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Xx. The Carolinas, Georgia, Florida--1862-‘63.

the Savannah river having, with its largest affluent, the Tugaloo, formed the boundary between South Carolina and Georgia from their northern verge, after a generally south-east course of some 300 miles, passing, at the head of ship navigation, near its mouth, its namesake city, which is the commercial emporium of Georgia, winds its sluggish way to the Atlantic through a cluster of mud-formed, often sand-fringed sea islands, matted over with a thin crust of grass-roots, covering a jelly-like mud several feet deep, resting uneasily on a bed of light, semi-liquid clay. Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur island (a mile long by half as wide), was a carefully constructed brick National fortress 25 feet above ground by 7 1/2 thick, completely commanding not only the main channel of the [456] Savannah, but all other inlets practicable for sea-going vessels to the city and the firm land above. Having early fallen an easy prey to the devotees of Secession, it was held by a garrison of 385 men, Col. C. C. H. Olmstead, 1st Georgia; its 40 heavy guns barring access to the river by our vessels, and affording shelter and protection to blockade-runners and Rebel corsairs.

Very soon after our recovery1 of Port Royal and the adjacent sea-islands, Gen. T. W. Sherman directed2 Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore to reconnoiter this ugly impediment, and report on the feasibility of overcoming it. Gillmore obeyed; and reported3 that he fort might be reduced by batteries of mortars and rifled guns planted on Big Tybee island, south-east of it, across the narrower southern channel of tile Savannah, as also from Venus point, on Jones island, over two miles from Cockspur, in the opposite direction: and submitted his plan; which was sent to Washington, returned approved, and the requisite ordnance and other enginery ultimately forwarded or collected. Meantime, the 46th New York, Col. R. Rosa, was sent4 to occupy Big Tybee, and a detachment directed quietly to clear out the Rebel obstructions in “Wall's cut,” an artificial channel connecting New and Wright rivers, north of Cockspur, and completing an inland water passage from Savannah to Charleston. After some sharp fighting and four nights' hard work, this was achieved;5 and, after some farther delay, Venus point, on Jones island, north-west of the coveted fortress, was selected6 as a point whereon to place a battery, barring all daylight access to the beleaguered fort from above. To this point, mortars, weighing 8 1/2 tuns each, were brought through New and Wright rivers (each of them a sluggish tide-course between rush-covered islets of semi-liquid mud); being patiently tugged across Jones island on a movable causeway of planks laid on poles — those behind tile moving gun being taken up and placed in its front;7 and thus tile guns were toilsomely dragged across and placed in battery on strong timber platforms, constructed by night behind an artfully contrived screen of bushes and reeds to receive them. Just as tile batteries were completed, the Rebel steamboat Ida passed down from Savannah to Pulaski, and the recoil of our guns fired at her sent all but one of them off the platforms; which had thereupon to be enlarged and improved. Soon, another battery was established on Bird island, a little nearer Cockspur: and next, vessels having arrived8 in Tybee roads with heavy guns and munitions, the 7th Conn., 46th New York, and some detached companies, were employed in landing these on Big Tybee, constructing batteries and magazines, making roads of poles and plank, &c., &c. Nearly all this work had to be done by night, within range of Pulaski's guns — the outline presented to the enemy by the low bushes skirting the river being skillfully and gradually altered, night after night, so as to afford to the garrison no indication of the menacing work going on behind its friendly shelter.

The moving of each gun over the quaking, treacherous bog, from its [457]

Bombardment of Fort Pulaski.

point of debarkation to its designated position in battery, was the tedious. arduous task of 250 men, all performed under the cover of darkness: the men being forbidden to speak; their movements being directed by a whistle. When a gun slipped, as it often would, off the planks and ‘skids’ supporting it, the utmost efforts were required to keep it from plunging straight down through the 12 feet of mud to the supporting clay, if no farther.

Thus were the remnant of February and the whole of March intently employed--Maj.-Gen. Hunter, who had just succeeded9 to the command of the department, with Brig.-Gen. Benham as district commander, visiting the works on Tybee island, and finding nothing in them to improve.

At length, all was in readiness:10 36 10 to 13-inch mortars and heavy rifled guns being firmly planted in 11 batteries — the farthest two miles, the nearest less than a mile, from the doomed fort, with a depot and separate service magazine where they should be, and carefully considered orders given to regulate the firing. And now the fort was summoned11 in due form by Gen. Hunter--of course, to no purpose — whereupon, at 8 1/4 A. M., fire was deliberately opened and kept up till dark — the mortars throwing very few of their shells within the fort; but the rifled guns chipping and tearing away its masonwork, until it became evident that, unless our batteries should be disabled, the fort would soon be a ruin. Five of the enemy's guns had already been silenced; while our widely scattered, low-lying, inconspicuous batteries had received no damage whatever.

During the ensuing night, four of our pieces were fired at intervals of 15 or 20 minutes each; and at sunrise12 our batteries opened afresh; and now the breach, already visible, was steadily and rapidly enlarged: casemate after casemate being opened, in spite of a heavy and well-directed fire from the fort; until, at 2 P. M., a white flag was displayed from its walls, and the siege was ended. One only of our men had been killed, and no gun hit or otherwise [458] damaged; the garrison had 10 of their 40 guns dismounted or otherwise disabled, and several men wounded--one of them fatally. They were especially impelled to surrender by the fact that our guns were purposely trained on their magazine, which must soon have been pierced and exploded had our fire continued.

The credit of this almost bloodless conquest is primarily due to Quincy A. Gillmore, who was at once General and Engineer; Gen. Viele, commanding under him the land forces, and Com'r John Rodgers their naval auxiliaries, who were employed only in transporting and landing the materiel. But the moral of this siege was the enormous addition made by rifling to the range and efficiency of guns. Our artillerists were as green as might be; and their gunnery — as evinced more especially by the mortar-firing — was nowise remarkable for excellence; but the penetration of a solid brick wall of seven feet thick at a distance of 1,650 yards by old 32s (now rifled) to a depth of 20 inches, and by old 42s to a depth of 26 inches, where the same guns, when smooth-bore, would have produced no effect whatever, was so unlooked — for by Gel. Gillmore that he afterward reported that, had he been aware at the outset of what this siege taught him, he might have curtailed his eight weeks of laborious preparation to one; rejecting altogether his heavy mortars and columbiads as unsuited to such service, and increasing, if that were desirable, the distance at which his nearer batteries were planted to 2,300 or even 2,500 yards.

A considerable flotilla of worthless old vessels, picked up at various northern ports and taken down to our fleet blockading the entrance to Charleston harbor, being loaded with stone, were sunk13 across one of the channels. A tremendous uproar was raised against this procedure, mainly by British sympathizers with the Rebellion, who represented it as an effort permanently to choke and destroy the harbor. This accusation is absurd. What was intended was to render it more difficult for blockaderunners, navigated by Charleston pilots, to run out and in under the screen of fog or darkness; and this result was probably attained. No complaint has since been made of any actual injury thus inflicted on the peaceful commerce of Charleston: on the contrary, it has been plausibly asserted that the partial closing of one of the passes, through which the waters of Ashley and Cooper rivers find their way to the ocean, was calculated to deepen and improve those remaining.

Com. Dupont, in his steam frigate Wabash, with twenty other armed vessels, and six unarmed transports, conveying a brigade of volunteers, Gen. Wright, and a battalion of marines, Maj. Reynolds, setting out from Port Royal14 swept down the coast to St. Andrew's and Cumberland sounds; taking unresisted possession of Fort Clinch on Amelia island, Fernandina, St. Mary's, Brunswick,15 Darien,16 St. Simon's island, Jacksonville,17 and St. Augustine; where Fort St. Mark--another of the old Federal coast defenses — was “repossessed” without bloodshed--Gen. Trapier, Rebel commander on this coast, having no force adequate to [459] resisting such an expedition--Florida having ere this contributed nearly 10,000 men, out of a total white population of 80,000, to the Confederate armies fighting in other States.

A considerable Union feeling was evinced at various points; a Union meeting held in Jacksonville (the most populous town in the State), and a Convention called to assemble there on the 10th of April to organize a Union State Government; but, on the 8th, Gen. Wright withdrew his forces from that place, sending an invitation to Gen. Trapier to come and reoccupy it. Of course, the projected Union Convention was no more; and those who had figured in the meeting or call whereby the movement was initiated were glad to save their necks by accompanying our departing forces. That settled, for years, the fortunes of Unionism in Florida. And, though Com. Dupont, on returning with his fleet to Port Royal, left a small force at each of the more defensible places he had so easily recovered to the Union, it is questionable that his expedition effected, on the whole, more good than harm for the national cause.

At Mosquito inlet, the farthest point visited by a detail from his squadron, a boat expedition, under Lt. T. A. Budd, of the Penguin, was fired on while returning from an excursion down Mosquito lagoon, Lt. Budd and 4 others killed, and several more wounded or captured. Thus closed unhappily an enterprise which was probably adequate to the complete recovery of Florida, though not able to hold it against the whole power of the Confederacy.

Pensacola was evacuated by Brig.-Gen. Thos. N. Jones, its Rebel commander; who burned every thing combustible in the Navy Yard, Forts McRae and Barrancas, the hospital, &c., &c., and retreated18 inland with his command. The place was immediately occupied by Corn. Porter, of the Harriet Lane, and by Gen. Arnold, commanding Fort Pickens.

