- Capture of the Princess Royal.
-- remarks on blockading the Southern ports, and the difficulty in preventing blockade-runners getting in and out.
-- attack on blockading vessels before Charleston by Confederate rams.
-- surrender of the U. S. S. Mercedita.
-- Keystone State disabled by the rams, which afterwards attack the Augusta, Quaker City and Memphis.
-- rams escape chased by the Juniata.
-- Confederates claim the blockade is raised.
-- the claim not admitted and the blockade strengthened.
-- capture of the gunboat Isaac Smith.
-- the iron-clad Montauk, Commander John L. Worden, engages the forts at Ogeechee River.
-- Confederate steamer Nashville destroyed by the Montauk and other vessels.
-- iron-clads Passaic, Patapsco and Nahant attack Fort McAllister.
-- sinking vessels on Charleston bar as obstructions.
-- expectations of the Navy Department from the iron-clad vessels.
-- Admiral Dupont attacks the batteries in Charleston harbor, April 7, 1863.
-- description of the harbor of Charleston.
-- order of Admiral Dupont previous to attacking the forts.
-- list of iron-clads engaged in the attack.
-- iron-clads retire before the heavy fire of the batteries.
-- the Keokuk disabled and afterwards sunk.
-- list of damages to the iron-clads.
-- comparison between the guns on shore and those afloat.
-- view of the case.
-- Reflections on Chief Engineer Stimer's letter to the Navy Department.
-- difficulties encountered by the monitors.
-- misrepresentations of the attack on Charleston.
-- General Ripley's instructions for repelling the federal attack on Charleston.
-- correspondence between President Lincoln and Admiral Dupont, and between Mr. Secretary Welles and Admiral Dupont.
-- Admiral Dupont retires to Port Royal.
-- combined attack of Army and Navy on Buffington.
-- capture of Confederate iron-clad Atlanta by the U. S. S. Weehawken.
-- Admiral Dupont retires from command of the South Atlantic Squadron and is succeeded by Rear-Admiral Dahlgren.
-- Secretary Welles' letter to Rear-Admiral Dupont on his giving up his command.
-- list of officers who served under Admiral Dupont.
Operations commenced in January, 1863, by some of the vessels of Rear-Admiral Dupont
's squadron capturing a large blockade-running steamer, which proved to be one of the most valuable prizes of the war.
To show the nature of the blockading service, it may not be uninteresting to give an account of the capture of the above-mentioned vessel.
On the morning of the 29th of January a blue light was observed from the U. S. S. Unadilla
, Lieutenant-Commander S. P. Quackenbush
, in an easterly direction, supposed to be from the U. S. S. Blunt
slipped her cable and stood in shore in a north-west direction, guided by a rocket thrown up apparently by the Blunt
, and indicating the course of a vessel attempting to run the blockade.
After proceeding inshore a mile and a half, a steamer was observed from the Unadilla
standing along close to the shore, and heading for Charleston
Two shots were fired at her by the Unadilla
, when the strange steamer changed her course and ran upon the beach, where she was immediately taken possession of. The prize proved to be the iron steam-propeller Princess Royal
, four days out from Bermuda
--one of the principal depots of the blockade-runners — loaded with rifle-guns, small-arms, ammunition,
for iron-clads, etc., etc.
Thus was the Confederacy
kept afloat by our cousins across the water, not so much from sympathy with the Southern
people as from a desire to obtain cotton, which was so necessary for them to have to keep their mills going and prevent a revolt of the factory operatives.
The English Government did nothing to prevent blockade-running, and doubtless considered it a fair business enterprise.
If a vessel got safely in past the blockaders, her cargo sold at a large profit, and she loaded with cotton, worth three times as much as the ingoing cargo.
There was great excitement as well
Surrender of the U. S. Steamer Mercedita to the Confederate ram, Palmetto State, off Charleston harbor, Jan. 31, 1863.|
as profit to the hardy Britons
who engaged in this trade.
In some respects the Confederates
had advantages superior to our own. The markets of Europe
were glutted with rifled guns and engines, and almost all the blockade-runners carried rifled field-guns for the Confederates
, while the conservative Army and Navy Departments of the North
felt it due to the people that all the implements of war should e made at home.
The result was that the Confederates
at an early stage of the war had their forts partly armed with heavy rifled guns, while in our vessels-of-war a rifled gun was an exception.
It was plainly to be seen that, as long as blockade-running continued, the task of putting down the Rebellion
was greatly increased, and it could only be prevented by the untiring energy and watchfulness of the Navy, incited somewhat by the hope of prize-money, which is a great incentive to extra exertions in time of war both to officers and men. Blockade-runners were captured in large numbers, and the vessels and cargoes condemned by our Admiralty Courts
, without protest from the British Government
There was plenty of timber in the South
, and the Southerners could build vessels as fast as Perry
did on Lake Erie
, but they could not build engines of the kind they required.
The British merchants who went into blockade-running with such alacrity probably never dreamed of the facility with which the United States Government could equip a large number of vessels exactly calculated to run down and capture their own. There was another factor that these traders had not taken into account — the watchfulness and energy of the American
naval officers, who were ever on the alert, and would either run the blockade-runners off the coast or upon the beach, where they would fall into Federal hands, often with their cargoes in perfect order.
This was the case with the Princess Royal
, which was floated off without sustaining the least injury, and
was fitted up by the Navy Department as a gun-boat.
and performed good service, under Commander M. B. Woolsey
, at the capture of the forts at Donaldsonville, La.
During January, 1863, the harbor of Charleston
was not occupied by the Federal squadron, but the vessels lay outside the bar, keeping a bright look-out.
Towards the end of the month two of the heaviest ships.
, had to proceed to Port Royal
for coal, leaving some lighter vessels to continue the blockade.
The Confederates had two ironclad rams, the Chicora
and Palmetto State
, under Commodore D. N. Ingraham
, in Charleston Harbor
, and on the 31st of January, about 4 A. M., they succeeded in crossing the bar unperceived in the darkness and attacked the Mercedita
, Captain H. S. Stellwagen
, which had just returned from the chase of a strange vessel.
The captain was below, and Lieutenant-Commander Abbott
in charge of the deck, when the faint appearance of a vessel showing black smoke was seen through the gloom.
All the Federal
vessels burned anthracite, while the Confederates
and blockade-runners burned bituminous coal, the smoke from which can be seen even in the darkness of night.
All hands were called to quarters, the captain appeared on deck, and saw what, for all he knew, might be a tug belonging to the squadron.
The guns were trained on the approaching stranger, who was then hailed and ordered to heave-to.
The answer to the first hail from the Mercedita
The other replies were purposely indistinct, and the stranger crashed into the Federal
vessels, with the reply, “This is the Confederate States
' steam-ram, Palmetto State
The order was given to fire, but no gun could be brought to bear on the enemy as she approached.
At the moment of striking, the Palmetto State
fired a rifle-shell diagonally through the Federal
steamer, which penetrated the condenser, the steam-drum of the port-boiler, and exploded against the port-side of the vessel, making a hole four or five feet square in its exit.
was instantly enveloped in vapor, while cries came from below “Shot through the boiler!
