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[213] there were a few later developments that proved their opinion was the correct one, who said this profound silence on the rebel side was significant, not of defeat and disaster, but of ultimate success in repulsing our assault; that they were keeping themselves under cover until they could look into the eyes of our men, and send bullets through their heads, and would then swarm by thousands, with every conceivable deadly missile in their hands, and drive us in confusion and with terrible slaughter back to our intrenchments.

The afternoon passed, and the heavy roar of the big guns on land and sea gradually ceased. Slowly and sullenly the monitors, with the exception of the Montauk, moved back to the anchorage ground of the morning. The music of the sublime billows, forever hymning their sublime chants, was again heard along the shore; the sun went down, not in golden glory, but in clouds of blackness and darkness, and mutterings of thunder and flashes of lightning. In the slight interval between the cessation of the cannonade and the assault at the point of the bayonet, the. artillery of heaven opened all along the western horizon, and in peal after peal demonstrated how insignificant is the power of man when compared with that of Him who holds the elements in the hollow of his hand.

For eight hours the monitors and the Ironsides have kept up a continuous fire, and Fort Wagner has not yet surrendered. For eight hours fifty-four guns from the land-batteries have hurled their shot and shell within her walls, and still she flaunts the red battle-flag in our face.

“Something must be done, and that, too, quickly, or in a few days we shall have the whole army in Virginia upon us,” said an officer high in command. “We must storm the Fort to-night and carry it at the point of the bayonet!”

In a few moments signals are made from the top of the look-out, and soon generals and colonels commanding divisions and brigades were seen galloping to the headquarters of the Commanding General. A few words in consultation, and Generals Seymour, Strong, Stevenson, and Colonels Putnam and Montgomery are seen hastening back to their respective commands. Officers shout, bugles sound, the word of command is given, and soon the soldiers around, upon, and under the sand-hills of Morris Island spring from their hiding-places, fall into line, march to the beach, are organized into new brigades, and in solid column stand ready to move to the deadly assault.

Not in widely extended battle-line, with cavalry and artillery at supporting distances, but in solid regimental column, on the hard ocean beach, for half a mile before reaching the Fort, in plain sight of the enemy, did these three brigades move to their appointed work.

General Strong, who has so frequently since his arrival in this department braved death in its many forms of attack, was assigned to the command of the First brigade. Colonel Putnam of the Seventh New-Hampshire, who, although of the regular army, and considered one of the best officers in the department, had never led his men into battle nor been under fire, took command of the Second, and General Stevenson the Third, constituting the reserve. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, (colored regiment,) Colonel Shaw, was the advanced regiment in the First brigade, and the Second South-Carolina, (negro,) Colonel Montgomery, was the last regiment of the reserve. The selection of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts to lead the charge was undoubtedly made on account of the good fighting qualities it had displayed a few days before on James Island, an account of which you have in my letter of the seventeenth.

These brigades, as I have remarked before, were formed for this express duty. Many of the regiments had never seen their brigade commanders before; some of them had never been under fire, and, with exception of three regiments in the First brigade, none of them had ever been engaged in this form of attack. All had fresh in their memories the severe repulse we had met on the morning of the eleventh instant. For two years the department of the South had been in existence, and until the storming of the batteries on the south end of Morris Island the army had won no victory fairly acknowledged by the enemy.

Just as darkness began to close in upon the scene of the afternoon and the evening, General Strong rode to the front and ordered his brigade, consisting of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Shaw, (colored regiment,) the Sixth Con necticut, Colonel Chatfield, the Forty-eighth New-York, Colonel Barton, the Third New-Hampshire, Colonel Jackson, the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania and the Ninth Maine, Colonel Emery, to advance to the assault. At the instant, the line was seen slowly advancing in the dusk toward the Fort, and before a double-quick had been ordered, a tremendous fire from the barbette guns on Fort Sumter, from the batteries on Cumming's Point, and from all the guns on Fort Wagner, opened upon it. The guns from Wagner swept the beach, and those from Sumter and Cumming's Point enfiladed it on the left. In the midst of this terrible shower of shot and shell they pushed their way, reached the Fort, portions of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, the Sixth Connecticut, and the Forty-eighth New-York dashed through the ditches, gained the parapet, and engaged in a hand-to-hand fight with the enemy, and for nearly half an hour held their ground, and did not fall back until nearly every commissioned officer was shot down. As on the morning of the assault of the eleventh instant, these brave men were exposed to a most galling fire of grape and canister, from howitzers, raking the ditches from the bastions of the Fort, from hand-grenades, and from almost every other modern implement of warfare. The rebels fought with the utmost desperation, and so did the larger portion of General Strong's brigade, as long as there was an officer to command it.

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