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Chapter 21:

  • Review of political questions in the — war.
  • -- the thread of Anti-slavery legislation. -- President Lincoln's hesitation. -- the opposition to his administration. -- scheme of compensated emancipation. -- how visionary. -- Mr. Lincoln's motives in suggesting it. -- the President and the Chicago deputation. -- his characteristic discourse on slavery. -- his reference to the Pope's Bull against the Comet. -- political importance of the battle of Sharpsburg. -- the mask dropped. -- the proclamation of emancipation. -- misrepresentations of it. -- an act of malice towards the master, not one of mercy to the slave. -- pretence of “military necessity.” -- dishonour of the plea -- proof of its falsehood. -- effect of the emancipation proclamation on the Confederates. -- President Davis' commentary. -- spirit of the press and people of the Confederacy. -- effect of the proclamation in the North. -- analysis of the Northern elections of 1862. -- the Democratic protest; against President Lincoln's administration. -- speech of Mr. Cox in the Federal Congress. -- supposed design of “reconstruction” of the Union. -- how the idea was treated in Richmond. -- savage denunciations of it. -- Vice -- President Stephens' declaration of Independence or death. -- military operations in the early months of 1863. -- General character of the war in the winter season. -- the recapture of Galveston by the Confederates. -- fight between the cotton-boats and the Federal fleet. -- the Harriet Lane captured. -- the other Federal vessels surrender, but escape under white flags. -- renewed attempts against Vicksburg. -- shameful failure of Sherman's expedition. -- third attempt upon Vicksburg made by Gen. Grant. -- its failure. -- attempt of Farragut's fleet to run past Fort Hudson. -- destruction of the Mississippi. -- capture of Arkansas post by the Federals. -- its importance. -- attack of an iron-clad fleet upon Charleston. -- trial between iron-clads and artillery. -- combat of the Keokuk and Fort Sumter. -- complete triumph of the Confederates. -- the prestige of “Monitors” destroyed

The beginning of the year 1862-when the heavy operations of the war on land were suspended by the rigour of winter-presents a convenient period for review of some political questions in the war.

The thread of Anti-Slavery legislation appeared for some time to have been broken with the decree of emancipation in the District of Columbia. President Lincoln evidently hesitated to identify his Administration further with the radical party in the war. A formidable opposition was gathering in the North with especial reference to the Anti-Slavery acts of the Government at Washington; it was declared that these acts were diverting [357] the war to the ends of fanaticism, and that the Government had deliberately violated the pledge contained in the resolution offered by Mr. Crittenden of Kentucky, and passed almost unanimously in the House of Representatives at the beginning of the civil conflict, to the effect that the war should not be waged in hostility to the institutions of any of the States. President Lincoln, as we have already seen, had been advised, in the summer of 1862, that McClellan disapproved of any infraction of the laws of civilized and Christian warfare; that he disapproved of arbitrary arrests in places where the insurrection did not prevail; that he did not contemplate any seizure of private property for the support of the army, or measures for punishing or desolating the region invaded; but that he earnestly desired that the war should be carried on as a duel between organized armies, and not against non-combatants; that the institutions of the States should be protected; that no proclamation of freedom, incensing a servile race to indiscriminate massacre of helpless whites, and inviting the destruction of unoffending blacks, should be permitted; in fine, that, wherever it was possible, the military should be subordinate to the civil authority, and the Constitution alone should be the guide and glory of heroic sacrifice.