Fires put out — gunner and one man killed and a number fatally scalded — water over fire-room floor — vessel sinking fast!
The ram has cut us through at and below water line, and the shell has burst at the water line on the other side!”
This was appalling information, and it must be a well-trained crew that would not feel nervous at such intelligence.
could do nothing, for the enemy's ram was under his counter.
He had made a mistake in not firing on the stranger as soon as she appeared, for none but an enemy would have approached so stealthily.
He should have had steam up and chain ready to slip at a moment's notice.
No one expected that the enemy's rams would dare cross the bar, but the same love of adventure existed in the Confederate navy as in the Federal
and this affair was another illustration of the importance of never underrating a foe.
After the Palmetto State
struck the Mercedita
she swung round under the latter's counter, and the Confederate
commander called out, “Surrender, or I will sink you!”
replied, “I can make no resistance, my boiler is destroyed.”
“Then, do you surrender?”
inquired the other.
“I do,” replied Stellwagen
The Confederate commander hailed several times for a boat to be sent him, threatening to fire in case of further delay.
then proceeded on board the ram, where the parole of the officers and crew of the Mercedita
was demanded; after receiving which, the ram started in the direction of the Keystone State
, which vessel and three other blockaders Captain Stellwagen
had tried to alarm by burning signal-lights.
Soon after the ram left the Mercedita
the people on board that vessel saw a shell from the Keystone State
explode against her armor, and several shells from the ram hit the Keystone State
, followed by smoke and vapor, which poured from the latter.
The firing then receded to the north and east and finally died away, and it was supposed the ram had engaged all the blockading vessels in turn.
The commanding officer
of the Mercedita
now set to work to save his vessel, about which nothing had been said on board the ram. The enemy supposed the vessel was sinking, and probably thought those on board could take care of themselves.
In two hours repairs were made, and with the assistance of the Stettin
reached Port Royal
When the Keystone State
was attacked, Commander Le Roy
gallantly returned the enemy's fire, but the ram lodged a shell in the fore-hold of his vessel, which set the Keystone State
on fire and obliged her to shear off till it could be extinguished.
By this time the ram Chicora
, Commander John R. Tucker
, had attacked the Keystone State
and Le Roy
turned upon the enemy, and putting on full steam ran right for one of the rams at the rate of twelve knots an hour, when a shell from the enemy penetrating both steam-chests rendered the Keystone State
Two rifleshells burst on the quarter-deck, but most of them struck the hull, and there were two feet of water in the hold; but some of the
other vessels of the blockading squadron now came to the assistance of the Keystone State
and took her in tow. These vessels were the Augusta
, Commander E. G. Parrott
, the Quaker City
, Commander J. M. Frailey
, and the Memphis
, Acting-Lieutenant P. G. Watmough
All these steamers kept up a brisk fire on the enemy's rams while the Keystone State
was towed out of their reach.
and Quaker City
were both struck in their hulls, but the Memphis
only in her rigging.
As daylight approached, the rams hauled off to the north-west, chased by the U. S. S. Juniata
, and anchored inside the shoals of the swash-channel, their commanders doubtless thinking they had done enough for one night and that they must reserve their strength for a future occasion.
On board the Mercedita
there were twenty killed and as many wounded, a number being scalded to death, among whom was Assistant Surgeon Jacob H. Gotwold
and his steward.
It was a heavy list of killed and wounded for so short an engagement, but the Confederates
wasted very few shots, and the striking of the boilers of two of the Federal
vessels was no doubt a matter of calculation and not mere accident.
The attack of the Confederate rams on the Union
squadron was a gallant affair, and the one that encountered the Mercedita
might have sunk that vessel while the commanding officer
was hesitating to answer the hails.
After disabling the Mercedita
and encountering four other vessels, finding doubtless that the Federal
ships were too numerous to be agreeable, the rams moved off uninjured and sought the safety of well-known channels.
was much chagrined when he received the news of this engagement; but a nation cannot expect to carry on a war with a skillful and energetic enemy without mishaps, especially under circumstances like the above, where the Confederates
could slip out in the darkness, make a dash at the blockading vessels and retire when necessary to do so.
The Confederate authorities endeavored to make great capital out of this affair, and General Beauregard
, who commanded the defences, proclaimed officially that the blockade had been raised, as the United States Navy was powerless to maintain it. However, next morning, the blockading vessels were at their posts as usual, ready to prevent the ingress or egress of any vessel.
The claim of the Confederates
that the blockade had been raised by the raid of their two rams was, of course, absurd.
To raise a blockade, it would be necessary to drive away the blockading vessels altogether and hold the positions they occupied, yet, strange to say, the foreign consuls at Charleston
, and an officer commanding one of Her Britannic Majesty's ships-of-war, united in a statement that the blockade of Charleston
had been raised!
The New Ironsides
, and Canandaigua
were immediately added to the force off Charleston
, which, without further argument, settled the question.
The port of Charleston
remained blockaded more closely than ever, and it was generally accepted by the world that the gentlemen who had put their names to a paper stating the blockade had been raised had prostituted their offices, by giving currency to a statement which could not have been forced upon their conviction as truth.
On the 1st of February Admiral Dupont
received notice of the capture of a gunboat.
It seems that the Isaac Smith
, Acting-Lieutenant-Commander F. S. Conover
, was sent up Stone River
to make a reconnaissance.
No enemy was seen; but when the vessel was on her way back three concealed batteries opened a concentrated fire on her from — heavy rifle-guns.
The gun-boat McDonough
, Lieutenant-Commander Bacon
, was at anchor down the river, and on hearing the firing got underway, and went to the assistance of the Isaac Smith
; but owing to the number, position and weight of the enemy's guns could render no aid without the certainty of losing his own vessel.
The Isaac Smith
was aground and enveloped in a cloud of vapor, and the McDonough
driven off by the superior range of the enemy's fire.
The commanding officer
of the Isaac Smith
endeavored to get out of the trap in which he found himself by dropping below the batteries; but for upwards of a mile, on account of a bend in the river, the vessel was subjected to a raking fire of 30 guns, and was only able now and then to answer with her pivot-gun.
To add to the difficulty, a large number of concealed riflemen were firing upon the vessel.
Eight of the gunboat's crew were killed and 17 wounded. But for the latter, the commanding officer
would have set fire to his vessel and escaped with his officers and men; but to escape with the vessel was impossible, and she was therefore surrendered.
It may have been observed by the reader that many cases occurred during the civil war where vessels were entrapped as the Isaac Smith
was; but, as a rule, the defence of these vessels was characterized by great courage.
In such cases it was not possible to ascertain the loss of the enemy, and we abstain from unreliable conjectures.
It was impossible to circumvent the enemy without running such risks as were encountered by the Isaac Smith
. “Nothing venture, nothing have,” is a maxim which all should profit by who go to war. Though now and then the Federals
met with losses of vessels, yet the experience gained was beneficial and stimulated the younger officers to deeds of daring, while teaching them at the same time the necessity of prudence.
