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[434] fire, and in a few minutes their tremendous projectiles were making a circuit through the air with a booming sound that fairly shook the earth. The direction in which their shells fell was signalled to them from the look-out of one of the gunboats, which were stationed at a good point for observation. They soon got the range, and their shells fell in and around the Fort with considerable precision.

After about a dozen shells were fired from the mortar-schooners, the monitor fleet slowly advanced toward the Fort, the Passaic taking the lead, the Patapsco and Nahant following. Whilst the monitors were getting in position and preparing to anchor, the rebels opened on the Passaic with solid ten-inch shot, and the position she took being in direct line with a target at which they had been practising, nearly every shot struck her. Captain Drayton and Chief-Engineer Stimers, who accompanied the monitor fleet at the request of Admiral Du Pont, remained on deck to observe the effect of the shot, shielding themselves behind the turret. A small splinter from one of the enemy's shells struck Captain Drayton on the cheek, causing a slight scratch, and entering the flesh.

The Patapsco and Nahant took position in the rear of the Passaic, the channel being so narrow that it was utterly impossible for them to advance abreast, and the water so shallow that there was danger of getting aground when the tide should recede. The difficulty of taking the Fort under such circumstances was at once apparent; but the main object being to test the strength of the monitors and to give their officers experience in handling their vessels, and the men an opportunity for practice in the working of the guns and the machinery of the turrets, it was determined to make a vigorous attack, notwithstanding all the disadvantages.

The Patapsco and Nahant were each separately by about two hundred yards from the Passaic and from each other, and could with difficulty bring their guns to bear. The cannonading, as I have stated, was opened by the enemy, and after several guns had been fired the Passaic opened on them with a fifteen-inch shell, but the guns not being sufficiently elevated the shot fell short. This was immediately corrected, and shot and shell were poured into the enemy's works for four hours, without any intermission, by all three of the iron-clads, the mortar-vessels at the same time keeping up a constant fire from their position nearly two miles distant. The wooden vessels took no part in the fight, the Wissahickon, Dawn, Sebago, Seneca, and Flambeau being at anchor near the mortar-boats, whilst the Montauk, Capt. Worden, took position in advance of the wooden vessels, and in sight of the conflict, but took no part in it.

The three monitors being thus arranged in line of battle, kept up a constant fire from half-past 8 o'clock in the morning until nearly one o'clock. The enemy in the mean time were not inactive, and showed a determination to make a most vigorous defence. They concentrated their fire entirely on the passaic, which was in the advance, only a few chance shots striking the Patapsco and Nahant.

At half-past 12 o'clock the monitors suspended fire for an hour for dinner, taking no heed of the continued firing of the enemy. At two o'clock the fight was again resumed and continued until half-past 4 o'clock. The Passaic was struck on her turret, pilot-house, smoke-stack and deck thirty-one times, one of her boats was damaged, the small flag-staff on the top of her turret was shot away, and a piece of shell passed through the flag on her stern. The Nahant and Patapsco received two or three slight blows from spent shot. A ten-inch shot from the rebel Fort was found on the turret of the Passaic.

The reports of the cannon and mortars were almost deafening to a novice in such matters, and must have been heard with great distinctness in Savannah, the wind bearing the sound off in that direction. It was a most beantiful day, the sun shining brightly, with a cloudless sky, and the atmosphere so warm that winter clothing was quite oppressive. The only annoyance was a superabundance of sand-flies, which were as full of fight as the human species by which they were surrounded, and thirsted for blood with equal voracity.

The enemy fired at first with considerable regularity, but after a time directed their shot mainly at the port-holes of the Passaic, and only fired when they could get a good shot. One of the ten-inch columbiads struck within three inches of the port-hole of the Passaic, making a slight dent; all the other shots went far wide of the mark. They were evidently early convinced of the fact that it was wasting ammunition to fire on their iron-clad adversaries unless they could strike the target they had made of the port-holes.

The position of the Fort was such that the amount of damage done by the cannonade could not be seen, except through the eye-holes of the pilot-houses, and the few spectators present not connected with the service were unable while the fight progressed to ascertain what headway had been made in the reduction of the Fort. It was, however, an exciting fight. Its finely rounded embrasures soon presented an immense irregular heap of sand. The fifteen-inch shells, weighing three hundred and forty-five pounds, when they entered the scarps and parapets and exploded would throw up in the air tons of sand, but it would, of course in a great measure, fall back in the same place, and hence the work of dismantling the Fort was slow and tedious. This flying sand must have been very severe on the gunners, when it came on them before they could escape to the bomb-proofs, but they always showed themselves a moment afterward, prepared to return the fire. A large number of these shells exploded within the Fort, and there must have been considerable loss of life. Their guns, except when run forward to fire, were entirely out of sight of our gunners, consequently there was but little opportunity of dismounting them unless the immense earth-works in front could have been dismantled.

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