Chapter 36: operations of the South Atlantic Squadron under Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, 1863.--operations in Charleston harbor, etc.
succeeded Rear-Admiral DuPont
, at Port Royal
, on July 4th, 1863, the latter having been relieved at his own request, owing to a difference of opinion between himself and the Secretary of the Navy
in regard to the operations before Charleston
and the attempt to take the Confederate
works with the Monitors
had a difficult task before him. In the first place, he had relieved an officer who maintained as high a prestige as any in the Navy, at home and abroad, for skill and bravery.
The attack upon and capture of Port Royal
had given DuPont
a foreign reputation in addition to that he bore at home, and European
officers of distinguished merit did not hesitate to say that the battle of Port Royal
was one of the best exhibitions of naval tactical skill that had been seen for years.
Compare it, even now, with the late English attack in Egypt
, with their heavy iron-clads and monstrous guns, and note the rapidity with which DuPont
's squadron captured the works at Hilton Head
, etc., in comparison with the long-drawn-out battle at Alexandria
against forts only a trifle superior to those at Port Royal
and the palm will be given to the American
squadron as an exhibition of skill.
That affair did a great deal to impress foreign Governments with the power of our guns, and the indomitable energy of our officers and seamen; and though Great Britain
, about that time, or shortly after, did threaten us in a manner that was anything but agreeable to the American
people, yet that Government would have entered upon the fulfillment of their threats with misgivings — the growth of former disappointments in the War
Aside from his recently acquired renown, there was no officer in the United States Navy better
known abroad than Rear-Admiral DuPont
Many years of his life had been passed in the Mediterranean Squadron, where he traveled and made many European
He had commanded one of our best squadrons in China
, and his bland manners, high standing as an officer, general knowledge on all subjects, in and out of his profession, made him an authority to whom foreign officers deferred.
He was as well posted in all naval matters as any officer at home or abroad, and his opinions, which did not in 1863 run in accord with those of the Navy Department, were adopted by his friends and acquaintances in every quarter.
had said that the forts in Charleston harbor
could not be taken by the force with which he had attacked them, and his opinion was accepted as that of an expert who had tried the matter to satisfy the Navy Department, and had failed, and who considered that to attempt it again, under the same circumstances
, with the same force, would only entail a loss of men and material, if not a loss of naval prestige.
The victory at Port Royal
had settled the question of the future usefulness of Charleston
to the Confederates
, for it offered the means, if we had properly used them, of sealing up those two harbors as effectually as if we had actual possession of them, which we now know fully.
The capture of Port Royal
included in its direct consequences all that was essential to the occupation of adjacent places — as far as their value to the Confederate
cause was concerned, they could be rendered useless if the proper steps were taken, without leading to a loss of vessels and men, a sacrifice not at all called for by the circumstances of the case.
Therefore, when Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
entered upon his command, it must have been with the consciousness that he had a difficult task before him, and that he could scarcely hope to succeed with the force that had been so unmercifully tried by DuPont
had no sooner taken command than he received a letter from Brigadier-General Gillmore
, informing him that he (Gillmore
) was about to commence military operations against Morris Island
, and looked for naval co-operation.
This should have been the first step taken at Charleston
on the arrival of the Monitors
, and the operations carried on should have been by an able and hearty co-operation of the Army and Navy, with well-digested plans drawn up, and an exact knowledge of the difficulties to be encountered and overcome.
The capture of Charleston
necessitated a somewhat long and patient siege by naval and military forces, as was the case during the war with places superior in strength to Charleston
In such cases, the Confederates
had to succumb, owing to the greater resources of the Federal Government
; for the well-known advantage besiegers in force have over a beleaguered place is that the latter must eventually fall under the accumulated power that is concentrated against it.
must have congratulated himself when he saw that the Army was at once coming to his aid, and that he would not be obliged to repeat the attack made by DuPont
upon the uninjured forts in Charleston harbor
, with the same Monitors that had failed so badly, and left one of their number resting on the bottom.
was not an engineer, but he must have known that the method about to be pursued by General Gillmore
was the only feasible way of getting possession of Charleston
, and he at once assured the General
that he was ready to assist him with all his resources, if required.
In making this announcement to the Navy Department, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
remarks: “Of course, the most that is expected from the action of these vessels is to relieve the troops as much as possible, and is to be considered of no other consequence.”
Thus, early in the operations, Dahlgren
the Navy Department not to expect as much from the Monitors
as was required of DuPont
; as, with others, he had made up his mind that operations against the whole circle of forts should not be undertaken with a force that had proved itself totally inadequate on a former occasion.
, in its general configuration, may be likened to that of New York, the city being on a neck of land somewhat resembling Manhattan Island
; Cooper River
, on the east, may be compared to the East River
; while the Ashley River
, on the west, resembles the Hudson
and Sullivan Islands
may pass for the defensive points at the Narrows, though the channel between them is much wider; and the interior fortifications — Sumter
's Point, Battery Gregg
, Fort Johnson
, etc.--were all within the lines of Morris
and Sullivan Islands
An attack on Fort Wagner
could be made by a naval force without bringing the ships composing it within range of the heavy batteries which successfully resisted the attack of the Monitors
on the first occasion.
The plan of General Gillmore
was to dispossess the enemy of Morris Island
by opening batteries placed on the north end of Folly Island
, to command those of the enemy on Morris Island
, and by occupying the sandy eminences that form the southern portion of that island for a mile south of Light-house Inlet.
It would require an accurate map of the harbor and forts to give one a good idea of the enemy's defences.
A hostile force approaching from the sea, with the intention of attacking the Charleston batteries, would be obliged to pass between Sullivan's Island
on the north and Morris Island
on the south, both of which had heavy batteries, including Moultrie
; while above Moultrie
, and forming a triangle with it and Battery Gregg, stands Sumter
These works and the accessories within this line of defence remained pretty much the same after Dahlgren
's accession as they were on the day DuPont
“The circle of fire,” and the plan of meeting an advancing enemy, is minutely described in the circular issued by the Confederate Brigadier-General
to all the officers in command of the forts, a copy of which will be found in the chapter entitled, “First attack on Sumter
A squadron, making an attack on the Morris Island
works (Fort Wagner
), would be two and one-quarter miles from Fort Moultrie
, two miles from Sumter
, one mile from Battery Gregg, and half a mile from Wagner
; therefore, a squadron of Monitors would not be subjected, as they were in DuPont
's battle, to a cross-fire from five or six heavy batteries, but would be open only to the fire of Battery Gregg, Moultrie
at long range, with the Monitors
presenting their bows to the enemy (the least vulnerable point, and the most difficult for gunners to strike).
This was the only way Charleston
could be taken.
Why was not this course pursued in the first instance?
The question is easily answered.
The Navy Department was so fully impressed with the power of the Monitors
(those before Charleston
being great improvements in strength over the original) that they had urged upon DuPont
the necessity of making a grand stroke at the first trial of these formidable vessels.
This was more for the purpose of making a great impression upon the French
and English Governments, which were, it is said, at that moment watching for a favorable excuse to recognize the independence of the Southern States
At the same time, the Secretary of the Navy
would have considered it a great triumph to have the Navy conquer this nest of secession;and though he did not demand success, he felt so assured of it that his expressed wishes amounted to almost an order.
Seeing the ill-success of the first attack, and having been somewhat surprised at Rear-Admiral DuPont
's hint that he was willing the Department should send some one to undertake the capture of Charleston
in whom the Secretary
had more confidence, it was determined not to hamper Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
with specific instructions, but allow him and the military engineers
to work out the problem after their own plans.
At the same time, it must be said, in justice to the Navy Department, that Secretary Welles
represented to the War Department that “a second attack was preparing against the forts in Charleston harbor
, and that its success
required the military occupation of Morris Island
, and the establishment of land batteries on that island, to assist in the reduction of Sumter
,” and, as this was a task requiring engineering skill of the highest ability, Brigadier-General Q. A. Gillmore
was assigned to the command of the Department.
commenced his advance upon Charleston
by the movement of troops to Folly Island
on July 3d, 1863, where they remained concealed as much as possible, and erected batteries to command those of the enemy on the south end of Morris Island
With the foregoing explanations, we will proceed to relate what followed, namely, the attack on the enemy's works by the Army and Navy.
At 4 A. M. of July 10th, 1863, four iron-clads — the Catskill
, Commander George
, Commander Donald McN
, Commander John Downes
, and the Weehawken
, Commander E. R. Colhoun
, passed over the bar, the flag of Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
flying on the Catskill
. One hour later, at 5 A. M., General Gillmore
made an attack on the Confederate
fortified positions on the south end of Morris Island
, and after an engagement of three hours and a quarter he had captured all the enemy's works upon that part of the island, and pushed forward his infantry to within six hundred yards of Fort Wagner
As the fleet of Monitors passed the bar, General Gillmore
commenced the attack with his batteries, and as soon as the Monitors
could get sufficiently near to fire with effect, they opened with shell upon the Confederate
works, which were replying to
's guns, and dispersed the enemy wherever they were seen to assemble.
