previous next

Doc. 8-the iron-clads at Charleston.

Report of rear-admiral Dahlgren.

flag-steamer Philadelphia, off Morris Island, January 28, 1864.
Sir: Conformably to the wishes of the department, I submit the following review of the services of the monitors while under my command; and as some knowledge of the circumstances under which they have been tested may afford a better appreciation of their qualities, I shall briefly narrate some of the leading events in which they have participated during the operations at this place.

On the sixth July Rear-Admiral Dupont delivered to me the command of the naval forces occupying the coast of South Carolina, Georgia, and part of Florida. They embraced seventy (70) vessels of all classes, and were distributed at various points along an extent of more than three hundred miles. There was no concentration, the purpose being rather to distribute the vessels in order to enforce an efficient blockade.

Of the iron-clads, the Ironsides was off Charleston bar, two monitors were at Edisto, one at Stono, three at Port Royal, and one at Ossabaw.

The orders of the department (June twenty-four, 1863) only directed me to assume the command; they went no further, nor was there need that they should. There was an enemy in front, and it was my duty to compel him to obedience, so far as my means permitted. On the day that I arrived, an interview occurred with General Gillmore, in which the details for a descent on Morris Island were arranged to commence on the Wednesday following, but which were postponed first to Thursday, and then to Friday, in order to allow General Gillmore to perfect his arrangements.

In the absence of specific instructions, I was obliged to assume the responsibility of action, which the department was advised of.

The naval part of the operations consisted of,--

1. In assembling the iron-clads at the Charleston bar, so as to cross at early daylight on the day named, to cover the attack of the troops, to prevent the arrival of reenforcements during that attack, and to engage the rebel batteries, particularly Fort Wagner.

2. To furnish a convoy for the column that was to ascend to Stono, cover its landing, and shell James's Island.

3. To guard the depots of the army at Hilton Head and at Seabrook during the withdrawal of the troops concentrated on Folly Island. I should here state that Mr. Ericsson had decided to increase the thicknesses of the pilot-houses of all the monitors, and add heavy circles of metal to the bases of the turrets and pilot-houses.

The three at Port Royal were already in hand for this purpose, and some progress had been made. A part of my preparation consisted in putting a stop to the work, and having the vessels fitted temporarily for service.

This was effected in season, and before daylight of the ninth of July the monitors were off the bar, ready to pass in at the first sign of movement by the United States batteries on Folly Island.

The plan was to open from the masked batteries on the north end of Folly Island, cross the bar with the monitors, and enfilade the rebel position on the eminences of Morris Island, while the troops were to cross the narrow inlet which divides Morris Island from Folly Island when the proper moment arrived.

The obscurity of the night still rested on land and sea when I went on board the Catskill, (July tenth,) and not a symptom of preparation on shore was visible to us.

It was important that the monitors should not by their appearance give any intimation of what was meditated by being seen on the bar until the details ashore were completed; so I waited the first fire of the batteries. This was not long coming, and I led with my flag in the Catskill, followed by Captains Fairfax, Downes, and Colhoun, in the Montauk, Nahant, and Weehawken. Steering for the wreck of the Keokuk, and passing it, the monitors were laid in line about parallel to the land, opposite the southern eminences of Morris Island, and poured in a steady fire among the rebel garrison, who were there posted, making a feeble and ineffectual return to the storm of shot and shell that came upon their front and flank. I could see plainly the great confusion into which they were thrown by this sudden and overwhelming onslaught. It was a complete surprise, both as to time and to power developed.

The monitors were run in as close as the shoal waters permitted, so that the shells from our own batteries on Folly Island passed close ahead of and at times over some of them.

About eight o'clock a body of men were seen coming over the low sand beach of Morris Island, and while hesitating whether to treat them to some [184] volleys of grape, the sight of the Union flag1 told who they were. They composed the brigade which had been brought from the Folly River by the boats of the squadron, under Lieutenant-Commander Bunce and Lieutenant Mackenzie.

I paused for a moment to observe the gradual accumulation of our men in masses, and their advancing movement; then pushed forward to accelerate with our enfilading fire the retreat of the rebels.

The sight was now of great interest. Our own troops could be seen taking possession of the sand hills where the enemy had rested the sole defence of this end of the island, while some battalions were moving along the beach. The defeated rebels were hurriedly making way along the low, flat land north of their position, and some two or three detached dwellings were in flames, while the monitors skirting the shore maintained a steady fire on the retreat. Presently they reached Fort Wagner; and here we were advised that our advance was checked, at least for the day, though it was but nine o'clock. The discomfited rebels were safe in the work, and our own men halted at a reasonable distance from it.

The monitor with my flag was now anchored as near the beach as the depth of water permitted, (twelve hundred yards,) and the other monitors in line to the southward. A steady fire was begun about half past 9,--the fort replying briskly,--and maintained through the day, except the dinner hour, until six in the evening; then I retired and anchored lower down.

