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[159] Thenceforward we held these singular looking craft in wholesome respect. The ‘Ironsides,’ however, was probably the most formidable ship of the fleet. She is said to have carried at bow and stern two hundred pound Parrott guns, and nine eleven-inch Dahlgrens on a side. Her broadsides were not fired in volley, but gun after gun, in rapid succession, the effect upon those who were at the wrong end of the guns being exceedingly demoralizing. Whenever she commenced there was a painful uncertainty as to what might happen before she got through.

We had but one gun with which to fight the monitors—the ten-inch Columbiad located just over the sally-port. True, the thirty-twos were tried for a while, but they were so impotent to harm the heavy mail of the ships that their use was soon discontinued. This Columbiad was manned, I think, by the Matthew's Artillery, of South Carolina, and the gunner, Frazer Matthews, was as noble a soldier as the siege produced. In the midst of the hottest fire he would stand quietly on the chassis directing the aiming of the gun with all the coolness and precision of target practice. Never flurried, always intent upon the work before him, and never giving the signal to fire until the aim was taken to his entire satisfaction, the accuracy of his marksmanship was great. Again and again I saw the solid ten-inch shot strike upon the sides of the monitors, only to break into a thousand fragments, that would splash into the sea like so much grapeshot.

At first we thought that no harm was done by our fire, but we learned afterwards that the concussion within the turret was tremendous, and that, among others, one very prominent officer had been killed by it.

Unfortunately, our Columbiad was soon dismounted, and although a new carriage was supplied, that too, was knocked to pieces in short order. Indeed, this experience was repeated half a dozen times.

Such continuous cannonading of course seriously impaired the integrity of our parapets. But as at that stage of the siege the firing ceased at nightfall, opportunity was given to repair damages, and all night long the garrison would work, filling sand bags and painfully endeavoring to make good the yawning chasms and ragged craters left by the terrible missiles that had been hurled into the fort during the day. There was a constant strain upon all the faculties, that gave little time for anything save the stern duties of the hour, and yet there were humorous incidents ever occurring that even now will bring smiles to the lips of all who remember them.


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