At 8 o'clock, being nearly abreast the northern end of the ridge of sand-hills, Gillmore
's batteries ceased firing, and his troops were seen from the Monitors
making their way upon Morris Island
The assaulting column, led by Brigadier-General Strong
, had passed the waterway between Folly
and Morris Islands
in small boats, under cover of his batteries.
He then held all the island, except a mile on the north end, including Fort Wagner
and the battery on Cumming's Point
, which, as near as could be judged, contained fourteen or fifteen heavy guns.
speaks of an assaulting party of troops that were landed on Morris Island
by Lieutenant McKenzie
, but General Gillmore
leads one to infer that these were landed in small army-boats.
As the troops moved rapidly along the beach, the iron-clads steamed parallel to the low, flat ground that extended northward from the sand-hills toward Fort Wagner
, and as near to it as the depth of the water would allow, sending shells in every direction over its surface to clear away any bodies of troops that might be gathered there.
's troops pushed on, and, as they reached Fort Wagner
, two or three buildings standing apart from each other were seen to be in flames, supposed to be the work of the enemy to unmask the guns of Fort Wagner
bearing down the beach.
The iron-clads at this time were laid abreast of Fort Wagner
This was an open sand-work about two and three-quarter miles from the southern end of Morris Island
, and lying about one and three-quarter miles north of the sand-hills, and commanding the intervening level.
It was 9 o'clock before the first shot was fired from the Monitors
, the Rear-Admiral
desiring to get close enough to use grape shot, but the state of the tide would not permit his vessels to approach nearer than twelve hundred yards. The fire from the Monitors
was promptly met, and was kept up vigorously until noon, when the vessels dropped down out of range to enable their men to get dinner, after which the previous position was re-occupied, and the attack continued until 6 P. M. Then the signal was made to “cease action,” for the men had been at work for fourteen hours, and the weather was excessively hot.
The four iron-clads fired during this action five hundred and thirty-four shell and shrapnel, making excellent practice, while the vessels themselves proved their endurance.
The flagship Catskill
was struck sixty times, a large percentage of the hits being very severe.
The pilot-house, turret,
side-armor and decks were all more or less damaged.
Some of the projectiles were large.
One, found on deck, where it fell after striking the turret, proved to be of 10-inch calibre.
When these heavy shot struck the turret the concussion was very great.
The iron of the pilot-house was broken entirely through, a nut from one of the bolts being driven against the lining so as to break it also.
The deck-plates were cut through in so many places as to make the entrance of water troublesome.
Though the test was a severe one, the Catskill
, after firing one hundred and twenty-eight rounds, came out of action in good working order, as was proved by her renewal of the fight on the following day. Naturally, the enemy made a mark of the Catskill
, that vessel carrying the Rear-Admiral
was only struck six times, the Montauk
twice, while the Weehawken
On the following morning, July 11th, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
received a note from General Gillmore
stating that he “had made an assault on Fort Wagner
at early daylight, and had been repulsed.”
At the same time he stated that he learned the enemy were about to throw reinforcements into Wagner
, and asked for some action to prevent it. The four Monitors were again moved into position near Fort Wagner
, and scoured the ground in the direction from which the expected reinforcements would approach.
So far the acquisitions of the combined forces had not been of a very important nature; still, a foothold was gained on Morris Island
, and the officers in command felt satisfied that it would eventually lead to the possession of Sumter
When General Gillmore
made his attempt to carry Wagner
, the parapets were gained, but the supports recoiled under the fire to which they were exposed, and could not be got forward.
The loss of the army was about one hundred and fifty in killed, wounded and prisoners.
In the morning they captured in the defences of the enemy eleven pieces of heavy ordnance and a large quantity of camp equipage.
issued his first general order
, thanking the commanders, officers and crews of the Monitors
, and the members of his personal staff: Fleet-Captain William Rogers Taylor
, Flag-Lieutenant S. W. Preston
, and Ensign La Rue P. Adams
, for the zealous and efficient manner in which they had performed their duties during the attacks of the 10th and 11th of July; also the ordnance officer, Lieutenant-Commander O. C. Badger
, for the systematic promptness with which he had supplied the iron-clads with all requisite ordnance stores.
This battle was a strong endorsement of Rear-Admiral DuPont
's opinion regarding another attack on the enemy's works.
Within the “circle of fire” were seventy-five guns, that being about the number the Confederates
stated were used in DuPont
On the 10th of July four Monitors were brought up with their guns bearing on only fourteen of this number; yet, after fourteen hours of severe firing, the works not only remained “practically uninjured,” but a heavy assaulting party were driven off, and the Catskill
was struck sixty times by the shot from Fort Wagner
The whole fire of the fort, however, was evidently concentrated on this vessel, the enemy having soon learned that this was the only way to disable the fleet.
The report of Commander G. W. Rodgers
goes to show that the Catskill
was very severely handled, the chief injury being inflicted by the 10-inch smooth-bores of the enemy, their rifle-shot glancing.
It can readily be imagined, if the fourteen guns of Wagner
did so much damage, how the seventy-five guns of Sumter
and adjacent works would have cut up DuPont
's small squadron after fourteen hours of cross-fire!
Under the circumstances, they would have been literally knocked to pieces.
At this day DuPont
's opinion on these matters have been endorsed by a large majority of the officers of the Navy; and, as the siege of Charleston
is related, it will be seen that he followed the path of wisdom in declining to risk the loss of his vessels and their crews without adequate compensation.
On the 18th of July another combined attack of the Army and Navy was made on Fort Wagner
After the failure of the assault by the troops, General Gillmore
proceeded to bring his heaviest guns into position to play upon the besieged earth-work, as well as to throw his shot and shell into such of the enemy's works as he could reach, and, if possible, to throw shells into Charleston
The plan of the contest now consisted in pushing the siege-works up as close as possible to Wagner
, and to annoy the enemy as much as possible with sharp-shooters and bursting shells, which plan the latter were not slow to follow.
On the 18th of July, General Gillmore
had succeeded in getting into position, to bear on the opposing works, twelve heavy guns and eight mortars, within eight hundred yards of Wagner
; and when his arrangements were all completed he notified Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
that he was ready to open fire.
The naval commander was not averse to an engagement, and at 11:30 A. M. of the above date led up to Fort Wagner
with his flag flying on the Montauk
, followed by the New Ironsides
--which had crossed the
bar — the Catskill
, and Patapsco
Upon arrival abreast of the fort, the Montauk
was anchored and fired the first gun, which was immediately followed by the other vessels — a nearer approach than twelve hundred yards, however, being prevented by an ebb-tide.
Meanwhile, the gun-boats Paul Jones
, Commander A. C. Rhind
, Lieutenant-Commander W. D. Whiting
, Lieutenant-Commander William Gibson
, Lieutenant-Commander T. C. Harris
, and Wissahickon
, Lieutenant-Commander John L. Davis
(all under charge of Commander Rhind
), were detailed to use their great guns at long range, which they did with good effect; at the same time the batteries were delivering a very steady and deliberate fire.
At 4 P. M. the tide changed to flood, and the iron-clads got underway and closed in with the fort to a distance of three hundred yards, when the vessels opened fire again.
was speedily silenced, and did not fire another shot or shell at the vessels during the day; neither was there a man of the enemy's force to be seen on or about the works.
No troops in open earth-works could stand the terrible cross-fire on Fort Wagner
from the vessels and General Gillmore
's batteries, and the Confederates
all went to cover, biding their time when the assault should come.
This they knew was pretty sure to follow the bombardment.
The iron-clads continued their fire until it became too dark to distinguish friend from foe, when they ceased from necessity.
Very soon after, the rattle of musketry and the flashes of light artillery announced that the Federal
troops were mounting the parapets of Fort Wagner
This continued without intermission until 9:30 P. M., then died away gradually, and finally ceased altogether.
The Army had been badly repulsed a second time.
One gun in Wagner
was known to have been dismounted, and another had burst, and General Gillmore
, supposing from the terrible fire which had been poured upon the fort that the Confederates
must be very much demoralized, determined upon a second assault without having men enough to overcome so powerful a work and its numerous and hardy defenders.
It may be desirable, perhaps, to know what kind of a work this was that endured such a tremendous cross-fire from thirty-seven heavy guns on shore and afloat.
It was seldom that an earth-work so situated could stand the fire of naval vessels, much less a combined attack.
All that part of Morris Island
not taken by General Gillmore
was well fortified; it may be said that the batteries planted about were the outposts of Fort Wagner
This work, though not mounting many guns, was built with remarkable care and skill; it was in shape partly a lunette, with one end fortified with guns looking down the beach, the other end commanding the upper beach.
The whole work was constructed of immense timbers, forming bomb-proofs, and these were covered with sand-bags to a thickness of over twenty feet. Its air-line distance from Sumter
was one and three-quarter miles, and from Battery Gregg less than one mile, and by these two works it might be said to be covered.