Another naval expedition from Port Royal,19 under Capt. Steedman, consisting of the gunboats Paul Jones and Cimarone, with three other steamboats, visited tile Florida coast in the Autumn, shelling and silencing the Rebel batteries at the mouth of the St. John's.

Gen. Brannan, with a land force of 1,575 men, with a fleet of six gunboats under Capt. Steedman, repeated this visit somewhat later;20 expecting to encounter an obstinate resistance: but the Rebel works on St. John's bluff were evacuated--9 guns being abandoned — on his advancing to attack them; and he retook Jacksonville without resistance, but found it nearly deserted, and did not garrison it. The Rebel steamboat Gov. Milton was found up a creek and captured.

Gen. R. Saxton next dispatched,21 on three transports, an expedition, composed of two negro regiments under Col. Thos. W. Higginson, 1st S. C. Volunteers, which went up22 to Jacksonville, captured it with little resistance, and held it as a recruiting station for colored volunteers. Two White regiments were soon afterward sent to reenforce them; but hardly had these landed when a peremptory order came from Gen. Hunter for the withdrawal of [460] the entire force; and, as if this were not enough, several buildings were fired by our departing soldiers — of the 8th Maine, it was said, though that regiment laid it to the 6th Connecticut--while hundreds of inhabitants, who desired to leave with our forces, were put ashore after they had embarked, and left to meet the vengeance of the Rebels as they might. The beautiful old town was substantially destroyed; though our higher officers did their best to save it — a high wind fanning the flames, which swept all within their reach. The deserted inhabitants — many of them hearty Unionists — were left to famish among their ashes and ruins; though the few families who were brought away to Hilton Head were treated with considerate humanity. Pensacola was likewise abandoned23 and burned — burned by the Rebels, it was asserted — but that would neither be reported nor believed within the lines of the Confederates--so that it may be fairly concluded that by this time whatever Unionism there had been in Florida--that is, among the Whites — was pretty thoroughly eradicated by those who were sent thither as upholders of the National cause.

On returning from his Florida expedition to Port Royal,24 Com. Dupont found that the enemy had, during his absence, abandoned their formidable batteries on Skiddaway and Green islands, conceding to us full possession of Warsaw and Ossibaw sounds; while Gen. Sherman had long since25 taken quiet possession of Edisto island on our right, carrying our flag more than half way from Beaufort to Charleston. No inhabitants were left on Edisto but negroes; and the cotton which the departing Whites could not remove they had, for the most part, burned. The fall of Pulaski, soon afterward, gave us extension and security on the other flank; and now Gen. Hunter and Com. Dupont proposed to extend our possession still farther toward the city by the reclamation of Wadmilaw and Johns islands, bringing us within cannon-shot of Charleston. To this end, various and careful reconnoissances were made, and soundings taken; ending with making by buoys the channel of Stono river, separating Johns from Janes island; whereupon, our gunboats Unadilla, Pembina, and Ottawa, crossed26 the bar at its mouth and proceeded up that river: the Rebel earthworks along its banks being abandoned at their approach. Thus the gunboats made their way slowly, carefully, up to a point within range of the Rebel batteries guarding the junction of Stono with Wappoo creek, barely three miles from Charleston, whose spires and cupolas were plainly visible, over the intervening trees, from the mast-heads of our vessels.

But this bold advance of our gunboats, unsupported by infantry, was a blunder. These were too weak to effect any tiling but give the enemy warning of what they must be prepared to meet. Nearly two weeks had thus been spent ere Gens. Hunter and Benham, with their soldier,, landed27 on James island; and three more days elapsed ere Gen. Wright came up from Edisto with the residue of their forces. Such disjointed [461]

Gen. Hunter's attack on Secessionville.

combinations in an intensely hostile region could have but one result; since the enemy were probably twice as strong, both in defenses and in men, as they would have been found had our advance been made with compact celerity.

Secessionville is a petty village formed of the Summer residences of a few James island planters, on the east side of their island, two miles from the Stono, with salt water on three sides, and swamps narrowing to a mere ride the only practicable land approach from the west. Pemberton was in chief command at Chlarleston, Brig.-Gen. N. G. Evans having direction under him in this quarter; but Col. J. G. Lamar was in immediate charge of the works; against which Gen. H. G. Wright advanced at early dawn,28 with a force of perhaps 6,000 men, though some 1,500 more were on the island, [462] guarding camps, &c. The direct attack was made by Brig.-Gen. Isaac I. Stevens,29 with Col. W. M. Fenton's brigade, composed of the 8th Michigan, 17th Conn., and 28th Mass., and Col. Leisure's, comprising the 79th New York (Highlanders), 46th do., and 100th Pa., with 4 detached companies of artillery, &c.--in all, 3,337 men. Stevens had these in position at 3 1/2 A. M. at our outer picket line, within rifle-range of the enemy, and advanced at 4--the morning being cloudy and dark — so swiftly and noiselessly that he captured most of the Rebel pickets, and was within 100 yards of the main defenses, not having fired a shot, when Lamar opened on him with grape and canister, plowing bloody lanes through the storming party, and destroying its compactness if not impairing the momentum of its charge.

The 8th Michigan--Col. Fenton's own — was in the direct advance, immediately supported by the Highlanders, with the residue of both brigades ready and eager to do and dare all that men might; and, if well directed valor could have carried the enemy's works by direct assault, they would have done it. But the neck of dry land over which it was possible to advance was barely 200 yards wide, completely swept by grape and canister at close range from six guns in the Rebel works, as well as by their musketry; while insuperable abatis, a ditch seven feet deep, and a parapet nine feet high, rendered such an assault a simple squandering of precious lives. The 8th Michigan lost here 185 out of 534 men, including 12 out of 22 officers; the Highlanders lost 110 out of 450; and our total loss was at least 574, whereof Stevens's two brigades lost 529--nearly all within half an hour. The Rebel loss was 204; Lamar and Lt.-Col. Gaillard being among the wounded.

Though it was plain that the enemy's works could not be carried by storm, a second but feebler assault was made on them after the failure of the first, aided by a flank advance on the enemy's right by a battalion of the 3d R. I. artillery, Maj. E. Metcalf, with the 3d N. H. and 97th Pa.; but nothing was accomplished; and our entire force fell back, unpursued, but leaving their dead and some of their severely wounded to fall into the hands of the enemy. And this virtually terminated in defeat Gen. Hunter's ill-managed advance upon Charleston.

Four months afterward--Gen. hunter having been succeeded in command of this department by Gen. O. M. Mitchel--the latter planned an advance, not aimed at Charleston, but due northward from Beaufort, with intent to break the railroad connection between Charleston and Savannah, by destroying bridges, &c., about Pocotaligo and Coosawhatchie. Gen. Mitchel being prostrated by the disease of which lie ultimately died, the execution of this project was confided to Brig.-Gen. J. M. Brannan, with an effective force of 4,448 men.

This force, embarked on gunboats and transports, moved30 up Broad river to the junction of the Coosawhatchie and Tullifinny, where it was landed and pushed inland; first meeting resistance when 5 or 6 miles on [463] its way; but easily driving the enemy, who burned bridges, &c., before it, and soon made another stand in a wood behind a burned bridge, whence they were expelled by flanking, and still pursued nearly to Pocotaligo; where the Rebels, under Gen. Walker, opened heavily with artillery from a swamp behind a creek. Our caissons being far behind, our guns were soon without a cartridge, and none to be had nearer than ten miles. Night was coming on; and Brannan — aware that his 4,000 men were no match for all that the railroad would bring speedily from Charleston and from Savannah to assail them — wisely took the back track to Mackay's landing; where lie at once embarked31 and returned to Hilton Head.

Meantime, Col. Barton, with 400 men, the gunboats Patroon and Marblehead, and the little steamboat Planter, had gone up the Coosawhatchie nearly to the village of that name — the gunboats getting aground two or three miles below, and the Planter about a mile below. Having debarked his men, Barton pushed on, and encountered a train filled with reeforcements sent to the enemy from Savannah, under Maj. Harrison, 11th Georgia--Gen. W. S. Walker, commanding in Brannan's front, having telegraphed both ways for all the men that could be spared him. This train was fired on while in motion, and considerable loss inflicted; Maj. Harrison being among the killed. The greater number escaped to the woods and joined the defenders of the village and railroad bridge, against whom Barton now advanced; but, finding himself largely outnumbered by men strongly posted, supporting 3 guns, and night coming on, he, too, retreated to hits boats; burning bridges behind him. There was some pursuit notwithstanding; but the gunboats were ugly customers, and were not seriously molested. When the tide had risen, they floated; and Barton returned with them, unmolested, to Port Royal.

Our loss in this expedition was not far from 300. Walker reports his at 14 killed, 102 wounded, 9 missing; but this does not include the losses at Coosawhatchie.

The river Ogeechee, rising in the heart of eastern Georgia, after a generally S. E. course of some 200 miles, usually parallel with the lower half of the Savannah, and, for the last 40 niles, very near it, falls into Ossabaw sound, some 10 miles S. W. of Savannah. A few miles up the Ogeechee, the Rebels had constructed a strong earthwork known as Fort McAllister, in a bend of the stream, enabling it to rake any vessel which should attempt to pass it. A row of heavy piles across the channel, with some torpedoes in the river below, rendered ascent at once difficult and perilous. The steamer Nashville lay under the protection of these works; having long watched an opportunity to run out to sea laden with cotton; disappointed in this, by the vigilance of our cruisers, she was unladen, fitted up as a war vessel, and again watched her opportunity to run out — not being so easily stopped now as formerly. Com'r Worden, who was watching her, in the iron-clad Montauk, at length discovered32 that she had got aground, just above the fort, and, at daylight next morning, went up, [464] backed by the Seneca, Wissahickon, and Dawn, to attempt her destruction.

