Chapter 7: operations against Charleston.
The Navy Department, on June 26th, addressed a letter to Rear-Admiral Dupont
, from which the following is an extract:
To your ceaseless vigilance and that of the officers under your command we were indebted, some months since, for the destruction of the notorious steamer Nashville, which the enemy had armed and fruitlessly endeavored to send out to destroy our commerce; and now to your timely measures, and the efficient means provided, do we owe the capture of one of the most powerful ironclads afloat—a vessel prepared after months of toil and great expenditure of money, and sent forth with confidence to disperse our blockading fleet and overcome our monitors.
You may well regard this, and we may with pleasure look upon it as a brilliant termination of a command gallantly commenced and conducted for nearly two years with industry, energy, and ability.
On the 21st of April the Assistant Secretary of the Navy
said to Admiral Dahlgren
, in the Navy Department, that it was his wish that he (Dahlgren
) should relieve Dupont
says in relation to this:
If I am wanted there now, an order will soon take me there, as I am an applicant for sea service. Next day the President came into Fox's room while I was there, and sat some time, talking generally of matters.
He said nothing of the Charleston business, in the way of opinion, but remarked that Dupont's last letter showed overness
to think that his (the President's) letter censured him. Abe was in good humor, and at leaving said, ‘Well, I will go home; I had no business here; but as the lawyer said, I had none anywhere else.’
May 28th.—Dupont is to be relieved, and three are spoken of in his place—Gregory, Foote, and myself.
There is evidently an idea of two commanders, one for the fleet generally, and one for the attack, intended I think, to include Foote and myself (Dahlgren's Memoirs, p. 390).
was taken suddenly ill, and that gallant officer died in New York on the 26th of June. Admiral Dahlgren
was ordered to relieve Admiral Dupont
, and left with the least possible delay; he arrived at Port Royal
on the 4th of July.
General Gillmore wished to act, and had called for assistance.
Dupont had no specific instructions, but would assist.
He preferred to await my arrival.
A very loose state of things; no shape or connection.
After Rodgers got to the Wabash a note was sent me from Dupont, saying he was “rejoiced” and would send for me at 10.. Dupont was very pleasant.
The cabins full of officers.
In the afternoon I went over to Hilton Head to see General Gillmore.
He said that his project must now be tried, or it would be too late in a few days.
So I had no alternative but to grant the aid asked (Dahlgren's Memoirs, p. 396).
On the 5th Admiral Dahlgren
met General Gillmore
on board of the Wabash
, and they ‘put the matter in a definite shape.’
The admiral ‘would send in five ironclads to clear the ground on Morris Island
, and he would attempt an assault the night before.
If it failed, then he would open the batteries.
The thing is rather complicated, and, to make it worse, I am new to the squadron and the locality, and my staff likewise. . . . Besides, three of the turrets are being altered, and this work has to be stopped for the occasion’1
's Memoirs, p. 397-8).
On the 6th the command of the squadron was turned over to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
On the 7th he ‘received a note from General Gillmore
, who asked to postpone one day. Agreed on.’
In taking leave of Rear-Admiral Dupont
, the writer is impelled to give a sketch of him, perhaps such as is in the memory of every officer who was personally acquainted with him or served near him. Professionally, he was thoroughly able; he possessed undaunted courage, energy, and zeal; his education was of a high order, and his character might well serve as a model in every respect.
He had the rare ability to make the best use of the personnel and the material under his control, and to maintain over no less than forty harbors, inlets, and channel-ways, as rigorous a blockade as it was in the power of man to accomplish with the vessels which were at his disposal.
In appearance he was distinguished, over six feet in height, admirably proportioned, graceful and urbane, with an intelligent expression and action.
It will not be considered adulatory to those who knew him to say that no officer in our navy within the past half century was gifted with a more distinguished appearance or exalted character.
On July 15th the Secretary of the Navy
wrote to RearAd-miral Dupont
, after the close of his official duties, as follows: ‘Elsewhere, and in public official communications, I have expressed my high appreciation of your services and of the ability you have exhibited.’
There was further correspondence between the Navy Department and the admiral of an acrimonious character, which neither the limits nor the objects of this volume could take in. A careful consideration of what is herein presented, will show, however, that certain charges of disobedience of orders were simply technical, namely: the ironclads should have been within Charleston
bar, as per order, when they were undergoing repairs from injuries received, and were having base-rings put around their turrets, and pilot-houses increased in thickness, by order of the Department
, which could not have been done off Charleston
; also, a failure to cooperate with General Gillmore
as ordered, when Gillmore
was not ready to operate until some days after Dahlgren
, when in an inferior grade, had with great difficulty introduced into the naval service an improved armament of shell guns and boat howitzers, in relation to which Rear-Admiral Dupont
, immediately after the battle of Port Royal
, wrote him as follows:
But besides this, I am impelled by a feeling of duty to address you. The large ordnance of this squadron has sprung from your inventive genius, and thankful am I, for one, for those long years of study, scientific research, and deductions, which so materially aided in arming the American navy as I believe no other navy is armed. . . . I only now wish you could have seen the practice from this ship during the engagement, not alone for its precision and destructive results, but for the rapidity with which such large guns could be loaded with their heavy shell.
I never get transporte, as the French term it, about such things, but I will repeat, to the day of my death, that the second assault of this ship upon the forts, for rapidity, continuity, and precision of fire, has never been surpassed in naval warfare.2
, upon assuming command, had shown him by Dupont
a letter from Gillmore
, to the effect that lie was about operating on Morris Island
, and asked naval cooperation.
This had been declined in order to enable his successor to make all preliminary arrangements.
had informed him [Dahlgren] that the enemy appeared to be aware of his design, and was working on Morris Island
with great activity to defeat it, and would succeed unless speedy action was taken.
There being no time to ascertain the views of the Department it only remained for him to furnish the assistance required.’
This he proposed to do with the monitors, with what assistance from the wooden vessels was found practicable.
He regretted the probability that at the time desired the Ironsides
would not be able to cross the bar. He says: ‘Of course, the most that is expected from the action of these vessels is to relieve the troops as much as possible, and is to be considered of no other consequence.’
On the 10th of July General Gillmore
opened his batteries, situated on the north end of Folly Island
, against those of the enemy occupying the southern sand-hills of Morris Island
At 4 A. M. the Catskill
, Commander George W. Rodgers
, the Montauk
, Commander D. M. Fairfax
, the Nahant
, Commander John Downes
, and the Weehawken
, Commander E. R. Colhoun
, passed the bar, the admiral's flag being on board of the leading vessel.
opened fire about this time, and as soon as sufficiently near, the monitors opened fire with shell upon the enemy's batteries, which were replying to those of General Gillmore
The fire of the monitors dispersed the enemy wherever seen to assemble.
About eight o'clock the land batteries ceased firing and the troops in some force were seen making their way along the beach on Morris Island
The monitors, with the advance of the troops, now moved parallel to the low, flat ground that extends northward between the sand-hills and Fort Wagner
, as near to the island as the depth of water permitted, rolling shells over the surface to clear away any bodies of troops that might be behind a continuous sand-ridge near the beach.
Two or three buildings near Fort Wagner
were set on fire by the enemy, for the supposed purpose of unmasking the guns of the fort looking down the beach.
The monitors were now laid abreast of Fort Wagner
, which is situated about 2 3/4 miles from the southern end of Morris Island
, and 1 3/4 mile north of the sand-hills situated on that end. The number of guns in Wagner
was supposed to be ten or twelve.
At 9.30 the monitors opened on the work.