It was very plain to a mere tyro in engineering that Wagner
was the key to the destruction of Sumter
and the acquisition of the enemy's works on Sullivan's Island
A new era had dawned in engineering, and the clever enemy, with sand-bags and timber, had built a work far excelling anything in the shape of mortar, brick and stone, and had armed it with the heaviest guns at that time known in the United States
This was the fort (Wagner
) which so far had defied the forces of both the Army and the Navy.
It now became necessary to prosecute the siege of Wagner
with patience and perseverance, as it was felt that the number of Union troops was inadequate to carry the work without throwing away the lives of the men and the useless expenditure of materials, therefore active operations were for the moment suspended.
It was very evident that the fire of the naval vessels could silence Wagner
's guns at any time, but General Gillmore
could only raise one single column for attack, while the Confederates
could throw into Wagner
at night any number of men that might be required to fill up vacancies by casualties.
These points had been made known to the War Department; but, with a degree of negligence that cannot be accounted for, the notice was so slow in being heeded that it gave the enemy opportunity to strengthen their weak points, and repair damages to such an extent that the combined operations would have to be repeated.
If General Gillmore
had been furnished with five thousand more troops, Wagner
, without doubt, would have fallen at the first assault.
It is not the writer's intention to criticise the action of the Government
— he only states facts — but it is, nevertheless, very remarkable, considering the great desire of the American
people to see Charleston
(the hot-bed of secession and the pioneer in the revolution) fall into Union hands, that prompter measures were not taken to strengthen the Army corps and the Navy when required.
Here, again, was demonstrated the necessity for having at the head of the Army one great military mind that
would know how to direct such important operations.
While giving credit to the Navy for the part it took in this affair, we deem it a duty we owe to the gallant army under General Gillmore
to give an account of the more desperate adventures that befel the brave corps, which, after keeping up an energetic fire for so long a time.
undertook the assault of Wagner
For this purpose two brigades were selected, consisting of the 7th Connecticut regiment, the 3d New Hampshire, the 9th Maine, the 76th Pennsylvania and the 48th New York, under Brigadier-General Strong
; and the 7th New Hampshire, the 6th Connecticut, the 62d Ohio, the 100th New York, and the 54th Massachusetts (colored), under Colonel Putnam
The brigades were formed in line on the beach, with the regiments disposed in columns, the colored regiment being in the advance.
This movement was observed from Sumter
, and fire opened on the troops from that work, but without effect.
At dark the order was given for both brigades to advance, General Strong
leading and Colonel Putnam
within supporting distance.
The troops went forward in quick time, preserving the greatest silence, until the 54th Massachusetts, led by Colonel Shaw
, was within two hundred yards of Wagner
, when the men gave a cheer and rushed up the glacis, closely followed by the other regiments of the brigade.
The enemy — hitherto silent, but aware of all transpiring — opened upon the advancing columns a most furious fire of grape and canister, as well as a rapid fire of musketry.
The negro troops plunged on, and some of them crossed the ditch, though it contained four feet of water, and reached the parapets.
They were dislodged, however, in a few minutes, with hand-grenades, and retreated, leaving more than half their number on the field.
The 6th Connecticut, under Lieutenant-Colonel Rodman
, was next in support of the 54th Massachusetts, and they also suffered a terrible repulse.
The next in line — the 9th Maine--was broken up by the retiring colored troops (who rushed through their lines), and retired in confusion, with the exception of three companies, which stood their ground.
It now devolved upon the 3d New Hampshire regiment to push forward, and, led by General Strong
and Colonel Jackson
in person, they dashed up against the fort.
Three companies gained the ditch, and, wading through the water, found shelter against the embankment.
Here was the critical point of the assault, but the second brigade, which should have been up and ready to support the leading troops, were, for some unknown reason, delayed.
, finding that he was not supported, gave the order to fall back and lie down on the glacis.
which was obeyed without confusion.
While waiting, in this position, under a heavy fire, General Strong
Finding that the supports still failed to come up, he gave the order to his brigade to retire, and the movement was effected in good order.
Soon after this the other brigade came up, much impeded by the retreating troops; but they made up for their tardiness by their valor, rushing in impetuously, undeterred by the fury of the enemy, whose fire had continued without intermission.
Several of the regiments succeeded in crossing the ditch, scaling the parapet, and getting inside
Here a terrible hand-to-hand conflict ensued; the Union
troops fought with desperation, and were able to drive the enemy from one side of the work to seek shelter between the traverses, while the former held possession for something more than an hour.
This piece of gallantry was, unfortunately, of no avail.
The enemy rallied, and, having received reinforcements, made a charge, and, by the force of numbers, drove the Union
troops from their position.
One of the regiments engaged in this brilliant dash was the 48th New York, Colonel Barton
, and it came out of the conflict almost decimated.
The 48th was among the first to enter the fort, and was fired upon by a Union regiment that had gained the parapet, under the impression that it was the enemy.
About midnight, seeing that it was impossible to hold what had been gained of the fort, an order was given to the Union
troops to retire, and they fell back to the rifle-pits outside their own works, with a loss, in killed, wounded and missing, of 1,530 men.
After this most gallant but unsuccessful attack, General Gillmore
came to the conclusion that Wagner
could not be taken in that way by his depleted forces, and he decided to bombard that fort, Fort Sumter
, and even Charleston
, to either cause a surrender or to lay them in ruins.
Had the enemy been in great force at that moment, they could have massed all their troops, landed them on Morris Island
, and captured Gillmore
's army and everything belonging to it. But they were quite satisfied with the position as it was; they held the great chain of works which blocked the way to Charleston
, and were very glad to see the Federals
apparently wasting their strength in futile efforts to obtain possession of their strongholds.
In this last dreadful assault on Wagner
, the ground in and around the fort was covered with the Union
killed and wounded, and the naval force could not continue the fire the following day, nor until they were
sent a communication to the commander of Fort Wagner
, offering to bury the dead and to remove and care for the wounded.
This proposition was politely declined, the Confederate
commander sending word that he would bury the dead and see the wounded cared for. Judging from the manner in which he had defended his fort, his chivalric character no doubt caused him to keep his word.
The first thing General Gillmore
did toward securing possession of Morris Island
, which he determined to hold, was to construct parallels.
These extended from the beach on the right to the marsh on the left.
The first was distant from Wagner
1,200 yards. The second, and principal one, was so constructed that its left was 600 yards from the fort, and its right 750 yards. The third parallel was 425 yards from Wagner
The parallels were built in a direction diagonal to the length of Morris Island
, having the highest points resting on the marsh.
The rifle-pits, forming the foundation of the first parallel, were thrown up shortly after the troops gained possession of the lower part of the island.
These pits were thrown up in a single night, and were first used on the 17th of July in the attack on Wagner
The interstices were subsequently filled, and the first parallel constructed.
The moment this parallel was finished, the enemy were preparing to make a sortie on the work; but Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
got underway with the iron-clads, assisted by the gun-boats at long range, and opened fire on Wagner
, soon silencing that work and driving the men to cover.
At that time General Gillmore
reported his advance position had been secured.
The length of this parallel was 220 yards. The length of the second parallel was 325 yards. The siege-guns used for the offensive were mounted in the rear of this parallel.
Its distance from Sumter
was 3,350 yards. The third parallel was 100 yards in length.
On the left, earth-works were constructed containing some of the heaviest siege-guns.
Their mean distance from Sumter
was 4,100 yards. Still further to the left, on the marsh, was another earth-work, facing Fort Sumter
On this work was mounted that celebrated gun, called the Swamp Angel
, which sent its shells into the city of Charleston
— a distance of five miles.
This work was built on a spot inaccessible to the enemy's troops.
At low water it was a deep bog; at high water the tide covered the ground to a depth of four feet, enabling scows to approach the spot and supply all the material necessary for the erection of earth-works.
Sand-bags, and everything else used in the construction of the work, sank out of sight in the soft ooze, at first, until a good foundation was secured.
At each succeeding tide the scows brought their loads of material, which produced, in the end, a great mound above the marsh.
This was an engineering feat worthy of the clever officer.
, who executed it. Strong traverses were erected on this bank, and, after due time given everything to settle, the Swamp Angel
was floated to the point on one of the scows, and mounted.
The work was all done at night, as it was in full view of Fort Johnson
and the James Island
In reference to the last two engagements with Wagner
, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
does not speak of any casualties or damage to the Monitors
or other vessels of the fleet, and it is presumed that the cross-fire from shore and afloat drove the Confederate
gunners to cover before damage could be inflicted.
had a great adjunct in these affairs in the staunch New Ironsides
, Captain Rowan
, whose 11-inch guns, rapidly fired, did more to silence Wagner
than any three Monitors in the fleet.
While General Gillmore
was perfecting his plans, the vessels of the fleet were not idle.