It is remarkable that President Lincoln, in the summer of 1862, gave no distinct and decided evidence that this plan of action was obnoxious to him. His course at this time on the slavery question was rather disposed to conciliate both parties in the North; and he did nothing more than make a bungling experiment at compromise in proposing a scheme of compensated emancipation, which being excessively visionary and impracticable, soon passed out of the public mind. It was readily seen by men of all parties that this scheme would create a pecuniary burden which the Government would be utterly unable to carry along with the expenses of the war. At the rate of $300, it was calculated that the slaves in the insurgent States would be worth $1,049,508,000; and adding the cost of compensation to the Border States, at the same rate, the aggregate expense of emancipation would be $1,185,840,300. There was no disposition on the part of the tax-paying public to meet such liabilities in addition to the war debt; and the scheme of compensated emancipation never went further than a record of votes in Congress. That body passed a resolution that “the United States ought to co-operate with any State which may adopt gradual abolishment of slavery, giving to such State pecuniary aid, to be used by such State in its discretion, to compensate for the inconveniences, public and private, produced by such a change of system.” In pursuance of this resolution, President Lincoln transmitted to Congress the draft of a bill upon the subject. The bill was referred to a committee, but no action was taken upon it, nor did any of the Border States respond to the President's invitation to take the initiative in his scheme, and try the virtue of the resolution adopted by Congress. [358]

Bat although the scheme of compensated emancipation was visionary with regard to the objects it professed, it is quite possible that it may have served a secret purpose of Mr. Lincoln, and that it was really intended to test the sentiment of both sections of the country, and to prepare the way for the more vigorous treatment of the subject of slavery. The time was coming when he would have to decide between the conservative and radical elements of the North, and determine a question which was being pressed upon him by public sentiments which could not be compromised. On the 15th September, 1862, a memorial was presented to him by a deputation from Chicago, praying for the immediate issue of a proclamation of emancipation. Mr. Lincoln entertained the delegation with a long and rambling discourse. He was represented in the Northern newspapers to have made the following characteristic and interesting reply:

The subject presented in the memorial is one upon which I have thought much for weeks past, and I may may even say for months. I am approached with the most opposite opinions and advice, and that by religious men, who are equally certain that they represent the Divine will. I am sure that either the one or the other class is mistaken in that belief, and perhaps in some respects both. I hope it will not be irreverent for me to say that if it is probable that God would reveal His will to others, on a point so connected with my duty, it might be supposed He would reveal it directly to me; for, unless I am more deceived in myself than I often am, it is my earnest desire to know the will of Providence in this matter. And if I can learn what it is, I will do it I! These are not, however, the days of miracles; and I suppose it will be granted that I am not to expect a direct revelation. I must study the plain physical facts of the case, ascertain what is possible, and learn what appears to be wise and right.

The subject is difficult, and good men do not agree. For instance, the other day, four gentlemen of standing and intelligence from New York, called as a delegation on business connected with the war; but before leaving, two of them earnestly besought me to proclaim general emancipation, upon which the other two at once attacked them. You know also that the last session of Congress had a decided majority of anti-slavery men, yet they could not unite on this policy. And the same is true of the religious people. Why, the rebel soldiers are praying with a great deal more earnestness, I fear, than our own troops, and expecting God to favour their side: for one of our soldiers, who had been taken prisoner, told Senator Wilson, a few days since, that he met nothing so discouraging as the evident sincerity of those he was among in their prayers. But we will talk over the merits of the case.

What good would a proclamation of emancipation from me do, especially as we are now situated? I do not want to issue a document that the whole world will see must necessarily be inoperative, like the Pope's bull against the comet! Would my word free the slaves, when I cannot even enforce the Constitution in the rebel States? Is there a single court, or magistrate, or individual that could be influenced by it there? And what reason is there to think it would have any greater effect upon the slaves than the late law of Congress, which I approved, and which offers protection and freedom to the slaves of rebel masters who come within our lines? Yet I cannot learn that that law has caused a single slave to come over to us. And suppose they could be induced by a proclamation of freedom from me to throw themselves upon us, what should we do with them? How can we .feed and care for such a multitude? Gen. Butler wrote me a few days since [359] that he was issuing more rations to the slaves who have rushed to him than to all the white troops under his command. They eat, and that is all.

