While on the sands a few cannon-shots had reached the regiment, one passing between the wings, another over to the right.
When the inaction had become almost unendurable, the signal to advance came.
walked along the front to the centre, and giving the command, ‘Attention!’
the men sprang to their feet.
Then came the admonition, ‘Move in quick time until within a hundred yards of the fort; then double quick, and charge!’
A slight pause, followed by the sharp command, ‘Forward!’
and the Fifty-fourth advanced to the storming.
There had been a partial resumption of the bombardment during the formation, but now only an occasional shot was heard.
The enemy in Wagner
had seen the preparations, knew what was coming, and were awaiting the blow.
With Colonel Shaw
leading, sword in hand, the long advance over three quarters of a mile of sand had begun, with wings closed up and company officers admonishing their men to preserve the alignment.
Guns from Sumter
, Sullivan's Island
, and James Island
, began to play upon the regiment.
It was about 7.45 P. M., with darkness coming on rapidly, when the Fifty-fourth moved.
With barely room for the formation from the first, the narrowing way between the sand hillocks and the sea soon caused a strong pressure to the right, so that Captains Willard
on the right of the right companies of their wings were with some of their men forced to march in water up to their knees, at each incoming of the sea.
Moving at quick time, and preserving its formation as well as the difficult ground and narrowing way permitted, the Fifty-fourth was approaching the defile made by the easterly sweep of the marsh.
Darkness was rapidly coming