A smart affair came off in the Stono River
, in which the Pawnee
), and the Huron
were at anchor near Fort Grimball, when they were hotly attacked by batteries of the enemy posted six hundred yards away, the first shot striking the Pawnee
, and the others admirably directed by the enemy.
The position of the Pawnee
was such that she could bring no guns to bear, and she was obliged to drop down stream until a point was reached whence the guns could be trained on the enemy.
was requested to do likewise, and, meeting the Huron
in this position, they all opened fire on the hostile batteries, which had been cutting them up severely while shifting their berths, resulting in the retreat of the enemy.
was struck thirty-three times in the hull, three times in the smoke-stack, had three boats damaged, and six shot in the rigging.
Fortunately, the Pawnee
had chain-cables triced up and down her sides, or the boilers would have been perforated.
Those South Carolina
artillerymen were just as spunky and annoying as were those on the Mississippi
, and never lost an opportunity to attack the wooden gun-boats, frequently with effect.
There were but four persons wounded in this affair, and it is remarkable that a number were not killed, considering the precision of the enemy's fire.
, the senior officer
on the Stono River
, speaks in the handsomest terms of the conduct of Lieutenant-Commander Bacon
for his unremitting attention to duties in that locality, where, for a period of five months, he had been co-operating with the Army.
On the 16th of July the Confederates
commenced an artillery fire on General Gillmore
's pickets at Secessionville
, but were speedily silenced by Lieutenant-Commander Bacon
moving up the river with the Commodore McDonough
, and firing into their camp with his rifled gun.
In a report by Lieutenant A. S. McKenzie
, referring to the landing of the brigade, which was transported, under his charge, on the boats of the Weehawken
for the assault on Fort Wagner
, he mentions the fact that Lieutenant H. B. Robeson
, of the New Ironsides
, was the first to plant the American
flag on Morris Island
, Brigadier-General Strong
landing with him.
During the operations for the possession of Morris Island
, Commander Balch
, with the Commodore McDonough
, Lieutenant-Commander Bacon
and Lieutenant F. M. Bunce
, in charge of boats with howitzers mounted, were employed in landing troops on Folly Island
, which had to be done at night.
By the most active exertions of these officers the duty was fully accomplished, every effort being made to effect a successful landing; and the Army was in a great measure indebted to them for the perfect manner in which all the troops were debarked.
While part of General Gillmore
's forces were being landed on Folly Island
, General Terry
, commanding a division, was directed to proceed up the Stono
in transports, preceded by the Pawnee
and the Commodore McDonough
, and make a landing on James Island
, which was done.
This manoeuvre — a part of the programme of attack on Morris Island
— was successfully accomplished under cover of the vessels mentioned.
While General Gillmore
was making his advances the Confederates
were increasing and improving their defences, and among other things were laying torpedoes and planting obstructions to prevent the advance of the fleet, and the greatest watchfulness was required to avoid them; but these measures did not affect the movements of General Gillmore
, who, on August 17th, opened fire on Sumter
with all his guns, over Wagner
and the intervening space.
About the same time Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, with the Weehawken
, carrying his ag, moved forward with the entire naval force.
following the flag-ship, the Passaic
being held in reserve for an attack on Sumter
The New Ironsides
, Captain Rowan
, moved up abreast of Wagner
, and the following sloops and gun-boats fired at long range: Canandaigua
, Captain J. F. Green
, Commander J. B. Creighton
, Commander A. K. Hughes
, Commander W. D. Whiting
, Lieutenant-Commander John L. Davis
, Dai Ching
, Lieutenant-Commander J. C. Chaplin
, Acting-Lieutenant E. Broadhead
As the tide rose, the Weehawken
closed to four hundred and fifty yards from Wagner
; the other three Monitors followed, and the New Ironsides
lay as near as her great draft of water would permit.
The fort was silenced after a steady and well-directed fire.
had opened with his batteries soon after daylight, in answer to a fire from Wagner
, Battery Gregg and Sumter
, which was continued with great vigor for several hours.
A 200-pounder rifled gun was brought to bear on Sumter
for the purpose of testing the powder intended for use in these guns.
Seven shots were fired, the distance being two and five-eighths miles. The first three fell short, but, of the remaining four, two went directly through the gorge wall a short distance above the sally-port, and two struck the parapet, sending a large amount of brick and mortar into the ditch and into the fort.
The solid shot that passed through made holes from four to five feet in diameter.
had sixty guns of different calibres mounted, and with these he kept up an incessant fire on Sumter
, while the fleet kept its guns playing rapidly on Wagner
until there was no answer from that work.
Then the flag was shifted to the Passaic
, that vessel and the Patapsco
having rifled guns, and these two steamed up the channel to within two thousand yards of Sumter
, when fire was opened on the gorge angle and southeast front of the work.
The guns of the Patapsco
were well aimed, and their projectiles struck the southeast front nine times in succession.
To all this fire Sumter
only replied now and then; Wagner
was silenced, and Battery Gregg alone kept up an obstinate fire on the Passaic
At noon the iron-clads drew off to let the men go to dinner.
This was, no doubt, a deliberate movement; but a better one would have been to have divisions of the fleet relieve each other, and never to cease fire on Wagner
, even at night, until it lay a heap of ruins.
The fertility of the Confederates
, and their pertinacity in repairing damages, were too well known to suppose
that they would lose an opportunity to act when the guns stopped firing on them.
All the afternoon of the 17th the shore batteries continued to fire upon Sumter
, with little or no reply.
were sent up again in the afternoon to open on Wagner
, and prevent the repairing of damages.
The fort answered actively for awhile, but in a short time ceased its fire.
On the whole, the day's work was satisfactory to the combined forces.
The Army had demonstrated the feasibility of reaching Sumter
and inflicting serious damage on the work; the Navy had shown that it could silence Wagner
whenever it pleased to do so. It was not possible yet to ascertain what damage had been done to Sumter
by the combined fire, but enough was known to assure the respective commanders that they had not yet demonstrated their full power, and that the enemy's works would be so seriously damaged in a short time that they would not be able to repair them.
The bombardment of Fort Sumter
may be said to have commenced in earnest from this date, August 17th, with what result can be better judged from the bulletins that were issued day after day in Charleston
, as the following:
Thus, at last, Charleston
was reaping some of the whirlwind it had sown, and retribution came for the dishonor it had done the flag that had once waved on Sumter
, the Union
was being avenged for the first blows the Confederates
This once sturdy old fort, in a few days after Gillmore
opened his batteries, began to show signs of great weakness.
Its great distance from the Federal
batteries could not save it; science had surmounted all the difficulties, and, if the American
flag did not float over it, it would remain but a heap of ruins — a mere memento of the past.
There seems to be a discrepancy between these two bulletins about General Gillmore
shelling the city.
On the 24th of August General Gillmore
wrote the following dispatches to Washington
Colonel John W. Turner
, Chief of Artillery
, reports to General Gillmore
The gorge wall of the fort is almost a complete mass of ruins for the distance of several casemates about midway of this face, the ramparts are removed nearly, and in places quite to the arches, and but for the sand-bags with which the casemates are filled, and which has served to sustain the broken arches and masses of masonry, it would have long since been entirely cut away, and with it the arches to the floor of the second tier of casemates.
The debris in this point now forms a ramp as high as the floor of the casemates.
The parapet wall of the two northeasterly faces is completely carried away, a small portion being left at the angle made with the gorge wall, and the ramparts of these faces are also a total ruin. . . . The ruin extends around, taking in the northeasterly face as far as can be seen. . . . The ramparts in this angle, as well as in the southeasterly face, must be ploughed up and greatly shattered, the parapet in this latter face being torn off, as could be seen, and it was thought that the platforms of these remaining faces could not have escaped the universal destruction.
With the assistance of powerful glasses
all the damages could be accurately ascertained, even to the injury done to the guncarriages.
ends his report by recommending that no more shot be wasted on Sumter
, as it was practically of no further use in the defence of the harbor.
When all these facts were fully ascertained to the satisfaction of General Gillmore
, that officer wrote to General Beauregard
demanding the immediate evacuation of Morris Island
and the surrender of Sumter
, otherwise he would proceed “to open fire on Charleston
from batteries already established within easy range of the city.”
To this, General Beauregard
replied, using the following language, which may be interesting from the fact that he tries to place the Federal
soldiers in the light of barbarians, while, at that very time, the harshest treatment was imposed upon the Union
prisoners of war, and the Confederates
themselves did not in all cases observe war's amenities.
What General Gillmore
proposed to do was according to the rules of war, he having given notice that he was about to bombard the city, six hours in advance — quite time enough for the noncombatants, women and children.
to leave the place.