Next morning before six o'clock the Flag-Lieutenant reported to me that an assault had been made at daybreak by our troops and failed, and about nine o'clock I had a note in pencil from the General, saying, “We attempted to carry Fort Wagner by assault this morning, and reached the parapet; but the men recoiled and fell back with slight loss.”

It is known now that reenforcements had been hurried to the island by the rebels, and had entered the work about midnight.

I had no notice whatever of the General's intent, and could, therefore, render no aid in time.

Here ended the first part of the enterprise against Morris Island. It had been in all respects a surprise, and so complete that the rebels do not seem to have had any idea of it until the day before; and it is not certain they were then aware of the scale on which it was to be conducted.

Had a work like Wagner crowned the sand hills of the south end, we could not have established our position on the island — even a surprise would probably have been out of the question. But there were to be no more surprises — the undertaking was to be completed only by hard work patiently endured in the trenches, and by batteries ashore and afloat.

The General now decided to make a second assault in force, and to cover it by some light batteries established at distances varying from one thousand to seventeen hundred yards.

While the preparations for this design were going on, the monitors were daily at work to occupy the attention of Wagner and keep down its fire — the gunboats assisting at long range.

On the eighteenth July, all being ready, about noon I led up in the Montauk, followed by four monitors and the Ironsides, anchored at twelve hundred yards, as near as the state of the tide would permit, and opened fire — the gunboats firing at a greater distance, and the shore batteries also in action.

As the tide rose the Montauk gradually closed in, until at seven o'clock she was about three hundred yards from Wagner, when I ordered grape to be used. Unable to endure the fire of the vessels, the guns of the fort were now silent, and not a man was to be seen.

About sunset a note in pencil from General Gillmore announced his intention to assault; but it was quite dark before the column reached the work. The fire of the vessels was continued so long as it was safe for our own men ashore, but ceased when the darkness made it impossible to distinguish friend from foe. The rattle of musketry soon made known the commencement of the assault, and continued with little intermission until half past 9, when it ceased; and then came the painful tidings of our defeat.

This was the end of the second part of the operation, and proved that the work was too strong and too pertinaciously defended to be taken by any off-hand blow. The slow and laborious operation by trench and cannon only was capable of reducing it.

And here I may remark, that in this necessity is to be found a principal cause for the delay in reaching Charleston that subsequently ensued. It was, no doubt, unavoidable, for it is to be presumed that no more troops could then be spared from the main armies. If there had been sufficient to make such an assault as would have overpowered all opposition, Wagner might have been carried at the first assault, Gregg would have yielded immediately, Sumter would soon have followed as a matter of course, and the ironclads, untouched by severe and continued battering, would have been in condition to come quickly in contact with the then imperfect interior defences.

The rebel movements clearly indicate that they admitted the impracticability of defending Morris Island, and consequently Sumter, after our position on it was fully established and covered by the iron-clads. They only sought to hold the island long enough to replace Sumter by an interior position; hence, every day of defence by Wagner was vital to that of Charleston.

This policy was successful for two months, (tenth July to seventh September,) and gave time to convert Fort Johnson from a forlorn old fort into a powerful earthwork — improved by the experiences of Wagner. Moultrie received similar advantages, and most of the cannon of Sumter were divided between Johnson and Moultrie. Batteries were established along the south shore of the channel from Johnson towards the city; [185] and thus an interior defence was completed which, though it separated more widely the salient and principal works of the defence, by substituting Johnson for Sumter, yet rendered access to the upper harbor far more difficult, because a more powerful fire was concentrated from additional batteries upon vessels attempting to enter.

And thus it was that, even after Morris Island was evacuated and Sumter dismantled, the fleet must still pass the fire of Moultrie and Bee to find itself in presence of a formidable earthwork, supported by continuous batteries, and commanding obstructions more difficult than any between Sumter and Moultrie.

The real nature of these obstructions was not suspected until the winter freshets had broken away and floated into our hands a fair specrmen of them, which were certainly far more formidable than had been anticipated.

So well do the rebels keep their counsel that the best informed refugees, who had been constantly engaged about the harbor, appeared to know as little about them as we did.

During the progress of the engineers towards Wagner the iron-clads played an important part, using their guns whenever an opportunity offered, as shown in the instances quoted. It may be readily conceived that, all things being equal, it was just as easy for the rebels to have worked towards our position as it was for our troops to work towards theirs. But there was a serious difference in the fact that the cannon of the iron-clads, and also of the gunboats, completely enfiladed the entire width of the narrow island, and absolutely interdicted any operation of the kind on the part of the rebels. In addition, whenever their fire was bearing severely on our own workmen, a request from the General always drew the fire of the vessels; and I do not know that it failed to be effective in any instance.

As a consequence the rebels were restricted to Wagner, and were powerless to hinder the progress of the trenches that were at last carried into the very ditch of the work, and decided its evacuation without assault.