Such were the views entertained by Mr. Lincoln on the 15th day of September, 1862, on the subject of emancipation. Tie time of this conference was significant. The progress of the war was inauspicious; the Confederates had penetrated the North, and were actually threatening Washington; and at all such periods of wavering confidence in the war, the Northern Government was singularly prompt to incline towards the moderate party, and to hold up in its progress to radicalism. It was certainly no time to decide domestic institutions in the Confederacy when that belligerent was actually threatening the existence of the Government at Washington. But at this precise conjuncture of politics the battle of Sharpsburg was fought; the mask was dropped; and on the 22d September, 1862, President Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation of emancipation, of which the following is the important portion:

That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any States or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free; and the Executive Government of the United States, including the military and naval authority thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of such persons, and will do no act or acts to repress such persons, or any of them, in any efforts they may make for their actual freedom.

That the Executive will, on the first day of January aforesaid, by proclamation, designate the States and parts of States, if any, in which the people thereof respectively shall then be in rebellion against the United States; and the fact that any State, or the people thereof, shall on that day be in good faith represented in the Congress of the United States, by members chosen thereto at elections wherein a majority of the qualified voters of such State shall have participated, shall, in the absence of strong countervailing testimony, be deemed conclusive evidence that such State, and the people thereof, are not then in rebellion against the United States.

This was followed by the proclamation of 1st January, 1863, designating the States in which emancipation should take immediate effect; the notice of one hundred days, counting from the preliminary proclamation, having expired.

Thus was consummated the triumph of the Abolition party of the North. Thus was, at last, avowed the war upon slavery, and thus deliberately planned the robbery of the Southern people to the extent of two thousand millions of dollars. It is true that this proclamation was for the time of no effect, and that when it was issued it was worth no more than the paper on which its bold iniquity was traced; nevertheless, it was the avowal of a principle, the declaration of a wish, the deliberate attempt of the Chief Magistrate of a nation to do that which was repugnant to civilization [360] and all morals. The misrepresentation of the emancipation proclamation, as a deed of philanthropy, was absurd enough. A candid world found no difficulty in interpreting it as an act of malice towards the master rather than one of mercy to the slave. A crime was attempted in the name of liberty and humanity; and various hypocritical pretences were used to cover up what was an unholy infatuation, a ruthless persecution, a cruel and shameful device, adding severity and bitterness to a wicked and reckless war.

The new measure was adopted in the name of a “military necessity.” Aside from its falsehood, the plea was one that dishonoured the North, and placed it in shameful inconsistency. Again and again it had been proclaimed to the world, that “the rebellion was weak, and would be crushed out in sixty days;” at other times, it was declared that “Union men” abounded in the South, and would welcome Federal troops as deliverers; and yet now the invader was so hopeless of his task, that it was a “military necessity” that he obtain help of slaves! If the proclamation had been designed as a “military necessity,” it was very clear that it should end with the war, and be confined to the special mission for which it had been invoked. The fact was that the real design was political, not military; that emancipation was not the exigency of the war, but the permanent triumph of fanaticism under a false pretence. We shall see at a future time how beyond the point of this proclamation the Anti-Slavery legislation at Washington was enlarged by the establishment of a Bureau of Freedmen's Affairs, to determine all questions relating to persons of African descent, and finally, by an amendment of the Constitution, the effect of which was to entomb slavery forever, to erect emancipation into a constitutional reform, and thus exhibit and confirm what was its original design.

The effect of the emancipation proclamation on the Confederates was decided. It secured a new lease of war, and animated the people of the South to desperate exertion. In a message, communicated on the 12th January, 1863, to the Congress at Richmond, President Davis said: “The proclamation will have a salutary effect in calming the fears of those who have constantly evinced the apprehension that this war might end by some reconstruction of the old Union, or some renewal of close political relations with the United States. These fears have never been shared by me, nor have I been able to perceive on what basis they could rest. But the proclamation affords the fullest guaranty of the impossibility of such a result. It has established a state of things which can lead to but one of three consequences — the extermination of the slaves, the exile of the whole white population of the Confederacy, or absolute and total separation of these States from the United States.” The entire newspaper press of the Confederacy echoed the sentiment of the President. It was declared that .he outrage of forcible emancipation would awaken a deeper resentment [361] than ever inflamed the people of the South before; that it had quenched the last sentiment of respect that lingered in their breasts for the United States Government; that it would unite them more resolutely than ever, and make it to the individual interest of every person in the bounds of the Confederacy to sustain and strengthen it with every dollar and every arm, and every prayer, and every energy of manly virtue and Christian encouragement.

The effect of the proclamation in the North was to strengthen the Opposition; and the preliminary announcement of emancipation in September, 1862, was undoubtedly a main element of success in the Democratic triumphs in the fall elections of that year. The gains of the Democratic party at this time were the subject of great concern to those in power at Washington. In the face of a majority of 107,000 against them in 1860, the Democrats had carried the State of New York. The metropolis of New York was carried by a Democratic majority of 31,000-a change of 48,000 votes in twelve months. Within the great States of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, the results of the popular elections were a more or less emphatic avowal of opposition to the schemes of those who were using the power of the Government for narrow and sectional and despotic purposes. The significance of these elections was not only confined to the issue of emancipation. A large portion of the Northern people pronounced against the entire policy of Mr. Lincoln's Administration. They condemned that relic of the worst times of French tyranny, the lettres de cachet; they raised their voices against irresponsible arrests; they complained of the small measure of success in the war, and the disappointment of the hopes of the people in this regard; and while protesting against the edict of emancipation, they reminded Mir. Seward of his declaration, made on the 10th March, 1862, in a letter to Mr. Adams in London, that such a measure “would re-invigorate the declining insurrection in every part of the South.”

On the 15th December, 1862, Mr. Cox, Democratic member from Ohio, in a speech in the House of Representatives, described the condition of the North, and exhibited a bill of particulars against Mr. Lincoln's Administration, which may be taken as a declaration of the principles and views of his party. He stated that the present cost of the war to the North was $1,000,000 per day, which was not being replaced; for all that was spent in. war was, by the laws of economy, a loss to those who spend it, as a mere pecuniary transaction, and not counting ultimate and moral results. He declared that since Mr. Lincoln's Administration came into power there had been lost to the country, merely as a matter of business, not counting debt and taxes of a national or State character, at least three hundred millions in the destruction of property, interference with established business, increase in wages, spoliation of railroads, depots, produce, corn, wheat, [362] flour, cotton, hay, crops, &c. He pointed out the fact that the Government had devised a system of taxation by tariff which imposed a burden on the West, to benefit manufacturing in New England, and paid indirectly sixty millions into the treasury and hundreds of millions into the pockets of capitalists, from the consumers, who were mostly farmers in the West. He complained of a system of internal taxation, costing for collection some four millions extra, which might have been saved, and levying in one year $150,000,000 as interest only on a great national debt, and with an army of newly-made office-holders, with exorbitant salaries. He stated that within six hundred and fifty-one days, a party had succeeded which proposed, by legislation and proclamation, to break down a labour system in eleven States, of four millions of negroes, whose industry had been productive hitherto, worth, on or before the 4th of March, 1861, an average of $500 apiece, being in all two thousand millions of dollars. He prophesied that when this capital was destroyed the objects of this pseudophilanthropy would remain on hand, North and South, as a mass of dependent and improvident black beings, for whose care the tax would be almost equal to the war-tax, before their condition would again be fixed safely and prosperously. He concluded with the summary and startling statement that within these six hundred and fifty-one days the rights of personal liberty, freedom from arrest without process, freedom for press and speech, and the right of habeas corpus had been suspended and limited, and, at times, destroyed; and in the place of resurrected and promised liberty to four million blacks, the North had the destruction of that liberty which the past eight hundred years had awarded to the Anglo-Saxon race.

