previous next

Doc. 147.-operations against Charleston.


Captain H. S. Gray's1 report.

July 20, 1863.
early on the ninth we received orders to be ready by sundown for a fresh start. To prevent any mistake in the night, each officer and man had on his left arm a white badge three inches wide. General Strong was to embark two thou. sand men in boats, and take them up Folly River in the Lighthouse Inlet; and at sunrise the batteries that had been erected (there were over forty guns and mortars in position) were to open, and the gunboats to engage the batteries on the opposite side of the island. The boats arrived with the troops in good time, preceded by eight boat-howitzers from the gunboats; the first boat contained General Strong and staff, and then came the battalion of the Seventh Connecticut volunteers.

General Gilmore told Colonel Rodman that the General had concluded that our battalion was the most reliable and could be trusted, and was selected for that reason. The batteries opened at daylight, and in a short time the enemy discovered the boats, and threw shell and solid shot, [478] trying to sink them. The shot and shell struck and burst all around us, but only one boat was struck, containing some of the Sixth Connecticut volunteers, killing one and wounding two or three.

The General's boat had got two discharges of grape. Just at this moment Lieutenant-Colonel Rodman said to the General: “Let me land my command nd take that battery.” The General hesitated at first, and then said: “Go!” Colonel Rodman stood up in the stern of his boat, and gave the command, as the boats were all in line and in good order: “Seventh Connecticut! Man your oars and follow me.” We had previously detailed fifty men as oarsmen, leaving us about one hundred and seventy-five effective men and officers. At the order we all headed for the shore, and, as the boats struck, every man sprang as if by instinct, and in an instant the men were in line.

We advanced rapidly to the first line of rifle-works; our skirmishers cleared it with a bound, ad advanced to the second line. Our main forces moved to the first line — the foe retired, firing. Lieutenant-Colonel Rodman now sent word back for the General to land his whole force, as we could hold the line we occupied. After exchanging a few shots, and the brigade being landed and ready to advance, the enemy began to give way. Lieutenant Jordan, with a detachment of company I, pushed right up into their batteries on our right, and not finding the first gun in working order — it having been disabled by a short — he pushed forward to what is now called Battery Rodman, in which there was an eight-inch sea-coast howitzer, and turned it on the retreating foe, bursting several shells over their heads before they reached Fort Wagner.

Our forces captured eight single gun batteries and three mortars, and not far from two hundred prisoners.

We bivouacked for the night under easy range of Fort Wagner. About half-past 2 A. M. General Strong came and called the Lieutenant-Colonel out. He soon returned and said: “Turn out! We have got a job on hand.” The men were soon out and into line, but rather slow to time, as they were tired with the work the day before.

The programme was to try to take Fort Wagner by assault; we were to take the lead, and to be supported by the Seventy-sixty Pennsylvania and Ninth Maine. Silently we moved up to the advance line of our pickets, our guns loaded and aimed, and bayonets fixed. We were then deployed into line of battle, (we had one hundred and ninety-one men and officers, all told,) reached and crossed the neck of land that approached the fort, our right resting on the beach. We were deployed and ready for the start. Our orders were to move steadily forward until the pickets fired, then follow them close and rush for the works, and we were promised ready support. General Strong gave the order: “Aim low, and put your trust in God. Forward the Seventh!” And forward we went, being not over five hundred yards from the fort when we started.

We had not gone far before the picket fired, and then we took the double-quick, and with a cheer rushed for the works. Before we reached the outer works, we got a murderous fire from the riflemen behind the works. A few fell — a check in the line. An encouraging word from the officers, and right gallantly we reached the outer works; over them with a will we went, down the opposite side, across the moat — there being about one foot of water in it — right up to the crest of the parapet; and there we lay, anxiously waiting for our support to come up so far as to make it a sure thing for us to rise up and go over with a bound, our men in the mean time busying themselves by picking off the sharpshooters and gunners. We laid so near the top that one had to put his head up and point across the parapet to kill his man.

As near as I can ascertain, we were in this position from ten to twenty minutes, when both of the regiments that were to support us broke and fled leaving us to take care of ourselves as best we might. As soon as the regiment in front broke and ran, they paid particular attention to our case. They threw hand-grenades over the parapet, and soon sent men into the flank of a bastion, which commanded the front upon which we lay. They had us there to a great disadvantage. The question was whether we should surrender as prisoners, attempt to carry the works, and to be entirely annihilated, (as they greatly outnumbered us,) or take the back track and run the gauntlet for our lives.

Upon consulting the Lieutenant-Colonel, he reluctantly gave the order to retreat. Lieutenant Phillips exclaimed: “For God's sake, don't let us retreat.” As if by magic, the order was recalled, although some had started; but the order had to be repeated, and down in and across the moat we went over the works. They had a perfect enfilading fire of small arms for a thousand yards, besides their pieces were giving us grape and canister. They fell on all sides of me, and I alone of four captains was spared; and out of one hundred and ninety-one officers and men that marched out to attack the foe, only eighty-eight returned safe to camp; and ever let it be said, to the credit of the Seventh Connecticut volunteers, that not one straggler could be discovered. Fifteen minutes after we got in camp the roll was called, and but one man came in afterward, and he was delayed in assisting a wounded comrade.

Met General Strong coming off, and with tears in his eyes he said we had done our whole duty, and covered ourselves all over with glory, and if the support had come to time, that we should have taken the works, and without a doubt we should have done so. But our loss is great. We had eleven officers in our mess. Now we have but four. It is hard, but such is the fate of war.

Our attack on the tenth July was a fearful surprise to them. They had but few troops on [479] this island. Had they five thousand infantry here, the natural defences are of such a character that we never could have taken it.


1 commanded two companies of the Seventh Connecticut regiment, in the action.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Strong (5)
Rodman (4)
Joseph W. Phillips (1)
Jordan (1)
H. S. Gray (1)
Gilmore (1)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
July 20th, 1863 AD (1)
July 10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: