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Letters from Fort Sumter.

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

Fort Sumter, August 22, 1863,
My Dearest Mother,—The firing continued all day yesterday with unabated fury, no less than 1,000 shots being thrown at us, and to give you an idea of the accuracy, our flag-staff was shot away four times. The firing was concentrated principally on the eastern face, though but little damage was done, save the disabling of two guns. In the evening, the Ironsides came in, and we opened on her with considerable spirit for a short while, until she thought it best to retire. The casualties were few, but one of our best men had his leg shot off and afterwards amputated. General Beauregard came down about dusk, and General Ripley was here also somewhat later. The former, while he appeared highly pleased and confident, could not help displaying a silent wonder and amazement at the ruined and dilapidated [254] Fort. He says it must be held for one month yet. To-day the firing has been unusually heavy, and, though only one or two casualties, it has resulted in considerable injury to us, in the way of dismounting guns. We have now only four guns fit for immediate service, though these are well protected by sand traverses, and probably will not be hurt at all. Besides, several others are only temporarily disabled, and to-night, when the firing ceases, they can be repaired. One company was sent out of the Fort last night, and to-night another goes. This will leave three to keep the old machine going. Our men act splendidly. No troops probably ever stood with so little concern and for so long a time such a terrific and constant shelling, and the more honor is due to them for such behavior when it is recollected that they do it without being allowed to reply. They have to sit quiet and take it the livelong day. You have no idea what a relief it is at night when the enemy stops pelting us; the feeling is delightful; we feel refreshed and rejoiced, and seem to breathe more freely an air that seems purer.

The eastern face of the Fort is very little injured so far, and the Fort is still tenable, though no one expects it to be held any length of time. The object of holding now is to get time to build or complete batteries on James's Island. Powder is being moved out as rapidly as possible. It is not impossible to save them, but it is probable that the guns will be blown up with the Fort when we evacuate. The Fort is so torn to pieces, and there is so much rubbish in it, that it would be a difficult job to get them out, and would require too much energy for we Confederates. It has come to our ears that the croakers have already opened their terrific battery, that never ceases firing. Every gun must be saved, say they, and the Fort must be defended, casemate by casemate, tier by tier, brick by brick! Build a bomb-proof, and get in it, and stay there and never give it up! I wish some of these boys would come down and give us a lift. It is said their battery never ceases firing, but I venture to say that if one of these same boys were to come down here and sit with us six hours, his battery would be completely silenced, and he would never open again, though he should live to the age of twice three score and ten.

One of Ripley's fancy aids-de-camp came down the other night with orders to Colonel Rhett to hold the Fort at all hazards, and was accidentally forced to remain in the Fort during next day; but he left here as soon as possible, the most disagreeably scared man you ever saw in your life, and I venture a prediction that he won't come back to this place any more. [255]

Night before last Captain Carlin, with a small steamer made for the purpose, accompanied by a detachment from the Fort under Lieutenant Fickling, went out to blow up the Ironsides. They reached the old monster without the slightest alarm being given, but, unfortunately, instead, of striking her with bow ahead, the tide drifted them round, and the boat struck with its side, the torpedo hanging in some chains on the Ironsides and being torn off and left. They all have frightful stories to relate about the drums beating to quarters, seeing men rush on deck and to their guns, and seeing guns run in battery, and blank cartridges fired. But suffice it to say, that they succeeded in getting off safe, though making a hair-breadth escape. I have told you about Fickling, particularly his height. He is only nineteen years old, but a more gallant fellow never lived. How near he came being immortalized!

Fort Sumter, August 23, 1863.
My Dear Father.—You will have heard, before this reaches you, of the fight with the enemy's monitors this morning. They came up, five in number, about half-past 3 o'clock and opened on us, in our helpless condition, a most terrific and destructive fire. We had but one solitary gun amid the ruins, the remnant of thirty-five splendid barbette guns, with which to contend against them. They were within 800 yards of the Fort, and could not be seen by the other fortifications on account of the denseness of the fog; so that for some time our single gun was the only one on our side engaged. I could scarcely restrain my tears at our helpless situation. It was a sad reflection indeed to think that all our guns were disabled, and that, too, when we so much needed them, and that we had only one with which to fight the sneaking sea-devils. After awhile, however, Moultrie, Bee, Simpkins, Gregg, all opened, and, after a hot fight of two hours, in which we in the Fort were the only ones to suffer, the enemy thought fit to retire. I need not speak of the injury that we sustained, for we could scarcely be injured more than we already were. The reason of the enemy's appearance this morning was doubtless on account of their belief that the Fort was abandoned; for, before we opened, a launch filled with troops was seen approaching the Fort, and was quite near the wharf when we gave the alarm, whereupon the launch was seen to return hurriedly. The garrison had been ordered previously to turn out with small arms to defend the [256] ruins against an assault, and when the launch was first discovered it was thought to be a storming party, but it was evidently only a small force to take possession of the Fort. The enemy were doubtless induced to believe that the Fort was evacuated from the fact that no evening gun was fired yesterday—a thing so unusual, and which was caused partly by neglect and partly by an accident.