The day before the contemplated assault, I led in the iron-clads in force, as agreed on, and battered the fort all day, tearing it into a sand heap.

The next morning it was to have been stormed, but the enemy had fled they foresaw the inevitable result.

The vessels thus shared fully with the army in the operation that led to the abandonment of the works on Morris Island, and besides what is already mentioned, prevented the access of reenforcements, or their accumulation between Wagner and Gregg.

The boats of the squadron were also engaged on picket duty by night along the sea shore of Morris Island, and the.little stream on its inner border.

A detachment of seamen and marines, under Captain Parker, participated in the practice of the batteries at Fort Sumter, by working four navy rifle cannons, landed for the purpose.

The duties of the iron-clads were not performed under idle batteries. The guns of Wagner never failed to open on them, and fired until their crews were driven, by those of our iron-clads, to take shelter in the bomb-proofs. One of these cannon, a ten-inch, left deep dents on every turret, that will not easily be effaced.

The operations of the iron-clads against Morris Island were appropriately closed by a severe contest with Fort Moultrie, Batteries Bee, Beauregard, &c., to relieve the Weehawken, which had grounded under their fire, and was finally got off with some severe injuries, owing to the falling tide having exposed the hull under the overhang.

There were other occasions when severe conflicts occurred with the rebel works on Sullivan's Island.

And besides the principal attacks in force, there were few days from the first attack on Morris Island (July ten) to its evacuation (September seven) that some iron-clads or gunboats were not engaged in firing at the enemy's works, so as to facilitate the labor of our troops ashore, as will be perceived by the following sample from the record:

date.object.vessels engaged.
July 18Assault on WagnerMontauk, (flag,) Ironsides, Catskill, Nantucket, Weehawken, Patapsco; gunboats Paul Jones, Ottawa, Seneca, Chippewa, Wissahickon.
July 22WagnerNantucket, Ottawa, (gunboat.)
July 23Wagner, to cover advanceWeehawken, (flag,) Ironsides, Catskill, Montauk, Patapsco, Nantucket; gunboats Paul Jones, Seneca, Ottawa, Dai-Ching.
July 25WagnerGunboats Ottawa, Dai-Ching, Paul Jones.
July 28WagnerWeehawken, Catskill, Ottawa, (gunboat.)
July 29WagnerIronsides, Patapsco.
July 30WagnerIronsides, Catskill, Patapsco, Ottawa, (gunboat.)
July 31Rebel batteries on Morris IslandOttawa, (gunboat.)
Aug. 1WagnerMontauk, Patapsco, Catskill, Weekawken, Passaic, Nahant, Marblehead, (gunboat.)
Aug. 2WagnerOttawa, Marblehead, (gunboats.)
Aug. 4WagnerMontauk, Marblehead, (gunboats.)
Aug. 6WagnerMarblehead, (gunboat.)
Aug. 8WagnerOttawa, Marblehead, Mahaska, (gunboats.)
Aug. 11Wagner and vicinityPatapsco, Catskill.
Aug. 13Rebel batteries on Morris IslandGunboats Dai-Ching, Ottawa, Mahaska, Wissahickon, Racer.
Aug. 14Rebel batteries on Morris IslandGunboats Wissahickon, Mahaska, Ottawa, Dai-Ching, Racer, Dan. Smith.
Aug. 15WagnerMortar-boats Racer, Dan. Smith.
Aug. 17Rebel batteries on Morris Island, to direct fire from our batteries which opened on SumterWeehawken, Ironsides, Montauk, Nahant, Catskill, Passaic, Patapsco; gunboats Canandaigua, Mahaska, Ottawa, Cimarron, Wissahickon, Dai-Ching, Lodona.
Aug. 18Wagner, to prevent assaultIronsides, Passaic, Weehawken; gunboats Wissahickon, Mahaska, Dai-Ching, Ottawa, Lodona.
Aug. 19WagnerIronsides.
Aug. 20Rebel batteries on Morris IslandIronsides; gunboats Mahaska, Ottawa, Dai-Ching, Lodona.
Aug. 21Sumter and WagnerIronsides, Patapsco; gunboats Mahaska, Dai-Ching.
Aug. 22WagnerWeehawken, Ironsides; gunboat Montauk.
Aug. 23SumterWeehawken, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Nahant.
Sept. 1Sumter and obstructionsWeehawken, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Nahant, Lehigh.
Sept. 5Between Sumter and GreggLehigh, Nahant.
Sept. 6Wagner and GreggIronsides, Weehawken, Montauk, Passaic, Patapsco, Nahant, Lehigh.
Sept. 7Batteries on Sullivan's IslandIronsides, Patapsco, Lehigh, Nahant, Montauk Weehawken, (ashore.)
Sept. 8Batteries on Sullivan's IslandIronsides, Patapsco, Lehigh, Nahant, Montauk, Weehawken, (ashore.)


I shall now briefly comment on the various qualities of the monitors.

1st. Capacity for resistance.

2d. Power of ordnance.

3d. Draught of water.

4th. Speed.

5th. Number of crew.

1st. Endurance.--During the operations against Morris Island the nine iron-clads fired eight thousand projectiles, and received eight hundred and eighty-two (882) hits. Including the service at Sumter in April and the Ogeechee, the total number was eleven hundred and ninety-four, (1194), distributed as follows:

Service of Iron-clads. South Atlantic Blockading Squadron. Shots fired and Hits received by them during Operations against Morris Island. Of shots fired.hits.hits, April 7, 1863.hits at hits.
Catskill1384258620 106
Lehigh412836  36
Nahant1702766936 105
Weehawken26463313453 187
Nantucket441555351 104
Ironsides 4,439164  164

 No. of shots fired.Weight of proj. fired, in tons.
By Ironsides4,439288 1/2
11-inch, by Monitors2,332151 1/2
15-inch, by Monitors1,255213 1/2
Total8,026653 1/2

Of the eight monitors, one was always absent at Warsaw (Nahant or Nantucket) to blockade the rebel ram. The Lehigh did not arrive until August thirtieth, therefore was only able to participate in the operations of the remaining seven days, but did good work.

For some time only five monitors were available for general attack, and then six, which was the greatest number disposable at any one time.

The consequences of the protracted firing and hard usage to which the monitors were exposed during these two months of incessant service, were unavoidably very considerable in the aggregate; and the greater, also, that all repair which could possibly be dispensed with was postponed to the conclusion. It was therefore necessarily extensive when entered upon. The battering received was without precedent. The Montauk had been struck two hundred and fourteen (214) times; the Weehawken one hundred and eighty-seven (187) times, and almost entirely by ten-inch shot. What vessels have ever been subjected to such a test.

It is not surprising that they should need considerable [187] repair after sustaining such severe pounding for so long a time, but only that they could be restored at all to serviceable condition. The force of the ten-inch shot must be experienced to be appreciated. Any one in contact with the part of the turret struck falls senseless, and I have been nearly shaken off my feet in the pilot-house when engaging Moultrie.

All the little defects of detail were marked by such a searching process. Decks were cut through; cannon were worn out; side armor shaken; tops of pilot-houses crushed, &c. But all these were reparable, and no vital principle was seriously touched.

With such workshops and means as a northern navy yard includes, the repair of all monitors would have been speedily executed; but when machinery, tools, labor, and material have all to be obtained, as they were here, from a great distance, there was of necessity considerable delay; and, moreover, it was not admissible to withdraw but a portion of the monitors at a time from the blockade.

The additions that were deemed advisable for strengthening the pilot-houses and turrets were also put on at this time, and the bottoms cleaned, for they had now become so foul with oysters and grass that the speed was reduced to three, or three and a half knots, and, with the strong tide of this harbor, added considerably to the difficulties of working the vessels properly under fire.

On one night I was caught by heavy weather from the south-east while close up to Sumter, when I had gone to attack it, and it was well that the darkness of the night prevented the slowness of our motion from being perceived while extricating the monitors from their position.

Power of Ordnance.--Each turret contains two guns, and from the peculiar facility which it has for giving direction to the heaviest ordnance, no doubt, arises the desire to make these of the heaviest description. How far other considerations should control the character of the ordnance, is necessarily an unsettled question.

To strike an armored ship it may be best to use a gun capable of the greatest power; but whether this shall be derived from a projectile of great weight, driven by low velocity, or of less weight, and high velocity; whether it shall be a fifteen-inch gun, fired with thirty-five or forty pounds, or a thirteen-inch, fired with fifty pounds of powder, is not here material; the weight of the gun for either purpose will not vary to any important degree. But in operations against earthworks, whose material cannot be damaged permanently, but only disturbed, and which are only to be dealt with by keeping down their fire, a much lighter projectile would be preferable, in order that the practice may be as rapid as possible. Hence a piece of sixteen thousand pounds for ten-inch or eleven-inch shot and shell.

When a number of monitors are brought together it would be better, also, to have guns of like kind in each turret, and bring into action whichever might be preferable. Each of the monitors of this squadron had a fifteen-inch and a smaller gun, (eleven-inch or eight-inch rifle,) and hence the rapidity of fire, which was most desirable, was not attained. That this was due to the calibre of the gun, and not to its being located in a turret, may be shown by one notable instance.

November ninth, 1863, the Montauk, Captain Davis, was engaged in battering Sumter. In so doing, the eleven-inch gun fired twenty-five shells successively in one hour, of which twenty-one hit the wall of the fort aimed at — distance sixteen hundred yards. This is at the rate of one shell in 2.4 minutes, which is not only rapid but also exceedingly accurate practice. There is no reason why another eleven-inch, if placed in the adjoining carriage, (instead of the fifteen-inch,) could not have been fired in the same time, at which rate that monitor would have delivered an eleven-inch shell every 1.2 minute.

The rates of fire reported for the Ironsides, by Captain Rowan, are,

 Time.No. fired.Time for each fire.
 H.M. M.
Most rapid,050251.74

It will be perceived that for a short space of time the frigate delivered a shell from each gun in 1.74 minute, for three hours in 2.86 minutes, and it is believed that a fire could be sustained at the rate of 1.33 minute. The last rate is therefore possible, but I am sure it would be difficult to sustain it long with much regard to good aim and considerable distances; and I believe, on the whole, that for every practical purpose there would be all desirable rapidity of fire from the eleven-inch in turret. Thus it is to be presumed that there will be equality of ordnance power in the same number of eleven-inch guns as to rapidity of fire, whether in a turret or broadside.

Draught of Water.--The monitors of the Passaic class draw about eleven and a half (11 1/2) feet of water when properly trimmed. On this coast ten and eleven feet is the most convenient draught of water for penetrating all the principal sounds and rivers, and navigating them to any extent. A greater draught restricts a vessel in movement, and in many instances excludes her from several ports, except under very favorable circumstances.

Speed.--The speed of the monitors is not great, (seven knots,) but it is quite respectable with a clean bottom, and is fully equal to that of the Ironsides. Their steerage is peculiar, but when understood and rightfully managed, not difficult of control. They pivot with celerity and in less space than almost any other class of vessel.

Number of Men.--The number of men required to work them and the guns is only eighty, which is very moderate.

In common with all iron-clads, the scope of vision is much restricted, for the plain reason that in such vessels apertures of any size must be avoided. There are some other defects, but they are not inherent, and it is believed are susceptible of [188] being remedied wholly or in part. So much for the monitors.

The Ironsides is a fine, powerful ship. Her armor has stood heavy battering very well, and her broadside of seven eleven-inch guns and one eight-inch rifle has always told with signal effect when opened on the enemy. Draught of water about fifteen and one-half to sixteen feet. Speed six to seven knots, and crew about four hundred and forty men.

The defects of the vessel are the unplated ends, which are consequently easily damaged by a raking fire, and involve the rudder and screw more or less, while she can return no fire in either direction. This was particularly and frequently inconvenient in attacking the works on Morris Island, for at certain stages of the tide vessels tail nearly across the channel, and present bow and stern to the beach of Morris Island, so that sometimes it was necessary to delay placing the vessel in position, and at others she would swing around very awkwardly when engaged.

The monitors, on the other hand, were almost equally well defended on all sides, and could fire in any direction. The Ironsides was also open to descending shot, and her scope of fire too much restricted by badly placed ports.

The desire for comparison which rages just now can easily be satisfied by bringing the above data in juxtaposition.

Just as they are, the Ironsides is capable of a more rapid and concentrated fire, which, under the circumstances, made her guns more effective than the fifteen-inch of the monitors. On the other hand, she was restricted by draught to the mid-channel, was very vulnerable to a raking fire, and the direction of her own guns was very limited laterally.

The monitors could operate in most of the channels,--could direct their fire around the whole circle,--and were almost equally well defended on all sides.

The defects in both classes of vessels are susceptible of being remedied partially or entirely. The defence of the Ironsides could be made complete, and that of the monitors equally to. The armament of the monitors could be perfected so as to give all desirable rapidity of fire, but by no contrivance could the Ironsides be enabled to use much heavier guns than those mounted. Yet when such changes were made as experience has suggested, there still would remain to the monitors the lighter draught, choice of guns from the heaviest to the lightest, defensibility, and direction of fire around the whole circle; consequently the ability to carry a heavy battery into the least depth of water, with equal power of offence and defence in any direction, and that with half the number of guns carried in broadside by another vessel.

The comparison now made is to be understood as having relation to existing circumstances, and not at all intended as conclusive in regard to the general merits of iron-clads.

It is in this sense that the action of the navy department is to be considered with reference to the selection of one class of vessels over another.

It is evident that it was not designed to adopt any one style exclusively, for of the three vessels first ordered, two were of the ordinary broadside class — the Ironsides and the Galena. The latter was quickly proved to be absolutely inefficient, and so must any armored steamer of that size. It is universally admitted that plates of less than four and a half (4 1/2) inches cannot stand the shock of heavy projectiles, and vessels so armored must be of considerable tonnage.

I presume the department only intended to build such vessels as were best adapted to the service at the scene of war.

Keeping in view the peculiar exigencies of the case, which required light draught and great ordnance power, it appears that the selection of the department could not have been more judicious in preferring a number of monitors to operate from a heavy frigate as a base; and if the intent of the department could have been carried out in regard to numbers, we should now have been in entire possession of the coast from the capes of Virginia to New Orleans, including Wilmington, Charleston, Mobile, &c.

Many defects of both classes are easily remediable, but some of those in the monitors could only be determined by the test of battle ; before that, approximation only was possible.

