extending on at intervals of a cable's length — the Weehawken leading the van. The wooden gunboat fleet lies in reserve outside the bar, close by the position occupied by the blockaders. The head of the line is some four miles from the position the fleet is to make before opening fire, and all the batteries on Morris Island — they must pass within easy range of each — have to be run. The fleet is hardly in motion, however, when the leading vessel, the Weehawken, stops, and all the others have to stop, also. The cause of this delay, as we afterward learned, was the derangement of a raft which had been attached to the Weehawken for the purpose of exploding torpedoes and clearing away obstructions. This instrument is one of the inventions of Mr. Ericsson's fertile genius, and consists of a raft about twelve feet square, composed of transverse timbers, eighteen inches in thickness, fitting on to the prow of the vessel. From the forward part of this raft, suspended from a cable six feet in the water, was to be a large projectile, containing several thousand pounds of powder, so constructed that the line of fraction would be forward and laterally, and capable of being exploded form the turret by means of a lanyard. One of the two of these rafts which had been brought down was attached to the Weehawken, which for this reason was assigned the leading position in the line. Owing to the purely experimental character of the device, however, the projectile was not attached to the raft, but in its place a number of grappling-irons had been affixed, which it was hoped would be found of service in exploding and tearing out torpedoes. In the course of getting under way, these grapplings had become fouled in the anchor-cable, and this was the cause of the delay of the Weehawken and of the whole fleet. It takes an hour to set this matter to rights, and at half-past 1 o'clock the fleet is once more under way. Depend upon it, there were two parties that watched the progress of the iron fleet with an intensity of interest that words are too feeble to express-we, spectators from our vessels, and the still more interested spectators in the forts, who kept up a perpetual signalizing of its approach from point to point. Slowly the leading vessel, followed by the other eight iron-clads, moves up the main ship-channel — the shore of Morris Island, against which from our point of view they seem to rest, forming a fixed point, by which we measure the progress of the fleet. The first battery to whose fire it will be exposed is Fort Wagner, and one fixes his eye on it and on the Weehawken, approaching nearer and nearer, for the fleet will there undergo its first fiery baptism. Now, then, she comes within range of the fort: no fire. She passes across it: still no fire! The second ship comes up, and meets the same silent reception; and so on, one by one, till, with the Keokuk, the whole nine file by without a single shot from this seemingly formidable work. Meantime, while the fleet is passing Wagner unmolested, the leading vessel has come up with the next rebel work--Battery Bee. The same silent reception for her; the same silent reception for the whole fleet! What is the meaning of this? The enemy is obviously holding back his fire until he can deliver it with the greatest possible effect. The line has now passed across the front of Morris Island, and rounds to make the entrance of the harbor, coming up within the circle of the fire of Fort Sumter and the batteries on Sullivan's Island. The suspense becomes painful.
There was silence deep as death,In an instant a hollow square of smoke rises from the top of Sumter — a hollow square of flame shoots up — a crash counterfeiting “Jove's dread clamors” bursts on the ear, and a whole broadside streams down from the barbette guns. It is precisely four minutes past three in the afternoon. While the Weehawken is receiving this fire, the others are gradually coming up to the same position; but the leading vessel, instead of passing on above Sumter, so as to place herself in the prescribed station opposite the north-west face, sheers off to the right, and hangs estopped between Sumter and Moultrie! Heavens! what can be the matter? From our point of view, no cause for this unlooked — for development can be perceived, but to those on the Weehawken it is only too apparent. Stretching from a point close to the north-eastern angle of Fort Sumter, completely across the channel to Fort Moultrie, is a stout hawser, floating on lager-beer casks, on which are hung nets, seines, and cables, strung with torpedoes. The vessel comes afoul of this, whisks up the nasty entanglements with its propeller, is thus deprived of all motive power, and is at the mercy of the current, to be drifted ashore into the hands of the rebels. If this fatality was not actually realized by the iron-clads, it was owing to the admirable skill of the captains of the foremost ships, who, when their vessels were just on the point of fouling, sheered off, and saved themselves and the fleet. The right-hand channel being thus obstructed, it remains to see what can be done with the left, between Sumter and Cumming's Point. But this, too, is still more effectually blockaded by a row of piles, rising ten feet above the water, and extending across the whole width of the passage. Looking up the harbor, another row of piles discloses itself, stretching across from Fort Ripley on the middle ground to Fort Johnson. It does not stretch entirely across, however, for midway is an opening, inviting the passage of the fleet. Submerged in the water, underneath that opening, is a torpedo filled with — incredible though the statement may seem, it is an actual fact--five thousand pounds of powder! Furthermore, above this first line of piles is a second, and above the second a third--while above all, and
And the boldest held their breath
For a while.