The triumphs of the Democratic party had taken place in the most powerful and populous States of the North. The States in which the party gained in the fall elections of 1862 contained a majority of the Free State population; had two-thirds of the wealth of the North; and furnished a majority of the troops in the field against us. This important and imposing demonstration of public opinion in the North was interpreted by the Republican party as significant of a Democratic design of “reconstruction,” in which the Southern States might be brought back into the Union with new constitutional guaranties. But this idea, if it was ever seriously entertained by the Democratic party of the North, found enough to discourage it in the manner in which the bare suggestion of it was cried down in all parts of the Confederacy, and by every organ of public opinion there. The Confederate press desperately and savagely denounced the idea of “reconstruction.” The Examiner said of the Northern people: “They do not yet understand that we are resolute to be rid of them forever, and determined rather to die than to live with them in the same political community again.” The Dispatch declared:

We warn the [363] Democrats and conservatives of the North to dismiss from their minds at once the miserable delusion that the South can ever consent to enter again, upon any terms, the old Union. If the North will allow us to write the Constitution ourselves, and give us every guaranty we would ask, we would sooner be under the Government of England or France than under a Union with men who have shown that they cannot keep good faith, and are the most barbarous and inhuman, as well as treacherous of mankind. ... But do not expect us to degrade ourselves and cast dishonour upon the graves of our kindred by ever returning to the embrace of those whose hands are dripping with the tears and blood of our people.

The leaders and politicians of the Confederacy were not behind the press in denouncing the idea of any possible reunion with the North. Alexander I. Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederate States, made a speech in North Carolina, which in view of the sequel attached to this man, is a curious personal reminiscence of the war. He said: “As for reconstruction, such a thing was impossible-such an idea must not be tolerated for an instant. Reconstruction would not end the war, but would produce a more horrible war than that in which we are now engaged. The only terms on which we can obtain permanent peace is final and complete separation from the North. Rather than submit to anything short of that, let us resolve to die like men worthy of freedom.”

It appeared indeed that the people of the South had fully made up their minds; that they were prepared to suffer all the calamities of the most protracted war; and that they would never, on any terms, politically affiliate with a people, who were guilty of an invasion of their soil, and whose atrocities in the war had caused the whole civilized world to shudder.

Military operations in the early months of 1863.

Before reaching the great campaign of 1863, dated with the fighting months of summer, we find certain minor operations of the war within the period of winter and early spring, of which we may coveniently give here a summary account. The heavy rains of winter and early spring prevented heavy movements on land, and this period in the history of the war we shall generally find occupied by attempts of the enemy on the seacoast or by amphibious expeditions on the inland waters of the Confederacy. The most important of the events referred to as preceding what may be indicated as the grand campaign of 1863, were the recapture of Galveston by the Confederates; renewed attempts of the enemy on Vicksburg, with some other enterprises on the waters of the Mississippi; and the repulse of the Federal fleet at Charleston. The narrative of these events is mostly a story of successes for the Confederates--the sum of which was considerable, [364] and the effect a spirited preparation and an auspicious prospect for the larger issues of the year.

Gen. Magruder, who had been appointed to the command of the Con federate forces in Texas, found the harbours of this coast in the possession of the enemy from the Sabine River to Corpus Christi, and the line of the Rio Grande virtually abandoned. He resolved to regain the harbours, if possible, and to occupy the Valley of the Rio Grande in force. The first step of his enterprise contemplated the expulsion of the enemy's vessels from the harbour of Galveston, and the re-possession of that town. Having assembled all the moveable artillery that could be collected in the neighbourhood, he occupied in force the works erected opposite the island on which the town of Galveston stands, and commanding the railway bridge which connects it with the mainland. He also fitted up as gunboats two steamers, the Bayou City and the Neptune, making them shot-proof, by means of bulwarks of cotton bales. The enemy's fleet, then lying in the waters of Galveston, consisted of the Harriet Lane, carrying four heavy guns, and two 24-pounder howitzers, commanded by Capt. Wainwright; the Westfield, flag-ship of Commodore Renshaw; a large propeller, mounting eight heavy guns; the Owasco, a similar ship to the Westfield, mounting eight heavy guns; the Clifton, a steam propeller, four heavy guns; the Sachem, a steam propeller, four heavy guns; two armed transports; two large barques; and an armed schooner.

