Chapter 36: operations of the South Atlantic Squadron under Rear-Admiral Dahlgren, 1863.--operations in Charleston harbor, etc.
- Rear-Admiral Dahlgren succeeds Rear-Admiral Dupont. -- Dahlgren's difficult task. -- General Gillmore requests naval co-operation. -- Charleston harbor. -- plan of General Gillmore. -- attack on enemy's works by Army and Navy. -- capture of Confederate works on South end of Morris Island. -- assault on Fort Wagner. -- Gillmore repulsed. -- Second attack on Fort Sumter. -- capture of enemy's defences. -- the Catskill severely handled. -- another combined attack on Fort Wagner. -- the Fort silenced. -- Army badly repulsed in an assault. -- active operations suspended. -- bravery of troops under General strong and Colonel Putnam. -- dreadful hand-to-hand conflict. -- earth-works erected by Gillmore. -- the Swamp Angel. -- gun-boats engage batteries in Stono River. -- the Commodore McDonough silences Confederate artillery near Secessionville. -- Lieutenant Robeson plants the flag on Morris Island. -- Landing of troops at folly and James Islands. -- attack on forts Sumter and Wagner. -- results of bombardment. -- Gillmore demands surrender of Sumter. -- letter of Beauregard. -- Gillmore's reply. -- death of Commander George W. Rodgers. -- great efforts made to reduce Wagner, Sumter and Gregg. -- effect of the fire on Charleston. -- the monitors again open fire on forts Sumter and Moultrie. -- engineering work. -- Dahlgren and Gillmore differ. -- forts Wagner and battery Gregg evacuated. -- the Weehawken grounded. -- disastrous naval assault on Sumter. -- great gallantry displayed by boat-crews. -- Ensign Wallace's report -- torpedo-boat. -- attempts to destroy New Ironsides. -- praise of Dahlgren and officers. -- the monitors and New Ironsides contrasted. -- Boynton's criticisms, etc.
Rear-Admiral Dahlgren succeeded Rear-Admiral DuPont, at Port Royal, on July 4th, 1863, the latter having been relieved at his own request, owing to a difference of opinion between himself and the Secretary of the Navy in regard to the operations before Charleston and the attempt to take the Confederate works with the Monitors. Dahlgren had a difficult task before him. In the first place, he had relieved an officer who maintained as high a prestige as any in the Navy, at home and abroad, for skill and bravery. The attack upon and capture of Port Royal had given DuPont a foreign reputation in addition to that he bore at home, and European officers of distinguished merit did not hesitate to say that the battle of Port Royal was one of the best exhibitions of naval tactical skill that had been seen for years. Compare it, even now, with the late English attack in Egypt, with their heavy iron-clads and monstrous guns, and note the rapidity with which DuPont's squadron captured the works at Hilton Head, etc., in comparison with the long-drawn-out battle at Alexandria against forts only a trifle superior to those at Port Royal. and the palm will be given to the American squadron as an exhibition of skill. That affair did a great deal to impress foreign Governments with the power of our guns, and the indomitable energy of our officers and seamen; and though Great Britain, about that time, or shortly after, did threaten us in a manner that was anything but agreeable to the American people, yet that Government would have entered upon the fulfillment of their threats with misgivings — the growth of former disappointments in the War of 1812. Aside from his recently acquired renown, there was no officer in the United States Navy better  known abroad than Rear-Admiral DuPont. Many years of his life had been passed in the Mediterranean Squadron, where he traveled and made many European friends. He had commanded one of our best squadrons in China and Japan, and his bland manners, high standing as an officer, general knowledge on all subjects, in and out of his profession, made him an authority to whom foreign officers deferred. He was as well posted in all naval matters as any officer at home or abroad, and his opinions, which did not in 1863 run in accord with those of the Navy Department, were adopted by his friends and acquaintances in every quarter. DuPont had said that the forts in Charleston harbor could not be taken by the force with which he had attacked them, and his opinion was accepted as that of an expert who had tried the matter to satisfy the Navy Department, and had failed, and who considered that to attempt it again, under the same circumstances, with the same force, would only entail a loss of men and material, if not a loss of naval prestige. The victory at Port Royal had settled the question of the future usefulness of Charleston and Savannah to the Confederates, for it offered the means, if we had properly used them, of sealing up those two harbors as effectually as if we had actual possession of them, which we now know fully. The capture of Port Royal included in its direct consequences all that was essential to the occupation of adjacent places — as far as their value to the Confederate cause was concerned, they could be rendered useless if the proper steps were taken, without leading to a loss of vessels and men, a sacrifice not at all called for by the circumstances of the case.
|Rear-Admiral John A. Dahlgren.|