On the 1st of February the Montauk
, Commander John L. Worden
, was ordered to engage the forts at Ogeechee River
, a duty which was well performed; but the Confederates
shifted their guns from point to point, as the range of the Montauk
improved, and finally the vessel withdrew from action after expending a large amount of ammunition and being struck thirty-nine times without apparent injury.
The Confederate steamer Nashville
had been closely watched for eight months by the blockading steamers Wissahickon
, Lieutenant-Commander John L. Davis
, the Dawn
, Lieutenant John S. Barnes
, and the Seneca
, Lieutenant-Commander William Gibson
lay under Fort McAllister
loaded with cotton, and although a swift and well-appointed steamer, never ventured to run out. After several months she withdrew up the Ogeechee River
and returned in the guise of a privateer, presenting a formidable appearance.
was strengthened and the river lined with torpedoes to prevent the ascent of vessels to attack the Nashville
The vessel frequently came near the forts, watching an opportunity to run out and perform the part of the Alabama
was armed with a heavy pivot-gun, and, being fast, would no doubt have rivalled the other Confederate cruisers that had done so much injury to our commerce.
For this reason she was closely watched, and it was as great a triumph to dispose of such a craft as it would have been to win a considerable victory.
On the 27th of February, Commander Worden
, on making a reconnaissance, observed that the Nashville
had grounded in that portion of the river known as “Seven mile reach,” and on the 28th at daylight the
moved up the river.
was able to approach within twelve hundred yards of the Nashville
, though under a heavy fire from the fort.
opened on the privateer, while the gun-boats enfiladed the fort at long range.
In a short time Commander Worden
had the satisfaction of seeing the Nashville
in flames from the shells exploding in different parts of her. The Nashville
's pivotgun was soon exploded by the heat, and in a short time the vessel blew up with a terrific crash.
The fort continued a brisk fire on the Montauk
, but only struck her five times, and inflicted on her no damage whatever, which indicated that she was impervious to shot and shell.
A torpedo exploded
near the vessel as she dropped down the river out of range of the enemy's guns, but did no harm, and that night Commander Worden
had the satisfaction of reporting to Rear-Admiral Dupont
the destruction of a vessel that might have proved as troublesome as the Alabama
It was deemed advisable to try the ironclads of the squadron in action with some fort, so as to be certain of their impenetrability, and fully test the working of the turrets.
Captain Percival Drayton
, commanding the Passaic
, was directed to proceed with the Patapsco
. Commander Daniel Ammen
, and the Nahant
, Commander John Downes
, up the Ogeechee River
, and make an attack on Fort McAllister
The fort had been subjected to three previous attacks from the Montauk
; but damages to earth-works are easily repaired, and the work made stronger than ever, unless the guns have been dismounted, as during a bombardment the weak points are discovered and strengthened.
was 20 feet above the river, solidly built, with high traverses between the guns, protecting them from anything but a direct fire.
It contained one 10-inch columbiad, a 100-pounder rifle, four 32-pounders, and one Whitworth
rifle, throwing bolts.
The three vessels anchored 1,200 yards below the fort, at 8 A. M., March 3, 1863, opened fire, and, as Captain Drayton
reported, the parapets were much cut up and large holes made by the bursting shell, but no damage was done that could not be repaired in a few hours.
did not consider the fort nearly as great an obstacle to his advance as the piles which were driven in the channel of the river, and which rendered it impassable till they could be removed.
The iron-clads were subjected to the fire of Fort McAllister
for eight hours without receiving any serious injury, but the same thing was true of the fort.
expressed some mortification at what he called his want of success in this attack; but experience has proved that iron-clads, although so valuable against ships, or fortifications built of masonry, are not so serviceable against earth-works as vessels carrying a greater number of lighter guns.
The power of the 15-inch gun as a breaching force against masonry is considerable, but against a work constructed of sand-bags it has not the value of a 11-inch gun, and nothing like the power of a 100-pounder rifle for boring through the sand.
The 15-inch gun in a turret is slow firing, not being able to discharge oftener than once in five minutes, while the breech-loading rifle can be pointed and fired once a minute, which in an hour would give 60 shots from the rifled-gun to 12 from the 15-inch.
While the iron-clads were turning their turrets, the enemy would wait until the port-holes appeared, would fire, knowing the exact range, hide in their bomb-proofs until the iron-clads had fired, then stand to their guns again, until the port-holes once more came round.
In attacking forts, in conjunction with other vessels carrying many guns, iron-clads are valuable for distances not exceeding 600 yards; but the initial velocity of the 15-inch shot is only about 1,500 feet per second, which is much reduced even at the distance of 1,200 yards. At 800 yards a 15-inch shot would not, with the charges assigned to the gun, penetrate a 4-inch iron plate.
More was expected from our iron-clads during the war than they had power to accomplish.
Any one of them armed with 15-inch guns could have destroyed a vessel like the Merrimac
in half an hour, but against earth works, sand especially, none of the monitor class were equal to the New Ironsides
, with her quick-firing batteries of 11-inch guns.
All these matters were fully discussed during the siege of Charleston
had a great responsibility on his shoulders, as he was the first officer to whom these iron-clads had been assigned.
He was determined to leave nothing undone to give these vessels a full trial to determine their capabilities.
It cannot be doubted that the experience to which the iron-clads had been subjected in the attack on Fort McAllister
afforded valuable information in relation to their qualities, and several imperfections were detected which could be remedied in other vessels of their class.
The capture of Fort McAllister
, in itself, was of no special importance, except, perhaps, to prevent its protecting some other privateer or blockade-runner.
's opinion was that the fire of the iron-clads was not effective, and that the fort fired more rapidly towards the end than it did at the beginning of the action.
In the demonstration against Fort McAllister
it was discovered that the fuses for the shells were not good, and the shells exploded at irregular intervals — a very important matter to ascertain before the grand engagement with the forts at Charleston
carried one 15-inch gun, and one 150-pounder rifle.
She fired fourteen 15-inch shells and 46 shells from the one 150-pounder rifle — over three to one in favor of the rifle.
was not struck by the shells from Fort McAllister
, the enemy seeming to concentrate his fire on the Passaic
Up to the 10th of March was a busy and successful time with the blockaders of Admiral Dupont
Two large steamers, the Queen-of-the-Wave
and the Georgian
, loaded with munitions of war for the Confederates
, were destroyed, which served to indicate that the blockade was still effective.
had taken the lead in the movement for a division of the Union
, the government naturally desired that the laws should be vindicated there at as early a date as practicable.
and the Navy Department wished to have the honor of bringing about so desirable an end. Therefore, Assistant Secretary Fox
, with the approbation of the Secretary of the Navy
, directed all his energies towards getting as large a number of iron-clads as possible to Charleston
enable Admiral Dupont
to force his way up to the city.
