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[161] dangerous mission of proceeding with two gun-boats, the Pinola and the Itasca, to open a breach in the floating bar constructed by the enemy. During this expedition the mortars redoubled their fire in order to compel the latter to seek refuge within their casemates. Taking advantage of their confusion, Lieutenant Caldwell boarded one of the dismantled hulks that lay in the river, unloosed the chains attached to it, and placed a bag of gunpowder with a fuse furnished with an electric attachment. The defenders of the forts had soon perceived the two gun-boats, and the latter, while retiring, were covered with a shower of shells. The wire which was to have caused the explosion of the powderbag broke; but one of the chains being detached, there were left two practicable passages for the Federal fleet. Hoping, however, to silence Fort Jackson completely, Porter continued the bombardment until the evening of the 23d. His ammunition was almost exhausted, and the fire of the enemy had not sensibly slackened; one single gun in Fort St. Philip, which was undoubtedly the best, and four in Fort Jackson, had been dismounted. On the other hand, one of the mortar-boats had been sunk by a cannon ball which had gone entirely through it; the Federals, however, had lost but very few men, and their boats had perfectly withstood the concussion produced by the firing of the enormous guns they carried.

They, however, despaired of their ability to reduce the forts by a simple bombardment. There was no question as to the havoc caused by their projectiles in Fort Jackson. According to the Confederates themselves, more than eight thousand bombshells had fallen within the enceinte, so that the casemates, notwithstanding the sand-bags with which they had been covered, were half in ruins and on the point of falling to pieces; the powder magazine was no longer safe, and all the masonry was damaged. And, what was still more serious, the bombshells, by bursting in the dyke which kept the river out, had caved it in in many places, and the waters, which were very high at the time, had flooded a great portion of the work, rendering the bomb-proof shelters almost uninhabitable and communications between the different batteries extremely difficult. If the ground had not been so soft and the bombshells had not penetrated so deeply into the earth,

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