He found her still aground; and, by disregarding torpedoes and the fire of the fort, was able to steam within 1,200 yards of her; and, by experiment, soon had her exact range, and was peppering her with 11 and 15-inch shells; while his consorts — forbidden a near approach by the narrowness of the channel — fired at her from positions farther down the stream. Twenty minutes thereafter, she had been set on fire by shells which exploded within her, and flames were seen to burst from every quarter; at 9:20 A. M., her large pivot gun forward was exploded by the heat; at 9:40, her smoke-stack went overboard; and at 9:55, her magazine exploded, shattering her into worthless fragments. Meantime, the fort kept firing away at the Montauk, striking, her five times, but doing no damage; and a torpedo which exploded beneath her, as she steamed down the river, accomplished very little. Our other vessels received no harm. We lost no men.

Com. Dupont, encouraged by this cheap success, now resolved to give the fort itself a trial: to which end, the iron-clads Passaic, Capt. Drayton, Patapsco, Montauk, Ericsson, and Nahant, with three mortar-schooners, steamed33 up the Ogeechee, and opened fire: the Passaic leading, the rest following, and all firing at the fort at the shortest range they could severally attain. But the obstructions proved insuperable, and forbade the Passaic to approach nearer than 1,200 yards; the other iron-clads being, of course, farther off, and the schooners farther still. Thus placed, the Passaic, Patapsco, and Nahant, opened fire; and it was kept up, with one or two intervals, from 8 1/2 A. M. to 4 P. M., and by the mortar-schooners every 15 minutes thenceforth till next morning; when Capt. Drayton--who had dropped down the river out of range at nightfall — went up again and took a look at the enemy's works; finding them so substantial and effective that lie concluded to waste no more good cartridges upon them, and came away under a double salute of shells and yells. His 15-inch shells, each weighing 345 pounds, had dismounted one of their 9 great guns, and taken a wheel from another; but no man had been killed, and but one wounded on either side. Captain Drayton, while standing behind the turret of his “Monitor,” had received a mere scratch from a splinter of shell, and the Rebel loss was swelled to 3 wounded by an accident after the fight; but an enormously expenditure of ammunition on either side had effected nothing of moment. Our shells often tore up the sand to a depth of ten feet, clouding the air with it; but it descended nearly into its former position;34 even tile embrasures of the Rebel battery were but moderately damaged. Our vessels saved their ammunition by letting Fort McAllister alone thereafter.

The National steamboat Isaac Smith, having been sent35 up Stono [465] river on a reconnoissance, went seven miles above Legareville without getting sight or sound of an enemy; but, when 6 miles on her way back, was opened upon in a bend by three masked batteries, which had not been observed before, and thereby speedily crippled and captured. The Com. McDonough went to her assistance; but arrived too late, and could do nothing. Several months thereafter, the Rebels attempted to run the Isaac Smith out of Charleston harbor; when she was sunk36 by the gunboat Wissahickon.

The morning after their capture of the Smith was signalized by the Charleston Rebels by a far bolder and more significant exploit. At 4 A. M., favored by a thick haze, their iron-clads Palmetto State, Capt. D. N. Ingraham, and Chlicora, Com'r Tucker, with three steamboats as tenders, stole upon our blockading fleet, lying off the bar, while the Powhatan and the Canandaigua, our two largest men of war, were at Port Royal, coaling; and, first nearing the Mercedita, Capt. Stellwagen, the Palmetto State ran into her amidships with full force, and fired into her side at close range a 7-inch shell, which passed through her condenser and steam-drum, blowing a hole through her farther side, scalding several of her men, and completely disabling her. Stellwagen, unable either to fight or fly, surrendered.

The Palmetto, leaving her to sink if she would, forthwith attacked the Keystone State, Capt. Leroy; lodging a shell in her forehold, which set her on fire. Leroy sheered off, until the fire was got under; when, having a full head of steam, he attempted to run his assailant down; but, as he approached at full speed, another shot was sped through both his vessel's steam-chests, utterly disabling her; ten rifled shells striking her, and two of them bursting on her quarter-deck.

By this time, it was growing light, and our fleet had been thoroughly aroused. The Augusta, Quaker City, Memphis, and Housatonic, went in; the Memphis taking in tow the Keystone State--which had one-fourth of her crew disabled, mainly by scalding — and drawing her out of the enemy's fire; when the Rebel gun-boats turned homeward, and took refuge behind the shoals in the Swash channel; thence making their way back to Charleston, and issuing there a bulletin declaring the blockade raised and the port open;37 the British consul at Charleston and the commander of H. B. M. ship Petrel corroborating the statement; and the foreign consuls in the Confederacy were officially notified of the alleged fact in a circular from J. P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State, “for the information of such vessels of your nation as may choose to carry on commerce with the now open port of Charleston.” The “vessels” thus [466] invited did not attempt to profit by the opportunity thus afforded them, but continued to steal into and out of that harbor during the darkest nights and in the most clandestine, insidious manner. None of our vessels were sunk or lost — the Mercedita having been deserted by her captors, who never put a man on board-being clearly no prize. She had but 3 men killed and 4 wounded; the Keystone had 20 killed--mainly by scalding — and 20 wounded.

Gen. Foster, commanding the 18th corps in North Carolina, having been ordered to South Carolina, to cooperate with Com. Dupont in an attack on Charleston, steamed38 from Beaufort, N. C., with 12,000 excellent troops, landing them at Hilton Head; whence — finding Com. Dupont not yet ready — he ran up to Fortress Monroe in quest of siege-guns. Gen. Hunter--to whom Foster's advent had been a complete surprise-thereupon took command of Foster's men, broke up his corps organization, and — this exercise of authority being demurred to — ordered Foster's staff out of his department. Foster thereupon obtained authority from Gen. Halleck to return to his own department, leaving his 12,000 men to serve as a reenforcement to Gen. Hunter; under whose auspices, in conjunction with Com. Dupont, the contemplated attack was now to be made. Halleck's sending of Foster into Hunter's department without notice to the latter has not been explained.

Our preparations for this attack were made, so far as possible, at Hilton Head: the iron-clads, so fast as ready, slipping quietly, one by one, to their appointed rendezvous in the mouth of the North Edisto river, half way to Charleston harbor; where they were all finally assembled,39 awaiting the conditions of wind and tide deemed most favorable. A calm, clear night,40 following a full moon, proffered the awaited conjuncture; and Com. Dupont steamed41 in full force up to the harbor bar; shifting there his pennant from the gunboat James Adger to the stately, mailed “Ironsides,” in which he proposed to direct and share in the bombardment. By 9 A. M. next day, his fleet had all crossed the bar, and was in line along the east shore of Morris island, heading toward the most formidable array of rifled great guns that had ever yet tested the defensive resources of naval warfare.

The iron-clads thus pitted against the tremendous ordnance of Fort Sumter and her satellites were the following:

1. Weehawken, Capt. John Rodgers;

2. Passaic, Capt. Percival Drayton;

3. Montauk, Com'r John L. Worden;

4. Patapsco, Com'r Daniel Ammen;

5. New Ironsides, Com'r Thos. Turner;

6. Catskill, Com'r Geo. W. Rodgers;

7. Nantucket, Com'r Donald M. Fairfax;

8. Nahant, Com'r John Downes;

9. Keokuk, Lt.-Com'r Alex. C. Rhind;

with the gunboats Canandaigua, Unadilla, Housatonic, Wissahickon, and Huron in reserve, below the bar, ready to support the iron-clads should they attack the batteries on Morris island.

The day was bright, bland, and warm — like one of the finest of the later days of a Northern May — the air of midday flashing with the wings of countless butterflies — though a slight haze or smoke in the morning so obscured remoter objects that the landmarks relied on to give bearings [467]

Defenses of Charleston.

in the difficult navigation (for vessels of heavy draft) of these intricate channels were indistinguishable, and the advance thereby postponed till a gentle northern breeze cleared the sky. But, as ebb-tide came at 11 A. M., and — the bar being safely passed — that was deemed the stage of water best fitted to the steering of those clumsy alligators — it is not probable that our plans were seriously deranged by this circumstance.

Let us improve this pause to glance at the scene, as it imprinted itself on the mind of an observer,42 scanning it through a powerful field-glass from the Coast Survey steam-boat Bibb, lying in the Swash channel, three miles below Sumter:

We are, this moment, looking directly up into the harbor and the city, which lies in the vista beyond — its wharves and ships, houses and steeples, standing out in the background like a picture. Steeples and roofs are crowded with spectators; the neighboring shores are lined with onlookers, just as when, now two years ago, less two days, the same spectators stood on the same coignes of vantage to see, in the same harbor, another bombardment, while another flag from that which now flaunts in our eyes, floated from the walls of Sumter.