The harbor of Charleston
had been closely guarded and many blockade-runners captured, but the Confederates
calculated to strengthen their fortifications and add new ones, so as to hold the hot-bed of secession against all the forces that could be brought to bear.
Besides establishing a close blockade, an attempt had been made by the Federals
to obstruct the passage across the bar with sunken vessels, which proved unsuccessful, as the vessels soon disappeared in the quicksands, or the currents washed out new channels.
So the blockade-runners, though closely watched, continued to run into Charleston
and supply the Confederacy
with munitions of war.
Several plans for the reduction of the Confederate stronghold were proposed, but none were thought advisable, and in the absence of a large land force it seemed that the duty must devolve entirely upon the Navy.
This was a most serious task for the Navy to undertake without any support from the Army; but even at that stage of the war the Government
had not learned the importance of using large land and naval forces in conjunction when attacking heavily fortified places — attacks which, when conducted with good judgment, seldom or ever failed.
The Navy Department was, doubtless, very willing to have the co-operation of the Army, but they were frequently unable to obtain it, and the War Department did not attach the same importance to the capture of Charleston
as did the Navy.
Much was expected of the iron vessels by the Navy Department, and their hopes were confirmed by the attacks on Fort McAllister
, where none of the vessels were seriously injured, and none of their crew killed.
The Department had been abused for expending so much money on these vessels, which their detractors affirmed would perform no effective service, and would founder, as the Monitor
had done; not taking into consideration the fact that they were superior to the original Monitor
, and that the defects of the latter had been eliminated in these later structures.
The Department naturally wanted to show that it had made no mistakes in this instance, and they pushed on the work of preparation regardless of the criticism of those who were in favor of a different class of vessel carrying more guns.
Some of these detractors were persons whose plans had been rejected, and who thought there was no other mode but their own of bringing the contumacious city under subjection.
On the other hand, the Department had rather too much faith in these vessels, and was inclined to expect from them more than they could perform, and was. therefore, disinclined to listen to the advice of officers who, by their standing and length of service.
were entitled to consideration.
Almost everybody admitted the value of the turret-vessels as harbor defences, but many doubted their efficiency against the earthworks of Charleston
was pressed by the Navy Department to attack the batteries, and on the 7th of April, 1863, he determined to attempt what he was far from certain would be a success, in order to carry out the wishes of the government, and meet, if possible, the public expectations.
To understand the harbor of Charleston
, with its intricate shoals and channels, requires the study of a chart.
In some respects
it resembles the harbor of New York
, although it is on a much smaller scale.
The city of Charleston
stands on a neck of land, bounded by two rivers, and projecting into a narrow bay. The bay was protected by Fort Pinkney, Fort Ripley
, Fort Moultrie
, Fort Beauregard
Fort Sumter, Battery Bee
, Battery Gregg, Battery Wagner, etc. These defences were so placed that a vessel attempting to pass Sumter
would be under a cross-fire from them all. every fort being armed with the heaviest and most destructive ordnance then known.
After crossing the bar. there were several channels leading into Charleston harbor
— the Main-Ship Channel
. North Channel
and Swash Channel
In taking either of these, a vessel would be under a raking and cross fire.
Should she get by Sumter
, she would still be subjected to a raking fire from that work and the works on the upper part of Sullivan's Island
— from Battery Gregg, Fort Johnson
, Fort Ripley
and Castle Pinkney
, and some smaller batteries.
To run past these defences, if there were no obstructions in the channel, would be much easier with a small squadron than to stop and give the forts battle with ironclads.
This fact was established during the civil war, and the subject has been ably treated in a work published in 1868 by Lieutenant-Colonel Von Sheliha
Before proceeding to attack the defences of Charleston
, Rear-Admiral Dupont
issued the following order:
When Admiral Dupont
hoisted his flag on board the New Ironsides
, he took with him his personal staff, who remained with him during the operations at Charleston
To the officers of the staff he pays the highest encomiums for the assistance they rendered him in the battle and otherwise.
They were as follows:
Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
, Fleet Captain
; Lieutenant S. W. Preston
, Flag Lieutenant
; Lieutenant A. S. Mackenzie
, Ordnance Officer; Ensign M. L. Johnson
, Aide and Signal Officer
All these gentlemen are mentioned with that warmth of feeling which distinguished Dupont
in cases where officers under him performed their duty faithfully.
On the 7th of April the vessels moved to the attack, the Weehawken
leading with a torpedo raft in front.
On the way up the Main
, the leading vessel passed a number of buoys indicating torpedoes, one of which exploded near the Weehawken
, without, however, doing any harm.
At 2 P. M., the squadron approached the obstructions extending across the harbor from Fort Moultrie
to Fort Sumter
These were indicated by several lines of casks, beyond which piles were seen extending “from James Island
to the Middle Ground
At 2.50 P. M., the guns of Fort Moultrie
opened upon the Weehawken
, followed shortly after by Fort Sumter
, and all the batteries on Sullivan's Island
Being unable to pass the obstructions, the iron-clads were obliged to turn, which threw the line into confusion.
The flagship became entangled with the Monitors
, and could not bring her batteries to bear on the enemy without danger of firing into them.
The New Ironsides
was compelled to anchor twice to prevent going ashore,--on one of these occasions the Monitors
and the Keokuk
were able to get within easy range of Fort Sumter
--at distances varying from 550 to 800 yards--in which position they were subjected to a fire from the batteries on Sullivan's Island
, Morris Island
The effect of the concentrated fire of the
forts on the Monitors
would have been bewildering to officers and men whose nerves were not of the strongest kind.
The enemy had been anxiously looking forward to the time when they could get the Federal
iron-clads in just such a position, and their only apprehension was that the opportunity would not be offered them.
The Confederate engineers felt that it would be impossible for any force of vessels such as the Federals
possessed to pass the forts and obstructions to Charleston
Owing to repeated practice at targets, the Confederate
officers felt certain of planting two out of three of their heaviest shots on the Monitors
' turrets at the rate of sixty shots a minute.
The trial of the Monitors
before Fort McAllister
afforded no real test of their endurance, for there could be no comparison between such a work as McAllister
and the defences of Charleston
The fire on the ironclads was such as an equal number of the heaviest European
ships-of-war could not have withstood many minutes.
The severity of the fire was shown by the effect on the Monitors
and the sinking of one of their number, and yet the vessels retired from the conflict without confusion.
That attack will always stand the severest criticism from those disposed to be hypercritical; and those capable of judging will admit that it was conducted with skill and judgment.
It was very well in those who could sit in their cosy arm-chairs and direct great naval and military movements, who seldom reflect that while undertaking to direct battles from a distance they are meddling with that which properly should be managed by the professional leader, and uselessly sacrificing the lives of officers and men.
found it impossible, owing to currents and an unmanageable ship, to place the New Ironsides
where he desired, although he was within one thousand yards of Fort Sumter
; night was coming on, and the squadron in some disarray.
He therefore signalled the vessels to withdraw from action, intending to renew the engagement.
