which returned with a small Blakely
rifled-gun, of two and a half inches diameter, with only fifty rounds of ammunition.
I placed it at once behind a sand-bag parapet next to the Steven
battery, where it did opportune service with its ten-pound shell while the ammunition lasted.
The penetration of the projectiles into the brick masonry of the fort was not great at that distance, but the piece had great accuracy, and several of the shells entered the embrasures facing Morris Island
. One of the officers of the garrison remarked after the surrender, that when they first heard the singular whizzing, screeching sound of the projectile, they did not understand its cause until one of the unexploded shells being found in the fort the mystery was solved.
As a proof of the rapid strides taken by the artillery arm of the service, I shall mention that two years later the Federals
fired against Fort Sumter
, from nearly the same spot, rifle projectiles weighing three hundred pounds. Meantime I had received from England
two other Blakely
rifled cannon of thirteen and a quarter inches calibre.
These magnificent specimens of heavy ordnance were, apart from their immense size, different in construction from anything I had ever seen.
They had been bored through from muzzle to breech; the breech was then plugged with a brass block, extending into the bore at least two feet, and into which had been reamed a chamber about eighteen inches in length and six in diameter, while the vent entered the bore immediately in advance of this chamber.
The projectiles provided were shells weighing, when loaded, about three hundred and fifty pounds, and solid cylindrical shots weighing seven hundred and thirty pounds; the charge for the latter was sixty pounds of powder.
The first of these guns received was mounted in a battery specially constructed for it at “The Battery
,” at the immediate mouth of Cooper river
, to command the inner harbor.
As no instructions for their service accompanied the guns, and the metal between the exterior surface of the breech and the rear of the inner chamber did not exceed six to eight inches, against all experience in ordnance, apprehensions were excited that the gun would burst in firing with so large a charge and such weight of projectile.
Under the circumstances it was determined to charge it with an empty shell and the minimum of powder necessary to move it; the charge was divided in two cartridges, one to fit the small rear chamber, and the other the main bore.
The gun was fired by means of a long lanyard from the bomb-proof attached to the battery; and, as apprehended, it burst at the first fire, even with the relatively small charge used; the brass plug was found started back at least the sixteenth of an inch, splitting the breech with three or four distinct cracks, and rendering it useless.