What other style of vessel could the department have chosen? Certainly none that has been built by English or French naval authorities. The Warrior and her class are exceedingly powerful, but could not get within gunshot here.2

On the other hand, there is very little navigable water on this coast which is not accessible to the monitors. They command supremely all that is near the shore, and cannot themselves be reached by vessels of heavier draught. So that when there was some reason to apprehend the appearance of certain rams in this quarter, I assured the department that the iron-clads could maintain position so long as coal and provisions lasted.

It may appear that I speak too positively on the subject, but some experience with them certainly gives a right to do so. With a single exception I have been on board a monitor in all the principal actions, and the recurrence of casualties to the fleet captains3 near me shows that I was in a situation to judge. I was once in the Ironsides in an attack on Moultrie and Sumter. I have also watched the behavior of the monitors at anchor through all the phases of winter weather in this exposed situation.

The completeness with which four little monitors, supported by an iron-clad frigate, have closed this port, is well worth noting.

Very soon after entering the roads I advanced one monitor well up towards the inner debouches [189] of the northern channels, supported by another. On the night of the nineteenth of July an English steamer attempted to run in, and having eluded the hot pursuit of the outside blockade, no doubt indulged in the belief that all danger was past. But the gallant Captain Rodgers was in advance that night with the Catskill, and a shell sent suddenly by him ahead of the culprit steamer signified no escape. In despair or alarm the latter grounded on a shoal, and her wreck has since served as a warning to like evil-doers. Two or three steamers that were in managed to get out immediately after, and one or two may have gotten in, for the crews of the monitors were often too fatigued then with a day's battle to keep watch at night; but there ended the business as such, and for several months not a vessel has passed in or out.

These four monitors, who thus keep watch and ward, muster eight (8) guns and three hundred and twenty (320) men, which is almost insignificant in contrast with the work done.

I have thus put on paper the general impressions now uppermost, but very hastily and under great pressure of business, which will, I hope, excuse such imperfections as may have inadvertently occurred.

With more leisure I could do full justice to this interesting subject.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Jno. A. Dahlgren, Rear-Admiral, commanding S. A. B. Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Sec. of Navy, Washington, D. C.

Additional report.

flag-steamer Philadelphia, off Morris Island, May 17, 1864.
Sir: I find that several omissions have occurred in my report to you on the iron-clads; they are handed to me just as the mail closes, and I have time only to request that they may be inserted in the report of January twenty-eighth, among the lists of actions then given, and also published in the Army and Navy Journal, which has published that report.

As my object was to show what the navy had done in this quarter, I am very glad to be able to extend the list. The loss of three fleet captains in succession--Captain Rodgers, killed in the Catskill, Captain Badger, wounded in an action with Moultrie, and Lieutenant Preston, taken prisoner in the assault on Sumter — necessarily deranged all the business of my command very much.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

John A. Dahlgren, Rear-Admiral, commanding S. A. B. Squadron. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Additional list of actions in which the iron-clads were engaged with the rebel batteries in Charleston harbor while reducing Morris Island. fired.hits by enemy.distance.object.remarks.
1863.   Yards.  
July 18New Ironsides.80541,400Fort Wagner. 
July 20New Ironsides.168131,300Fort Wagner. 
August 23New Ironsides.904 Fort Wagner.Ship was under way; distance varied from 1,100 to 1,300 yards.
Sept. 2New Ironsides.4171,000Fort GreggHits from Gregg and Moultre; ship at anchor.
Sept. 2New Ironsides.9 1,500Fort Sumter. 
Sept. 5New Ironsides.488 1,300Fort Wagner. 
Sept. 5New Ironsides.3211,800Fort GreggHit from Gregg.

On July twenty-ninth the Passaic engaged Wagner, and on August thirty-first Moultrie. On September eighth the Passaic, (in a disabled condition,) Patapsco, Weehawken, and Nahant engaged Moultrie.

I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

John A. Dahlgren, Rear-Admiral, commanding S. A. B. Squadron.

Report of Commodore S. C. Rowan.

United States steamer New Ironsides, off Morris Island, May 13, 1864.
Sir: In obedience to your order of the twelfth instant, I enclose herewith a tabular statement of various actions of this ship with the rebel fortifications of Charleston harbor, and

Have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

S. C. Rowan, Commodore, commanding. Rear-Admiral John A. Dahlgren, Commanding S. A. B. Squadron, Flag-Steamer Philad.


Statement of firing by the United States steamer New Ironsides during her several engagements with the rebel fortifications in Charleston harbor.