The enemy's land forces — a few hundred men — were stationed at the end of a long wharf, and were crowded into large buildings immediately under the guns of the steamships. The approaches landward to this position were impeded by two lines of strong barricades, and communication with the shore was destroyed by the removal of portions of the wharf in front of the barricades. It thus became necessary for storming parties to advance by wading through the water, and to mount on the end of the wharf by scaling ladders.

It was arranged by Gen. Magruder that the naval and military operations should be simultaneous, and should commence before daybreak on the 1st January, 1863. The co-operation of the cotton-boats with the land forces was extremely difficult to obtain — the distance the former had to run being thirty miles. The attack was opened a little past midnight by a shot from our land batteries. The moon had gone down, but the Federal ships were still visible by the light of the stars. Leading the centre assault, Gen. Magruder approached to within two squares of the wharves, where the enemy's land forces were stationed, and where he was within three hundred yards of the enemy's formidable fleet. While Magruder engaged the vessels with artillery, the storming party advanced to the assault; the men wading through the water, and bearing with them their scaling ladders with which they endeavoured to reach the end of the wharf [365] on which the enemy was stationed. A severe conflict took place at this point, the Confederates being exposed to a fire of grape, canister, and shell, and at last being compelled to take the shelter of the buildings near the wharf.

As the morning advanced, our fire still continuing, the long-expected cotton-boats came dashing down the harbour, and engaged the Harriet Lane, which was the nearest of the enemy's ships, in gallant style, running into her, one on each side, and pouring on her deck a deadly tire of rifles and shot-guns. The gallant Capt. Wainwright fought his ship admirably. He succeeded in disabling the Neptune, and attempted to run down the Bayou City. The Confederate boat adroitly evaded the deadly stroke; although, as the vessels passed each other, she lost her larboard wheelhouse in the shock. Again the Bayou City, while receiving several broadsides almost at the cannon's mouth, poured into the Harriet Lane a destructive fire of small arms. Turning once more, she drove her prow into the iron wheel of the Harriet Lane, thus locking the two vessels together. Followed by officers and men, Commodore Leon Smith leaped to the deck of the hostile ship, and after a moment of feeble resistance she was ours.

After the surrender, the Owasco passed along side, pouring into the Harriet Lane a broadside at close quarters; but she was soon forced to back out by the effect of our musketry. Commodore Smith then sent a flag to Commodore Renshaw, whose ship, the Westfield, had, in the mean time, been run aground, demanding the surrender of the whole fleet, and giving three hours time to consider. These propositions were accepted by the commanding officer, and all the enemy's vessels were immediately brought to anchor with white flags flying. Within an hour of the expiration of the period of truce, Gen. Magruder sent another flag to Commodore Renshaw, whose ship was among the most distant, claiming all his vessels immediately under our guns as prizes, and giving him further time to consider the demand for the surrender of the whole fleet. This message was borne by two Confederate officers. While they were on their way in a boat, to fulfil their mission, Commodore Renshaw blew up his ship, and was himself accidentally blown up with it. They boarded the ship of the next in command, who dropped down the bay, still having them on board, and carried them some distance towards the bar, while still flying the white flag at the mast-head. Meanwhile, the first period of truce having expired, the enemy's ships under our guns, discovering that the Confederate boats and their prize were too much damaged to pursue, and regardless of the white flags still flying at their mast-heads, gradually crept off. The small Federal force which held the wharf, perceiving that they were abandoned by the fleet, surrendered as prisoners.

The capture of Galveston was thus completed; besides which we had taken one fine steamship and two barques, run ashore the flag-ship of the [366] commodore, and driven off two war steamers, breaking the blockade of the port, and temporarily reopening it to commerce.

We have already noticed some attempt of the enemy to open the Mississippi River, and to renew commercial communication between the Northwestern States and their natural port at New Orleans. The interest of the war in the West, after the battle of Murfreesboroa, may be said to have culminated in Vicksburg, and the campaign in the State of Mississippi was chiefly important in so far as it affected the operations for the reduction of this town, which closed the course of the great river to the Federal fleets.

The second attempt against Vicksburg was to be made by Gen. Sherman, who in the latter part of December, 1862, with four divisions under his command, accompanied by several gunboats, commenced the descent of the Mississippi River. The expedition was a shameful failure. Sherman, having landed his forces, attempted to capture the town from the northwestern side, and during the last days of December, there was some desultory fighting, when the Federal commander, without making any concentrated attack on the Confederate position, abandoned the enterprise, and re-embarked his troops at Milliken's Bend. The weak and disgraceful issue of this expedition is chiefly remarkable for its connection with the name of a commander declared incompetent, at this period of the war, and yet destined to win the reputation of a hero from the fickle multitude of the North.

After Sherman's failure, Gen. Grant made the third attempt upon Vicksburg, endeavouring, by combined naval and military operations, to turn the rear of the line of defence. Several expeditions were planned in the spring months of 1863, to turn the defences of the town, by means of the vast network of rivers, such as the Tallahatchie, Yazoo Pass, and Sunflower, which connect the Mississippi River with the Yazoo. These expeditions terminated without success, and are chiefly memorable for devastations of the country, which, indeed, was the usual resource of the enemy whenever disappointed in the accomplishment of military results.

While Grant was thus operating against Vicksburg, an attempt was made by the lower Federal fleet, under Farragut, to pass the batteries at Port Hudson, so as to co-operate with Admiral Porter's fleet on the upper waters. On the night of the 14th March, the Hartford, Farragut's flagship, steamed slowly up the river, passing the first of the line of batteries, followed by the Richmond, Mississippi, Monongahela, Genesee, Albatross, Kineo, the iron-clad Essex, the gunboat Sachem, and a mortar flotilla of six schooners. The Confederate batteries were silent, waiting to bring the whole fleet under their guns before they went to work. Presently there was one grand, long, deafening roar, and the battle was commenced. A great fire had been lighted on the river's bank, near one of the most formidable [367] works, to throw light across the stream and to illumine the enemy's vessels. The artillerists on shore had no difficulty in sighting their guns. The sheets of flame that poured from the sides of the vessels at each discharge, lit up nearly the whole stretch of river, placing each craft in strong relief against the black sky. The fleet soon lost its orderly line of battle. The Hartford was struck, but being a swift vessel, succeeded, with her consort, the Albatross, in running past the batteries. The Richmond, and the vessels following her, turned round; but as the Mississippi was executing this maneuver, a shot tore off her rudder, and another went crushing through the machinery. She drifted aground on the right bank of the river. She was being rapidly torn to pieces by shot from the batteries, when her commander abandoned her. Lightened by the departure of the crew, and influenced by the current, she floated off, stern foremost, down the river, in a sheet of flame, exploding her magazine, and sinking near Providence Island. The enterprise against Port Hudson had proved a failure, and Gen. Banks, who was advancing from Baton Rouge to take part in the anticipated siege, was content to march back again.

So far the Confederate strongholds on the Mississippi had bid defiance to the foe, and months of costly preparation for their reduction had been spent in vain. But after Sherman's repulse from Vicksburg some compensation was sought in an easier enterprise, and McClernand, who succeeded him in command, organized an expedition of two corps d'armee, and a fleet of three iron-clads, and several gunboats, against Arkansas Post, a village on the Arkansas River, about fifty miles from its mouth. The position had been fortified by the Confederates, and was held by Gen. Churchill with about thirty-three hundred effective men. On the 11th January, a combined attack was arranged between Gen. McClernand and Admiral Porter. Before the final assault was made, the garrison, finding themselves unable to reply to the fire of the gunboats, and overwhelmed by superiour numbers, hoisted a white flag, and surrendered. the importance of this capture by the enemy was, that he obtained a fortified point guarding the navigation of the Arkansas River, and shutting out its commerce from the Mississippi.