The admiral desired to get within grape-shot range, but was not able to get closer than about 1,200 yards, by reason of shoal water.
The fire was promptly and vigorously returned till noon, when the monitors dropped down to allow the men to have dinner, after which they re-occupied their position and continued firing until 6 P. M., and then withdrew, the men having been fourteen hours employed.
The weather was excessively hot. Five hundred and thirty-four shell and shrapnel were fired during the day, and from the different points of view the practice appeared to be excellent.
The admiral was favorably impressed with the endurance of the monitors.
was struck sixty times, a large percentage of the hits being very severe.
The pilothouse, turret, and side armor, were all more or less damaged.
Some of the shots were large; one found on deck after striking the turret proved to be a X-inch; when these heavy shot struck, the concussion was very great.
An officer touching the turret at such a time was knocked down senseless and much injured.
The iron of the pilot-house was
broken through entirely, and a nut from one of the bolts driven against the lining, so as to break it through.
The deck-plates were also cut through in many places, so as to make the entrance of water troublesome.
The test was most severe, as all admitted who saw the vessel.
Yet after firing one hundred and twenty-eight rounds she came out of action in good working order, as was proven by her going into action the next day.3
The enemy directed his fire almost exclusively against the Catskill
was hit six times, the Montauk
twice, and the Weehawken
The following morning the admiral received a note from General Gillmore
stating that at early daylight he had made an assault on Wagner
and had been repulsed.
He had learned that the enemy expected reinforcements at 10 A. M., and asked for action to prevent it. In accordance with the request, four monitors were again moved near Wagner
, and scoured the ground in that vicinity.
On July 17th the admiral states that since his last report he had been occupied with measures to continue the advance and have the Ironsides
with five monitors inside the bar. An attack was made on our forces in the Stono
the previous day, which had been repulsed.
had been struck forty-two times.
On July 19th he states that the previous day a combined attack had been made by the troops under General Gillmore
and the vessels under his command.
At 11.30 A. M. the admiral led on board of the Montauk
, Commander Fairfax
, followed by the Ironsides
, Captain S. C. Rowan
; the Catskill
, Commander G. W. Rodgers
; the Nantucket
, Commander Beaumont
; the Weehawken
, Commander Colhoun
; and the Patapsco
, Lieutenant-Commander Badger
At 12.30 the Montauk
anchored abreast of Fort Wagner
and fired the first gun, the other vessels following.
The tide ebbing, the pilot was averse to going nearer.
The distance to the fort was about twelve hundred yards. The gunboats Paul Jones
, Commander A. C. Rhind
, Lieutenant-Commander W. D. Whiting
, Lieutenant-Commander Wm. Gibson
; Chippewa, Lieutenant-Commander T. C. Harris
; and Wissahickon
, Lieutenant-Commander J. L. Davis
, at the same time were using their pivot guns against the fort at long range, and the batteries of General Gillmore
, about one thousand yards south, on Morris Island
, were firing very deliberately and steadily.
At 4 P. M., with a flood-tide, weighed anchor and closed in to within about three hundred yards of the fort, so that for the day not a shot was fired afterward at the vessels, nor was a man to be seen about it. Near sunset a note was received from General Gillmore
stating that he had ordered an assault, and the battalions could be seen advancing along the beach.
Before our troops had reached the works it became too dark to discern them.
To this moment an incessant and accurate fire had been maintained by the vessels; but now it was impossible to distinguish whether it took effect on friend or foe, and, of necessity, it was suspended.
Very soon afterward the rattle of musketry and the flashes of light artillery announced that our men were mounting to
This continued without intermission until 9.30 P. M., then gradually decreased and died away altogether.
‘The ill-tidings of a repulse were not long coming; the admiral was of opinion that the number of troops was inadequate.
The officers and men were zealous, and labored hard; the general plans were well conceived; but there was a manifest lack of force.’
The following morning the admiral sent a flag of truce on shore to offer to take charge of our wounded.
The offer was rejected, and the fact observed that dead and wounded were lying about the ground.
The enemy stated that the dead would be buried and the wounded properly provided for. Owing to our wounded lying exposed, it was not possible to do anything that day; the vessels were ordered to withdraw in order that the men might get fresh air below.
I he admiral expresses his satisfaction with those under his command, and says the vessels were handled with great skill in the narrow channel.
On July 21st he forwards copies of correspondence between General Gillmore
and himself, and states his belief that an additional land force is absolutely required to advance operations.
had been silenced and its garrison driven to shelter, and that could be repeated; the rest could only be accomplished by troops.’
As a part of the operations against Charleston
, the command of General A. H. Terry
was sent up the Stono River
to make a diversion.
, Commander G. B. Balch
; the McDonough
, Lieutenant-Commanding Bacon
; and the Marblehead
, Lieutenant-Commanding Scott
, were in those waters to co-operate.
On the afternoon of July 9th the Pawnee
(monitor), the McDonough
, and the Williams
proceeded up the Stono
, anchored above Strom's Landing, and opened
fire on James Island
The troops followed in transports, landed, and sent a force out on the island.
On the 11th a Confederate battery opened fire on the army transport Hunter
, and at once received the fire of the McDonough
and the Williams
In the afternoon, at the request of General Terry
, the Pawnee
anchored off Grimball
's, near the locality where the Isaac Smith
had been captured five months previously, and opened fire in the direction of Secessionville
, to assist our troops in making a forward movement, and this was continued, and at ranges designated, until signal was made to cease, when the troops advanced.
On the morning of the 16th the enemy opened a heavy fire on the Pawnee
, choosing a time when the position of the vessels would not permit their batteries to bear.
The narrow channel, and the steering-wheel of the Pawnee
being disabled, made the attempt to drop down perilous, but the movement was effected without grounding, and was most opportune.
signalled that the enemy was advancing in force, and requested the Pawnee
to open fire.
This was effectively done, and an advance along a causeway was checked.
The attack on Terry
's troops was very spirited, and, as learned through prisoners taken, the design was to disable the vessels, and by means of a superior force capture the troops.
On the afternoon of that day General Terry
stated that he had fulfilled his instructions, and would embark during the night.
As proposed, the troops left, and the vessels of war dropped down to the inlet.
Active operations, from causes indicated above, were suspended on Morris Island
until the morning of August 17th, at which time General Gillmore
opened fire on Fort Sumter
from all of his batteries.
At the same time Admiral Dahlgren
, with his flag on board of the Weehawken
followed by the Catskill
, and Montauk
, attacked Wagner
, the New Ironsides taking position in face of the fort.
From outside the bar the Canandaigua
, Cimarrone, Ottawa
, Dai Ching, and Lodona opened also with rifles and pivot guns.
As the tide rose the monitors closed to within a distance of about four hundred and fifty yards of Wagner
, and the Ironsides
as near as her draught would permit.
After a couple of hours the fort was silenced, and the fire of the vessels was less frequent thereafter.
During the action Fort Moultrie
made fair practice on the Ironsides
The batteries of General Gillmore
were working effectively on the gorge of Sumter
Later in the day the admiral shifted his flag to the Passaic
, and, accompanied by the Patapsco
, steamed to within two thousand yards of Sumter
, and opened fire on its southeast face with one rifled 150-pounder on board of each of these vessels.
scarcely replied, Wagner
was silent, and battery Gregg alone, on Cummings Point
, maintained a deliberate fire at the two monitors.
The vessels were withdrawn at noon, the batteries of General Gillmore
continuing an effective fire at Sumter
In the afternoon the Passaic
again attacked Wagner
to prevent repairs.