We are facing Fort Sumter, and looking directly up the harbor. We have, accordingly, Sullivan's island on our right, and Morris island on our left. These two islands end each in curved points of land, and, [468] at their nearest approach, are separated by an interval of a mile, formed by the entrance to the harbor; and, just in the middle of this passage, and right between the two points of land, stands Fort Sumter, built on an artificial island made in midchannel. Both Morris and Sullivan's islands are scarcely removed above the level of the sea; which, indeed, would probably invade and cover them, were it not that the margin of the islands on their sea-frontage is marked by a continuous, narrow strip of low sand hills, some five or six feet in height. Behind the second ridge of the islands, are alternate salt marsh, sand, and clumps of wood of live-oak, palmetto, and tangled tropical undergrowths. The whole coast of South Carolina and Georgia consists of a labyrinth of islands and islets of this character, round which reedy creeks and rivers wind.

With Sullivan's island on our right, we run the eye up to its upper or north end, formed by Breach inlet. Guarding this point, is Breach inlet battery — a powerful sand-work, having a circular, dome-like, bomb-proof magazine in its center. It is, however, three miles from the entrance of the harbor, and will not be able to molest our ships on their passage. Its chief value has been to aid blockade-runners; as it covers Maffit's channel (the passage through which the great majority of these craft run in) from the approach of our blockaders. At present, it will serve to oppose our landing troops at Breach inlet, should the attempt be made. Coming down along the shore of Sullivan's island, from Breach inlet, we next reach Fort Beauregard, a powerful sand battery, mounting very heavy guns, and situated on the turn of the island a little right of the “Moultrie House” hotel, from which it is separated only by five intervening sea-shore houses. Next, to the right of the channel, up and opposite Fort Sumter, is Fort Moultrie, which has been prodigiously strengthened by the Rebel engineers, both in its means of offense and of defense. Looking up the harbor and still to the right, the eye takes in the extensive line of works, en cremaillaire, called the Redan, and which has been formed by throwing up intrenchments on the line of the breakwater erected some years ago by the United States Government, for the protection of that portion of the harbor. Beyond the Redan, up near the head of the harbor, on an island, appears Castle Pinckney, in the vista, looking like the Battery in New York City as seen from the seaentrance.

So far as the eye can see, we have now exhausted the fortifications on the right hand side of the harbor. It now remains briefly to glance at those that line the left-hand side. In the mean while, Fort Sumter rises up conspicuously before us in midchannel. We can see every brick in its walls. Two faces out of its five, and two angles only, come within sight from our point of view: namely, the south face, on which the sally-port and wharf are placed, and the eastern face. You are too familiar with the general features of this historic work to make any description necessary. It was, you know, pierced for two tiers of guns; but the lower embrasures had been filled in to strengthen it. From the top of the fort flown the barbette guns, which comprise all the heaviest portion of its armament. You can count distinctly each barbette gun-one, two, three, four, five on this; one, two, three, four on that; and so on all around; and it is easy to see that the ordinance is of the most formidable character. From a flag-staff on one of the angles of the fort, floats the Confederate flag; from a flag-staff on the opposite angle, floats the Palmetto flag.

Passing now to the left-hand side of the harbor, on James island, we first have the Wappoo battery, near Wappoo creek, effectually commanding the embouchure of Ashley river and the left side of the city. Next, coming down, we have Fort Johnson; and, between it and Castle Pinckney, on an artificial island raised by the Rebels, on the “middle ground,” is Fort Ripley. Coming down to Cumming's Point, directly opposite Moultrie, is the Cumming's Point battery, named by the Rebels Battery Bee, after the General of that name; south of Battery Bee, on Morris island, is Fort Wagner, a very extensive sand battery of the most powerful construction. Half way down Morris island, again, from Fort Wagner, is a new sand-work erected by the Rebels since I surveyed the ground from the blockading fleet, a fortnight ago. Finally, down at Lighthouse inlet, which divides Morris from Folly island, is another fortification, guarding against an attempt at a landing at that point. Such is the formidable panorama the eye takes in, in sweeping around the harbor and its approaches.

And now let the same observer depict for us the low, iron-backed turtles about to crawl up and try conclusions with these yawning craters of brick and stone and iron, so soon to burst into fierce and scathing eruption: [469]

With respect both to the obstacles we are to meet, and the engines with which we are to meet them, every thing is novel and unprecedented. Comparison is simply impossible; for, where there are no points of resemblance, comparison is out of the question.

But can you imagine — if one were permitted to play with the elements of tile and space — the shade of Nelson transferred front his gun-deck off Trafalgar, after but little over half a century, and placed on board of one of those iron craft before us? and can you imagine the sensations of that consummate master of all the elements of naval warfare as known in his day? He must be helpless as a child, and bewildered as a man in a dream. From his splendid three-decker, the Victory, carrying its hundred guns, and towering majestically on the water, which it rides like a thing of life, lie finds himself imprisoned in an iron casing, the whole hull and frame of which is submerged in the water, the waves washing clean over its deck, and depending for its defensive power on a couple of guns of a caliber that would astonish him, placed in a circular tower. rising from the deck amidships. This turret is in thickness 11 inches of wrought iron, revolves on an axis by the delicate appliances of steam engineering, and contains the entire armament and fighting crew of the ship. The fire, the animation, the life, of an old-time naval fight, when men gave and took, exposed to plain view — when ships fought yard-arm to yard-arm, and human nature in its intensest exaltation appeared — are here wholly out of the question, with the combatants shut up in impenetrable iron, and delivering their fire by refined process of mathematical and mechanical appliances.

Nor are the outward shapes of these craft less divergent from all that the world has hitherto seen of naval models than are their internal economy and fighting arrangements removed from all previous modes. The majesty of a first-class man-of-war, with its lines of beauty and strength, on which the aesthetic instincts of ages have been expended, is here replaced by purely geometrical combinations of iron, in which the one paramount and all-controlling consideration is the resisting power of lines, angles, and surfaces. As they stretch in horrid file before us, along the shore of Morris island, awaiting the signal from the flag-ship to move, those nine ships, comprising the three different models represented by the Ironsides, the Monitors, and the Keokuk, one might almost fancy that some of the pachydermous monsters which palaeontology brings to view from the “dark backward and abysm of time” had returned in an iron resurrection; and the spectacle they presented to the Rebels from their posts of outlook must have been one of portentous grandeur.

At 12 1/2 P. M., our iron-clads advanced in the prescribed order — to be stopped directly by the anchor cable of the Weehawken, in the van, becoming fouled with iron grapplings protruding from the raft at her bows, wherewith she was expected to explode any torpedoes and clear away any obstructions she might encounter. An hour was spent in putting this right; and then our fleet moved on, in order: each vessel passing Morris island without evoking a shot from Fort Wagner or Battery Bee, and meaning to make the entrance of the harbor between Fort Sumter and Sullivan's island before tie former, at 4:03 P. M., opened on the Weehawken the tremendous broadside of her barbette guns.

And now there dawned upon our perplexed though undaunted commander a revelation of the great and insuperable difficulty of the attack. That our nine small though stanch vessels, mounting 30 guns in all, could last long under the fire which could be concentrated on them while lying close in front or east of Fort Sumter was not and could not reasonably be expected. It had therefore been determined, and was distinctly prescribed in Dupont's order of battle, that

The squadron will pass up the main ship channel without returning the fire of the batteries on Morris island, unless signal should be made to commence action.

The ships will open fire on Fort Sumter when within easy range, and will take up a position to the northward and westward of that fortification, engaging its left or northwest face, at a distance of from 1,000 to 800 yards; firing low, and aiming at the center embrasure.

But there were other plans than ours to be taken into account. The [470] enemy's engineers were quite as well aware as ours of the relative weakness of the north-west face of Sumter (which had never been completed — the fort being designed, indeed, to guard the harbor, but not against an offensive so formidable and persistent as ours), and had no idea of allowing our iron-clads to pass their heaviest batteries and concentrate their fire upon that quarter. Accordingly, when the Weehawken had come filly abreast of Sumter, and completely under the fire of Moultrie's and other batteries as well as hers, she found herself confronted by a stout hawser buoyed up by empty casks, stretching completely across the channel from the north-west angle of Fort Sumter to Moultrie, and festooned with nets, seines, cables, &c., attached to torpedoes below — all contrived, if the torpedoes failed to destroy any vessel which might attempt to break the hawser, at least to foul her propeller and deprive her crew of all command over her movements, leaving her to drift helpless and useless where a few hours at most must insure her demolition.

Capt. Rodgers did not choose to squander his vessel so recklessly; and, after a brief hesitation, attempted to pass westward of Fort Sumter, between that and Cumming's Point: but this channel was found obstructed by a row of great piles, driven far into the earth and rising ten feet above the surface of the water; with another row stretching across its entire width a mile or so farther up the harbor; with still another behind this, backed by three Rebel iron-clads, all smoking and roaring in concert with the forts and batteries on every side. And now, as if our embarrassments were too trivial, the Ironsides is caught by the tide and veered off her course, refusing to mind her helm, and deranging the movements of her consorts: the Catskill and Nantucket running afoul of her on either side, and requiring a precious quarter of an hour to get clear again. This constrained Coin. Dupont to signal the rest of tile fleet to disregard the movements of the Ironsides, and take the positions wherein their fire would prove most effective. Thus directed, Lt. Rhind ran the Keokuk within 500 yards of Fort Sumter, and there held her, pouring in her hottest fire, till she was riddled and sinking; the Catskill and the Montauk being scarcely farther off. Let the observer already quoted depict for us the manner of serving tile guns in those narrow, dim-lit caverns, the turrets of the monitors:

Could you look through the smoke, and through the flame-lit ports, into one of those revolving towers, a spectacle would meet your eye such as Vulcan's stithy might present. Here are the two huge guns which form the armament of each monitor — the one 11 and tile other 15 inches in diameter of bore. The gunners, begrimed with powder and stripped to the waist, are loading the gun. The allowance of powder--thirty-five pounds to each charge — is passed up rapidly from below; the shot, weighing four hundred and twenty pounds, is hoisted up by mechanical appliances to the muzzle of the gun, and rammed home; the gun is run out to the port, and tightly “compressed;” the port is open for an instant, the captain of the gun stands behind, lanyard in hand--“Ready, fire!” and the enormous projectile rushes through its huge parabola, with the weight of ten thousand tons, home to its mark.