For some time the enemy had been making preparations for an attack on Charleston from the sea. There was an especial desire in the North to capture and punish this city, where the first movements of the war had commenced, and it was fondly hoped that on the anniversary of the first capture of Sumter there would be a change of flags, and the Federal ensign would again float from its walls. To accomplish this pleasant event, a large fleet, including many iron-clads built after the model of the Monitor, had been assembled at Port Royal, under command of Admiral Dupont, and about the first of April was ready for action at the mouth of Charleston Harbour. There were seven iron-clads of the Monitor pattern; [368] other descriptions of iron-clads were exemplified in the Keokuk and Iron sides, the latter being an armour-plated frigate, with an armament of eighteen 10, 11, and 15-inch guns. It was to be a trial between new forces of tremendous power. The defences at Charleston had been materially strengthened by Gen. Beauregard, who had been assigned to the coast service; and it was thought scarcely possible that any floating thing could breast unharmed the concentrated storm of heavy metal from the guns of Sumter, Moultrie, and Battery Bee, the three principal works in the throat of the harbour. A test was at last to be obtained of a long-mooted question, and iron-clads, which were claimed to be the most impenetrable vessels ever constructed, were to come within point-blank range of the most numerous and powerful batteries that had ever been used in a single engagement.

In the afternoon of the 7th April, the line of iron-clads, comprising seven Monitors, the Ironsides, and Keokuk, entered the channel, and passed Battery Bee, and along the front of Morris Island. No sound came from the batteries; not a man was seen on the decks of the iron-clads; the sea was smooth as glass, and thus calmly and majestically the whole line of vessels passed the outer batteries. At ten minutes after three, the fleet, having come within range, Fort Sumter opened its batteries, and, almost simultaneously, the white smoke could be seen puffing from the low sandhills of Morris and Sullivan's Islands indicating that the batteries there had become engaged. Five of the iron-clads forming in line of battle in front of Fort Sumter, maintained a very rapid return fire, occasionally hurling their fifteen-inch shot and shell against Fort Moultrie and minor batteries, but all directing their chief efforts against the east face of Fort Sumter. The firing became terrific. The Ironsides, from her position, engaged Fort Moultrie; Battery Bee mingled the hoarse thunder of its guns in the universal din, and the whole expanse of the harbour entrance, from Sullivan's Island to Cummings' Point, became enveloped in the smoke and constant flashes of the conflict. The iron-clads kept constantly shifting their position; but, whichever way they went, their ports always turned towards the battlements of Sumter, pouring forth their terrible projectiles against the walls of that famous stronghold.

Presently the Keokuk pushed ahead of her companions, placed herself within less than nine hundred yards of the fort, and seemed to challenge it to combat. A circle of angry flashes radiated towards her from all sides; she had made herself the target of the most powerful guns the Confederates could command. In a few moments, she was disabled, and crept slowly out of fire. The remainder of the fleet, more or less severely injured, withdrew, and in thirty minutes from the time when the first gun opened, the action was over, and a victory obtained, which went far to impeach the once dreaded power of the iron-clads of the enemy. Admiral [369] Dupont, “convinced of the utter impracticability of taking the city of Charleston with the force under his command,” retired to Port Royal, leaving the stranded, riddled wreck of the iron-clad Keokuk as evidence of his defeat. All his vessels had sustained serious injury. The Confederates, with but two death casualties, had driven off an iron-clad fleet, obtained a complete triumph, and destroyed the prestige of the description of vessel named after the Monitor, the first of its class.

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