date.rounds fired.hits by enemy.distance.object.remarks.
1863.  Yards.  
July 1880541,400Fort WagnerAt anchor.
July 20168131,300Fort WagnerAt anchor.
July 2446451,200Fort WagnerAt anchor.
July 2918321,200Fort WagnerAt anchor.
July 2925 2,500Fort Sumter50-pounder rifle on spar deck.
July 292 1,900Fort Gregg 
July 3032921,800Fort GreggAt anchor.
July 301 2,250Fort Sumter50-pounder rifle on spar deck.
Aug. 1740031900Fort WagnerMost of the hits were from 10-inch guns in Wagner and Gregg. At anchor.
Aug. 1730 1,700Fort Gregg 
Aug. 172 2,700Fort Sumter50-pounder rifle on spar deck.
Aug. 18118  Fort WagnerUnder way; distance varied from 1,200 to 1,400 yds.
Aug. 1950 1,100Fort WagnerAt anchor.
Aug. 20158 1,150Fort WagnerAt anchor.
Aug. 202 3,400Rebel Steamer50-pounder rifle on spar deck.
Aug. 217011,300Fort WagnerAt auchor; hit from Sumter; 11-inch shot, solid.
Aug. 22115  Fort WagnerUnder way; distance varied from 1,100 to 1,300 yds.
Aug. 23904 Fort WagnerUnder way; distance varied from 1,100 to 1,300 yds.
Sept. 244171,000Fort GreggThe hits were from Gregg and Moultrie; ship at anchor.
Sept. 29 1,500Fort Sumter 
Sept. 5488 1,300Fort WagnerAt anchor.
Sept. 53211,800Fort GreggHit from Gregg.
Sept. 6184 1,300Fort WagnerFiring to meridian.
Sept. 638 1,300Fort WagnerAt anchor; firing from meridian to sundown.
Sept. 75152241,200Fort MoultrieThese hits were from Sullivan's Island batteries; at anchor.
Sept. 8483701,200Fort Moultrie

Respectfully submitted,

S. C. Rowan, Commodore, commanding.

Report of Lieut.-Commander E. Simpson.

United States iron-clad Passaic, off Morris Island, S. C., April 21, 1864.
Sir: In the Army and Navy Journal, of the sixteenth instant, there is published a review of the service of the “monitors,” by Rear-Admiral J. A. Dahlgren. As this review does not give this vessel credit for the service performed by her, I respectfully ask your attention to the subject, in order that the statement may be corrected at the Navy Department.

On the twenty-ninth of July, 1863, this vessel went into action with Fort Wagner, followed by the Patapsco; the New Ironsides joined in the action also. The presence of the Passaic in this action is not mentioned in the review.

On the thirty-first of August, 1863, the most serious engagement for iron-clads that had taken place to that date occurred between Fort Moultrie on. one side, and the monitors Patapsco, Weehawken, Passaic, and Nahant, on the other, the detachment being under command of Commander T. H. Stevens, commanding the Passaic.

The conflicts with Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg, on Morris Island, each using two guns on the water face, were but trifling actions for ironclads ;but every collision with the batteries on Sullivan's Island that has taken place by daylight has been formidable. This action of the thirty-first of August, 1863, was of such a character.

During the action the Passaic grounded about half a mile from Fort Moultrie, and was severely hammered by the fort before she floated off. This engagement is not mentioned in the review.

On the eighth of September, 1863, the most remarkable action between iron-clads and sand batteries was fought under command of Commodore S. C. Rowan, between the batteries on Sullivan's Island, on one side, and the Ironsides, Patapsco, Lehigh, Passaic, Montauk, Nahant, and Weehawken, (aground,) on the other. This action, lasting for three hours, terminated in silencing the fire of the batteries on the island.

During this action the Passaic was at the head of the line, having received an order from the Commodore, as she was going into action, to go well up and engage Battery Bee. In this action the Passaic was hit in fifty-one new places, which were easily counted after the action, and I have no doubt that she was actually struck oftener than I have reported. Strange as it may seem, the presence of the Passaic in this action is not mentioned in the review.

I feel especially concerned about the omission in reference to this vessel, on the eighth of September, in consequence of the great efforts that were made on board to keep her in an effective condition.

This was very difficult to do in consequence of her turret having been jammed on the night of sixth of September, which had caused the spindle and pilot-house to take up motion with the turret, thus disabling the steering gear. Ingenious expedients [191] were adopted, (of all of which Rear-Admiral Dahlgren has reports,) and the vessel was carried successfully into action, notwithstanding her disabled condition.

After all these efforts to keep the vessel available, and after having endured the battering of those batteries on Sullivan's Island for three hours, it is most disheartening to find that the presence of the vessel in the action is not mentioned in the review; and I respectfully request, in justice to my own reputation, as well as that of every officer and man on board of this vessel, that you will have this report corrected.

