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Chapter 14:

The bloody repulse of the assault on Battery Wagner, July 11th, left General Gillmore in possession of two-thirds of the island, Colonel Graham holding the northern end for about a mile, with his outposts about 200 yards in advance of Wagner on a sand ridge. It was determined to hold Wagner to the last, and to relieve the garrison frequently by sending over fresh troops at night. Such reliefs were landed at Cummings point and marched up to Wagner, always subject to the shells of the fleet and the fire of Gillmore.

In what follows in this chapter the writer has taken the facts stated mainly from the official reports; the admirable pamphlet of Major Gilchrist, already referred to; and the account given by the accomplished engineer on duty at Fort Sumter, Maj. John Johnson, in his valuable book on the ‘Defense of Charleston Harbor.’

Gen. W. B. Taliaferro, who had commanded a division in Jackson's corps, army of Northern Virginia, and was now serving under General Beauregard, was ordered to take command on Morris island on the 13th of July, and relieved Colonel Graham on the 14th. He reported the enemy had his pickets three-quarters of a mile in front; was busy erecting batteries along the hills 1,300 and 2,000 yards distant; that his riflemen were annoying, and that the fleet had thrown some 300 shell and shot during the day. On the night of the 14th, General Taliaferro ordered Major Rion to make a reconnaissance of the position in front, and gave him command of 150 men for [236] this purpose, detachments from Colonel Graham's garrison—Seventh South Carolina battalion, Twenty-first South Carolina, Twelfth and Eighteenth Georgia, and Fifty-first North Carolina. Major Rion was directed to drive in the enemy's pickets and feel his way until he encountered a supporting force. The duty was gallantly and well done. Rion pushed the pickets back, first upon their reserves and then upon a brigade in position, and moved on them so rapidly that the fire of the brigade was delivered into its retreating comrades. Accomplishing the purpose of the reconnoissance, Rion withdrew to the ridge 200 yards in advance of the fort.

Graham's gallant garrison was now relieved and Fort Wagner occupied by the Charleston battalion, Lieut.--Col. Peter C. Gaillard; Fifty-first North Carolina, Col. Hector McKethan; Thirty-first North Carolina, Lieut.--Col. C. W. Knight; the companies of Capts. W. T. Tatom and Warren Adams, of the First South Carolina infantry (drilled as artillery); Captains Dixon's and Buckner's companies, Sixty-third Georgia infantry and heavy artillery; section of howitzers, De Saussure's artillery, under Capt. W. L. De Pass, and a section of howitzers under Lieut. L. D. Waties, First South Carolina artillery. Lieut.-Col. J. C. Simkins was in command of all the batteries, as chief of artillery.

The right flank was assigned to Lieutenant-Colonel Gaillard, the center to Colonel McKethan, and the left to Lieutenant-Colonel Knight. The mortar battery, which fired at intervals of thirty minutes, was under charge of Captain Tatom. Outside the fort, two of Colonel Gaillard's companies, under Capt. Julius Blake, held the sand-hills along the beach and the face extending from the sally-port to the beach.

The artillery commands fired on the Federal working parties and the monitors at intervals. The bombardment was continued by the fleet throughout the 15th, 16th and 17th, three hundred or more heavy shot and shell being [237] thrown on each of these days. The casualties in the fort were not numerous, and the damage done in the day was repaired at night. Meanwhile the enemy's land batteries were pressed forward, the nearest being within the fort's range.

On the morning of the 18th, the batteries in front and the fleet on the flank opened on Wagner a concentrated fire from guns of the heaviest caliber. The Ironsides, five monitors and the gunboats Paul Jones, Ottawa, Seneca, Chippewa and Wissahickon, steamed within close range. General Gillmore's 10-inch mortars, 10, 20 and 30 pounder Parrott rifles, thirty-six pieces of powerful artillery, all opened on the fort, and kept up the bombardment for the whole day and until 7:45 in the evening. Major Johnson's careful estimate is that the bombardment was from a total of sixty-four guns and mortars. Wagner, Gregg, Sumter, Moultrie and batteries on James island replied, but the fire from the island and from Moultrie was at too great a range to be effective. The bombardment became heaviest about midday, and for nearly eight hours one hundred guns, in attack and defense, were filling the air with clouds of smoke and peals of thunder. Most of the men were kept in the bomb-proof. The gun detachments filled the embrasures with sand-bags and covered the light pieces in the same way, keeping close under the merlons. Gaillard and Ramsay stuck to the parapet on the right, and the gallant battalion stuck to them. With only the protection of the parapet and the merlons, ‘with an heroic intrepidity never surpassed,’ says General Taliaferro, ‘the Charleston battalion maintained their position without flinching during the entire day.’

As night came on, General Seymour formed his column of three brigades for the assault. We quote from his report:

It was suggested to me that the brigade of General Strong would suffice, but it was finally understood that [238] all the force of my command should be held ready for the work. The division was accordingly formed on the beach and moved to the front. It consisted of three fine brigades: The First, under Brigadier-General Strong, was composed of the Forty-eighth New York, Colonel Barton; Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania, Captain Littell; Third New Hampshire, Colonel Jackson; Sixth Connecticut, Colonel Chatfield; Ninth Maine, Colonel Emery, and Fifty-fourth Massachusetts [negro troops], Colonel Shaw. The Second brigade, under Colonel Putnam, consisted of the Seventh New Hampshire, Lieutenant-Colonel Abbott; One Hundredth New York, Colonel Dandy; Sixty-second Ohio, Colonel Pond; Sixty-seventh Ohio, Colonel Voris. The Third brigade was commanded by Brigadier-General Stevenson, and consisted of four excellent regiments.

