This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
 just behind the upper line of obstructions, are the three rebel iron-clads, drawn up in battle array, and vomiting huge clouds of smoke. You can readily conceive that this unlooked — for estoppel utterly deranged the original intentions. The rebels were quite as well aware as we that the north-west face of Sumter is its weakest point; that it was, in fact, never finished, and, therefore, that it would be first attacked; and they used every means which admirable engineering skill could suggest to prevent our reaching it. Thus brought to a pause, it only remained for the iron-clads to take up such positions as they could. And the complication was further increased by the ill behavior of the flag-ship, the Ironsides. While steaming along up through the passage in front of Sumter, she is caught by the tideway, and veered off from her course, and her huge iron frame refusing to obey her rudder, she becomes in great part unmanageable. This embarrassed not her only, but all that portion of the fleet following her. The two monitors immediately behind (the Catskill and the Nantucket) fell foul of her, the one on one side and the other on the other, and it was full fifteen minutes before they could be got clear and pass on. In this plight it only remained for Admiral Du Pont to signal to the fleet to disregard the movements of the flag-ship. This he did, and the ships then assumed such positions as were available and they could gain, the whole number being at the mouth of the harbor, between Cumming's Point and Sullivan's Island, and opposite the north-east and eastern face of Fort Sumter, at distances of from six hundred to a thousand yards. While the manoeuvres rapidly indicated in these paragraphs are going on, you must not suppose the enemy is inactive. The powerful work on Cumming's Point, named Battery Bee, opens, the long-range rifle-ordnance of Fort Beauregard join in, Moultrie hurls its heavy metal, the fifty guns that line the Redan swell the fire, and the tremendous armament of Sumter vomits forth its fiery hail. There now ensues a period of not more than thirty minutes, which forms the climax and white heat of the fight; for though from the time when fire was opened on the head of the approaching line to the time when the retiring fleet passed out of the enemy's range, there was an interval of two hours and a half, (from half-past 2 till five,) yet the essence of the fight was shut in those thirty tremendous minutes. The best resources of the descriptive art, I care not in whose hand, are feeble to paint so terrific and awful a reality. Such a fire, or any thing even approaching it, was simply never seen before. The mailed ships are in the focus of a concentric fire of the five powerful works already indicated, from which they are removed only from five to eight hundred yards, and which in all could not have mounted less than three hundred guns. And, understand, these not the lighter ordnance, such as thirty-two or forty-two-pounders, which form the ordinary armament of forts, but of the very heaviest calibre — the finest and largest guns from the spoils of the Norfolk navy-yard, the splendid and heavy ten and eleven-inch guns cast at the Tredegar Works, and the most approved English rifled guns, (Whitworth and others,) of the largest calibre made. There was something almost pathetic in the spectacle of those little floating circular towers, exposed to the crushing weight of those tons of metal, hurled against them with the terrific force of modern projectiles, and with such charges of powder as were never before dreamed of in artillery firing. During the climax of the fire a hundred and sixty shots were counted in a single minute! Some of the commanders of the iron-clads afterward told me that the shot struck their vessels as fast as the ticking of a watch, and not less than three thousand live hundred rounds could have been fired by the rebels during the brief engagement! It was less of the character of an ordinary artillery duel, and more of the proportions of a war of the Titans in the elder mythologies. While the fleet is receiving the fire from the forts, what, in the mean time, are the iron-clads doing in return? On the order being given to disregard the movements of the flag-ship, the brilliantly audacious Rhind ran his vessel, the Keokuk, up through the others and laid it seemingly under the very walls of Sumter, and within a little more than five hundred yards from it. Close behind him, within six hundred yards of the Fort, is the Catskill, commanded by George Rodgers, a soul of courage all compact; and to both of them one could not help applying the exclamation of Nelson at Trafalgar: “See how Colling-wood, that noble fellow, carries his ship into the fight!” Close by is the Montauk, commanded by the heroic Worden ; while not far removed are the Passaic, the Patapsco, the Nahant, the Nantucket, the Weehawken, and the Ironsides. The whole fleet is devoting itself mainly to the face of Fort Sumter presented to it, with the exception of the Ironsides, which, from its position, can do better work on Fort Moultrie, and is pouring forth its terrific broadside from its seven ten-inch guns on that work. Could you look through the smoke, and through the flame-lit ports, into one of those revolving towers, a spectacle would meet your eye such as Vulcan's stithy might present. Here are the two huge guns which form the armament of each monitor — the one eleven and the other fifteen inches in diameter of bore. The gunners, begrimed with powder and stripped to the waist, are loading the gun. The charge of powder--thirty-five pounds to each charge — is passed up rapidly from below; the shot, weighing four hundred and twenty pounds, is hoisted up by mechanical appliances to the muzzle of the gun, and rammed home; the gun is run out to the port, and tightly “compressed ;” the port is open for an instant, the captain of the gun stands behind, lanyard in hand--“Ready, fire!” and the
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.