For half an hour thereafter, our sailors maintained the unequal and plainly hopeless contest — all of them under the fire of hundreds of the heaviest and best rifled guns that could be made, or bought, or stolen. The Rebel gunners had been directed [471] by Beauregard, then in chief command at Charleston, to fire very deliberately and with careful aim; yet 160 shots per minute were counted: and one of our commanders declared that the great iron bolts of the enemy crashed upon the decks and sides of our vessels in succession as rapid as the ticks of a watch. Most of these, of course, rebounded or glanced off, and were added to the pavement of the harbor; but even these often left ugly mementoes of their hasty visit; while the attentions of some were far more impressive. The Nahant carried off thirteen ugly bruises; one of them made by a shot which struck her pilot-house, knocking out several of its bolts, one of which wounded all three of the inmates — captain, pilot, and quartermaster — the last fatally. Four of her crew were injured by a similar injury to her turret. The Passaic had as many wounds-one of them from a shot which passed through the 11-inch plates of her turret, and then had force left seriously to damage her pilot-house beyond. The Nantucket had, among others, a knock on her turret which so deranged it that her port could not be opened thereafter. The Ironsides had one of her port shutters shot away; and the Catskill was struck by a bolt which tore through her deck-plating forward, and still had force to break an iron beam beneath it.

But the Keokuk, though not the strongest among them, had dared most and suffered most. She was struck 90 times, had both her turrets riddled, with 19 holes through her hull; some of them so large that a boy might have crawled through, while her commander and 11 of her crew were wounded, five of them severely. She was at length compelled to draw off, mortally injured, and, limping away down the coast of Morris island to Lighthouse inlet, she had barely been relieved of her wounded, when, at 8 P. M., she sunk — the last of her crew jumping into the sea as she went down, leaving only the top of her smoke-stack above the surface of the water. Three hours earlier, Com. Dupont, seeing half his vessels disabled, while Sumter, though somewhat damaged,43 was still vociferous and belligerent as ever — gave the signal for retiring; which was willingly, though not swiftly, obeyed.

The iron-clad attack on Fort Sumter and its adjuncts was a failure — not a disaster. We lost few men, and but one vessel; for all but the Keokuk were susceptible of easy repair; while the expenditure of ammunition was many times greatest on the side of the Rebels, and one that they could not afford so well as we could. It was computed that 3,500 shots were fired by them that day; the value of which was hardly to be measured by Confederate currency in its then advanced stage of decomposition. Two guns on Fort Sumter were disabled, and one was burst; while they had but few men injured and only one killed. But their exultation over our repulse was unbounded: Beauregard, for once, hardly going beyond the average sentiment in averring, in his general order, that “the happy issue” of this conflict had “inspired confidence in [472] the country that our ultimate success will be complete.”

Gen. Hunter had a supporting force of some 4,000 men, under Gen. Truman Seymour, carefully concealed behind a thicket of palms just below Lighthouse inlet, with pontoons, guns, &c., all ready to rush across to Morris island and attack the Rebel forces stationed thereon — either party screening its position and numbers by the usual picket-firing at the front. When it was made manifest that Dupont was worsted, Adjutant Halpine was sent with all haste to Seymour with orders to desist: so no useless slaughter on land intensified the bitterness of our failure on the water.

The Rebels say that a blockade-runner in the harbor during the fight ran out through our fleet during the ensuing night, unperceived or unsuspected; and it is certain that our gunboat George Washington, reconnoitering next day,44 up Broad river, having got aground, was attacked by a party of Rebels, who succeeded in throwing a shell into her magazine and blowing her up; killing 2 and wounding 8 of the 3d R. I. Artillery.

Dupont, like most old sailors, was naturally partial to fighting on deck, and not a lover of iron-clads. The issue of this struggle ripened his distrust into detestation. He had failed, with 1,000 men and 30 guns, to take, at the first effort, what was probably the best fortified seaport on earthly, defended by at least ten times his force in men and metal; and he utterly refused to repeat the experiment.

There were no movements thereafter in South Carolina under Hunter; save that Col. Montgomery, with 300 of his 2d S. C. (negroes) on two steamboats, went45 25 miles up the Combahee river, burnt a pontoon-bridge, with some private property, and brought away 727 very willing slaves — all that they could take, but not nearly all that wished to be taken. The 2d S. C. recruited two full companies out of “the spoils.”

The Fingal, a British-built blockade-runner, which had slipped46 into Savannah with a valuable cargo of arms, and been loaded with cotton for her return, found herself unable, especially after the fall of Pulaski, to slip out again; and, after many luckless attempts, was unloaded, and iron-clad into what was esteemed a high state of warlike efficiency--14 months having been devoted to the work. She was now christened the Atlanta, and, wafted from the wharves of Savannah by a breeze of prayers and good wishes, moved down the inlet known as Wilmington river into Warsaw sound, attended by two gunboats and intent on belligerency. Meantime, two poor Irishmen, tired of the Confederacy, had escaped to Hilton Head, and there revealed the character of the craft and the nature of her seaward errand. Hunter's Adjutant, Halpine, a brother Irishman, who had wormed out their secret, by the help of a fluid which seldom fails to unloose the Celtic tongue, at once sped the information to Dupont; who forthwith dispatched the Weehawken and the Nahant to Warsaw sound, wherein the Cimarone alone had been previously stationed. [473]

Capt. John Rodgers, in the Weehawken, had been several days in Warsaw sound ere the Atlanta made her appearance. At length, just after daylight,47 he espied her emerging from Wilmington river, with the Rebel flag defiantly exalted. Perceiving his approach, the Atlanta sent him a ball, then halted to await his coming. The Rebel tenders, it was said, had only come down to tow up the prizes, leaving the Atlanta at liberty to pursue her victorious career: their decks being crowded with ladies, who had voyaged from Savannah to enjoy the spectacle and exult over the victory.

But there was not much of a fight — certainly not a long one. Rodgers disdained to answer the Rebel's fire till lie had shortened the intervening distance to 300 yards; when, sighting his 15-inch gun, he struck and shivered the shutter of one of her port-holes, with the iron and wood-work adjacent. Loading and sighting again, he fired and struck her iron pilot-house; carrying it away bodily, and severely wounding two of her three pilots. His next shot grazed the wreck of what had been the pilot-house; his fifth, fired at 100 yards' distance, smashed through her side, bending in her four inches of iron armor, shivering eight inches of plank, killing one and wounding 13 of her gunners; passing through and falling into the water. Hereupon, the Rebel flag came down and a white one went up; just 26 minutes after Rodgers first descried his antagonist; and 15 after she had opened the battle. Her consorts slunk away unharmed; their passengers returning to advise their fellow-citizens that raising the siege of Charleston was not so easy a task as they had fondly supposed it. The Atlanta, it now appeared, had grounded, broadside to, just as she began the fight, but had nevertheless fired briskly and harmlessly to the end of it. She had 4 large guns and 165 men.

Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore having relieved Gen. Hunter,48 as Corn. Dahlgren soon after relieved49 Com. Dupont, movements were at once set on foot looking to systematic operations against Fort Sumter and Charleston. To a comprehension of these movements, a preliminary glance at the situation seems necessary.

Gen. Gillmore found in the Department of the South a total force of 17,463 officers and soldiers — the most of them veterans of approved quality, in good part brought thither by Foster. Considering the naval cooperation that might at all times be counted on, his real force must, for all purposes except that of a determined advance into the heart of the enemy's territory, have been fully equal to 20,000 men. For defense, against any but a sudden attack or surprise, it was hardly less than 25,000. But he had so many posts to hold in a hostile region, and such an extensive line (250 miles) to picket, that 11,000 was the very utmost that he could venture to concentrate for any offensive purpose that might not be consummated within a few days at farthest. And he had, apart from the navy, 96 heavy guns (all serviceable but 12 13-inch mortars, which proved too large, and were left unused), with an abundance of munitions, engineering tools, &c. [474]

He found our forces in quiet possession of nearly or quite all the Sea islands west of the Stono, with Seabrook and Folly islands, east of that inlet. Our pickets still — as on the day of Dupont's attack — confronted those of the enemy across Lighthouse inlet, which separates these from Morris island.

Gillmore's plan of operations — carefully matured before he entered upon his command — contemplated a descent by surprise on the south end of Morris island — well known to be strongly fortified and held-which, being taken, was to be firmly held as a base for operations against Fort Wagner, a strong and heavily armed earthwork at the north end of that island, 2,600 yards from Fort Sumter, held by a strong garrison under Col. Lawrence M. Keitt. This carried, the less formidable earthwork at Cumming's Point, on the extreme north, must fall, enabling us to plant batteries within a mile of Sumter, and within extreme shelling distance of Charleston itself. Thus, even prior to the reduction of Sumter, it was calculated that our iron-clads might pass that fortress, remove the channel obstructions, run the batteries on James and Sullivan's islands, and go up to the city. To distract the enemy's attention and prevent a concentration of forces from a distance to resist our establishment on Morris island — which Gillmore regarded as the most critical point in his programme--Gen. A. H. Terry was sent up the Stono to make a demonstration on James island; while Col. Higginson, steaming up the Edisto, was to make a fresh attempt to cut the railroad, so as to prevent the reception of reenforcements from Savannah.