We have endured another day's hard shelling and pelting. It is now just after dark, and not a sound salutes the ear. The whole harbor seems at rest and quiet; whether they are or not, I cannot tell. We look for the monitors to come up again in the morning. How I wish we had something with which to fight them! I was officer of the guard yesterday, and during the fight this morning had to remain at the sally-port with my guard. I had a dangerous post, being in the line of fire, but fortunately escaped untouched. One of my men was killed, and seven negroes, who were taking protection in the casemates with me, were wounded. There were an unusual number of casualties to-day, particularly as to officers. A shell burst just over the mess-room while several officers were at dinner, wounding slightly the Colonel, Adjutant and ordnance officer, together with a negro waiter.

It seems to be the policy of General Beauregard to hold the Fort at all hazards until he gets his fortifications completed on James and Sullivan's Islands, when we will probably be sent to the latter place. I don't think that the enemy will make an assault. If they do, however, they will find it an ugly little job. Our men are in good spirits, though considerably chafed and worried in consequence of the tremendous bombardment that they have been under for seven days. If it is the wish of our Generals that we should remain here and suffer for the good of our country, I hope we will be equal to any danger or hardship that we may be required to endure. I trust the city will be saved, even after Morris' Island and Sumter are abandoned. *

Fort Sumter, August 25, 1863.
My Dear Mother:—It gratified me much to receive your kind letter yesterday evening. It so happened that I read it at the same time that I received the Charleston papers containing the vile, brutal, uncivilized demand of the wretch who commands the Yankee forces in this department, and its pure, pious, trustful spirit, representing the [257] mothers and daughters of our noble old city, against whom (for it was meant for no others to suffer by it) the atrocious demand was made had the effect to increase, if that were possible, the deep feeling of disgust and revenge that I already harbored in my breast, from witnessing on Saterday morning the unprecedented act that he threatened, actually performed. And now, before God, I vow that if such an act is repeated, and I am ever placed in a situation to take revenge, I shall neither give nor ask quarter, but slaughter every wretch that comes within my power. I know this is a change from the views and principles that I have heretofore entertained; but my principles can have no force when my feelings are so touched. Such an act forewarns us what we may expect at the hands of General Gilmore; and, while it demonstrates his brutality, it demonstrates still more his weakness and recklessness, and however well he has seemingly conducted affairs in this attack, I venture to predict that he is not a man of ability. Beauregard's reply everybody considers excellent. The General can write if he can't fight. The enemy's battery in the marsh, from which the shots were fired on the city, can be seen plainly from here, and has only one gun mounted, and at such a distance (five miles) no one thinks that it can injure the city materially. We cannot imagine any other object that General Gilmore could have had, save malicious spite. He could not have supposed that by firing on the city he would compel the surrender of Morris's Island and Sumter. He is chagrined that he cannot, with his all-powerful combined force, make two poor little batteries crumble before him; that Sumter, though knocked to pieces, still continued to show fight; and that he has expended on the latter alone 100,000 pounds of powder and 1,000,000 pounds of wrought iron. But, though he cannot boast of having whipped us at all, much less in six hours, he cannot injure us much more than he has already.

I told you in my last that we had but one serviceable gun. Since then, however, we have rigged up two others that were disabled, which, though the parapet is knocked away in front of both, we expect to fight in case the Ironclads try us again. Colonel Rhett has fully equalled our expectations, as regards being a cool, collected, brave man, and he has certainly acted well in this affair. The Generals tried to make him shoulder the responsibility of abandoning the Fort, the other day, by endeavoring to induce him to say the Fort was untenable; to which he replied that he intended to hold the Fort until he received orders, and that if they refused, on his applying, to give him any, he would then not sacrifice his garrison, [258] but leave when he thought fit. From all I can learn, the Fort is to be held for the present, and now the best guns are being removed. It is a slow and difficult work, however, and it is only at night that we can do anything at all. You may suppose that there is danger, while in a helpless condition, of our being taken prisoners by being cut off, but rest assured that there is not the remotest probability of any such occurrence. You know by this time that I always tell you exactly what I think. We cannot be taken otherwise than by a storming party, and though the Yankees are smart enough to undertake almost any job, I give them credit for being a little too smart to take the contract. Probably it would not pay.

Wednesday Morning.—Yesterday evening at dusk the enemy made an attack on our rifle pits in fiont of Wagner, and after a sharp little fight, were repulsed. They have advanced their saps to within 400 yards of the battery. Our loss was six killed and twenty-five wounded.

The firing continued on us all day yesterday, but nothing like so rapidly as previously; and while I write this morning, the firing is going on slowly again. Last night two of our companies were relieved from here and sent to the batteries on James's Island. Their place was supplied by two picked Georgia companies. There are now only two of our own companies in the Fort-Captain Harleston's and Captain Fleming's.

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