We cut down General Beauregard
's letler owing to its length, but the following gives the substance of it:
answered the different points of this letter, and concluded with the following pertinent remarks:
In the naval bombardment of the 17th, the Navy lost the services of a brilliant young officer through the death of Commander George W. Rodgers
, commanding the Monitor
had more than once asked the rearadmiral if he should go with him as usual or take command of the Catskill
In each instance the commander-in-chief answered, “Do as you choose.”
finally concluded to go in the Catskill
He got his vessel underway, and, while endeavoring to get a berth closer to the enemy, and inside
's position, the Catskill
was struck by a shot from Wagner
, and Rodgers
was instantly killed.
This shot first struck the top of the pilothouse, fracturing the outer plate and tearing off an irregular piece of the inside plate about one foot in area, and forcing out several of the bolts by which the pieces were held together, fragments of which struck Commander Rodgers
and Acting-Assistant Paymaster J. G. Woodbury
, killing both instantly, besides wounding the pilot, Mr. Penton
, and Acting-Master
's Mate Trescott
When the commander fell, Lieutenant-Commander Charles C. Carpenter
hove up the
anchor, steamed down to the tug Dandelion
and, depositing the bodies in her, returned to his station and continued the action.
pays the highest tribute to Commander Rodgers
, whose death was regretted by all who knew him. The latter's relations to the commander-in-chief
(as fleet-captain) were so close that the rear-admiral felt his loss very sorely, and could ill supply the place of so efficient an officer.
He was one of those to whose gallantry there were no bounds.
In the action of August 17th, the ironclads, though frequently hit, suffered no material injury.
was struck thirteen times, with the casualties already mentioned.
, Captain S. C. Rowan
, was hit thirty-one
times, exclusive of some shots supposed to have struck her under water.
Most of the hits were from 10-inch solid shot, which seemed to have been fired with extra heavy charges; and, when the shot struck, they cut and broke everything to pieces.
There are no reports of damage to other vessels, hence it is probable that the enemy concentrated their fire on the Ironsides
No mention is made in Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
's report of the establishment of a naval battery against Sumter
but there was one under command of Commander Foxhall A. Parker
, and it performed good service.
That battery fired, on the 17th of August, 170 shells and 125 solid shot against the exposed face of Sumter
, doing much damage.
was assisted in this service by Lieutenant E. T. Brower
, Ensign James Wallace
and Acting-Ensign Owens
, who deserve great credit for the work they performed for fifteen hours under a burning sun.
Though great efforts were made to reduce Wagner
, these strong works stood apparently as defiant as ever, notwithstanding the great shot seams that could be seen in Sumter
It was pretty well ascertained from Gillmore
's batteries, by the aid of good glasses, that it had been rudely dealt with; yet, though sixty more heavy guns were brought against it than were used in DuPont
's attack, the Federal
naval forces did not seem any nearer to the attainment of their wishes than DuPont
The effect of the fire on Charleston
had not, up to the 24th of August, proved of a serious nature.
Twelve 8-inch shells had fallen into the city, thirteen having been fired altogether.
These shells flew in the direction of St. Michael
's steeple, and fell either in the vacant lots in the burnt district on King Street, or in Queen and Rutledge Streets. Some loose straw was set on fire by them, and the firemen turned out to extinguish the flames.
The pieces of shell picked up in the city caused great curiosity and wonder, that such large missiles should have been thrown to such a distance from the point where the Federal
battery was located in the swamp.
On August 23d, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
got underway and moved the Monitors
to within eight hundred yards of Sumter
, and opened fire.
During a portion of the time a clear sight of the fort was prevented by fog. When the. Monitors opened, Sumter
only replied with six guns; but Moultrie
, with its extended lines, opened heavily, according to reports, and struck the Monitors
frequently with heavy shot.
received two heavy and damaging blows on the pilot-house.
There was a good deal of difficulty in working the Monitors
in the narrow channels, and they drew off under the fire of Moultrie
, which being as yet intact was more than a match for them.
No casualties in the fleet were reported in this action.
In this reconnaissance — which it will be well to call it — the injuries to Fort Sumter
were clearly observed, but it did not yet come under the head of “useless ruin.”
is spoken of in the reports as being “quite as strong as ever, perhaps more so;” so that in this state of affairs the naval forces were about as far from the central prize as ever.
was now considered “useless to the Confederate
system of defence,” only it yet remained to be turned fully to account as a Union acquisition, and this advantage could not be realized because the Federal
forces could not occupy the work.
Such occupation, if possible, would have made a great difference in the plans of the besieging forces, but could not be likely to occur until the works on Sullivan's Island
were invested simultaneously with those on Morris Island
, and here was the great defect in the plan of this campaign.
There was, no doubt, good engineering skill displayed, as far as it went, but what use could Sumter
have been to the Federals
--one of the heaviest works in Charleston harbor
— and others stood ready to drive out of Sumter
any Federal force that might undertake to enter it, which could only be by assault?
It was, we may say, a heap of rubbish that had all fallen inside, but which could still afford a tremendous defence against any assaulting party brought against it. The true plan would have been for our forces to land on Sullivan's Island
and Morris Island
at the same time, and pursue the same methods that had been carried out at the latter.
Of course, this would have required a greater number of troops and guns, but it was the only way to take Charleston
While the Federals
were making the most assiduous efforts to get into Sumter
by the way of Wagner
, they overlooked entirely the obstacles still remaining on Sullivan's Island
to prevent their holding it after capture; while Fort Johnson
, Fort Ripley
, Castle Pinckney and the iron batteries stood ready to pour in their cross-fire, as they had done when their attack on Sumter
opened the Rebellion
The capture of James Island
and the occupation of the works upon it, which was feasible, would have been a greater military feat than the capture of Wagner
In such event, Charleston
would have been obliged to surrender or be destroyed, and, in consequence, its forts would have been obliged to follow her example.
The engineering work accomplished was of a splendid order, and the greatest bravery was displayed in its performance; yet engineers often become so absorbed in some favorite plan, which seems to promise all they desire, that they overlook other points which are the real keys to the situation.
So it was at Sebastopol
: all the best Russian
, French and English engineers had overlooked the hill on which the Malakoff Tower
stood, until the great Todelben
appeared, and with his practiced eye discovered that to be the key. If either the French
or the English
had seized it, Sebastopol
would not have stood a day before the fire of the allied batteries.
Four months had now passed since the first attack on Charleston
, and many hundreds of heavy shells had been fired, without any great advance of the Federal
forces toward their objective point; and this not from any want of skill in the naval or military commanders, but from the fact that the authorities at Washington
did not have a comprehensive idea of what was required to carry out so great a work, and from their absurd supposition, in the first instance, that the whole net-work of forts could be taken by a small fleet of Monitors, armed principally with guns of small penetrative power, when, moreover, the endurance of these vessels had scarcely been tested.
It is very easy, though, to see all that was required when what was considered to be the best means had failed; but herein lies the ability of the engineer and the naval officer co-operating: they should be able to see the best points ere the operations have advanced too far to allow of retraction.
was of the opinion that Sumter
could not be taken possession of until Wagner
was subdued, and all his siege-guns were advanced as close as possible to the north end of Morris Island
, while Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
thought he could pass the batteries with his fleet, and go on to Charleston
Here the naval officer and the military commander began to differ.
desired that the Monitors
and the Ironsides
should move pari passu
with him. Dahlgren
thought he could go alone, regardless of the obstructions which had to be forced, and which were defended by at least seventy guns, under the full range of which the fleet would be exposed, even as far as Sumter
, which fort might or might not still have guns mounted upon it that would do serious injury to the vessels.
Under the circumstances, General Gillmore
deemed that the assistance of the Navy, in all its strength, was indispensable to success.
At midnight of September 1st, and just before slack high water, the Ironsides
and the Monitors
were moved up the channel.
The primary purpose of this movement was to make certain that Sumter
had no guns remaining in service.
It was believed that the Confederates
had remounted a few guns on the northeast and northwest faces.
On the same evening, General Gillmore
's batteries had opened fire on Sumter
, and the general had informed Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
that he had knocked down some four or five pieces that were observed on the more remote fronts, and this encouraged Dahlgren
The nearest approach of the Monitors
was five hundred yards, the flag being carried on the Weehawken
; but the ebb-tide was now so strong that it was nearly 12 o'clock before the first shot was fired from the flag-ship.
Two shots were fired from the fort, when the Weehawken
was laid off the angle
of the northeast and southeast fronts.
was brought up to an easy range, and joined in the action which followed, the vessels all firing steadily and accurately.
opened a rapid and well-sustained fire from its extended lines, which told on the vessels, though the obscurity of the night interfered with the accuracy of the enemy's aim at such small targets as the turrets of the Monitors
The fire of the Monitors
was also directed against the floating obstructions which had been reported from day to day. At daylight the fleet withdrew without being able to ascertain the effect of their fire.
This engagement lasted five hours, during which time the fleet fired 245 shots.
and received in all 71 hits, of which numbers the Ironsides
fired 50 shots and received 7 hits.
