consistently hurled twelve pound iron projectiles to breach the walls of the fortress, 1200 yards distant.
Commanded by Captain J.P. Thomas, the Blakely gun literally reverberated with history. For not only was it a participant in the initial engagement of the American Civil war… it was the first rifled cannon to be fired in combat on the American continent.
Brig. General P.G.T. Beauregard, commander of the Confederate forces, saw fit to specifically mention the Blakely in his official report of the hostilities at Charleston:
“I would also mention in terms of praise…Captain Thomas, of the Citadel Academy, who had charge of the rifled cannon, and had the honor of using this valuable weapon — a gift of one of South Carolina’s distant sons to his native State — with peculiar effect.”