Save as a distraction of the enemy, this latter movement proved a failure. Col. Higginson, with 300 men and 3 guns, on the gunboat John Adams and two transports, pushed50 up the Edisto, making an opening through a row of piles at Wiltown, to within two miles of the railroad bridge; but he was so long detained here as to lose the tide; so that the two transports, going farther up, repeatedly grounded, and found the bridge defended by a 6-gun battery, whereby Higginson was worsted and beaten off; being compelled to burn the tug Gov. Milton, as she could not be floated. lie balanced the account by bringing off 200 negroes.

Terry's movement was successful, not only in calling off the enemy's attention from the real point of danger, but in drawing away a portion of their forces from Morris island, where they were needed, to James island, where they were not.

Folly island — a long, narrow beach or sand-spit, skirting the Atlantic ocean south of the entrance to Charleston inner harbor — is, like most of the adjacent islands, barely elevated above the sea-level, and in part flooded by the highest tides. Though naked for half a mile toward the north end, it is, for the most part, densely wooded; and ridges of sand, covered by a thick screen of forest and underbrush along Light-house inlet, effectually shield it from observation from Morris island. Here Saxton found Gen. Vogdes firmly posted, alert and vigilant, and gradually, circumspectly strengthened him without attracting hostile observation [475] till he had 47 guns in battery within speaking distance of the Rebel pickets, with 200 rounds of ammunition and all necessary appliances for each — the Rebel batteries right in his front being intent on destroying a blockade-runner which had been chased aground by our cruisers just south of the entrance to Lighthouse inlet. Meantime, Gen.Terry's division, 4,000 strong, and Gen. Strong's brigade of 2,500, were quietly transferred to Folly island, under the cover of darkness, and kept out of sight, while Vogdes made a great parade of strengthening his defenses as though he apprehended an attack.

At length, all being ready, Gen. Terry, with 3,800 men, was conveyed51 up the Stono, and menaced the Rebel works on the south end of James island; while 2,000 men, under Gen. Strong, were silently embarked52 on small boats in Folly river, and rowed stealthily to the junction of Lighthouse inlet; where they were halted, behind a screen of marsh-grass, while Vogdes's batteries on the north end of Folly island broke, at daylight,53 the slumbers of the unsuspecting foe. Dahlgren's iron-clads, Catskill, Montauk, Nahant, and Weehawken, forthwith opened a cross-fire, which they maintained throughout the day; addressing their civilities for the most part to the tranquilizing of Fort Wagner.

After two hours cannonade, Gen. Strong threw his men ashore, disregarding a hot fire of Rebel artillery and musketry, and, by 9 A. M., we had carried all the enemy's batteries on the south end of Morris island, and held three-fourths of that island firmly, with our skirmishers pushed up to within musket-shot of Fort Wagner. The intense heat and the exhaustion of our soldiers, who had been under arms all night, here arrested operations for the day. Eleven heavy guns, with much camp equipage, were the main trophies of our success.

Next morning, at 5, Gen. Strong led his men to an assault on Fort Wagner, whereof they reached the parapet; but were here met by so withering a fire that they recoiled, with but moderate loss. Thus far, our casualties on this island were 150; those of the Rebels were officially reported by Beauregard at 300.

Convinced by this failure that the fortress was very much stronger than it had been supposed, and could only be taken by regular approaches, Gillmore now sat down before it, in full view of the fact that the enemy could concentrate here at any time a force far larger than that which assailed them. But the narrowness of the island, while it constrained the besiegers to work directly and constantly under the fire of the fort, precluded flanking sallies, and rendered an accumulation here of force by the enemy of little practical account. And, beside, every offensive movement on their part must be made under the enfilading fire of our gun-boats; which constantly aided to shield our working parties from a fusillade that, destructive at best, would else have been insupportable.

General Terry, on James island, was attacked at daybreak54 by a more numerous Rebel force of Georgians, just arrived from Virginia, who, expecting to surprise him, advanced rapidly, driving in the 54th [476] Mass., then on picket duty; but they found Terry wide awake and ready, with the gunboats Pawnee, Huron, Marblehead, John Adams, and Mayflower at hand; by whose aid they were easily driven off, with a loss of some 200. Ours was 100. Terry proceeded to Morris island forthwith, to share in the meditated grand assault on Fort Wagner.

The preliminary bombardment was to have opened at daylight;55 but a terrible storm had so delayed our preparations and dampened our powder that it did not actually commence till 12 1/2 P. M. From that time till dark, the rain of fire from our semicircle of batteries, ranged across the island at the distance of a mile, while our iron-clads, moving up to within a few hundred yards, poured in their heaviest missiles, regardless of the fire of the fort and that of Sumter. Wagner, in fact, kept but two great guns at work; her men lying close in their bomb-proofs, till, their flag being shot away, a dozen or so instantly swarmed out to replace it; when they as quickly disappeared. On our side, fully a hundred great guns steadily thundered; the shells of our monitors often throwing up clouds of sand which must have nearly choked the entrance to the garrison's bomb-proof; tearing the fort out of all regularity of outline, all appearance of structure or symmetry. By many on our side, it was fondly counted that her bomb-proof must have been pierced and riddled, her garrison shattered and routed, by that tremendous bombardment.

Events proved how sadly mistaken were all such sanguine calculations. The garrison had lain all day in their bomb-proof substantially unharmed: returning, for appearance's sake, perhaps one shot for every five hundred hurled at them, but reserving their strength and their iron for the sterner ordeal which they felt to be at hand.

As the day declined, the roar of our great guns, no longer incessant, was renewed at longer and longer intervals, and finally ceased; our iron-clads, save the Montauk, returning to their anchorage; while a thunderstorm burst over land and sea; sharp flashes of lightning intermitting and intensifying the fast coming darkness, as our leaders, galloping hither and thither, perfected their dispositions for the pending assault.

Our men were formed in three brigades: the first, led by Gen. Strong, consisting of the 54th Massachusetts (colored), Col. Robert G. Shaw, the 6th Connecticut, Col. (Chat-field, the 48th New York, Col. Barton, the 3d New Hampshire, Col. Jackson, the 76th Pennsylvania, Col. Strawbridge, and the 9th Maine, Col. Emery: the 54th Mass. having been assigned to this brigade at the request of its young Colonel, between whom and Gen. Strong a warm attachment had sprung up during their brief acquaintance, formed and ripened in the field. Shaw's was the first colored regiment organized in a Free State; and it shared his anxiety to prove that it was not in vain that Blacks as well as Whites had been summoned to battle for their country and the Freedom of Man. In order to be here in season, it had been for two days marching through heavy sands and working its way across creeks and inlets, unsheltered through the pelting rains of the intervening [477] nights: only reaching at 6 p. M. Gen. Strong's headquarters, about midway of the island, where it was halted five minutes; but there was now no time for rest or food, and it went forward, hungry and weary, to take its place in the front line of the assaulting column. That column, advancing a few hundred yards under a random fire from two or three great guns, halted half an hour, during which the 54th was addressed by Gen. Strong and by its Colonel; and then — as the dusk was deepening rapidly into darkness — the order to advance was given, and, under a storm of shot and shell from Wagner, Sumter, and Cumming's Point, our soldiers moved swiftly on.

The distance traversed at double quick was perhaps half a mile; but not many had fallen until the pierced but unshaken column had almost reached the ditch and were within short musket-range of the fort, when a sheet of fire from small arms lighted up the enshrouding darkness, while howitzers in the bastions raked the ditch as our men swept across it, and hand-grenades from the parapet tore them as they climbed the seamed and ragged face of the fort and planted their colors for a moment on the top. Here fell Col. Shaw, struck dead; here, or just in front, fell Gen. Strong, mortally wounded, with Col. Chatfield and many noble officers beside; while Cols. Barton, Green, and Jackson, were severely wounded. The remnant of the brigade recoiled under the command of Maj. Plympton, 3d N. H.; while all that was left of the 54th Mass. was led off by a boy, Lt. Higginson.

The first brigade being thus demolished, the second went forward, led by Col. H. S. Putnam, 7th New Hampshire, whose regiment, with the 62d Ohio, Col. Steele, the 67th ditto, Col. Voorhees, and the 100th N. York, Col. Dandy, was now required to attempt what a stronger brigade had proved impossible.

There was no shrinking, however, until, after half an hour's bloody combat before and upon the fort--Col. Putnam having been killed, and a large portion of his subordinates either killed or wounded — no supports arriving, the remains of the brigade, like the first, fell back into the friendly darkness, and made their way, as they best could, to our lines, as the Rebel yell of triumph from Wagner rose above the thunder of their guns from Sumter and Cumming's Point.