I feel, sir, that the service of this vessel has been underrated. It is patent to all the commanders of iron-clads in the fleet that the Passaic is more battered than any of them, in many cases showing three shot-marks to one; and I ask that justice may be done her by correcting at the Navy Department the errors that I have pointed out in the review of Rear-Admiral Dahlgren. For further information I enclose a copy of statements of firing made to Rear-Admiral Dahlgren during the past nine months.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

E. Simpson, Lieutenant-Commander, commanding. Hon. Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy.

Statement of Firings by United States Iron-clad Passaic, Lieutenant-Commander E. Simpson.

date.rounds fired.hits by enemy.distance.object.remarks.
1863.  Yards.  
July 2915-inch, 12 shells; 15-inch, 1 shot; 150-pounder, 9 shells; 150-pounder, 1 shotNone1,200Fort WagnerCarried away cap square bolt of rifie.
Aug. 9Rifled 150-pounder, 1 shellNone1,200Battery GreggReturning fire of Battery Gregg while on picket duty.
Aug. 1515-inch, 2 shells; 150-pounder, 2 shellsNone1,200Black Steamer and Battery GreggWhile on picket duty.
Aug. 1715-inch, 30 shells; 150-pounder, 9 shellsThirteen1,200Fort Wagner and Fort Sumter6Engaged Wagner in forenoon, then engaged Sumter, and after dinner engaged Wagner again.
Aug. 1815-inch, 18 shellsFive1,000Fort WagnerSeveral bad hits, deck leading over bread room.
Aug. 2315-inch, 9 shells; 150-pounder, 1 shell and 9 shotFive750Fort SumterShot from Sumter drove in a bolt of ring around wave of turret.
Aug. 3115-inch, 1 shell; 150-pounder, 9 shellsNine875Fort MoultreThree shots through; one of them over coal-bunkers, 20 inches by 9; the other two causing bad leaks on berth deck. Another bolt driven in from ring around wave of turret.
Sept. 115-inch, 20 shells; 150-pounder, 20 shells and 6 chilled shotSeven1,200 to 600Fort SumterNo bad hits, but side armor sprung apart 6 inches at the stern, caused by fouling a monitor.
Sept. 6 (A. M.)15-inch, 6 shells; 150-pounder, 9 shellsNone1,100Covered way between Wagner and GreggNo reply from the enemy.
Sept. 6 (P. M.)15-inch, 1 shell; 150-pounder, 1 shellNone ObstructionsThis firing was done on picket to prevent reenforcements coming to Wagner. In revolving turret the spindle and pilot-house torn up. Motion with the turret; turret, spindle, pilot-house, revolving together.
Sept. 815-inch, 19 shells; 150-pounder, 30 shellsFifty-one750Battery Bee, on Sullivan's IslandThree new holes through the deck, and side armor badly injured in several places. Eleven hits on ring around base of turret; one of them at the base caused so much friction on deck plate as to require 34 pounds of steam to revolve the turret. Twenty-nine new hits on turret.
Nov. 16 (A. M.)15-inch, 3 shells; 150-pounder, 31 shellsThree1,500Fort MoultrieCovering the Nahant and Mon tauk, towing off the Lehigh that was aground.
Nov. 16 (P. M.) 1864.150-pounder, 3 shellsNone1,750Moultrie HouseTrying to ignite Moultrie House.
Feb. 215-inch, 3 shells; 150-pounder, 68 shellsNone2,356Blockade runnerBlockade runner aground off Fort Moultrie.
Feb. 3150-pounder, 35 shellsNone2,356Blockade runnerTrying to destroy Blockade runner off Fort Moultrie.

1 The first planted on Morris Island by Lieutenant Robeson.

2 According to Rear-Admiral Paris, the French Gloria draws 28 feet; the British Warrior, 26 feet; the Black Prince, 23 1/2 fleet; even those of inferior class, Defence and Resistance, draw 24 feet. Not one of these vessels could cross the Charleston bar, and would be perfectly impotent to render the least service in any of the operations now being carried on.

3 Captain George W. Rodgers was next ahead when killed off Wagner, and his successor, Captain Badger, had his leg broken by an iron splinter in the attack on Sumter.

4 Night attack.

5 Night attack on Moultrie.

6 Distance from Wagner 900 yards, from Sumter 2,000 yards.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Morris Island (South Carolina, United States) (54)
Weehawken (New Jersey, United States) (14)
Nahant (Massachusetts, United States) (13)
Montauk (New York, United States) (12)
Passaic, N. J. (New Jersey, United States) (8)
Fort Moultrie (South Carolina, United States) (8)
Catskill (New York, United States) (8)
Sullivan's Island (South Carolina, United States) (7)
Ottawa, Ill. (Illinois, United States) (7)
Nantucket (Massachusetts, United States) (5)
Marblehead (Massachusetts, United States) (5)
Folly Island, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (5)
United States (United States) (4)
Charleston Harbor (South Carolina, United States) (3)
Stono River (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Port Royal (South Carolina, United States) (2)
Wilmington, N. C. (North Carolina, United States) (1)
Washington (United States) (1)
Three Trees (South Carolina, United States) (1)
South Carolina (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Seabrook Island (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Ogeechee (Georgia, United States) (1)
Mobile, Ala. (Alabama, United States) (1)
James Island (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Hilton Head (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Georgia (Georgia, United States) (1)
Folly River (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Florida (Florida, United States) (1)
Edisto (South Carolina, United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: