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 sunrise of the eleventh, to take him to Hilton Head, was requested by General Benham to delay his departure for a few hours to hear the result of the reconnoissance, and, as is well known, General Hunter delayed his departure until the twelfth. During the evening of the tenth, General Hunter prepared and furnished to General Benham his final orders preparatory to leaving the Stono, in which he stated: “I desire in any arrangement you may make for the disposition of your forces in this vicinity, you will make no attempt to advance on Charleston or to attack Fort Johnson. You will, however, provide for a secure intrenched encampment.” Later in that evening a letter came from General Wright to General Benham, which stated that in consequence of the attack of the enemy upon his lines that afternoon, his men would be too much fatigued for the movement ordered next day. No attack was therefore made on the eleventh, during which day the shells still fell in our camps; and in the evening, in the latter part of the last interview with General Hunter, General Benham showed him a map with the line which he had drawn on it, from near a church on our left and front for about one and a half miles extending south-east to the front or beyond the battery of the enemy at the Secessionville tower. This line was about one mile in advance of our then line of pickets, and reduced our line of defence nearly one half in length, and secured our camps for a distance of full cannon-range from the enemy. And General Benham stated to General Hunter, that he considered it indispensable to hold it if we would not be driven from the Stono. General Hunter, greatly to the satisfaction of General Benham, fully assented to the proposition. About this time General Stevens reported to General Benham that he had commenced a battery on the point beyond his camp to bear upon the rebel battery, although General Benham had directed his engineer officer, Lieutenant O'Rourke, to select the location, who had decided that it should be upon the extreme point. General Stevens, according to his own report, intrusted the fixing of the position to a volunteer officer, who placed it, as Lieutenant O'Rourke reported, three eighths of a mile within that point, and at that much farther, or nearly a mile and three eighths distance altogether, from the rebel fort. The best of the ordnance that battered the wall of Fort Pulaski was then landed, and the heaviest guns placed in this battery, without much hope of its effectiveness against the earth-works of the enemy, as the whole power of the twenty to thirty heavy guns of Fort Pulaski within one mile or less of distance did not have the slightest effect upon our parapets of earth, while our guns there, the same now used, were hourly breaching its walls of masonry. After two days ineffectual firing upon this fort, two deserters came in on the fourteenth, who reported being at the Secessionville fort on the twelfth. They stated what was afterward confirmed by prisoners and our own officers, that the Fort had six large, mounted guns, and that it was a common earth-work, without stockade or abattis, and with only two battalions as its garrison; also that the enemy had seven other heavy guns ready to mount upon the fort. To this was added the knowledge of our own observation, that the enemy were at work night and day to strengthen this work, the possession or destruction of which was of vital importance to us, to enable us to hold this key to Charleston, placed as it was one and a half miles or more in front of the other works of the rebels, and covering nearly all our possible camping-ground. In accordance, therefore, with the previous order of reconnoissance approved by General Hunter, with the line proposed as “indispensable,” and approved by him on the eleventh, as also with his written order, “to provide a secure intrenched encampment,” General Benham decided that it was necessary to seize this fort by a night assault at the earliest possible moment, and arranged it for the morning of the sixteenth. On the evening of the fifteenth, General Benham called the principal officers together, Generals Wright and Stevens, and Colonel Williams, Captain Drayton, senior naval officer, also present, explained his plan for the attack, and the reasons which made it important that it should be done without delay. This plan was, that General Stevens, with nearly all his force, which was over four thousand men, should be in position at our outer pickets within one and a quarter miles of the Fort, at between two and three o'clock A. M., and at half-past 3 o'clock, or the earliest daylight, to rush upon and seize the Fort by storm or assault, the men to have their muskets loaded, but not capped. That Generals Benham and Wright, and Colonel Williams, with about three thousand men, should advance on Stevens's left from our outer pickets the moment his fire was heard, and be ready to guard against a main attack from our left, or to assist, if the struggle was protracted, at the Fort. General Wright asked General Stevens if the fire of his battery had any effect upon the Fort, and if he expected it would have any. General Stevens replied in the negative to both of these questions. Not the slightest objection was made to the movement by any of the officers or the slightest doubt expressed as to its success, General Wright even remarking: “We can take the Fort.” This is proven by a letter of Captain Drayton to General Benham, where he states that if they were opposed to it, “no one said as much as this,” and that he “recollects no opposition to the plan,” except as to the time, which General Stevens proposed to delay to afternoon. This delay was positively negatived by General Benham, who told General Stevens that his “men would be cut to pieces if they went up in daylight ;” as was also General Stevens's proposition to send his men to the assault with unloaded muskets. General Benham in response to this, twice ordered General Stevens to have his muskets loaded, but for the night assault not capped. The written orders of General Hunter had been made known to both Generals Wright and Stevens, and
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