From all accounts there was no serious damage done to the vessels, notwithstanding all the pounding, and the Ironsides
stood the brunt of the battle as well as the Monitors
was struck by a fragment of the turret knocked off by one of the enemy's shot, and his leg broken by it. This was the third fleet-captain Dahlgren
had had injured or killed in the short space of two months. He speaks of Captain Badger
in the warmest terms of praise, and as an officer whose place it would be very difficult to fill.
The commanders of the iron-clads, Captain S. C. Rowan
, Commander T. H. Stevens
, Commander Andrew Bryson
, Commander E. R. Colhoun
, Lieutenant-Commander Edward Simpson
, Lieutenant-Commander John L. Davis
and Lieutenant-Commander J. J. Cornwell
are spoken of in terms of high commendation for their gallantry and the ability they displayed in handling their vessels in the narrow channel on an obscure night.
On September 7th, arrangements were made to open fire upon Wagner
from the trenches, and from all the iron-clads, which fire was to be followed at 9 o'clock at night by an assault.
A steady cannonade had been maintained against the work on the 6th from the trenches and from the Ironsides
; but in the meantime a deserter had gone over to General Gillmore
with the information that the Confederates
were evacuating the works; they had stood the siege as long as they could, had gone through fire enough to drive out any but American troops, and now evacuated to escape the assault which they knew would come at night.
We cannot help but admire the courage of these brave fellows, though they were fighting against us in a bad cause.
We cannot help thinking how those men would fight against a foreign foe!
On the 7th of September, General Gillmore
made the following report to General Halleck
After the evacuation of Wagner
, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
, having ineffectually demanded the surrender of Fort Sumter
, on the ground of its indefensibility, determined to try a plan by which that work might be captured; and, as a preliminary, ordered the Weehawken
to pass in by a narrow channel winding about Cumming's Point
, so as to cut off all communication in that direction.
In so doing, the Weehawken
grounded, and, though at low water, did not succeed in floating on the next high tide.
Later in the day, the rear-admiral moved up in the Ironsides
, with the Monitors
, to feel and, if possible, pass the obstructions north of Sumter
, Battery Bee and Fort Beauregard
quickly opened on the ironclads, which returned the fire very warmly, and continued to do so until it became necessary to pay attention to the Weehawken
Steam-tugs and hawsers were provided for getting her off, but without success, even at high water, as already stated.
At 7 A. M. the enemy perceived her condition, and began to fire upon her from Moultrie
, about 3,000 yards distant. The iron-clads were ordered up to cover the grounded Monitor, which meanwhile replied to the enemy's fire, and, in less than half an hour, blew up one of the Confederate
At the next high water the Weehawken
was fortunately floated, after the most strenuous efforts of Commander Colhoun
, officers and crew.
The only casualties on board the Weehawken
on this occasion were three men wounded by a shot from Battery Bee.
Up to this time the operations of the Navy had been well conducted.
a perfect co-operation between the commanders of the respective forces; and, as the Army advanced its parallels and breaching batteries toward Wagner
, the Ironsides
and the Monitors
advanced on the water, keeping up a well-directed fire, the effect of all which is shown by its evacuation on the 7th of September.
and his chief of artillery had given the most satisfactory account of the damage done to Sumter
by the breaching of the gorge wall and the dismounting of most of the guns, and had also asserted “that it was no longer of any practical use to Charleston harbor
as an offensive work.”
This was pretty well demonstrated when the Weehawken
got hard and fast aground in the channel, between Sumter
and Cumming's Point
, and Sumter
could not fire upon her for lack of guns.
was now, in fact, nothing but an outpost to be held by the enemy as a matter of pride — nothing more — and without power to inflict a particle of injury on any one, unless it might be a party that attempted to gain admission over the debris that blocked the entrances, and afforded no footing for a party of boarders.
A small party within, however, could easily bar the way or inflict serious injury upon an attacking-party that might attempt to take the work by assault.
All these matters had been very fully discussed, but it does not appear that General Gillmore
was consulted as to the feasibility of an attempt to take Sumter
by assault, or applied to for the assistance of his steady and practiced assaulters, who had had considerable experience in attacking forts.
Brave and dashing as sailors may be, for this kind of business they lack that steady movement and discipline which makes an attacking force a unit, and carries everything before it; while sailors, drilled to board a ship with a cheer and a rush, have a less methodical way, which may succeed; if checked for one moment by regulars and steady troops in an operation of the kind on shore, the chances are that they will be driven back and cut to pieces or captured in the retreat.
Whether Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
considered these matters or not is not known, but he nevertheless determined to make a naval assault on Sumter
on the night of September 8th.
The supposition is that he did not consider military assistance requisite.
Viewed as a military move, the attempt to assault Sumter
was a grave mistake; there was no necessity for it, and General Gillmore
was already moving forward his heavy breaching-guns to cover Charleston
and all the forts in the upper harbor; and would, in a few days, have made Sumter
a still more useless heap of rubbish than it was already.
Again, it is questionable whether the military etiquette properly observable on such an occasion was not violated in attempting to take possession of a work destroyed principally by army guns, without extending an invitation to the general commanding to participate in the projected assault.
claimed that, if successful, the assault would enable him to pass the obstructions in the main channel with his fleet.
He therefore directed that a storming party should be formed, and called for volunteers.
No matter what may be the danger for officers and sailors to face, there is never any difficulty in getting volunteers in the American Navy
, and such was the case on this ocasion.
The following officers came forward and offered their services at once: Commander T. H. Stevens
, Lieutenant Moreau Forrest
, Lieutenant-Commander E. P. Williams
. Lieutenant George C. Remey
, Lieutenant S. W. Preston
, Lieutenant F. J. Higginson
, Ensign Charles H. Craven
, Lieutenant-Commander F. M. Bunce
, Lieutenant E. T. Brower
, Ensign James Wallace
and Ensign B. H. Porter
; also the following officers of the Marine Corps: Captain C. G. McCawley
, First-Lieutenant Charles H. Bradford
, First-Lieutenant John C. Harris
, Second-Lieutenant R. L. Meade
, Second-Lieutenant Lyman P. Wallace
and Second-Lieutenant L. E. Fagan
Of these officers, Commander T. H. Stevens
was selected to command the expedition, while the following were appointed to command divisions of the assaulting force: First division, Lieutenant-Commander E. P. Williams
; 2d division, Lieutenant George C. Remey
; 3d division, Lieutenant S. W. Preston
; 4th division, Lieutenant F. J. Higginson
; and 5th division, Ensign Charles H. Craven
Upon applying to General Gillmore
for more boats to carry the sailors and marines, Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
learned for the first time
was about to make an assault on Sumter
the same night.
It is stated that when this information was received by Dahlgren
it was late in the evening, and, owing to the want of interservice signals, there was no concert with the Army contingent in the further movements.
It was 10 o'clock at night when the boats started off for Sumter
in tow of a tug. On the way, the party communicated with the Passaic
, giving orders to their respective commanders to move up to their support.
When within eight hundred yards of the fort, the tug cast off the boats, and the orders regarding the operations of the night, as well as the watchword.
were given out
was ordered to move up to the northwest front of the fort,
with his division, for the purpose of making a diversion, while the remainder of the divisions were ordered to close up and wait for the order to advance upon the southeast point.
The intention of Commander Stevens
was to wait until he had the full benefit of Lieutenant Higginson
's diversion; but mistaking his movement, no doubt, as a general one, and with a true spirit of emulation and gallantry, many of the other boats dashed on to the fort.
Finding it impossible to stop them, the order was given along the line for all
The Confederates were quite prepared for this adventure, as was natural for good soldiers who had received orders to hold Sumter
at all hazards, and as soon as the boats came within good range they were met with a fire of musketry and hand-grenades, lighted shells and grape and canister; and simultaneously, at a signal from Sumter
, together with the gunboats and rams, opened fire on the base of the fort, where all the boats were landing pell-mell, each man of the crew wanting to be the first to scale the walls.
This is exactly what ought to have been anticipated under the circumstances, for to suppose that the Confederates
, having such a commanding position, with all the means of offence and defence for such an occasion, would not avail themselves of them, would be underrating that gallantry, energy and fertility of purpose for which they had been remarkable in defending these fortifications from the very beginning.
It must have been mere sport to the Confederates
to see those boats rushing on heedlessly to destruction or capture, for only a miracle — something that never occurs in war — could save such an assault from annihilation.
That there was great gallantry exhibited in this attempt to capture Sumter
no one will deny; but there was not a ghost of a chance of success from the very commencement.
Several of the boats, among them two from the Powhatan
, had gained a landing; but the evidences of the garrison's preparation were so apparent, as well as the impossibility of scaling the walls or even effecting a permanent landing, that orders were given for the boats to be withdrawn, which was done under a withering fire.
All who succeeded in leaving the boats were either killed or taken prisoners; boats were smashed by the fire of the enemy's batteries and gun-boats, and it was as much as the survivors could do to get clear of the base of the fort.
In this affair there was naturally great confusion when the officers and men discovered that a fort they had been led to believe lay a heap of ruins and powerless was filled with men armed with breech-loading rifles, plenty of hand-grenades and shells ready for lighting, besides having grape and canister to fire from selected positions into crowded boats.