That evening the commanding officers
of the iron-clads visited the flag-ship to report the condition of affairs on board their respective vessels, which caused Admiral Dupont
to change his mind about renewing the attack next morning, for he was now satisfied that it was impossible to take Charleston
with the force under his command.
And here arises the question — Was it wise to undertake so great a task as the capture of Charleston
at one blow?
It would have been a good beginning to have taken Fort Wagner
To have attacked that place eight hundred yards to the southward would have placed the squadron two and a half miles from the forts on Sullivan's Island
and a mile and three-quarters from Sumter
Of course, if the iron-clads could not reduce Wagner
, it would be useless to attempt to go up to the city.
There was a great desire, on the part of the Northern
people, that Charleston
should be taken, and the officer who could at that moment have captured the place would have won unbounded popularity.
It was certainly the hardest task undertaken by the Navy during the war. In fact, without the co-operation of an army, the taking of Charleston
was an impossibility.
was approached by tortuous channels filled with obstructions, that even without the fortifications would have been formidable to the squadron that went to attack
it. It is difficult to manoeuvre a squadron in a narrow space with strong currents running; how much more difficult must it be, then, when crooked channels are filled with obstructions?
In such a case a Commander-in-chief is entitled to use his own discretion, and not undertake a movement against a place unless he is confident the obstructions are not of a character to impede the progress of his fleet.
persevered and entangled his vessels in the contrivances placed in the channels for that purpose, those who urged him on would have put the blame of the necessary failure upon his shoulders.
He discontinued the attack in good time, and let us see the result: No ships had been exposed to the severest
General map of Charleston Harbour, South Carolina, showing Confederate defences and obstructions.|
fire of the enemy more than forty minutes, yet in that brief period five iron-clads were wholly or partially disabled.
, in the Keokuk
, had been able to fire only three times during the period he was exposed to the guns of the enemy, when he was obliged to withdraw from action to prevent his vessel from sinking, which event did happen on the following morning.
, Commander Downes
, was seriously damaged, her turret so jammed as to prevent its turning, many of the bolts of both turret and pilot house broken, and the latter rendered nearly untenable by flying bolts and nuts.
, in the Passaic
, after the fourth fire from her 11-inch gun, found himself unable to use it again during the action.
His turret, also, became jammed, although he
was finally enabled to get it in motion again.
, of the Patapsco
, lost the use of his rifled-gun after the fifth fire, owing to the carrying away of the bolts of the forward cap-square.
, of the Nantucket
, reports that after the third shot from the 15-inch gun, the port-stopper became jammed, several shot striking near the port, driving in the plates and preventing the further use of the gun during the action.
The other iron-clads, although struck many times, were still able to use their guns, but it seems probable that in a short time they would have been placed hors-decombat
The position of the squadron was simply that of being in a trap, and having to bear the cross-fire of all the forts within a circle of two miles. Only one hundred and thirty shot and shell were fired by the iron-clads during the action, while many hundred were fired by the enemy, the character of which is well described by a contemporary writer.
In order to more fully understand the terrible severity of the fire to which these vessels were to be exposed, it is necessary to consider some statements in the circular of the Confederate General Ripley.
He mentions three circles of fire which had been prepared for the reception of the fleet.
He meant that there were three points beyond each other in passing up the harbor upon which circles the batteries on shore would concentrate their fire as upon a focus, and to these points the range of the guns had been actually adjusted by experimental firing, and the points were marked by guides, buoys and obstructions, so that no shot could miss its mark.
The first focus of fire into which the fleet would come was formed between Sumter and Moultrie.
Three obstructions of various kinds were placed in and across the channel, through which it was thought the fleet could not pass, and where the leading vessels being stopped the line would be thrown into confusion, and the Monitors would be huddled together and could be crushed by the concentrating fire of the circle of forts and batteries.
According to the Confederate accounts seventy-six guns bore on this single point, while our own officers placed the number at a hundred.
If now it is considered that bearing on this spot were 7-inch, 8-inch, Brooke and Blakely rifles, 10-inch columbiads, for which had been prepared squarehead bolts, with chilled ends, much heavier than the ordinary shot, and guns for hot shot and shells containing moulten iron, an idea may be formed of what these iron-clads were to meet.
The enemy's guns, moreover, had been so tried that there could be no random shooting.
The Confederate plan of defence lacked nothing which skill, experience and science could suggest.
So far the writer whom we quote pictures in glowing terms the difficulties with which the Monitors
would have to contend in an attack on Charleston
; but after stating the damages received by the Federal
vessels, and quoting the opinions of all the principal officers that a continuation of the attack would have resulted in the destruction of the squadron, the chronicler suddenly changes his course, as if impressed by a new idea, and attempts to show that a prolongation of the struggle would have led to a Union victory, and that the opinions of ten brave and experienced officers were of no account whatever!
There was no officer in the Navy whose reputation stood higher than that of Dupont
He had gallantly won the first naval battle of any importance in the war, and had shown so much ability at Port Royal
as to entitle him to the full confidence of the Government
, and his opinions should have been preferred in all matters relating to his command to those of any other person.
The belief was general at the time that Dupont
was not well treated by the Navy Department--a belief which prevails in the Navy to this day.
When the Department commenced building
small Monitor-shaped vessels with great rapidity, the Secretary
and Assistant Secretary of the Navy
were unjustly assailed from various quarters for adopting the Monitor
system in preference to all others.
In this matter, Mr. Secretary Welles
and Mr. Fox
showed good judgment, for the Keokuk
, which was not a Monitor-built vessel, was shattered so by the enemy's fire at Charleston
that in a few minutes she withdrew from action to avoid sinking, and did sink some hours afterwards from the effects of the enemy's shot.
Having prepared these Monitors, the Navy Department were naturally anxious to prove to their detractors that this was the right form of vessel to carry out the ideas of the government; but the Department did not take into consideration that seven Monitors, each with two slow-firing guns, were no match for seventy-six pieces of ordnance of the heaviest calibre then in use. If we further consider that half of the guns in the Monitors
were 11-inch, there remained but seven 15-inch guns with which to breach the masonry of Fort Sumter
and the thick earth-works of the numerous other fortifications.
The Confederate accounts disagree in the number of their guns, but it is probable that in the aggregate they fell not much short of a hundred.
In their anxiety to triumph over those who had attacked them so unjustly, the Navy Department required of Dupont
more than could be accomplished with his small force, and did not pay that deference to his opinion to which his reputation and position entitled him. On Dupont
alone would have rested the responsibility of defeat had he entangled his vessels in the meshes prepared to receive them, and rendered them targets for the enemy to destroy at their leisure.
In that event there would have been such an outcry at the North
against the Monitor
system that the Navy Department could not have withstood it. All the blame would have been thrown upon Dupont
in the same way that the blame of failing to continue his attack was ascribed to him.
But the Navy did not look upon the action of the 7th of April as a defeat, by any means.
It was a prudent withdrawal from engagement with a force more than six times its superior.
It must not be forgotten that the Monitors
had to take position and get their range under a most terrific fire; and although none were so disabled that they could not have resumed the action next day, they were enough so to be obliged to retire temporarily.
