all support, and enable him to hold his ground against any relieving force that was likely to be sent down from Wilmington
This was effected, after some hours necessarily given to examinations; the first line being, at 9 P. M., drawn across some three miles above the fort; but a better was finally found a mile nearer; where a position was taken1
at 2 A. M., and where a good breastwork, stretching from river to sea, partially covered by abatis, had been constructed by 8 A. M. And now the landing of the lighter guns was commenced, and by sunset completed; the guns being placed in battery before morning, mainly toward the river, where, in ease of an attack on us, the enemy would be least exposed to the fire of our gunboats.
's brigade was now thrown forward toward the fort, and a careful reconnoissance made, under cover of the fire of the fleet, to within 600 yards of the wall; as a result of which, it was decided to deliver a determined assault next day.2
The iron-clads continued their fire through this, as they had through the preceding night; but, at 9 A. M., the wooden vessels moved up to renew the bombardment; reaching position about 11, and opening fire, with the usual effect of driving the Rebels
from their batteries into their bomb-proofs, and thus silencing their guns.
Meantime, 2,000 sailors and marines, armed with cutlasses, revolvers, and a few carbines, had been detailed from the fleet, and landed to share in the meditated assault, and had worked their way up, by digging ditches or rifle-pits, under cover of the fire of the fleet, to within 200 yards of the fort, where they lay awaiting the order to assault; which came at 3:25 P. M., or so soon as the landsmen were ready.
And now the fleet changed the direction of its fire, so as to cover the approach of our assaulting columns, which vied with each other in their eagerness to be first in the fort; the sailors rushing up by the flank along the beach, while the soldiers charged on the land-side toward the left.
Up to this moment, our loss had been trifling; but, when our columns reached the fort, it was no longer possible for the fleet to persist in its fire without doing more harm to them than to the enemy; and at once the parapets swarmed with Rebel musketeers, who — scarcely touched by the aimless, random firing of our 400 marines, who had been left in the rifle-pits to cover, by deadly volleys, the charging sailors — swept down the stormers in winrows, while grape and canister plowed through and through the head of the column.
Thus the sailors' assault was signally repulsed with great carnage, after a large number of them had gained the ditch, and some even climbed the parapet.
But the sailors, though not successful, had done a good work.
They had largely engrossed the attention and efforts of the besieged; thus enabling Curtis
's brigade, leading Terry
's column of assault, followed by Pennypacker
's, and they by Bell
's — having already gained, with moderate loss, partial shelter but 475 yards from the fort — to spring forward, under a heavy enfilading fire, over marshy and difficult ground, to and through the palisades, and so to effect a lodgment on the parapet; when