The fort opened briskly on them, but in a short time remained silent.
During this day's bombardment a heavy shot striking the top of the pilot-house of the Catskill
, of which vessel Commander George W. Rodgers
was in temporary command, caused the instant death of that gallant officer and of Paymaster Woodbury
, who was at his side.
The fragments of iron also wounded Mr. Penton
, the pilot, and Master
's Mate Wescott
was the chief-of-staff
to the admiral, but on this occasion had been permitted to take the Catskill
The vessel withdrew temporarily, the bodies were transferred to a tug, and the Catskill
resumed her position at 11 A. M. In relation to the death of his chiefof-staff the admiral in his official report says: ‘It is but natural that I should feel deeply the loss thus sustained, for the close and confidential relation which the duties of the fleet-captain necessarily occasion, impressed me deeply with the loss of Captain Rodgers
Brave, intelligent, and highly capable, devoted to his duty and to the flag under which he passed his life, the country cannot afford to lose such men. Of a kind and generous nature, he was prompt to give relief when he could.’
The writer cannot refrain from adding that from the time of separation on leaving the Naval School, he never met his classmate Rodgers
without an increased appreciation of his great professional aptitude.
He possessed, in a marked degree, all of the high qualities assigned him by the admiral.
Eminently useful in all the subordinate grades, had he lived, he would have become a distinguished officer of the highest rank.
After this day's bombardment, by land batteries and vessels, General Ripley
, in command of Confederate defences, reports, ‘Sumter
in ruins and all guns on northwest face disabled, besides seven other guns.’
On the night of the 21st a ‘steam torpedo boat’ came out of Charleston
, and struck the Ironsides
A direct collision was not effected and the electric current failed also.
The boat, however, effected her retreat under a heavy fire from the Ironsides
and other vessels.
On the 23d of August, before daylight, five monitors were brought within about 800 yards of Sumter
and opened fire.
Considerable damage was done to the southeast and northeast faces.
The fort replied with only six shots, but Moultrie
with its extended line of earthworks, opened fire with many large guns and struck the monitors frequently with heavy shot.
, upon which the admiral was, received two blows on the pilot-house ‘more forcible than any he had seen.’
Notwithstanding the difficulties of manoeuvring during the night, and in a channel edged with shoals, only one monitor got aground.
At six it was blowing from the southeast and the vessels were withdrawn.
The Department was informed that the gorge of Sumter
was completely ruined by the severe fire of the batteries of General Gillmore
, aided by four rifled cannon of the navy in battery on shore under Commander F. A. Parker
The intention was expressed of ‘passing Sumter
into the harbor if the obstacles are not of such a nature as to prevent it, as soon as the weather moderated.’
On the 25th of August an exchange of prisoners took place by agreement.
It was either happily arranged or fortuitous for the defenders of Fort Wagner
. General Ripley
says: ‘The enemy opened about daylight both from the fleet and land batteries. Wagner was sorely pressed, and the flag of truce boat was literally a godsend.
The firing continued until 10 A. M., and for a portion of the time was equal in intensity to the bombardment of the 18th. One of the more advanced land batteries of Parrott guns did serious damage; the remaining X-inch columbiad on the sea-face was dismounted, and the magazines so much exposed that it became necessary to remove the ammunition.
The commanding officer
, anticipating a renewal of the bombardment upon the completion of the exchange of prisoners, requested that all necessary arrangements should be made for the transfer of the troops from the island in case of necessity.
Four hours were consumed in effecting the delivery of 105 wounded prisoners and in receiving 39.
The bombardment was not renewed,
and the time thus allowed was improved to the utmost in repairing the damage that had been done.’
The casualties in the fort from the 20th to the 31st were 13 killed and 49 wounded.
The admiral states that at his request, on the 21st of September, General Gillmore
had knocked down four or five pieces of ordnance that had been seen on the inner fronts of Sumter
Soon after midnight on the 2d he led in the Weehawken
and anchored 600 yards from Sumter
off the angle between the northeast and southeast fronts.
The fire was maintained by all of the monitors, and the Ironsides
, within good range, joined in the action.
opened a rapid and sustained fire from its extended line, which told with effect, notwithstanding the obscurity of the night, which interfered with accuracy of aim. The fire of the monitors was in some degree directed at the floating obstructions that had been reported from day to day. The vessels were engaged for five hours and fired 245 shots and received in all 71 hits.
The Ironsides fired 50 shots and received 7 hits.
A round shot which struck the base of the Weehawken
's turret drove in a fragment of iron and broke the leg of Fleet-Captain Badger
. ‘He had been with the admiral for eight years, and was one of the best ordnance officers in the navy.
The loss of his services was felt greatly.’
The enemy evacuated Morris Island
on the night preceding the 7th of September.
The previous day a steady cannonade had been maintained against Wagner
from the land batteries and by the Ironsides
, and it was known to the enemy that an assault was intended soon, which in fact was to have been carried out at 9 A. M. At this time General Gillmore
's advanced sap was within forty yards of the salient.
The army occupied Wagner
on the morning of the 7th.
From August 17th, the time the land batteries opened on
from beyond Wagner
, having a mean range of four thousand five hundred yards, every day brought ruin, until Sumter
had not a single gun mounted.
's report of August 21st says: ‘Enemy opened heavily from land batteries on Morris Island
on eastern face of Sumter
Four hundred and sixty-five projectiles struck outside, 259 inside, and 219 passed over.
The eastern face was heavily battered and 2 barbette guns dismounted.’
During the night artillery implements, subsistence, and other stores and 9,700 pounds of powder were removed.
This removal of stores, etc., was continued steadily, as opportunities favored.
The next day all of the barbette guns were disabled except one XI-inch and one X-inch on eastern face.
The arches of the northwest face were demolished, of which five and the terreplein fell in. On the 23d the ironclads came up and engaged Sumter
at short distance.
Twenty-nine projectiles struck outside, 15 inside, and 17 missed.
Considerable damage was done to the parapet and wall.
From the land batteries came 282 projectiles outside, 310 inside, and 141 missed.
The X-inch gun en barbette was disabled, and three 42-pounder rifles in the northeast salient of second tier.
The Confederates were engaged in throwing the dismounted guns off the parapets and transporting them and munitions as they best could.
Although the bombardment was almost daily, it is passed over here until the 30th. Four guns were then firing from the land batteries, and disabled three X-inch Columbiads that had been repaired.
Three of the casemate arches on the northeast face were demolished, and two breaches made in the scarp wall, exposing the sand with which the arches were filled.
September 1st, all of the guns en barbette were disabled, and the entire terreplein of the northeast face, with the exception of two arches, fell in. September 2d, ‘the Ironsides
and monitors came up and
directed their fire principally against Sumter
, apparently with the intention of doing as much damage as possible.
Nearly the whole of the eastern scarp was demolished.
The accumulated debris served to protect the walls.’
Confederate reports show the steady destruction of Sumter
and its armament, with little loss of life, until the evacuation of Morris Island
, when its appearance from seaward was rather that of a steep, sandy island than of a fort.
On September 5th, General Ripley
wrote a confidential letter to the officer commanding Fort Wagner
, stating that it was ‘within the contingencies’ that those works would be evacuated.
He alluded to the fact that at different times they had been supplied with safety-fuse.
‘This would be examined and kept in place, and magazines would be prepared for explosion before the evacuation takes place, by causing safety-fuses, three in number, to be inserted in a barrel of gunpowder in each magazine and carefully trained, so that the explosion may not be premature.’
