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 In the year 1854, while in charge as engineer of the fortifications of Louisiana, I attended a target practice with heavy guns by the garrison of Fort Jackson, on the Mississippi river, the object fired at being a hogshead floating with the current at the rate of about four and a half miles an hour. I was struck with the difficulties of trailing or traversing the guns-42-pounders and 8-inch columbiads-and with the consequent inaccuracy of the firing. Reflecting upon the matter, I devised soon afterward a simple method of overcoming the difficulty by the application of a “rack and lever” to the wheels of the chassis of the guns; and I sent drawings of the improvement to the Chief of Engineers, General Totten, who referred them, with his approval, to the Chief of Ordnance. In the course of a few weeks the latter informed me that his department had not yet noticed any great obstacle in traversing guns on moving objects, and therefore declined to adopt my invention. When charged in 1861 with the Confederate atack on Fort Sumter, I described this device to several of my engineer and artillery officers; but before I could have it applied I was ordered to Virginia to assume command of the Confederate force then assembling at Manassas. Afterward, on my return to Qharleston in 1862, one of my artillery officers, Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, an intelligent and zealous soldier, applied this principle (modified, however,) to one of the heavy guns in the harbor with such satisfactory results that I gave him orders to apply it as rapidly as possible to all guns of that class which we then had mounted. By April 6, 1863, when Admiral Dupont made his attack on Fort Sumter with seven monitors, the New Ironsides, several gunboats and mortar boats, our heaviest pieces had this traversing apparatus adapted to their chassis, and the result realized fully our expectations. However slow or fast the Federal vessels moved in their evolutions, they received a steady and unerring fire, which at first disconcerted them, and at last gave us a brilliant victorydisabling five of the monitors, one of which, the Keokuk, sunk at her anchors that night. It is pertinent for me professionally to remark that had this Federal naval attack on Fort Sumter of the 6th of April, 1863, been made at night, while the fleet could have easily approached near enough to see the fort — a large, lofty object, covering several acres — the monitors, which were relatively so small and low on the water, could not have been seen from the
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