In this fearful assault, we lost fully 1,500 men; while the Rebel killed and wounded did not much exceed 100. There were few or no prisoners taken, save our severely wounded: and the Rebels say they buried 600 of our dead. Among these was Col. Shaw--a hereditary Abolitionist — on whom they vainly thought to heap indignity by “burying him in the same pit with his niggers.” His relatives and friends gratefully accepted the fitting tribute; and when in due time a shaft shall rise from the free soil of redeemed Carolina above that honored grave, it will perpetuate, alike for leader and for led, the memory of their devotion to the holy cause whereto they offered up their lives a willing sacrifice.

Fort Wagner being thus proved, at a heavy cost, impregnable to assault — Gillmore — at once General commanding and Engineer-in-Chief--resumed the work of its reduction [478] by regular approaches. Among the difficulties to be confronted was the narrowness of the neck of dry land along which those approaches must be carried: the fort covering the entire width of the island where it stood; whereas, at the point where we commenced to run our parallels, it is but a third, and at a point still nearer the fort, is but a tenth so wide. The faces of the fort were mutually defensive, and it was provided with a sluice-gate for retaining in its ditch the water admitted at the highest tides. The problem was complicated by the cross-fire from Sumter, Cumming's Point, and several heavy batteries on James island. Its garrison could at all times be readily supplied and reenforced from Charleston; while the besiegers were embarrassed, and their operations retarded, by the knowledge that they might at any moment be assailed without notice by a force of twice or thrice their strength, suddenly concentrated by railroad from the Rebel armies in any part of the Confederacy.

Within five days after the bloody repulse of the 18th, a row of inclined palisading had been stretched across the island, some 200 yards in advance of our front, with every added precaution against a sortie that experience suggested, a bomb-proof magazine constructed, and a first parallel opened, with 8 siege and field-guns and 10 siege mortars in position, beside three ‘Requa batteries’ of rifle-barrels, designed mainly for defensive service if needed. And now56 a second parallel was opened, 600 yards in advance of the first, in which heavy breaching batteries were established so soon as might be: their guns being trained partly upon Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg behind it, and partly upon Fort Sumter: fire being opened on the latter, at a distance of two miles, from two 8-inch and five 100-pounder rifled Parrotts. Meantime, a breaching battery of two 200-pounder rifled Parrotts and two 80-pounder Whitworths, likewise intended for Fort Sumter, had been established by Col. Serrell in the first parallel, which was manned by Admiral Dahlgren from the navy, under Captain Foxhall A. Parker; and which, in one week57 of service, made a decided change in the physiognomy of that obstinate structure. Com'r Geo. W. Rodgers, of the Catskill, was killed. Still other breaching batteries were simultaneously established on the left, 800 yards farther from Sumter, which participated in the bombardment of that fort, and contributed to its measurable success.

All these extensive and difficult works were of course pushed forward mainly under the cover of darkness, which did not cause an intermission of the enemy's fire, but materially interfered with the accuracy of his aim. The advancing over deep sand and mounting, under fire, of the great guns employed in these operations, was a most arduous labor, taxing the strength as well as patience and courage of all engaged.

Gen. Gillmore had long since58 resolved to establish a battery in the marsh westward of Morris island, at a point whence lie believed it practicable to reach the wharves and shipping of Charleston, and had directed Col. Serrell to make the requisite examinations. [479] The marsh here was a bed of soft, black mud, 16 to 18 feet deep, overgrown with reeds and grass, traversed by tortuous, sluggish water-courses, and overflowed at high tide. here, at a point midway between Morris and James islands, fully five miles from the lower end of Charleston, on a capacious and substantial platform of logs, placed directly on the surface of the marsh, but strengthened, beneath its gun platform, by piles, driven through the mud into the solid sand below — the rectangular space inclosed by them being filled in with sand — was established the “Marsh battery;” mounting a single 8-inch rifled Parrott, named by the soldiers “ the Swamp Angel.” Protected by a sand-bag parapet and epaulement, it was soon made ready to transmit the compliments of the besiegers to the heart of the Rebellion.

When all was ready, fire was opened59 with shot and shell, from twelve batteries of heavy guns, on Sumter, Wagner, and the Cumming's Point batteries, but mainly on Sumter — the breaching guns being served with great care and deliberation — the distance of our batteries from Sumter varying from 3,428 to 4,290 yards, or from two to two and a half miles. Those in the second parallel were exposed to a galling fire from Wagner, which, though somewhat impeded by a cross-fire from our iron-clads, at times caused a partial suspension of our bombardment; while a heavy north-easter, raging on two days,60 seriously affected the accuracy of our fire at distant Sumter; which the Rebels were constantly strengthening by sand-bags so fast as it was demolished by our shot. Yet Gillmore ceased firing on the 23d, because he considered, and reported to Halleck, that Fort Sumter, as an offensive work, was now practically demolished: its barbette guns being mainly dismounted; its stately and solid walls reduced to a heap of unsightly ruins, whence most of the guns were gradually withdrawn by night, because no longer capable of effective service upon or within its walls; and its garrison of artillerists exchanged for one mainly of infantry, who were tolerably safe in the bomb-proofs covered by its sheltering ruins, but capable neither of impeding our approaches to Wagner nor offering formidable resistance to our iron-clads.

Gillmore now expected the iron-clads to force their way into the inner harbor and up to the city, which he deemed no longer defensible against our naval force; but Dahlgren did not concur in this opinion of the feasibility of such an enterprise, and it was not attempted.

Gillmore, having completed61 his arrangements for opening fire from “the Swamp Angel,” summoned Beauregard to abandon Morris island and Sumter, on penalty of the bombardment of Charleston. Receiving no reply, he fired a few shots from that battery, and desisted. Beauregard thereupon complained that no reasonable notice was given of this opening on an inhabited city; adding that he was absent from his post when Gillmore's message was received there. Gillmore could not see how he was blamable for this absence, and insisted that he had done nothing contrary to the laws of war. [480]

The high tides raised by the storm aforesaid partially filled our works, washing down parapets and impeding our operations as well as destroying our approaches; yet a fourth parallel was soon established,62 barely 300 yards from Wagner, and only 100 from a sheltering ridge in its front, from behind which Rebel sharp-shooters had seriously impeded our working parties and defied efforts to expel them by infantry, as they afterward did63 to dislodge them by mortar-firing. But Gen. Terry was now directed to take it with the bayonet, and did so: whereupon our fifth parallel was established behind it, only 240 yards from Wagner. Here, the dry part of the island is but 25 yards wide and barely two feet high: high tides sweeping across in rough weather to the marsh behind it. Henceforward, the ground was filled with torpedo mines; in spite of which, a rude trench had been pushed forward, by daybreak of the 27th, to within 100 yards of the fort.

Yet here the progress of the besiegers was checked. The fire of Wagner, concentring from its extended front on this narrow sand-spit at close range, was necessarily most effective; that of the James island batteries was steadily increasing in volume and accuracy; to push the sap by day was death to all engaged in it; while a bright harvest-moon rendered it all but equally hazardous by night. It became necessary to silence the fort utterly by an over-powering curved fire from siege and Coehorn mortars, at the same time attempting to breach the bomb-proof by a fire of rifled guns at close range; thus expelling the garrison from its only available shelter. To this end, all the light mortars were brought to the front, and placed in battery; the capacity of tie fifth parallel and advanced trenches for sharp-shooters was greatly enlarged and improved; the rifled guns in the left breaching batteries were trained upon the fort; and powerful calcium lights prepared to assist the operations of our cannoniers and sharp-shooters, while blinding those of the enemy. The New Ironsides, Capt. Rowan, also moved up and set to work, during the day-light, on the obstinate fortress. All being ready, our batteries reopened64 in full chorus: the New Ironsides pouring in an eight-gun broadside of 11-inch shells against the parapet, whence they dropped nearly vertically, exploding within or over the fort; while calcium lights turned night into day, blinding the garrison, and rendering visible to the besiegers every thing connected with the fort. This proved too much for the besieged, who were compelled to seek and abide in the shelter of their bomb-proof, leaving our sappers free to push forward their work until they were so close to the fort that the fire of the James island batteries, which had become their chief annoyance, could only be rendered effective at the peril of friends and foes alike. And now the sap was pushed with vigor, and in entire disregard of the enemy: the workers off duty mounting the parapets of their works to take a survey of the ground; until, a little after dark,65 the sap was pushed by the south face of the fort, leaving it on their left, crowning the crest of the counterscarp near the flank of the east or sea front, completely [481] masking all the guns in the work, save those on this flank, and removing a row of long pikes which had been planted at the foot of the counterscarp as an impediment to assault.

Gen. Gillmore directed Gen. Terry to assault in three columns at 9 A. M.;66 that being the hour of ebb tide, which gave the broadest beach whereon to advance the assaulting columns; but, by midnight, it was discovered that the garrison were escaping; and with such celerity did they move that we took but 70 prisoners. They left 18 guns in Wagner and 7 in Battery Gregg.

Though 122,300 pounds of metal had been hurled at it at short range from breaching guns-none of them less than a 100-pounder — within the last two days, the bomb-proof of the former was found substantially intact, and capable of sheltering 1,500 men. Sand was fully proved to possess a power of protracted resistance to the power of heavy ordnance far surpassing that of brick or stone.