Elaborate instructions follow; but they were carried out so indifferently as to be inoperative when the fort was evacuated.
The commanding officer
of the fort reported on the 6th that ‘thirty-six hours severe bombardment, confining the garrison to the bombproofs, had so dispirited the garrison as to render it unsafe, in the opinion of its officers, to repel an assault.
The head of the enemy's sap was within forty yards of the salient, and he was making rapid progress, unmolested by a single gun, and with scarcely any annoyance from sharpshooters.
In an effort the previous night to repair damages a loss was sustained of from 60 to 80 men in the working parties alone.
Without having the ability to repair damages at night, from the effects of the fire of the shore batteries and the fleet, the work would be rendered untenable in two days.’
The garrison of Fort Wagner
was successfully withdrawn without loss, except some 40 prisoners, and later, the failure to blow up the magazines was sharply commented upon by General Beauregard
With so many men in the trenches, close to the work, an explosion would have resulted in great loss of life.
The day following the evacuation of Morris Island Admiral Dahlgren
sent a demand for the surrender of Fort Sumter
, and was informed that ‘he could have Sumter
when he could take and hold it.’
was ordered on the night of the 7th to pass into a narrow, shoal, and tortuous channel between Sumter
and Cummings Point
, and in the attempt grounded and remained so for two tides.
When her condition became known, Moultrie
and other batteries on Sullivan's Island
opened fire on her, as well as Fort Simkins on James Island
In returning the fire the Weehawken
caused an explosion at Moultrie
One of her heavy shells struck and disabled an 8-inch columbiad, and glancing, fired a service magazine, killing 16 and wounding 12 men. Whilst aground she fired 36 shells at Moultrie
and 46 at Sumter
She was struck 24 times, without material damage, and had 3 men wounded.
The admiral, on board the Ironsides
, and followed by the monitors, had moved up ‘to feel, and if possible, pass the obstructions north of Sumter
This force received a severe fire from the usual batteries, which was returned until it was thought best to give entire attention to the Weehawken
She was finally got afloat.
In this affair Captain Rowan
, in the Ironsides
, did admirable service; one of the heaviest guns of the enemy was dismounted, and his fire, if not controlled, was much weakened.
When only thirty shells remained, the anchor was weighed, firing kept up from all of the available guns, and she left unmolested,
‘after one of the severest artillery duels ever sustained by a ship’ through a period of nearly three hours. Her armor was battered, but stood the battering fairly, quite disproving Mr. Stimer
's assertion, previously noticed, of the superiority of five 1-inch plates over a solid plate of 41 inches in thickness.
On the night of September 8th an attempt to take Sumter
by a boat expedition from the squadron resulted disastrously, not in great loss of life, but in the capture of a considerable number of officers and sailors, as well as the loss of several boats.
The demand for the surrender of Sumter
had informed the enemy, and boats in tow of tugs from the vessels outside of the bar during the whole of the afternoon left little doubt as to an intended attempt.
He did not fail, therefore, to put a considerable force into Sumter
for the occasion.
Commander T. H. Stevens
was in command, and Lieutenant-Commander E. P. Williams
, Lieutenants Remey
, and Ensign Craven
, commanded the five divisions of boats.
A detachment of marines, under Captain McCawley
, formed also a part of the force, numbering in all 400.
A request for the loan of some army boats brought the information that General Gillmore
also intended making an attack.
It was about 10 P. M. before the boats, in tow of a tug, reached the vicinity of Sumter
; ‘a sound of musketry, followed by shells from the adjacent forts, announced the assault.’
Before the Admiral
reached the vicinity the conflict had ceased.
Of the 400, 10 officers and 104 men were taken prisoners, and 3 were reported killed.
reported that on his way up he had communicated with the monitors Lehigh
and given orders to move up for his support.
When within 800 yards of the fort, the boats cast off from the tug, and final instructions and the watch-word were given.
's division was directed to move up to the
northwest front for the purpose of making a diversion, and the other divisions were ordered to close up and wait to advance on the southeast front.
It was intended to wait until the full benefit of the diversion was attained, ‘but mistaking his movement, doubtless, as intended for a general one, and in that spirit of gallantry and emulation which characterizes the service, many of the other boats dashed on. Finding it too late to restrain them, the order was given to advance.’
The boats, on approaching the fort, were met with a fire of musketry, hand-grenades, lighted shells, and grape and canister, and simultaneously, at a signal from the fort, all of the enemy's batteries, with one of their gunboats and rams, opened fire.
Several of the boats effected a landing, ‘but the evidences of preparation were so apparent, and the impossibility of effecting a general landing or scaling the walls so certain, that orders were given to withdraw.’
All who landed were either killed or taken prisoners.
They were, in fact, entirely helpless, and when they agreed to surrender were taken around to another face, and helped to get within the fort.
There was a period of comparative quiet until the 5th of October, when a second attempt was made to blow up the Ironsides
by a torpedo boat.
At 9.15 P. M. a small object was seen by a sentinel and hailed.
No answer was received and the sentry fired; the ship almost immediately thereafter received a very severe blow from an explosion which threw a column of water upon the spar deck and into the engine-room.
The object was afterward known to be a torpedo boat, “shaped like a cigar, 50 feet long and 5 feet in diameter, and so submerged that the only portion visible was the coaming of her hatch, two feet above the water surface, and about 10 feet in length.”
The sketch showing torpedo-boats as constructed at Charlestown, S. C.|
The boat was commanded by Lieutenant Glassell
, formerly of the navy.
He was taken prisoner, and stated that the explosion threw a column of water which put out the fires and left the boat without motive power.
The marine guard and musketeers on the spar-deck of the Ironsides
saw a small object, at which a very severe fire was kept up until it drifted out of sight, when two of the monitors passed near; then it disappeared.
Two boats were sent and made an unsuccessful search.
The prisoner stated that he, Engineer Toombs
, and a pilot, were compelled to abandon the vessel, and provided with life preservers, swam for their lives.
hailed a coal schooner as he was drifting past, and was taken on board.
Confederate reports say the boat and remainder of crew came back to Charleston
The naval operations before Charleston
were now only of blockade, and although the channel was certainly very limited the blockade-runners came and departed, but ‘the Navy Department was not informed of the fact.’4
The monitors were being patched up where they had been battered, and were beached at high water and the sides were scraped at low water, and when afloat again, the flat floor was cleaned by divers.
Their speed even then would not exceed four knots with all the revolutions their enginery could make.
On October 26th the army again opened on Sumter
from the nearest attainable points on Morris Island
, and were aided by the cross-fire of 150-pounder rifles on board of the Patapsco
This seemed wholly a work of supererogation, as Sumter
was in appearance and in reality only a mass of ruins, without a gun mounted upon it.
On December 6th the monitor Weehawken
sunk when made fast to one of the mooring buoys placed for those vessels within the Charleston
bar. The previous day Commander Colhoun
had been relieved by Commander Jesse Duncan
, and a day or so before had taken on board as many heavy shells as the vessel would hold.
The capacity of the shell-room of a monitor was found to be entirely insufficient for long continuous operations, hence the fore body was also allotted for their stowage.
The hold was little deeper than sufficient to contain a Xv-inch shell, below the ‘flying deck,’ which means one made of movable sections.
The shells were thus conveniently stowed, and easily got up in action, and their weight not only made the monitors lie deep in the water, but also reduced the difference of draught between the bow and stern from a foot and a half to about six or eight inches, and this resulted in a sluggish water flow to the powerful pumps, which, placed aft, were ineffective, since the water could not reach them and hence could not be expelled.
