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[428]

General Curtis, Lieutenant-Colonel (now Brevet Brigadier-General) Comstock, the chief engineer of the expedition, and myself, under the protection of the fire of the fleet, made a careful reconnoissance of the work, getting within six hundred yards of it. The report of General Comstock, which, with its accompanying map, is appended hereto, gives a full description of it and its condition at that time.

As the result of this reconnoissance, and in view of the extreme difficulty which might be expected in landing supplies and the material for a siege on the open and often tempestuous beach, it was decided to attempt an assault the next day, provided that in the mean time the fire of the navy should so far destroy the palisades as to make one practicable.

This decision was communicated to Admiral Porter, who at once placed a division of his vessels in a position to accomplish this last-named object. It was arranged in consultation with him that a heavy bombardment from all the vessels should commence early in the morning and continue up to the moment of the assault, and that even then it should not cease, but should be diverted from the points of attack to other parts of the work.

It was decided that the assault should be made at three o'clock P. M.; that the army should attack on the western half of the land-face, and that a column of sailors and marines should assault at the north-east bastion.

The fire of the navy continued during the night. At eight o'clock A. M., of the fifteenth, all of the vessels, except a division left to aid in the defence of our northern line, moved into position, and a fire, magnificent alike for its power and accuracy, was opened.

Ames' division had been selected for the assault. Paine was placed in command of the defensive line, having with him Abbott's brigade in addition to his own division. Ames' first brigade--Curtis'--was already at the outwork above-mentioned, and in trenches close around it; his other two brigades, Pennypacker's and Bell's, were moved at noon to within supporting distance of him. At two o'clock preparations for the assault were commenced. Sixty sharpshooters from the Thirteenth Indiana volunteers, armed with the Spencer repeating carbine, and forty others, volunteers from Curtis' brigade, the whole under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Lent, of the Thirteenth Indiana, were thrown forward at a run to within one hundred and seventy-five yards of the work. They were provided with shovels, and soon dug pits for shelter, and commenced firing at the parapet.

As soon as this movement commenced the parapet of the fort was manned and the enemy's fire, both of musketry and artillery, opened.

As soon as the sharpshooters were in position, Curtis' brigade was moved forward by regiment, at the double-quick, into line at about four hundred and seventy-five yards from the work. The men there laid down. This was accomplished under a sharp fire of musketry and artillery, from which, however, they soon sheltered themselves by digging shallow trenches.

When Curtis moved from the outwork, Pennypacker was brought up to it, and Bell was brought into line two hundred yards in his rear. Finding that a good cover for Curtis' men could be found on the reverse slope of a crest, fifty yards in the rear of the sharpshooters, they were again moved forward, one regiment at a time, and again covered themselves in trenches. Pennypacker followed Curtis, and occupied the ground vacated by him, and Bell was brought up to the outwork.

It had been proposed to blow up and cut down the palisades; bags of powder, with fuses attached, had been prepared, and a party of volunteer axemen organized; but the fire of the navy had been so effective during the preceding night and morning that it was thought unnecessary to use the powder. The axemen, however, were sent in with the leading brigade, and did good service by making openings in portions of the palisading which the fire of the navy had not been able to reach.

At three twenty-five P. M. all the preparations were completed, the order to move forward was given to Ames, and a concerted signal was made to Admiral Porter to change the direction of his fire.

Curtis' brigade at once sprung from their trenches and dashed forward in line; its left was exposed to a severe enfilading fire, and it obliqued to the right so as to envelop the left of the land-front; the ground over which it moved was marshy and difficult, but it soon reached the palisades, passed through them, and effected a lodgement on the parapet. At the same time the column of sailors and marines, under Fleet-Captain K. R. Breese, advanced up the beach in the most gallant manner and attacked the north-east bastion; but, exposed to a murderous fire, they were unable to get up the parapet. After a severe struggle and a heavy loss of valuable officers and men, it became apparent that nothing could be effected at that point, and they were withdrawn. When Curtis moved forward, Ames directed Pennypacker to move up to the rear of the sharpshooters, and brought Bell up to Pennypacker's last position, and as soon as Curtis got a foothold on the parapet sent Pennypacker in to his support. He advanced, overlapping Curtis' right, and drove the enemy from the heavy palisading, which extended from the west end of the land-face to the river, capturing a considerable number of prisoners; then pushing forward to their left, the two brigades together drove the enemy from about one quarter of the land-face. Ames then brought up Bell's brigade, and moved it between the work and the river. On this side there was no regular parapet, but there was abundance of cover afforded to the enemy by cavities from which sand had been taken for the parapet, the ruins of barracks and storehouses,


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N. M. Curtis (11)
G. A. Pennypacker (6)
L. Bell (5)
Adelbert Ames (5)
David D. Porter (2)
C. B. Comstock (2)
Charles J. Paine (1)
Lent (1)
K. R. Breese (1)
H. L. Abbott (1)
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