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Letters from Fort Sumter.

By Lieutenant Iredell Jones, of First Regiment South Carolina Regulars.

Fort Sumter, August 12th, 1883.
This morning the enemy opened on the Fort with a 200-pound Parrott gun and shelled us rapidly for about one hour and a half with, we all admit, the greatest accuracy, and also with considerable damage. A steamer at the wharf was almost torn to pieces by a single shot, which, entering at the bow, raked her fore and aft, penetrating the boiler and bursting the machinery into fragments, besides scalding several negroes severely. Another unlucky (or lucky, as you may be pleased to call it) shot, found its way to our [161] bake-house and tore up the bake-oven. Several others played the wild in the company quarters, but fortunately nobody has been hurt.

I went over to Battery Wagner yesterday evening, on duty. The enemy have extended their approaches to within six hundred yards of the Battery. Night before last, however, we used grape and canister on their most advanced work and drove them off, but I understand they worked considerably last night. They have now reached the extreme end of the sand hills, and the remaining portion of ground over which or through which they have to advance is a low, open, level plain, very much exposed to flank fire, and it will be many times more difficult for them to advance farther now than it has been for them to reach the position they already occupy. Our men on the Island are in fine spirits. They have learned to perfection that lovely art, familiarly known to all those who have had occasion to appreciate it, as the ‘art of dodging.’ The artillery remain in the Battery; the infantry support grabble holes in the sand hills this side, and then they sit all day long watching that hateful puff of smoke. When they see it, like prairie dogs, they pop down. When all is over, the hills are alive again, and the glorious Confederates who but just now mingled with pleasure with ‘fiddlers’ and ‘sand crabs,’ now rise up to the dignity of their species and can be seen brushing their clothing and shaking sand out of their locks. At the Battery the men are in high spirits, always cracking jokes and laughing while the shelling is going on. They have watched the enemy's batteries so much until they know each gun and have a name for each. They have the utmost contempt for a Whitworth or Parrott shot, and pay no regard to them whatever; but I can tell you when they hear the words, ‘Look out, mortar!’ you can see a long train of Generals, Colonels, Majors, Captains, Lieutenants, privates, quartermasters, commissary and ordnance officers all walking as if they would like to go faster, into the bomb-proof. The enemy have some little mortars that shoot shrapnel shells, and with these they do a good deal of damage. The sharpshooters on both sides keep up a constant duel. Whenever a man shows his head over the parapet at the Battery, he is sure to get a shot at him. And they are constantly practicing all kinds of tricks, such as holding up their hats on sticks to be shot at, &c.

Evidently the object of the enemy is now to endeavor to take Wagner by gradual approaches, and ours seems to be to dispute every inch of ground. General Beauregard was here again yesterday evening. The enemy are far ahead of us in skill and energy. [162] In an open field fight I believe we can whip them with any sort of showing, but when you come to regular operations requiring engineering skill, we can't compare with them. But the want of energy in this department, on our side, has surely been unpardonable. But I have already said too much on this subject, and I forbear. I have always thought that it was no part of private citizens, much less of officers, to keep constantly abusing our Generals because they happen to be unsuccessful. It is easy to say how a thing should have been done after one of two ways has failed, and it too often happens that we are unacquainted with the circumstances. The truth is, we are too much influenced in our opinions by disappointed hopes.

I have no fears for Charleston. Nothing that I have seen induces me to entertain them. I cannot express to you the pride I feel in and the love I entertain for the old city, the glorious mother of freedom.

The work is going on in the fort very rapidly. All the casemates of the two sides facing the Island are filled up with cotton bales and sand, and the engineer is now engaged in building traverses on the Battery and putting up sand-bags on the outside of the gorge, or the side of the fort through which the old Sally-Port came. The base of the sand-bags, extending out from the wall, will be twenty-four feet, out to the edge of the wharf, and they can be built up entirely to the top of the parapet. All the important guns have been moved out of the fort, and their places filled with dummies, or sham-guns, of the Brooke's pattern.

It is now 9 o'clock P. M. I was unable to finish my letter this morning. The enemy opened on us again about 4 o'clock this evening with the same 200-pound Parrott, at a distance of three and a-half miles, and I venture to say the world never witnessed better shooting. It is a rare thing they miss the Fort. We have not replied to-day, owing to the Brooke gun being slightly out of order. To-morrow we will feel them a little. The casualties today were three men wounded, two severely, and young Rice, of the signal corps, who was in college with me, was knocked down by a brick-bat. The only damage done was one gun-carriage disabled and a dummy dismounted.

Ever yours, &c.,

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