During the night of the 8th, a flotilla of 25 to 30 row-boats, from Admiral Dahlgren's fleet, led by Com'r Stephens of the Patapsco, attempted to carry Fort Sumter by assault, whereof no notice was given to, and of course no cooperation invited from, Gen. Gillmore. The boats, having been towed nearly to the fort, were cast off and made their way to the ragged walls of the old, inveterate obstacle to our progress, whereon the crews of three of them, led by Com'r Williams, Lt Remey, and Ensign Porter, debarked, and attempted to clamber up the ruins to the parapet; but found the slope far steeper and its ascent more difficult than they appeared when viewed from a distance through a field-glass. The garrison, under Maj. S. Elliot, proved exceedingly wide awake, and at once commenced firing and throwing hand-grenades; while, at a signal given by them, the Rebel batteries on every side but the offing opened a terrific fire, whereby our three boats were soon torn to pieces, and those they had borne to the fort — some 200 in number — either killed, wounded, or compelled to surrender. The killed and wounded were about 80; while 121 were taken prisoners. The residue of the expedition drew off unhurt. No life was lost on the side of the defense.

Gen. Gillmore's “Swamp Angel” had rather alarmed than injured the Charlestonians — no person having been harmed by its fire, though several shells had reached and exploded in the lower part of their city, and one had entered a warehouse, and exploding there, done considerable damage to its walls and contents. The “Swamp Angel,” being fired at a considerable elevation, with a charge of 16 pounds of powder, impelling a projectile weighing 150 pounds, burst at its 36th discharge. But now Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg were transformed and strengthened, while other works were erected on that end of the island, armed with mortars and heavy rifled guns, a full mile nearer to Charleston than the “Marsh battery,” and of course far more effective for the bombardment of that city, a full half of which was henceforth under fire, and [482] was, after some casualties, abandoned by most of its inhabitants, who either moved farther up, or left altogether: while many of the buildings, including some of the most substantial and costly edifices, suffered severely. Blockade-running — which had long been a source of activity, importance, and profit to “the cradle of Secession,” in spite of all the gunboats, iron-clads, &c., that could lie off her bar, reenforced by the “stone fleet” --succumbed to and was broken up by the terrible missiles of Gillmore, though sped by guns mounted fully four miles from her wharves.

Meantime, Sumter, though still a volcano, was a volcano asleep — her guns mainly dismantled, her garrison hidden in her inmost recesses. At length, upon advices that the enemy was remounting some guns on her south-east face, Gillmore reopened67 on that face from his heavy rifled guns in Wagner and Gregg, crumbling it speedily into ruins, which sloped from the summit of the breach to the level of the surrounding water. Thereafter, a slow and irregular fire from Cumming's Point was maintained for weeks, or till nearly the close of the year; when, all prospect of a penetration of the harbor by the iron-clads being over, and no object seeming to justify a continuance of the fire, it was suspended, or thence-forth mainly directed against Charleston alone.

A luckless attempt68 to blow up by a torpedo boat the new Ironsides, as she lay off Morris island, and the foundering69 of the Weehawken, carrying down 30 of her crew, while at anchor in the outer harbor during a gale-owing to her hatches having been inconsiderately left open-complete the record of notable events in this department for the year 1863.

In North Carolina, little of moment occurred in 1863. Gen. D. H. Hill attempted to retake Newbern on the first anniversary70 of its recovery to the Union: attacking, with 20 guns, an unfinished earthwork north of the Neuse: but that work was firmly held by the 92d New York until reenforced; when its assailants drew off with little loss.

Hill next demonstrated71 against Washington, N. C.: erecting batteries at Rodman's and Hill's Points, below the town, which commanded the navigation of Pamlico river and isolated the place. But Gen. Foster had meantime arrived: finding a garrison of 1,200 men, with two gun-boats and an armed transport under Com'r R. Renshaw; while the defenses were well placed and in good condition. Hill had here his corps, estimated by Poster at 20,000 strong, with 50 guns. But he paused three days before assaulting; which precious time was well improved by the garrison in strengthening and perfecting their works-Foster peremptorily refusing to allow any espionage of his doings under the pretense of summoning him to surrender. Those days being ended, it was understood on our side that an order to assault was given, but not obeyed — our works being deemed too strong to justify the risk. Hill now commenced a siege in due forum; mounting guns on the several ridges commanding the town, with one on Rodman's Point, across the river; our small force posted there being easily [483] expelled. As this position enabled the enemy to shell the town and our vessels lying before it, Foster attempted to recover it by an assault, but failed; and a second attempt, aided by the gunboat Ceres, which had just come up, running the Rebel batteries, was defeated by the untimely grounding of that vessel.

Hill, having opened upon our works with 14 heavy guns, Fort Washington replied; and a mutual bombardment for 12 days was only interrupted by the failure of our ammunition.

Meantime, a small fleet of gun-boats had arrived below the Rebel batteries commanding the river, with a relieving force of 3,000 men on transports, under Brig.-Gen. Henry Prince, whom Foster ordered to land and take the Hill's Point battery, so as to allow the boats to come up. Prince decided this impracticable, and refused to attempt it.

Foster was now obliged to supply his batteries with ammunition by means of sail and row-boats, which stole up the river under the cover of darkness; evading Hill's guard-boats, which were on the lookout to intercept them. Thus, lie generally received enough during each night to serve his batteries for the ensuing day.

At length, the steamboat Escort, Capt. Hall, having on board the 5th Rhode Island, with a supply of ammunition, ran the blockade by night,72 and arrived safely at the wharf, giving matters a very different aspect; so Foster returned in her by daylight73 to Newbern; she receiving, on her way down the river, 47 shots, which killed her pilot and killed or wounded 7 of her crew; but her machinery was so shielded by pressed hay-bales that the gunboat was not disabled.

And now, putting himself at the head of 7,000 men who, under Gen. J. N. Palmer, had been quietly awaiting at Newbern the issue of the siege, Foster started74 by land to fight his way back; gathering up Prince's 3,000 men by the way, and occupying, next day, Hill's Point battery, which the enemy abandoned on his approach. Pushing on, he found Hill in full retreat, and was unable to bring him to a stand. Of course, the presumption is strong that Hill's force had been over-estimated by Foster at 20,000.

An expedition composed of three Mass. regiments. under Col. J. R. Jones, was soon dispatched75 to capture a Rebel outpost at Gum Swamp, 8 miles from Kinston; and was partially successful, taking 165 prisoners; but the enemy attacked our outpost in return, killing Col. Jones and inflicting some other loss, though finally repulsed.

A cavalry raid, supported by infantry, to Warsaw,76 on the Weldon and Wilmington Railroad, and another, soon afterward, to the Rocky Mount station, proved successful: the railroad being broken in either instance, and considerable property destroyed; Tarborough being captured, and several steamers burned there, during the latter.

Gen. Foster was soon ordered77 to Fortress Monroe--his command being enlarged to embrace that section of Virginia — but no important movement occurred till he was relieved78 by Gen. Butler, and ordered to succeed Gen. Burnside in East Tennessee.

1 See Vol I., p. 605.

2 Nov 29, 1861.

3 Del. 1.

4 In Dec.

5 Jan. 14, 1862.

6 Jan. 28.

7 Feb. 10-11.

8 Feb. 21.

9 March 31.

10 April 9.

11 April 10.

12 April 11.

13 Jan. 23, 1862.

14 Feb. 28.

15 March 9.

16 March 13.

17 March 12.

18 May 9-10.

19 Sept. 13.

20 Sept. 30.

21 March 6, 1863.

22 March 10.

23 March 3, 1862.

24 March 27.

25 Feb. 11.

26 May 20.

27 June 2.

28 June 16.

29 Killed, a few weeks later, at Chantilly.

30 Oct. 21-2.

31 Oct. 23.

32 Feb. 27, 1863.

33 March 3.

34 The Savannah Republican, March 12, says:

Considerable havoc was made in the sandbanks in the fort; and the quarters of the men were almost entirely demolished. * * * Inside the fort, and to the rear of it for half a mile, the earth was dug up into immense pits and gullies by the enemy's shell and shot.

[It sees a Providence in the saving of Confederate life.]

35 Jan. 30, 1863.

36 June 7.


Headquarters land and naval forces, Charleston, S. C., Jan. 31.
At about 5 o'clock this morning, the Confederate States naval force on this station attacked the United States blockading fleet off the harbor of the city of Charleston, and sunk, dispersed, or drove off and out of sight for the time, the entire hostile fleet.

Therefore, we, the undersigned, commanders respectively of the Confederate States naval and land forces in this quarter, do hereby formally declare the blockade by the United States of the said city of Charleston, South Carolina, to be raised by a superior force of the Confederate States from and after this 31st day of January, A. D. 1863.

38 Feb. 2.

39 April 3.

40 April 5.

41 April 6.

42 Mr. William Swinton, correspondent of The New York Times.

43 “Half a dozen pock=marks show conspicuous; while a huge crater is formed in the parapet near the eastern angle,” reports Mr. Swinton aforesaid.

44 April 8.

45 June 2.

46 Nov. 12, 1861.

47 June 17, 1863.

48 June 12.

49 July 6.

50 July 10.

51 July 8 P. M.

52 Evening of July 9.

53 July 10.

54 July 16.

55 July 18.

56 July 23.

57 Aug. 17-23.

58 July 15.

59 Aug. 17.

60 Aug. 18-19.

61 Aug. 21

62 Night of Aug. 21.

63 Aug. 26.

64 Sept. 5, at daybreak.

65 Sept. 6.

66 Sept. 7.

67 Oct. 26.

68 Oct. 5.

69 Dec. 6.

70 March 14.

71 March 30.

72 April 12.

73 April 14.

74 April 17.

75 May 21.

76 July 3.

77 July 13.

78 Oct. 28.

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