When within Charleston
bar, where the swell was often heavy, and usually sufficient to wash over the deck, in order to make the monitors habitable, or existence in them possible in hot weather, high coamings, or ‘hoppers’ as they were called, were fitted around the hatch-openings.
The reader will remember that the ‘windlass-room’ is a small apartment, previously described, in the bow of the monitors into which the anchor-chain is led through the hawse-hole from the ‘anchor-well.’
The plate over the latter forms a chamber, and serves as an air-cushion, in a measure preventing the entrance of water through the hawse-hole by slopping.
Heavy plaits of strands of rope were made, known as gaskets, which were pliable, and in rough weather, whether at sea or at anchor
, were, or should
have been, carefully mauled in from the windlass-room, around the chain, to fill the entire hawse-hole and thus prevent anything more than a seepage of water through it.
The morning was clear and pleasant; the high coaming at the windlass-room hatch served its purpose until the vessel had considerable water in her; only a little spray flew over it from time to time.
Near noon, a strong ebb-tide kept the broadside of the vessel to the sea; the hawse-pipe was not supplied with a ‘gasket,’ and a considerable amount of water slopped in, there being nothing to exclude it. The sea became heavier, the waves washing over the bow, and slopped over the hatchway in small quantities.
To prevent water from getting into the cabin, the iron door between it and the windlass-room was closed; the seas increased, and while closing down the battle-plate of the hatch to the windlass-room, several seas went over, almost filling the room.
The ‘limbers’ were cleared and the executive officer had no fears that the water would not run aft and be pumped out; a small gutter, six by eight inches in dimensions, permitted a flow with whatever velocity the head would give it. The commanding officer
had left the vessel soon after nine o'clock, and was on board the flag-ship near by until signal was made from the Weehawken
that she was sinking.
At about 1 P. M. Ensign Chadwick
, observing that the water partially flooded the captain's cabin, called the assistance of Mr. Allen
, the chief engineer
, and they put on and secured the cross-bars to the iron door before mentioned.
‘The water gradually rose in the windlass-room, as indicated by the leak about the door and in about thirty minutes it was on the top of the door’ (Reports of Stuyvesant
A court of inquiry found that the causes of the sinking of the Weehawken
The additional weight of ammunition
that had been lately put on board of her, leaving her trim so little by the stern as not to afford sufficient inclination for water to get to the pumps freely.
The neglect to close the hawse-hole, which permitted the rapid accumulation, at the forward extremity of the vessel, of sufficient water to bring her nearly on an even keel.
The large amount of water that was permitted to come into the vessel under the turret, through the XI inch port, and down the berth-deck hatch, which assisted to tip the bows of the vessel.
The amount of water which, owing to the immersion of the forward part of the vessel, came in under the plank sheer.
The absence of all effort to relieve the forward part of the vessel from its depressed position by rolling shot aft, or moving any weight from the bow.
The reader is doubtless satisfied that the sinking of the vessel was clearly preventable up to within a few minutes of the occurrence.
Had an apprehension
of danger existed at the time the cabin door was securely bolted, it should have been thrown wide open instead; the hawse-hole should then have been filled in around the chain with a gasket, and such weights taken aft as would have been practicable, to increase the ‘trim by the stern’ and the ‘water flow’ to the pumps as much as possible.
The fore body of the vessel gradually filled with water, which could not flow aft to the pumps, and it rose to the berth-deck floor.
Five minutes before the vessel went down the signal was made ‘Assistance required.’
At this moment no assistance could be rendered, save to rescue the crew from drowning.
The vessel heeled over to the right, or, as seamen would say, ‘to starboard;’ the bow settled, the water within rushed forward; for a minute, more or less, she lay
on her side, gradually settling, the water pouring in through the turret port, which was open, and through the main hatch, over the ‘hopper;’ a dense steam arose out of the engine-room, the vessel assumed an upright position as she went down, and the top of the smoke-stack alone remained visible when the keel rested on the bottom.
Four officers and twenty men were drowned, being below at the time, and unable to reach the deck through the inrush of the water, or, if on deck, unable to keep themselves afloat for the few minutes that intervened until boats were at hand for their rescue.
As the reader will have already observed, the Stono River
was frequently a scene of contention between batteries and gunboats; again on Christmas day, at 6 A. M., we find an attack made on the Marblehead
, Lieutenant-Commanding Meade
The vessel was at anchor near Legareville
, and the batteries were on John's Island
The engagement lasted an hour and a half, with the loss of three killed and four wounded; the hull of the vessel was struck twenty times, and the rigging considerably damaged.
, in the Pawnee
, lying further down, got under way, and from an enfilading position aided the Marblehead
, and the mortar-schooner Williams
, Acting-Master Freeman
, having a fair wind, came up several miles and opened on the enemy, who abandoned two disabled guns, a dying man, intrenching tools, etc. The carriages were destroyed afterward, and two Viii-inch sea-coast howitzers were brought off by Meade
Under instructions from the Department on January 28th, the admiral summarized the services of the ironclads under his command.
The vessels thus shared fully with the army in the operation that led to the abandonment of the works on Morris Island, and besides what is already mentioned,
prevented the access of reinforcements, or their accumulation between Wagner and Gregg.
A detachment of seamen and marines, under Captain F. A. Parker, participated in the practice of the batteries at Fort Sumter, by working four navy rifle cannon landed for the purpose.
The Ironsides is a fine powerful ship.
Her armor has stood heavy battering very well, and her broadside of seven XI-inch guns and one Viii-inch rifle has always told with signal effect on the enemy.
On the 19th of July, 1863, an English steamer attempted to pass into Charleston harbor, having eluded the outside blockade.
The Catskill, Captain G. W. Rodgers, well up toward Moultrie, ran her on a shoal.
Two or three other blockade-runners within the harbor afterward managed to escape, and one or two may have gotten in, but that ended the business of blockade-running at Charleston.
On the morning of February 4, 1864, Bryson, in the monitor Lehigh, discovered a blockade-runner ashore on Sullivan's Island, outside of Moultrie.
He opened fire at a distance of twenty-five hundred yards with an Viii-inch rifle and struck the vessel nine times in forty-two shots, and the following day used also a 12-pounder rifled howitzer.
The first day the vessel was set on fire by the shells, but the flames apparently made little progress; on the second day she was again set on fire, and destroyed.
Early in February General Gillmore
announced to the admiral his readiness to operate on the St. John's River, Florida
, and desired a naval co-operation.
This was at once given, the Mahaska
, Dai Ching and Water Witch
The force off Charleston
was left in command of Commodore Rowan
, and the admiral proceeded to Jacksonville
The National troops had landed at that point, and a considerable force gone into the interior.
The admiral returned
, leaving the Mahaska
, and Nor. which to second army operations.
The Confederates, notwithstanding repeated failures in the use of torpedo-boats off Charleston
, had still sufficient encouragement to continue endeavors, which resulted on the night of February 19th in the destruction of the Housatonic
, a fine vessel of war, lying outside the Charleston
bar, some four miles from Moultrie
About 9 P. M. an object was seen moving toward the ship, supposed one hundred yards distant; it had the appearance of a plank on the water; in two minutes it had reached the ship.
Within this time the crew had been called to quarters, the chain cable slipped, and engine backed.5
The torpedo-boat, for such she proved to be, struck the ship on the starboard side, forward of the mizzen-mast, and the Housatonic
sunk almost immediately, the hammock nettings being just awash when the keel rested on the bottom.
The crew ascended the rigging and were soon taken off by the boats from other vessels blockading.
, and four of the crew were missing; they had been either stunned by the explosion or drowned as the vessel went down.
, who commanded the Housatonic
, was severely bruised by the explosion.
The torpedo-boat, which was designed to be wholly submerged if required, went down with the four men in her. She had on former occasions drowned her crews.
Notwithstanding the destruction of this torpedo-boat and her entire crew, another one, at 1 A. M. of March 6th, in North Edisto River
, was discovered rapidly approaching the blockading
The chain was slipped and the men called to quarters; the boat was then under the port quarter and no gun could be brought to bear on her; a rapid fire of small arms was delivered into what looked like a hatchway near her centre; she dropped a short distance astern, and came up again immediately under the stern.
The propeller then revolving is supposed to have caught and broken the torpedo pole.
The boat then appeared disabled and drifted up the river.
An armed boat was sent to capture her, but the search was unsuccessful.
On the night of April 18th, the Wabash
, lying off Charleston
, was made the object of an unsuccessful attack.
At 9.45 P. M. a boat was discovered on the starboard quarter, one hundred and fifty yards distant, moving up rapidly against the tide until abeam; then she turned and moved directly for the ship.
The engines of the Wabash
were started ahead, the chain slipped and the starboard battery and small arms opened fire upon the boat.
Two round shot struck it, or near it when about forty yards distant from the vessel, and the boat was seen no more.
The vessel cruised around the spot with men at the guns and marines ready with small arms, and signal was made to the blockading vessels of proximity of danger, but the boat was not seen by any of them.
The enemy not only used torpedo-boats with some success, but in the adjacent waters fixed torpedoes, which exploded on contact.
By this means, in the St. John's River
, fifteen miles above Jacksonville
, on the 1st of April, the army transport Maple Leaf
was sunk; and on the 10th of May, below the city, the transport Weed
, and a third one later on. The navy steamer Harvest Moon
, nearly one year later, was sunk in the same manner below Georgetown
, and the Patapsco
(monitor), particularly described hereafter near Fort Sumter
On May 23d, in an endeavor to aid army operations at Volusia
, on the St. John's River
, the tug Columbine
, Ensign Sanborn
, having an army detachment of 25 men on board, was fired upon, disabled, and ran aground from the wheel-ropes having been cut by the shells, at Horse Shoe Landing, on her return from Volusia
Master's mate John Davis
, ‘while nobly performing his duty,’ was killed; also 16 soldiers were killed or missing, and 5 wounded. The remainder were taken prisoners, and the vessel set on fire without removing the dead.
On June 3, 1864, the Water Witch
, Commander Pendergrast
, blockading in Ossabaw Sound
, was boarded and captured, only one man (a ‘contraband’) escaping.
Seven cotton barges, carrying 150 men, approached the vessel, the night being dark and squally; they were, in fact, alongside almost as soon as discovered, and although boarding nettings were up, the vessel soon became a prize.
The Water Witch lost 1 man killed, 13 wounded, and 2 missing. The Confederates lost their leader, Lieutenant Pelot
of their navy, 8 or 10 killed, and 15 or 20 wounded.
Toward the middle of June Admiral Dahlgren
received information from the Navy Department ‘that the enemy meditated a simultaneous movement on the blockade, inside and out, in order to cover the exit of a large quantity of cotton.’
This led to some strategic movements on the part of the army along the Stono River
, aided by a naval force in those waters.
These operations were concluded on the 9th of July, after which General Foster
returned to Port Royal
. General Schimmelfennig
, in command of the troops on James Island
, in a letter to the admiral says: ‘I take pleasure in informing you of the excellent practice by your gunboats and monitors on Stono River
They drove the
enemy out of his rifle-pits, and prevented him from erecting an earthwork which he had commenced.’
Commander G. M. Colvocoresses
commanded the sailing sloop-of-war Saratoga
, lying in Doboy Sound, Ga.
He had received a copy of a newspaper published in Savannah
, and observed that a county meeting had been called in his vicinity for the purpose of organizing a coastguard.
As he regarded himself and those under his command as interested parties, he determined to attend, and for the purpose of holding a controlling majority, took with him 8 officers and 107 sailors and marines, supplied with bullets in lieu of ballots, leaving the vessel on the afternoon of the 2d of August.
His party reached the mainland at 9 P. M., and the boats with their crews were sent back to the ship, to meet him the next day at the Ridge Landing
, somewhat nearer the ship.
A skirmish line was thrown out, and the advance begun.
At midnight a house was reached, which was silently passed, and the main road toward Savannah
Arriving at a bridge, the expedition was halted; an officer with seven men was detailed to guard it and to capture all persons coming from the direction of the McIntosh County
At 11 A. M. on the following day the bridge was to be burned, which would prevent a possible attendance also of some three hundred Confederate cavalry supposed to be encamped some miles beyond.
The vicinity of the court house was reached, the party divided, Captain Colvocoresses
taking half the force and Ensign Rogers
the remainder, the one proceeding to the right, the other to the left.
‘When they arrived at the building they took to the neighboring woods, and lay there concealed until the proper time for making the attack.
At 11 the signal
was made, and the parties charged at double-quick, and completely surrounded the meeting, only three persons escaping.’
The officer left at the bridge burned it, and soon after came up, with eleven prisoners and a number of horses and buggies.
The captain then explained his designs to the persons who were found at the county meeting, placed them between lines of sailors and took up a line of march for the Ridge landing
As they proceeded, the party was augmented by three others, who had been somewhat tardy in leaving home.
Another bridge was passed over, and set on fire.
A large encamp.
ment near the road, which was to have been occupied by a force under organization for coast defence, was also burned.
The expedition reached the point of embarkation at sunset, with twenty-six prisoners and twenty-two horses.
It was ascertained that several of the prisoners held important county offices.
It is not stated whether he took them and the horses on board, or paroled them.
The attendance of Captain Colvocoresses
was certainly quite a surprise, and was doubtless regarded as an unwarranted interference.
On a subsequent occasion Colvocoresses
made another descent in the same vicinity, and captured a lieutenant and 28 cavalry, with their arms and equipments, and burned their encampment.
He also destroyed two large salt works, and a bridge on the main road to Savannah
Returning to Charleston
we find the monitor Patapsco
destroyed a sloop on shore near Moultrie
, setting her on fire on the morning of November 5th, by the use of 150-pounder shells.
On the 10th the enemy, finding the Pontiac
within range, in an endeavor to pick up her anchor that she had previously slipped, she received a rifle-shell which struck her bows,
killing 5 and wounding 7 men; it did serious damage also to the woodwork, and broke a bronze casting connecting the stem to the keel.
For the time the vessel was disabled.
Late in November, 1864, General Foster
asked navy cooperation ‘in an attack to assist the movement of General Sherman
For this purpose a force of 500 men was organized and placed under Commander George H. Preble
. Four depleted companies of marines formed a part, and two navy howitzers with their complement of men.
On the evening of the 28th, this force at Port Royal
was embarked on the Mingoe
, and Sonoma
, but the fog was too thick to permit a movement.
At 4 A. M. it broke away partially, and the vessels got over the shoals into Broad River
, the Pontiac
ahead, with the only pilot on board, followed by eight other navy vessels.
At eight o'clock the admiral found himself at Boyd's Landing, the point designated, twenty miles up the river, with the Pawnee
, Mingoe, Pontiac
, and Winona
The Wissahickon had grounded below and did not get up. The army transports had not yet arrived, but the transport with General Hatch
came in sight very soon, followed by others, and the troops began to debark, as also the naval force before named organized for landing.
arrived at 2 P. M., and army transports continued to arrive with troops and field artillery throughout the day.
The general and the admiral returned in the afternoon, the latter ordering back two or three vessels not required.
No advance was made toward the railroad at Grahamsville until the 30th.
The enemy had by this time collected in force.
, who commanded, found ‘further progress barred by a work which looked upon the road, and was covered on the flanks by heavy woods and other obstructions.’
On the 4th of December General Gillmore
made a reconnoissance up the Whale Branch
to Port Royal Ferry, and the admiral went into the Coosawhatchie River
with the Pawnee
, where the enemy had placed two guns to bar a passage.
The stream was too narrow and winding to get nearer than two thousand yards, and the enemy, after firing a few shots retired to the woods.
At the same time, General Hatch
pushed out a column from his right, and the Pontiac
sent her boats up the creek from Boyd's Landing, the affair being made to assume the appearance of a demonstration.
The general and the admiral determined to move the force up to Tulifiny Creek with the expressed intention of destroying the railroad above.
On the 5th of December (1864), the greater number of the troops and the naval force on shore were embarked, leaving General Hatch
with a sufficient force to maintain his position, aided by the gunboat Pontiac
At 8 A. M. of the 6th, the vessels had reached a landing on the right bank of the Tulifiny, but low water prevented landing, except in boats, which was accomplished with as much despatch as possible, and the whole force moved up the single road lying between the river Coosawhatchie
and the Tulifiny.
The line of railroad, however, was not reached, and if anything was effected by the movement, it was in diverting a force from opposing the march of General Sherman
to the sea.
On the 11th the admiral left the Tulifiny, and the following day reported the presence of General Sherman
's troops near Savannah
His occupation of that city on the 22d practically ended all naval operations that were not auxiliary to the movements of the army, except that of blockade.
Rainy weather held the Union
army fast until January 24th. General Sherman
was then at Beaufort, S. C.
, with the right
wing, which some time before had been sent in transports from Savannah
As the rains had ceased, and the roads were passable, he left for Pocotaligo
, and the following day demonstrated on Salkahatchie
He requested that the admiral would fire heavy guns high up on the Edisto River
, to make the enemy uneasy on that flank, and to develop whether they intended to hold fast both to Charleston
and to Columbia
During January there were constant night demonstrations of the monitors near the forts at the entrance to Charleston harbor
, which led the Confederates
to believe that it was intended to attempt an entrance.
This caused the placing of sixteen torpedoes just without the line of rope obstructions on the afternoon of the 15th of January, and the loss of the monitor Patapsco
through exploding one of them a few hours thereafter.
She was on the advance picket line, attended by two tugs with several row-boats, dragging for torpedoes.
She had drifted up with a strong flood-tide near the line of rope obstructions, and had already steamed out twice before, when in repeating this she struck a torpedo which exploded on the port side, under the fore-body of the vessel.
The force was sufficiently great to raise the deck, through which the smoke issued.
In fifteen seconds the vessel sunk in five fathoms of water, and very near the spot where she had been held on an obstruction for some minutes on April 7, 1863.
An officer and sailor on the turret jumped at once to the falls of a boat, and barely succeeded in clearing them before the vessel went down with 62 of the officers and men. This occurred soon after 8 P. M. One man in the windlass-room, the engineer and firemen on watch, and one man, who rushed from the berth-deck through the fire-room, were the only persons who were below and escaped death.
Five officers who were on deck at the time, and 38 men
escaped, among whom were the Commander
, and Lieutenant William T. Sampson
, the executive officer.
The Dai Ching
was directed to proceed up the Combahee
from St. Helena on January 26th, for the purpose of supporting an army force if required.
In the vicinity of Tar Bluff the river is small and crooked, and when a battery opened on her the pilot left the wheel and she ran aground before Chaplin
, who commanded, was aware of the fact.
The tug Clover
, which accompanied her, could not be brought up to get the vessel off, as her captain would not understand or obey signals.
The vessel was defended for seven hours, when the carriage of the 100-pounder rifle was disabled by the fire of the enemy.
She was then set on fire, the crew landed, and, with the exception of five, escaped to the tug, lying four miles below.
Three of the officers and six men were wounded, and sent down in a boat.
The armament of the vessel was, one 100-pounder rifle and two small guns.
, and tug Daffodil
, lying in the waters of the North Edisto
, on the 9th of February engaged three batteries of the enemy, respectively armed with six, four, and two guns.
They were situated on Togado Creek, in such manner as to support each other against an attack from gunboats.
In the evening the enemy ceased firing; the Pawnee
had been struck ten times without serious injury, and the other vessels had received two hits each, without loss of life.
Various other engagements occurred about the same time, and until the evacuation of Charleston
Naval forces made attacks of this kind for the purpose of keeping the troops of the enemy from concentrating, and to perplex him as to what were the actual movements of Sherman
In order to aid an army diversion on Bull's Bay
, eighteen miles north of Charleston
the admiral despatched, on the
evening of the 11th of February, the Shenandoah
, Juniata, Canandaigua, Georgia
, Wando, and Iris
to that point.
A large number of army transports had arrived also, with troops under the command of General Potter
A preliminary to landing was to find a favorable depth of water and hard ground.
It was only on the evening of the 17th that a satisfactory landing-place was found, and 750 men were disembarked under cover of howitzers in launches; the remainder of the force landed the following day, and took up its line of march for Charleston
As on the morning of the 18th that city was found evacuated, it does not seem necessary to note further than the return of the naval vessels and transports to Charleston
, in the monitor Canonicus
, lying near Moultrie
, reported heavy fires in Charleston
and on James Island
at 1 A. M. (18th), and heavy explosions were heard.
At daylight haze and smoke shut out the view.
At 8 A. M. he threw two heavy shells into Moultrie
, and received no reply; the Confederate
flag was, however, flying over it and Castle Pinckney, and the city of Charleston
also, but no movement was visible.
At this time a magazine blew up in Battery Bee.
The forts had been evacuated the previous night, and an army boat from Morris Island
hoisted the flag over Moultrie
About 9 A. M. the Canonicus
sent a boat and took possession of a small steamboat, a blockade-runner, under English colors, that had been on shore for several days near Fort Moultrie
The admiral reports that upon the evacuation of Charleston
, he found the ram Columbia
, which had been ready for service on January 12th, and grounding coming out of dock, had been seriously strained through lying on uneven bottom.
Her length was 209 feet; extreme beam, 49 feet, with a
casemate 65 feet in length pierced for 6 guns, pivoting as before described in the Atlanta
, captured in Wassaw Sound
She had two high-pressure engines, and was plated on the casemate with six inches of iron.
A cigar-shaped steamer 160 feet long, supposed to be of sufficient capacity to carry from two hundred and fifty to three hundred bales of cotton, was also found.
Three torpedo boats fitted for service were found sunk in Cooper River
. Two were raised, and one of them put in working order.
Their length was 64 feet, diameter 5 1/2 feet, and they had a speed of five knots.
Six others were under repairs or being completed, and two ready for service.
Higher up in the Cooper River
the rams Chicora
, and Charleston
, had been destroyed and sunk on the evacuation of the city.
The fourth, Columbia
, has already been described.6
After the fall of Charleston
, under instructions from the Department, Admiral Dahlgren
proceeded to gain information as to the character of the obstructions and defences within Charleston Harbor
It was asserted by the Secretary of the Navy
before the Joint Congressional Committee on the Conduct of the War
that the water defences within Charleston harbor
had been materially strengthened after the monitor attack of April 7, 1863.
This does not seem to be supported by the testimony in Dahlgren
Several persons, whose duties had been to make and plant torpedoes and to make and put down rope obstructions, were examined, and the following facts elicited:
Several months before the spring of 1863 a boom torpedo was placed between battery Bee and Sumter
, but it was
found to be impracticable, and a continuous rope netting was then tried, which was also swept out of position by the strong tides.
The rope obstructions were then cut in lengths of one hundred feet and moored at one end, and three rows of them were then placed so as to swing with the tide, the intervals between them being about one hundred feet, and having about the same distances between the lines.
A rope having a diameter of nearly two inches was secured to beer casks tarred, or to pine logs, to serve as floats at distances apart of fifteen feet. Over this rope were secured bights of smaller rope, each end being several fathoms in length.
The movement of the water by a propeller, it was supposed, would draw these rope-ends within its influence, and thus foul the propeller.
A row of piles was driven across the middle ground and into the channel, just below Fort Johnson
This was intact in April, 1863, but by the autumn many of the piles had washed out.
In the Hog Island channel
a heavy boom obstruction was maintained throughout the war, and several sets of torpedoes on inclined planes beneath the water, the frames resting on the bottom, having usually fifteen torpedoes on each frame.
All of the inferior channels and Cooper River
were protected in like manner by torpedoes placed in sets
on submarine inclined planes, upon which several of the Confederate vessels had been blown up at various times.
The main channel, leading up close under the guns of Fort Johnson
, had three large boiler torpedoes, stated to be in good condition, and having one thousand or more pounds of powder within them.
They were on range lines, and intended to be exploded by electricity.
At Fort Johnson
and on the wharves of Charleston
great many barrel torpedoes fitted for placing in that channel-way and off Charleston
with the least possible delay.
They were of the same construction as those which had sunk three army transports in St. John's River
, the monitor Patapsco
off the harbor on January 15th, and the flag-ship Harvest Moon
after the fall of Charleston
These barrel torpedoes were held by their moorings some eight feet below the ordinary surface of the water, and were fitted so as to explode on contact.
On the wharf at Charleston
was found one of these inclined frames ready for use, with thirty torpedoes fitted for it; they also were constructed to explode by contact.
A boiler torpedo, probably of English fabrication, was found on the wharf ready for charging, together with a large quantity of insulated copper wire protected by a hemp wrapping overlaid with wire.
The torpedoes made for the ironclads, or rams, as they were called, and for the torpedo-boats, were elongated copper cylinders ten inches in diameter, with hemispherical ends, thirty-two inches long, each having several screw sockets for eight fuses so as to present points of explosion widely separated.
The charge was one hundred and thirty-four pounds of powder.7
Another was of copper, barrel-shaped, tapering to points on the ends; it had sockets for seven fuses on the upper bilge, and contained one hundred and thirty-four pounds of powder.1
During the autumn of 1863 reconnoitering boats were sent almost nightly, when the weather permitted, into the mouth of Charleston Harbor
, and diverse reports were brought to the admiral in respect to the character of the channel obstructions.
To settle this point as to the main ship channel, a commander on duty proposed making an examination, which met the approval of the admiral.
To facilitate this examination General Terry
placed a light on Cumming's Point
, in order that a fixed point might be known.
At midnight Commander Ammen
left the New Ironsides in a six-oared boat, and after reaching the vicinity of the obstructions a small grapnel with ten fathoms of line was dragged within and around to the north of Sumter
until the light on Cumming's Point
was opened well out to the westward of Sumter
The boat was then directed outward further from the fort than when entering, and at the turn of the tide the black buoys sustaining one section of the rope obstructions were found in a cluster.
This was partially cut away and taken out; the rope was considerably rotted.
The admiral was informed as above, and that no difficulty whatever existed in clearing away these rope obstructions just previous to his entering whenever he had a force which he deemed sufficient.
It is well known that a month or so later the Navy Department hoped to send several monitors to strengthen the force off Charleston
On p. 419 of ‘Memoir of Admiral Dahlgren
’ is found the following:
October 22d, 11 A. M. .—I held a council of war in regard to entering the harbor of Charleston when the seven monitors were ready, which would be the second week in November.
There were eight captains of ironclads and two staff officers.
The object was not to have the advice for myself, but to comply with the request of the Secretary, who asked for the opinion of these officers.
We began at eleven and finished at five.
The four junior officers voted for an attack with seven ironclads.
The six seniors were averse.
The intelligence was largely with the latter.
One of the juniors seemed hardly to know what he was about.
So my views were sustained.
The majority were for waiting till the reinforcements arrived in December.
The import of an ironclad or, more properly speaking, a monitor attack has not been fully understood by many intelligent persons.
Had the absolute destruction of all the vessels entering been assured in the event of failure, and had there remained a sufficient reserve force of any character off the harbor to assure the maintenance of the blockade against the ironclads of the enemy within the harbor, probably every captain at the Council of War would have been in favor of entering, but with the chances of some of the vessels grounding, and of others being sunk in shoal water by torpedoes, and afterward raised and employed by the enemy, there was too much danger of losing control of the coast to make it desirable to take the risk.
These considerations would naturally be controlling proportionately with the damage that might follow a lack of success in an attack, and would be quite independent of the loss of vessels and of men in making one with reasonable probability of success.
From pages 553 to 593 of ‘Memoir of Admiral Dahlgren
’ will be found the text of an official letter of the admiral to the Department, explanatory of the ironclad question in relation to the taking of Charleston
It is dated October 16, 1865, and as we are informed on the preceding page by the editor: ‘We hold the manuscript in our possession, thus endorsed by the admiral: “Withdrawn November 8, 1865, the Department objecting
to the introduction of Dupont
and the opinions of officers, and to those parts where it is assumed, or seems to be so, that the Department did not send vessels enough.—J. A. D.”
The editor of the ‘Memoir,’ adds: ‘In other words, the Department was too inimical and revengeful in feeling to Dupont to be just
, or to be willing to have him relieved in any measure through any act of theirs, of any possible effect resulting from their continuous displeasure.’
the pages preceding the quotations were written before the perusal of the ‘Memoir.’
If the reader of this volume labors under the idea that either Admiral Dupont
or Admiral Dahlgren
should have gone to Charleston
or made the attempt, the pages of the ‘Memoir’ may enlighten him.
Bearing in mind that the Department did not think it worth while to give publicity to a letter which it evoked in May, 1863, signed by all of the commanders of ironclads in those waters,8
and that after the Civil War
had ended, it had declined to receive an able and perfectly proper letter concerning operations before Charleston
during the period of command of its writer, the Department seems to have wished to spare the reading public the doubts and perplexities which the Dutch
judge avoided by not listening to the other side of a case.
He had heard the one side and declined hearing the other, as he was then perfectly at rest in regard to the merit of the question.
If he heard the other side his mind would be filled with perplexity and doubt.
The Department had made its statement as to the invulnerability and sufficiency of the monitors to take Charleston
, and that was all that the public should require or listen to, even after the war was over;
what the commanders of the ironclads wrote about them, and what Admiral Dahlgren
had to say about going to Charleston
, if given to the public, would only cause doubt and perplexity.
On page 436 of the ‘Memoir’ will be found the following from the diary of Dahlgren
: ‘January 12.—Mail came . . . . Among the letters was one from the Secretary
and one from Fox
, both prodigiously flattering, and asking for a good character to the monitors.’
Here is truly ‘food for reflection.’