The difficulty lay in having too few vessels to accomplish so great a work — an opinion which was generally acquiesced in by those cognizant of the facts of the case.
It is now an axiom that, no matter how strong you may build an iron-clad, guns can be made that will knock her to pieces in a given space of time.
In the case of the Monitors
, the enemy had in forty minutes weakened some of them, and an hour longer would perhaps have made it necessary for them to go to the machine-shop.
We do not consider the official report of Chief Engineer A. C. Stimers
to the Navy Department as carrying any weight with it, particularly in view of the terrible mistakes made by that officer in the building of a number of light-draft Monitors which were consigned to the scrap-heap as worthless.
In his communication to the Navy Department Mr. Stimers
says: “In consideration of the vast importance to our country that this stronghold of the rebellion should be reduced, I take the liberty to express to the Department my firm opinion that the obstructions could be readily passed with the means already provided, and our entire fleet of ironclads pass up successfully to the wharves at Charleston
, and that the Monitors
will retain sufficient enduring power to enable them to pass all the forts and batteries which may reasonably be expected.”
also expressed great confidence in the efficiency of the torpedo rafts designed by Mr. Ericsson
, for the purpose of removing torpedoes and blowing up obstructions, which the historian of the Navy says “naval officers were unwilling to use”
--or any other person in like circumstances — could express what opinion he pleased, as he had no responsibility in the matter and was not likely to have any. The intelligent reader will doubtless attach more importance to the opinion of the Commander-in-chief
and his well-tried officers, who always did their duty faithfully in whatever situation they were placed.
To show that the commanding officers
of the Monitors
did not lose their coolness, and that they were not deficient in courage during the time they were under the fire of so many guns, it is only necessary to state the accuracy of the fire of those vessels.
One hundred and twenty-four shots were fired at Sumter
, and during the engagement the Monitors
had to be kept in position to preserve their range under the storm of shot that was showered upon them.
The Confederate accounts state that fifty-five of the Monitors
' shot struck the walls of Sumter
, and others struck inside the works, which was excellent practice considering the situation.
The firing also showed that the 15-inch shot had a breaking force against masonry that it did not possess against earth-works.
The distance at which the vessels were from the fort is differently stated by the Federal
and Confederate officers, the former placing it at 600, the latter at 1,000, yards.
As both were liable to error, we will take the mean of the two, or 800 yards, as correct, at which distance both the 15-inch and the 11-inch guns must have great breaching power.
Only two of the 15-inch shot passed through the walls of Fort Sumter
and exploded--one in a casemate, the other in the parade-ground.
Other 15-inch shells exploded against the walls, making deep craters, but not essentially injuring the fort; “embrasures were destroyed, and one shot cracked the masonry for twenty-four feet in length;” “one large shell went over the parapet, demolished the officers' quarters, and damaged several walls.”
“Other 15-inch shells and shot and fragments of shells were picked up in and about the fort.”
These facts we glean from the Confederate
We quote the historian of the Navy, who is anxious to show that Admiral Dupont
and his officers had no idea of the damage they were doing to the fort, otherwise they would have continued the attack.
The fact is, if the Monitors
had been filled with shot and shell and every one had struck Fort Sumter
, they would not materially have injured its powers of resistance unless they could have disabled the guns.
The naval historian says: “That nothing was more certain, in view of what was actually done, than that Sumter
could not long have resisted even such a fire as the Monitors
delivered that day. The result would have been not such a gradual crumbling of the walls as took place under the long-range firing of the heavy rifles afterwards from the land batteries, but they would have come down with a crash, and the whole interior of the fort would have been torn in pieces by the enormous shells.”
In giving such opinions, it is very plain the Naval historian, whom we quote, had never seen a fort after a bombardment, where the ground was strewn with shells and debris
, yet remaining in fair fighting condition.
He seems not to consider that while the fort is getting battered the iron-clads are at the same time receiving a severe hammering, and that, when the bombardment is continued for a length of time, the iron turrets will be likely to yield to repeated blows, on the same principle that the trunnions of a heavy gun can be broken off by repeated strokes from an ordinary hammer.
There was another argument urged in favor of the Monitors
maintaining the fight with Sumter
, viz.: “That, in judging of the actual power of these large guns, one very important point must be considered.
These guns were novel weapons, and there was an apprehension that they would burst in firing, and consequently were used with a caution which in the light of subsequent experience appears like timidity.
The charge of powder was limited to thirty-five pounds. They have since been fired repeatedly and safely with double that amount — with seventy pounds of powder, or one hundred of mammoth powder, which is equal to seventy or seventy-five of common powder.
From the results that were actually reached with only thirty-five pounds of powder, it is rendered certain that, if the charges had been suitably increased, every shot and shell striking fairly would have gone through the walls and the fort would have been destroyed, or, at the very least, it would have been so shattered that none would have doubted the propriety of a second attack, for it could be seen that it could easily be destroyed by a second attack.”
This kind of “argument” will not stand against the statement of the facts.
Its purpose was to throw on Dupont
the odium of failure in the attack on Charleston
All the talk of increasing the charges of the guns to obtain more breaching power was sheer folly, for the charges for the guns were established by the Bureau of Ordnance
in the Navy Department, and no officer could take the responsibility of doubling the charges of the guns during an action, for should they burst and kill his own men he would be held blamable.
The Naval historian labors in all this to show that there was wanting the energy in the attack on Sumter
which characterized subsequent proceedings; but it must be remembered that Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, who relieved Dupont
, with the light of the latter's experience to guide him,
accomplished no more than his predecessor.
In fact, the historian admits as much, and acknowledges that nothing was effected until Fort Wagner
, the key to the situation, was attacked by the Army and Navy at the same time, when, to use his words: “The Monitors and New Ironsides
played a most conspicuous part.”
In fact, he says, “it does not appear how Wagner
could have been taken without their assistance.”
The north end of the island was in possession of the Confederates
and, of course, in communication with Charleston
and the other forts, and Wagner
could at any time be re-inforced, and it would have been just as easy for the Confederates
to have advanced by sap towards Gilmore
's batteries as for him to approach them.
had it not been for the presence of the iron-clads; but the latter
Lieutenant-Commander (now Rear-Admiral) S. B. Luce.|
effectually prevented any operations outside the walls of the fort, nor were the enemy even able to make a sortie to check the working-parties of Gilmore
, nor use their batteries with effect upon the position, for the men could not stand to their guns under the fire of the Monitors
or New Ironsides
Day by day, and even by night, it was the business of the Monitors
to go up and attack the forts, gradually weakening their defence till, on the day when Gilmore
expected to make the final assault, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, the successor of Dupont
, reported that he had knocked the fort into sand-heaps under the fire of the land and naval batteries; it was no longer tenable, and that night Morris Island
No one will pretend that Fort Wagner
compared in strength to Fort Sumter
, which it was expected six Monitors would knock down; the Commander-in-chief
of the squadron, indeed, being blamed for not settling it in the first attack; and when we consider all the events at Charleston
, from Dupont
's first attack until the evacuation of the place on the advance of General Sherman
's army, we are confirmed in our idea that Rear-Admiral Dupont
was right in saying that “the place can only be taken by a combined attack of the Army and Navy; and attacking the forts with the Monitors
and iron-clads alone would never end in any favorable results.”
