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[104]

Immediately we had secured a lodgment on Morris Island, a party of boat infantry was organized to patrol the creeks and water-courses that lie between this island and James, to prevent the landing of the spies and scouts of the enemy. The enemy employed a similar force, and occasionally these boat pickets had an encounter upon the water. Two attempts were made to surprise Battery Gregg, by a night attack in boats, which, if successful, would compel the garrison of Wagner to surrender. The enemy discovered the approach of our boats, and both attempts were failures. In one of these the commanding officer of the expedition called for a volunteer to blow up the magazine-one who “feared neither man nor devil” --when Sergeant Rosenberger, a fine young soldier of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment, stepped forward and offered to apply the match.

Sumter out of the question, every energy was directed to the reduction of Wagner, which alone stood in the way of our possessing the whole of Morris Island. The siege operations dragged their slow length along. Day after day and night after night our brave men digged and guarded in the trenches, subject to a galling fire. The enemy clung to their stronghold with great tenacity, for it was then considered the gateway to Charleston. They met us with a sternness and courage worthy of a better cause. It was Greek pitted against Greek. The extreme heat of the weather and the excessive fatigue were rapidly wearing down the men, while their constant exposure to death in the trenches was more dreaded than open combat. Only those who have experienced it know how it tries the nerves of men to lie in a narrow trench with the thermometer at 120 degrees, exposed to a heavy fire, or, while thus situated, to ply the shovel. The casualties were numerous; the sick list was largely on the increase — some of the regiments having more than half their men unfit for duty. We had already lost three thousand of our brave fellows on that narrow sand bank. The burial of the dead was constantly going on, and at last became so frequent that music was prohibited at soldiers' funerals. At this period the medical inspector of the department reported that unless Wagner should soon fall the troops would not be in a condition to further prosecute the siege; and that a third assault would be more economical of life than a continuance of the present operations.

The night attack in boats on Battery Gregg having failed, it became evident that Wagner must be stormed, if taken at all, and this was resolved upon. The time fixed for the assault was Monday morning, the 7th of September. Operations were pushed against the enemy

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