Conrad Wise Chapman was born in Washington, DC in 1842. As a young child, his family moved to Rome, Italy where he received training from his artist father John Gadsby Chapman, a Virginia native. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Conrad enlisted in a Kentucky regiment of the Confederate Army. In September 1863, his regiment was sent to Charleston, South Carolina, where General P. G. T. Beauregard assigned Chapman to create a pictorial record of the Confederate defenses surrounding Charleston Harbor. He completed this painting, the largest of his Civil War paintings, the following year when he returned to Rome. This painting portrays a scene from November 16, 1863, and despite the dramatic title, depicts a rather minor skirmish. In the early morning hours, the Union monitor Lehigh steamed into Charleston Harbor where it became stuck on a sandbar as the tide receded. At daybreak, as the immobile ship became visible, the guns of Fort Moultrie opened fire. Three Union monitors were dispatched to tow the Lehigh off the sandbar and out of range of the bombardment. These ships can be seen above the fort's massive bulwarks. Fort Moultrie sustained little damage in the engagement while the badly leaking Lehigh was finally towed to safety after it had been struck twenty seven times.