It was not until after the fall of Morris Island
, when General Gilmore
could erect batteries armed with heavy rifled-guns, that Fort Sumter
began to crumble, day by day, until it became a mere heap of rubbish to outward seeming, although still powerful, even in its crippled condition.
and protecting the obstructions from the Monitors
and New Ironsides
, so that no one could tell any more of their character than was known to Dupont
when lie relinquished his command.
To show the Confederate
determination to hold Charleston
at all hazards, we here insert tile circular of General Ripley
It shows that the Confederates
were alive to everything necessary to circumvent an enemy.
We think we have established that Admiral Dupont
was right in the conclusions which he submitted to the Navy Department immediately after the engagement of the 7th of April.
The public, knowing that he retired from his command directly after this affair, might suppose that some blame was attached to him.
was too popular an officer to be treated with injustice, and in the course of a month it was seen by the Secretary of the Navy
that his views were correct, and that the siege of Charleston
by the Navy still continued with no better results than before.
Overtures were then made to the Admiral
and he could have had any command he desired, but Dupont
was a proud man and would not listen to terms from those whom he thought had censured him for doing his duty and forced him from his command at Charleston
To accept another command, Dupont
thought, would imply that he concurred in the views of the Department.
The following letters will explain in a measure the reasons for the misunderstanding between the Secretary of the Navy
and Rear-Admiral Dupont
's letter is an implied order for Dupont
to succeed at all hazards, while the Admiral
's undertakes to show the Department how little prospect there was of meeting its expectations:
was greatly disturbed at the want of success at Charleston
, and sent the following communications to Admiral Dupont
Commander (now Rear-Admiral) Charles Steedman, commanding flanking division, battle of Port Royal.|
After the attack on Charleston
, Rear-Admiral Dupont
returned to Fort Royal
and the blockade continued as before with the wooden gun-boats.
In the latter part of April, Major-General Hunter
applied for a gun-boat to assist a land force in an expedition against Buffington
, on May River
, which town had been the Headquarters of Confederate marauders for some time.
The army force numbering one thousand men, under Colonel Barton
, embarked on board the gun-boat Mayflower
and a transport, and were landed near Buffington
under cover of the guns of the Commodore McDonough
, and took possession of the town from which the Confederates
By order of Colonel Barton
the town was destroyed by fire, the church alone being spared.
The enemy returned and made several charges on the Federal
troops, but were driven back by the shells of the McDonough
, which burst in their ranks.
The burning of the town seems to have been an unnecessary act of severity, but such is the tendency of civil war. The inhabitants of a town are held responsible for the acts of lawless guerillas, and punished for aiding and abetting the enemy, when perhaps they may not have been to blame.
While the blockade of Charleston
still continued, the Confederates
, with the persistent energy by which they were distinguished, were constructing iron-clads at Savannah
They had been for some time past engaged in altering the blockade-runner Fingal
into a casemated vessel of the same type as the Merrimac
and others so popular in the South
The fancy for this description of ironclad arose doubtless more from necessity than from anything else.
The Confederates had few machine-shops, and it was hardly practicable to roll out a sufficiency of wide plates, but they had a plenty of railroad iron
, and of this they made liberal use. The Southern iron-clads were very formidable vessels when brought into conflict with wooden ships-of-war of the old type.
It is only necessary to recall to the reader's memory the two small iron-clads which slipped out of Charleston
and did such damage to the Federal
gun-boats, not to mention other instances, to show the value of the Confederate
The slanting roof was the Southern
idea pitted against the Monitor
plan, which was that of the North
These represented the two most powerful types of fighting-ships in existence, and, if the Merrimac
had destroyed the Monitor
, the former would no doubt have been the type of vessel used for coast and harbor defence the world over.
The Confederates never conceded the Northern
claim that the Monitor
drove the Merrimac
back to Norfolk
The Confederate naval authorities knew how the Federal
Navy Department was abused and criticised throughout the North
for adopting the Ericsson
principle instead of some of the numerous other devices that were offered, and the South
took the view of the question which coincided with their own preconceived ideas.
They believed in their plan of vessel with rifled guns, and rather derided the Monitors
with their slow-moving turrets and short-range guns.
The want of success of the Monitors
also lowered their prestige, though this was unjust to the vessels, for
they certainly showed their endurance at that place sufficiently to prove that they could stand the attack of the Atlanta
, then called the Fingal
, had succeeded in running the blockade and getting into Savannah
soon after the capture of Port Royal
She had since been closely watched, and finding it would be almost impossible to get out of port again as a blockade-runner, she was sold to the Confederate Government and converted into an iron-clad, supposed to be one of the best that had been built in the South
, Captain John Rodgers
, and the Nahant
, Commander John Downes
, were employed blockading the Atlanta
at the mouth of Wilmington River
Early in the morning of June 17th, 1863,
it was reported to Captain Rodgers
that a Confederate iron-clad was coming down the river.
was immediately cleared for action, the cable slipped, and the Monitor
steamed slowly towards the northeast end of Warsaw Island
, then turned and stood up the Sound
, heading for the enemy, who came on with confidence, as if sure of victory.
Two steamers followed the Confederate iron-clad, filled with people who had come down to see the Union vessels captured or driven away.
, having no pilot, followed in the wake of the Weehawken
When the Atlanta
was about a mile and a half from the Weehawken
she fired a rifled shot which passed across the stern of the later vessel and struck near the Nahant
At this time the Atlanta
lay across the channel waiting the attack of the Monitors
Commander William A. Webb
, her commanding officer, showed more courage than judgment, as he was not called upon to await the attack of two vessels which together were superior in force.
approached within three hundred yards of the enemy and at 5.15 A. M. opened fire.
In fifteen minutes the Atlanta
's colors were hauled down and a white flag was hoisted.
fired but five shots altogether, but that number was quite sufficient.
As soon as the Confederate steamer struck her colors, Captain Rodgers
steamed close to her and ordered a boat to be sent on board the Weehawken
. Lieutenant Alexander
, of the Confederate Navy, went on board to surrender the Atlanta
, which he informed Captain Rodgers
was aground on a sand-spit.
Soon after, Commander Webb
of the Atlanta
repaired on board the Weehawken
to deliver up his sword, and a prize-crew, under Lieutenant-Commander D. B. Harmony
, was sent to take charge of the prize.
received no damage from the Atlanta
's shot, the only injury she received was from her consort running foul of her. The Nahant
took no part in the battle, which was ended before she could obtain a position to use her guns.
was struck four times by the Weehawken
's shot, first on the inclined side by a 15-inch cored shot, which
broke through the armor and wood-backing, strewing the deck with splinters, prostrating about forty men by the force of the concussion, and wounding several by splinters and fragments of armor.