The defences only required a dozen or more Gatling guns to make them complete.
As it was, all the sailors in the fleet could not have taken Sumter
, even with the assistance of the contingent General Gillmore
intended to supply.
We know that now;
we ought to have known it then.
But, with all the disaster which followed this unfortuate assault, there was exhibited the most unflinching courage, the sternest devotion to a duty which, at the outset, must have seemed to many beyond the possibility of execution.
To show the difficulties attending night operations of this kind, we will give part of the report of Ensign Wallace
in which that officer explains how, in the melee
, he followed the leading boat around the fort, pulled back and examined the sea-face in search of a landing; then, on coming to the right bastion of the sea-face, he found the marines firing from boats.
He could find no officer to report to, and no one could tell him whether the men had landed, or where they were.
Seeing a sinking boat, he pulled toward it, but found that all its crew had been removed or were drowned.
Upon returning to the fort, he examined the sea-face and gorge wall; he observed all the boats retreating, and, on inquiring from one of them, was told that Commander Stevens
had given the order to retreat.
could obtain no information upon which to act, and seeing no boats between him and the fort, he pulled back to the flag-ship, where he first learned that Lieutenant Remey
, with his boat's crew, had landed on Sumter
This report is a fair example of all, and the affair was like many night expeditions, which generally end unfortunately, especially when not well planned beforehand.
A further unhappy feature of this expedition was the delusion, under which the assaulting party labored, that it was going to an easy victory.
Instead, a well-manned fort was found, supplied with all the disagreeable missiles known in war, and well supported by powerful batteries within easy range.
The less said about this expedition the better; it was a most unfortunate failure, and its acts of gallantry and daring cannot compensate for the repulse.
Certain it is, however, that no blame could attach to the members of the expedition, who could not be expected to achieve success under conditions so adverse, and who could not for the darkness even see the difficulties they were obliged to contend with.
it appears, knew all about the attempt that was to be made on Sumter
, and met it with every precautionary measure that ingenuity could devise.
Had the army of General Gillmore
joined in the assault there would have been the same result, with the addition of a longer list of casualties.
A flag of truce notified Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
on the following morning that there were one hundred and thirty prisoners in the enemy's hands, besides three of the killed.
Among the prisoners were the following officers: Lieutenants S. W. Preston
and E. T. Brower
, Ensigns B. H. Porter
and Charles H. Craven
, Third-Assistant Engineer J. H. Harmany
, Sail-maker D. C. Brayton
's Mates E. Butler
, C. P. Hovey
and C. S. McCarty
. Captain McCawley
, of the Marine Corps, reports that there were two lieutenants (C. H. Bradford
and R. L. Meade
). two sergeants, two corporals and twenty-six privates missing, and that great confusion existed at the landing.
Thus ended, for the time, the offensive operations against Charleston
, with the exception that the vessels of the fleet remained at their posts, ready for any service required of them, and in no way disabled from continuing the attacks in conjunction with the Army or otherwise.
The iron-clads had bravely sustained their reputation as good fighting machines, and all the officers had fairly earned the title of gallant men and able seamen, which was demonstrated time after time in the shallow and difficult channel leading up to Wagner
Among the vessels of the fleet, the New Ironsides
, which was not considered comparable with the Monitors
in invulnerability, took more than her share of the pounding, and came out of the contest with Wagner
with as many honorable scars as any veteran in the fleet could boast of. The handsome manner in which her gallant commander, Captain S. C. Rowan
, handled her and took her into action, always elicited the applause of the fleet; and it was only necessary for her to get her broadside guns properly ranged on the enemy's ponderous earthworks for their defenders to go to cover after a few well-directed shots, only to renew their fire, however, when her batteries were silent.
It was remarkable how much hammering this good old ship could bear, even from the heaviest of the enemy's batteries.
When the Weehawken
went ashore in the channel, between Sumter
and Cumming's Point
, Captain Rowan
placed his ship right between the batteries of Moultrie
and the Monitor
, on which they had opened fire.
anchored and swung head — on to the fort, the enemy opened a rapid fire upon him, which was soon replied to from the Ironsides
By this time the enemy had succeeded in getting the ship's range.
The sturdy old Ironsides
opened slowly at first for range, but soon increased the rapidity of her fire.
until its spirit forced Moultrie
Two guns from each of the 10-inch batteries between Moultrie
, however, still caused the Ironsides
to suffer, and only after one of the heaviest guns was seen to be dismounted did the forts slacken their fire again.
Having quieted her enemies, the Ironsides
now fired an occasional gun to keep them under cover.
This cessation, however, immediately brought them from behind their sand-bags to their guns, from which a rapid fire was opened, showing that the Ironsides
practice was too accurate to suit them.
then renewed his rapid fire, and the forts were silenced again — it was but a repetition of what had been done at Wagner
By this time there were but thirty shells left in the ship, and the order was given to weigh the anchor.
Under a rapid fire, the Ironsides
quietly went out of action, after having been engaged two hours and a half in an artillery duel such as was never sustained by any ship in the Navy, and against batteries that would have sunk the heaviest three-decker then afloat.
In this action Lieutenant H. B. Robeson
, Acting-Masters George W. Domett
and John M. Skillings
, Ensign B. H. Porter
and Acting-Ensign Charles W. Howard
are spoken of in terms of the highest praise for their coolness and manly bearing; while Lieutenant-Commander George E. Belknap
, the executive officer of the Ironsides
, is highly lauded for his zeal and ability in putting the vessel in such an efficient fighting condition, and for the hearty manner in which he had carried out Captain Rowan
's orders as commander of the gundeck (luring the fourteen
times the Ironsides
had been under fire.
Encounters of this kind were well calculated to develop the highest qualities of young officers, and the names of those above mentioned will be found prominent wherever an opportunity to distinguish themselves was offered.
There was no vessel in the fleet the enemy so heartily dreaded as the Ironsides
Her well-drilled crew and expert gunners made her anything but welcome when she brought her broadside to bear upon any of the forts.
The Confederates made several attempts to destroy her with torpedoes, but without effect.
On the night of the 5th of October, 1863, however, they very nearly succeeded.
An ingenious torpedo-boat — for the day — was fitted out at Charleston
, and placed in charge of Lieutenant W. T. Glassell
, of the
Confederate navy, with orders to operate against and destroy as many of the ironclads as possible.
was assisted by Captain Theodore Stoney
as first-officer, J. H. Toombs
, engineer, and Charles Scemps
and Joseph Ables as assistants.
The vessel belonged to a class known as Davids
, and was shaped like a cigar, being supplied with a small engine and propeller, and was of the following dimensions: Length, fifty feet; beam (or diameter), nine feet. For offence, a torpedo was carried at the end of
Lieutenant-Commander (now Commodore) George E. Belknap, executive officer of the Ironsides.|
a stout spar, extending some fifteen feet ahead of the sharp bow.
When the attempted destruction of the Ironsides
occurred, that vessel was anchored off Morris Island
, and the time, 9:15 P. M., was one at which a ship's deck is apt to be deserted except by the look-outs.
A small object on the dark water, close at hand, was suddenly discovered by the sentinels, and hailed by them, and the officer of the deck, Acting-Ensign C. W. Howard
No response being made.
the officer of the deck ordered the sentries to fire into the object.
The sentries delivered their fire, and, simultaneously, the ship received a severe shock from the explosion of a torpedo, which threw a large column of water into the air, whence it descended upon the spar-deck and into the engine-room.
was mortally wounded by a shot from the torpedo-boat, dying five days later.
The proximity of the David
and the limited target presented by its only visible part — a hatch ten feet by two-precluded the use of great guns upon it; but a brisk musket fire was kept upon it by the marines until it drifted out of sight.
Two of the Monitors
soon came under the stern of the Ironsides
in pursuit of this new device of the enemy, but, although two boats were lowered to assist in the search, nothing was seen.
Fortunately, no damage to the Ironsides
resulted from this explosion, and her salvation was, no doubt.
due to a miscalculation of the distance of the torpedo from the hull.
was afterward picked up by a coal schooner, and stated that the explosion had swamped the torpedo-boat, and that he and the two officers with him had been obliged to leave her and swim for their lives.
Here was a new danger for the fleet to contend with, and even more than the customary watchfulness would have to be observed.
, with all its resources, had not then developed a torpedo-boat (nor are we yet, in 1886, possessed of an efficient one), while the fleet at Charleston
should have been supplied with at least twenty of them!
would have removed all obstructions much faster than our energetic enemy could have put them down, and the way to Charleston
would have been open to the fleet.
The 5th of October was memorable for the advent of this new device of the enemy, and we were no nearer Charleston
than we were on April 7th, when DuPont
attacked the circle of forts without success.
had, indeed, been taken, but Sumter
, that had been pronounced a harmless heap of rubbish, had not only repulsed the naval assaulters, but had captured one hundred and thirty prisoners, whom, under the circumstances, the Confederates
dealt with very tenderly, considering the fact that they had them in a trap, and might have destroyed the whole of them.
