volleys of grape, the sight of the Union flag1 told who they were. They composed the brigade which had been brought from the Folly River by the boats of the squadron, under Lieutenant-Commander Bunce and Lieutenant Mackenzie. I paused for a moment to observe the gradual accumulation of our men in masses, and their advancing movement; then pushed forward to accelerate with our enfilading fire the retreat of the rebels. The sight was now of great interest. Our own troops could be seen taking possession of the sand hills where the enemy had rested the sole defence of this end of the island, while some battalions were moving along the beach. The defeated rebels were hurriedly making way along the low, flat land north of their position, and some two or three detached dwellings were in flames, while the monitors skirting the shore maintained a steady fire on the retreat. Presently they reached Fort Wagner; and here we were advised that our advance was checked, at least for the day, though it was but nine o'clock. The discomfited rebels were safe in the work, and our own men halted at a reasonable distance from it. The monitor with my flag was now anchored as near the beach as the depth of water permitted, (twelve hundred yards,) and the other monitors in line to the southward. A steady fire was begun about half past 9,--the fort replying briskly,--and maintained through the day, except the dinner hour, until six in the evening; then I retired and anchored lower down. Next morning before six o'clock the Flag-Lieutenant reported to me that an assault had been made at daybreak by our troops and failed, and about nine o'clock I had a note in pencil from the General, saying, “We attempted to carry Fort Wagner by assault this morning, and reached the parapet; but the men recoiled and fell back with slight loss.” It is known now that reenforcements had been hurried to the island by the rebels, and had entered the work about midnight. I had no notice whatever of the General's intent, and could, therefore, render no aid in time. Here ended the first part of the enterprise against Morris Island. It had been in all respects a surprise, and so complete that the rebels do not seem to have had any idea of it until the day before; and it is not certain they were then aware of the scale on which it was to be conducted. Had a work like Wagner crowned the sand hills of the south end, we could not have established our position on the island — even a surprise would probably have been out of the question. But there were to be no more surprises — the undertaking was to be completed only by hard work patiently endured in the trenches, and by batteries ashore and afloat. The General now decided to make a second assault in force, and to cover it by some light batteries established at distances varying from one thousand to seventeen hundred yards. While the preparations for this design were going on, the monitors were daily at work to occupy the attention of Wagner and keep down its fire — the gunboats assisting at long range. On the eighteenth July, all being ready, about noon I led up in the Montauk, followed by four monitors and the Ironsides, anchored at twelve hundred yards, as near as the state of the tide would permit, and opened fire — the gunboats firing at a greater distance, and the shore batteries also in action. As the tide rose the Montauk gradually closed in, until at seven o'clock she was about three hundred yards from Wagner, when I ordered grape to be used. Unable to endure the fire of the vessels, the guns of the fort were now silent, and not a man was to be seen. About sunset a note in pencil from General Gillmore announced his intention to assault; but it was quite dark before the column reached the work. The fire of the vessels was continued so long as it was safe for our own men ashore, but ceased when the darkness made it impossible to distinguish friend from foe. The rattle of musketry soon made known the commencement of the assault, and continued with little intermission until half past 9, when it ceased; and then came the painful tidings of our defeat. This was the end of the second part of the operation, and proved that the work was too strong and too pertinaciously defended to be taken by any off-hand blow. The slow and laborious operation by trench and cannon only was capable of reducing it. And here I may remark, that in this necessity is to be found a principal cause for the delay in reaching Charleston that subsequently ensued. It was, no doubt, unavoidable, for it is to be presumed that no more troops could then be spared from the main armies. If there had been sufficient to make such an assault as would have overpowered all opposition, Wagner might have been carried at the first assault, Gregg would have yielded immediately, Sumter would soon have followed as a matter of course, and the ironclads, untouched by severe and continued battering, would have been in condition to come quickly in contact with the then imperfect interior defences. The rebel movements clearly indicate that they admitted the impracticability of defending Morris Island, and consequently Sumter, after our position on it was fully established and covered by the iron-clads. They only sought to hold the island long enough to replace Sumter by an interior position; hence, every day of defence by Wagner was vital to that of Charleston. This policy was successful for two months, (tenth July to seventh September,) and gave time to convert Fort Johnson from a forlorn old fort into a powerful earthwork — improved by the experiences of Wagner. Moultrie received similar advantages, and most of the cannon of Sumter were divided between Johnson and Moultrie. Batteries were established along the south shore of the channel from Johnson towards the city;
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Doc . 62 .-Hoisting the Black flag — official correspondence and reports.
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