The second shot-11-inch solid-struck the “knuckle” or edge of the overhang, and did no damage except breaking a couple of plates.
The third shot--15-inch--struck the top of the Atlanta
's pilot-house, knocking it off, wounding the pilots and stunning the man at the wheel.
The fourth shot--11-inch--struck a port-stopper in the centre, breaking it in two and driving the fragments through the port.
had sixteen wounded, one of whom died from the effects of his
Capture of the Confederate ram Atlanta by the monitor Weehawken.|
wounds, but there is no mention of any one being killed outright.
The armament of the Confederate vessel was two 6-inch rifles in broadside, and two 7-inch rifles working on pivots, either as broadside or bow and stern guns.
had a complement of 145 officers and men, including marines.
The fact that the vessel was aground when she struck her colors does not account for the feeble defence she made after running down so defiantly and engaging two Monitors, whose strength must have been well known to the Confederates
Only two of the shots which struck the Atlanta
did any great damage, and the armor and backing, though much shattered, were not penetrated.
This confirms what we have before stated, viz., that the 15-inch shot could not penetrate four inches of iron with the ordinary backing at a distance of 800 yards.
was considered by the Confederates
the best iron-clad they had built, and in the capture was verified the statement we have made, that either of the Monitor-built vessels, armed with 15-inch guns, could have destroyed the Merrimac
in half an hour.
defeated a better ship than the Merrimac
in half the time mentioned.
It was probably the intention of the commanding officer
of the Atlanta
to get out where he could have plenty of searoom and choose his distance — which the great speed of the Atlanta
would have enabled him to do — and attack the Monitors
at long range, which would only have ended in the expenditure of a large amount of ammunition without any result, except that the Atlanta
might have escaped to do harm elsewhere.
It seemed to be the fate of all the Confederate iron-clads to be either captured, or destroyed by their officers to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Federals
, and the Merrimac
was about the only one of them which effected much previous to her destruction.
had a speed of ten knots, and her officers had confidently counted on capturing both the Monitors
From the nautical instruments on board the Confederate
vessel, her commanding officer evidently intended to go to sea or cruise along the coast, and her excellent engines and equipments and good model would have justified such an attempt.
The 15-inch shot which struck the Atlanta
dispelled all these illusions and demoralized the crew, and, although the vessel fired some shots, they all went wide of the mark.
When it was determined to fit the Atlanta
as an iron-clad, she was cut down so as to have the deck two feet above the water.
Upon this deck was built a casemate with inclined sides similar to the Merrimac
, with ports in which to mount four heavy rifle-guns of the Brooke
Her armor was four inches thick, composed of two layers of plates seven inches wide placed horizontally and vertically to each other.
The vessel was two hundred and four feet
long, forty-one feet breadth of beam, and about sixteen feet draft of water.
The bow terminated in an iron beak for ramming, and the vessel carried a torpedo apparatus on the bow, to be used when opportunity offered.
was, in fact, an improved Merrimac
This is a general description
of a vessel from which so much was expected and so little realized, and which instead of capturing two Monitors, was captured by one of them in fifteen minutes.
There was a good deal of ingenuity displayed in the construction of the Atlanta
, but the question of the superiority of the Monitor
type over the flat or angular type of vessel may be considered set at rest by her capture.
Notwithstanding the battle of the original Monitor
with the Merrimac
, many people declined to believe in the superiority of the turret system.
, even after the news reached them, commenced building armed ships with plated sides like the Warrior
class, judging from the effect of the Monitor
's shot on the Merrimac
, that they could build vessels with teak or oak backing and four inches of iron that would resist the most powerful American gun. But here was a new and more powerful gun, of which they had taken no account, and which, exceeding in size anything in the ordnance line heretofore manufactured, might smash in the sides of the Warrior
class, even if the shot did not pass clear through them.
This fight with the Atlanta
, therefore, set Europe
to thinking, and convinced the Navy Department it had taken a step in the right direction.
If their little floating batteries could not demolish the heaviest fortifications, they could break up and send to the bottom the heaviest ships.
The battle between the Weehawken
and the Atlanta
satisfied the United States Government that it could safely intimate to the governments of Europe
that we would submit to no interference in our domestic concerns so long as we complied with the law of nations.
There was established a more hopeful feeling for the speedy suppression of the rebellion, now that we had demonstrated that we could build vessels that were more than a match for the war-ships of Europe
The news of this engagement was received in Europe
with great interest.
It was a contest between English and American ideas.
The American idea was the Monitor-built vessel with the 15-inch gun; the English
idea was the Atlanta
with her plated sides and rifled guns.
No persons were more interested in the result of the conflict than the Lords
of the British Admiralty
, ever alive to what might exercise an influence upon their navy.
They had commenced the plating system and seemed to cling to the idea, but the success of the Weehawken
shattered their faith.
The Monitor system remained master of the field and has so continued to this day.
On this occasion the Secretary of the Navy
was eloquent in his praise of Captain Rodgers
, recognizing in the handsomest manner his services not only on the present occasion, but also on the Mississippi
at the commencement of the war and at Drury's Bluff on the James
, where Rodgers
attacked the enemy's fortifications in the socalled iron-clad Galena
also dwelt on the moral courage exhibited by Captain Rodgers
in putting to sea in the face of a violent storm to test the sea-going qualities of the Weehawken
--one of a class of vessels so unjustly decried by many persons.
For his important services, the Secretary
informed Captain Rodgers
that he had presented his name to Congress for a vote of thanks, and certainly the distinction was well deserved, for John Rodgers
was one of the most gallant officers in the Navy.
He had that cool courage which would flinch from no danger, and his capacious mind was ever ready to meet emergencies which might have unnerved many clever officers.
All of Rodgers
' friends and associates in the Navy felt that his honors were fairly earned, and they were worn with the modesty which distinguished him.
The capture of the Atlanta
was the last important event that occurred while the South Atlantic squadron was under the command of Dupont
, and he was well pleased to terminate his official communications to the Navy Department with such gratifying intelligence; and on the 4th of July, 1863, at his own request, he was relieved from the command of the squadron by Rear-Admiral John A. Dahlgren
In the later communications which passed between Rear-Admiral Dupont
and the Secretary of the Navy
, some asperity may be observed on both sides; but the capture of the Atlanta
seemed to have smoothed all this away, and Admiral Dupont
's friends hoped on his arrival in Washington
he would be appointed to some important command where he could give the country the benefit of his talents and experience.
On his retirement from the command of the squadron, Mr. Secretary Welles
wrote the Admiral
the following letter, which would seem to indicate that if he had ever had any feeling against Dupont
he had outgrown it:
Letters relating to the battle of Port Royal and occupation of the Confederate forts.
General order no. 2.
Order for Unadilla and other ships to take possession of Beaufort, S. C.
Flag-officer Dupont's report concerning the Marine battalion, Nov. 15.
Note.-The reports of the other commanding officers
do not contain any statements of historical interest, being general in their character, and are therefore omitted.