This leniency gives a proof that, as the war continued, both sides were learning to conduct it on civilized principles, and the bitterness with which it had commenced was subsiding, so far that it was not considered unwarlike to capture prisoners instead of killing them, and that it was to the advantage of all concerned to observe the amenities of war as practiced by all civilized nations.
In considering the attacks of Dahlgren
with his little fleet of iron-clads on Charleston
's defences, too much cannot be said in
praise of the persistent gallantry and untiring energy of the commander-in-chief
and his officers; but in the work accomplished there was the strongest endorsement of Rear-Admiral DuPont
and of the views of his
officers — that the naval force was not strong enough to contend successfully with the well-built and formidable forts included in the great “circle of fire,” to say nothing of the submarine and other obstructions barring the way to Charleston
With all Dahlgren
's incessant fighting, from the time of his first attack to the 8th of September, 1863, he had not advanced beyond the line whence DuPont
had engaged the batteries on the 7th of April previously.
True, some of the Confederate
force had been broken in the fall of Wagner
, but only after the junction of Gillmore
's sixty guns with those of the ironclads in cross-fire.
It was the same result that obtained on the Western
rivers, success always attended a hearty co-operation between the military and naval forces, and failure as surely met the single-handed siege operations of either.
Too much was expected of the Monitors
in the first instance.
The conception of such vessels was a grand one, and for it the inventor and his supporters will live long in the memory of the American
people; but the vessels did not possess all the qualities required of them, since much had to be sacrificed in their design.
Against wooden ships or vessels more lightly clad than themselves, they would have proved perfectly destructive — premising equality of speed for all — but against forts they lacked qualities possessed by the Ironsides
They could not concentrate the rapid fire possible for a broadside-ship upon the enemy's embrasures, and while they were slowly loading — harmless for five or more minutes at a time — the guns of their opponents could be concentrated upon them with destructive effect.
as on the 7th of April.
It was a matter of frequent observation during the attacks on the batteries, that the rapid fire of the New Ironsides
always relieved the Monitors
after she had settled into position, and fairly obtained the range.
There was one great mistake made in the armament of the Monitors
: they should have been armed throughout with the heaviest rifled guns they could carry.
With these they could have taken position between four and five thousand yards from Sumter
and cut it down at their leisure, without receiving a shot in return.
This was exactly what Gillmore
did with his sixty breaching-guns,lodging over three thousand shells in the devoted fort, and making it a ruin in seven days. The 15-inch guns of the Monitors
would, no doubt, have breached the walls and have effected the same results, but the short range necessary would have subjected these vessels to a combined fire of all the batteries, which they were not fitted to endure for any protracted period.
The disappointment felt at the Navy Department over the failure of the first attack, and the resulting controversies, no doubt, prevented a calm investigation of the facts, from which the iron-clads might have profited.
If a careful study of the case had been made by unprejudiced men, or if DuPont
had been listened to, the Monitors
would have had their batteries changed for the 200-pounder rifles.
The author saw enough of the firing of the Monitors
— at pretty short ranges — at sand-bags, to know that the effect was trifling compared with the more rapid fire of the Ironsides
11-inch guns with their higher velocity, and these were greatly exceeded by the larger rifled guns made for the Navy.
The age of smooth-bores departed with the advent of iron-clad vessels, and the most probable reason for their retention during the war was the treacherous character of the rifled substitutes of large calibre, besides the fact that the Dahlgren shell-guns were favorite weapons, the 11-inch standing next in efficiency to the heavy rifles.
The earlier use of rifles might have followed from the example shown at Pulaski
a fort built by Colonel Totten
, a veteran chief of engineers, to resist any fleet that could be brought against it. With a few 30-pdr.
rifles, the work was bored through and through its masonry until honeycombed, when a few shot from 10-inch guns brought the disintegrated structure down about its defenders' ears.
The naval historian Boynton
attempts to show that the 15-inch guns of the Monitors
had great smashing effect,because two
of the shells passed through the walls of Sumter
, “one exploding in a casemate, another exploding on the parade ground; other 15-inch shells exploded against the wall, making great craters.”
And this, the historian thought, settled the point that these guns were of great smashing power.
He, however, fails to mention what number of the many that struck the walls did not
go through, and how little damaged Sumter
was when the iron-clads drew off. Mr. Boynton
, though a very pleasant historian, was not good authority upon the matter of which he wrote, and, with all his desire to do justice, he allowed himself to be guided in his opinions by those riding a hobby, and, unfortunately, a defective one.
Concerning the siege of Charleston
: at this day, when men can sit down coolly, and untrammeled by prejudice, read over all the operations of the naval force, there can be but one conclusion resulting — there was too great a hurry in the effort to capture a position
particularly strong, and in which all the arts of war had been exercised for ability to hurl defiance at the Federal
Notwithstanding the actual strength of Charleston
,exaggerated accounts have been given out stating the number of guns to be as high as three hundred and thirty.
The Confederate accounts, which there seems no reason to doubt, gave the armament of the works as follows: Sumter
21, Battery Bee 6, Fort Beauregard
2, Cumming's Point
2, and Wagner
19; total 94.
To these must be added the batteries at Fort Ripley
, Castle Pinckney, Mount Pleasant
, Fort Johnson, Battery Gregg
, and the Creek
Altogether, the naval commanders, and all with them, deserve high commendation for accomplishing what they did before Charleston
; their efforts, though not successful in capture, rendered the place of not the slightest use to the Confederacy
even as a resort for blockade-runners, whence supplies from abroad could be received.
On the contrary, its possession was a drawback to them, for its defence necessitated the retention there of a large number of troops, elsewhere sadly needed by the enemy in the field, and it may be said that the place was only held as a matter of pride, that the spot where secession first took root and sprouted should be the last to surrender.
By some persons the conduct of the war by the naval commanders has been criticised, on the ground that they did not rush through the obstructions and go right on to the wharves of Charleston
As if, indeed, the Confederates
would plant obstructions without due care that they should stop any vessel attempting to pass them under the guns of the forts!
What a predicament for the commander of a squadron to be in, to get his vessels entangled in a network of piles, ropes, chains, and torpedoes — all the while under a terrific cross-fire — and then to be blamed for his stupidity!
admits that, on the 7th of April, DuPont
's fleet “was huddled together helplessly in the very focus of a hundred guns, and held there during the stress of the fight.”
How it was to be otherwise the historian does not say, but further along remarks: “A short time only was needed to show that Admiral DuPont
was mistaken in all his main opinions; the subsequent use of the Monitors
by Admiral Dahlgren
proved that they could safely have endured another fight with the forts.
He found that the broadsides of the New Ironsides
could sweep the Confederates
from their guns whenever she was brought in proper range, and that she was a valuable co-worker with the Monitors
also demonstrated that the Ironsides
and Monitors could lie safely within the bar, and that with his iron-clads the harbor of Charleston
was effectually closed.”
The iron-clads, under Dahlgren
, never came within the “great circle of fire of the forts,” and though it is true that the fire of the Ironsides
would silence Wagner
's guns, yet she was not brought into close contact with that fort until she had the assistance of Gillmore
Firing at Wagner
, and forcing the passage of all the forts entangled in obstructions, are two different things altogether, as would have been ascertained by a practical comparison.
Fortunately, the representations made at the close of the war have been carefully examined, and, in most cases, found unworthy of record.
In this case, for instance, how could it be expected that a man who had no naval training, and had failed to post himself from official documents, could write a true history of naval operations?
Throughout his account of the naval work before Charleston
he has labored most arduously to take from a gallant officer the high reputation he had so fairly won, while endeavoring to elevate another at his expense.
himself must have seen, from DuPont
's first attack, that all efforts in that particular direction would be futile; he wisely concluded to avail himself of the advantages to be gained by a close co-operation with the Army.
If he did not succeed in all he hoped for, he at least demonstrated that a naval force alone could have no effect on the capture of Charleston
The most remarkable piece of assurance in connection with the Charleston
affairs was that of an engineer in the Navy, who, in view of DuPont
's failure, addressed the Navy Department, and criticised the conduct of the fleet in a manner that should have brought him before a court-martial.
How could any commander in-chief hope to possess the confidence of his Government while officious subordinates were allowed to give their views directly in opposition to his plans, and suggesting what, in their opinion, should be the mode of attack?
Yet this man not only stated that the passage of the forts was possible, but that the squadron could go up to the Charleston wharves
Again, we say, that the best endorsement of DuPont
's opinions is the hard work of Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
from the first cooperation with General Gillmore
, July 10th, to the unfortunate assault of September 8th on Sumter
, two months in which the fleet never succeeded in passing the fort that was “useless for all offensive purposes.”
With this chapter ends the operations of the Navy before Charleston
to October, 1863.