General Strong's brigade was to lead, with the Massachusetts regiment in front; Colonel Putnam's promptly to support General Strong, ‘if it became necessary,’ and Stevenson's was held in reserve. The hour of twilight was selected ‘to prevent accurate firing by the enemy.’ The bayonet alone was to be used by the assailants. ‘The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, a colored regiment of excellent character, well officered, with full ranks, that had conducted itself commendably a few days previously on James island, was placed in front.’ Then, says Seymour, ‘the First brigade launched forward. It had not moved far, before the fort, liberated somewhat from the presence of our fire, opened with rapid discharges of grape and canister, and its parapet was lit by a living line of musketry. More than half the distance was well passed when, present myself with the column, I saw that to overcome such resistance, overpowering force must be employed.’

Seymour, now wounded, ordered up Putnam, as Strong's brigade ‘as a mass had already retired, although detached portions, principally from the Forty-eighth New York and Sixth Connecticut, with the colors of those regiments, still clung to the fort.’ Putnam at first declined to obey General Seymour, alleging that he had [239] Gillmore's order to remain where he was. Meanwhile, portions of the Sixth Connecticut and Forty-eighth New York were vainly endeavoring to scale the parapet or were bravely dying on its crest. Some had gained the crest and the interior of the southeast salient, where the defense was assigned to the Thirty-first North Carolina. This regiment, which had an honorable record, and was yet to distinguish itself on many a field, was seized with panic in the bomb-proof at the first alarm and could not be got to the parapet. The whole bastion was undefended by infantry at the crisis of the attack.

Finally, Putnam came on and met the grape and canister and musketry of the fort, which broke his column to pieces. He gallantly led the mass of survivors against the left bastion, and mounting the parapet, entered the bastion enclosure with a hundred or more of his men. Here they maintained themselves for an hour until finally overcome, Colonel Putnam being killed, and the whole Federal attacking force on the outside of the bastion retreating along the beach. On leaving the field, impressed with the force and character of the defense, General Seymour had twice ordered the brigade under General Stevenson to follow Putnam, but the order was not obeyed, and that brigade took no part in the action. In the above account of the attack we have followed the report of General Seymour.

General Taliaferro says:

As the enemy advanced, they were met by a shower of grape and canister from our guns, and a terrible fire of musketry from the Charleston battalion and the Fifty-first North Carolina. These two commands gallantly maintained their position and drove the enemy back quickly from their front, with immense slaughter. In the meantime, the advance, pushing forward, entered the ditch and ascended the work at the extreme left salient of the land face, and occupied it. I at once ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Gaillard to keep up a severe enfilading fire to his left, and directed the field pieces on the left of the fort outside the sally-port to direct their fire to the right, so [240] as to sweep the ditch and exterior slope of that part of the work thus occupied, thus preventing the escape or reinforcement of the enemy at that point. The main body of the enemy, after a vain attempt to pass over our field of fire, retreated under the fire of our artillery and the shells of Fort Sumter.

Calling for volunteers to dislodge the force in the salient, Maj. J. R. McDonald, Fifty-first North Carolina, and Captain Ryan, Charleston battalion, promptly responded, with their men. Ryan was selected and ordered to charge the salient. Instantly leading his men forward, he was killed in front of them, and this caused his command to hesitate and lose the opportunity. Fighting bravely, the Connecticut men and those of Putnam's brigade clung to the parapet and the interior of the salient, and suffered from the fire of the Fifty-first North Carolina whenever they exposed themselves above the work, or made any advance toward the interior of the fort. It was now past 10 o'clock, and General Hagood reached the fort with the Thirty-second Georgia. This regiment was sent along the parapet on the left and took position on the bomb-proof, and so completely commanded the force in the salient, that on demand they surrendered.

Thus the second assault on Wagner terminated after a bloody and heroic struggle. It cost the Confederates a small loss in numbers, but a rich sacrifice in the character of the men who lost their lives in its splendid defense. Lieutenant-Colonel Simkins, standing on the ramparts and cheering his artillery, fell in the heat of the battle, ‘a noble type, living and dying, of the gentleman and the brave soldier.’ Capt. William H. Ryan, devoted to his adopted country, honored and prized by his comrades, the gallant chief of the Irish volunteers, was killed leading them against the force who occupied the salient. Capt. William T. Tatom, an educated soldier, cool, true and brave, fell by the side of his guns. Maj. David Ramsay, worthy to stand by the side of the heroic commander of the Charleston battalion, type of the cultured [241] citizen, worthy of the blood of Henry Laurens, scholar, soldier and hero, yielded his life at Battery Wagner, an offering of his love for South Carolina, though he had opposed her secession from the Union he cherished. The commanding general lost his gallant aide, Capt. P. H. Waring, who was killed by the side of his chief. Two others of his staff, Capt. W. E. Stoney, adjutant-general, and Capt. H. D. D. Twiggs, were severely wounded. The total loss in the fort was 181; 5 officers and 31 soldiers killed; 17 officers and 116 soldiers wounded; 1 officer and 4 soldiers captured. The Federal loss reported was 1,515; 28 officers and 218 soldiers killed; 75 officers and 805 soldiers wounded; 8 officers and 381 soldiers captured. Among the slain were Brigadier-General Strong and Colonels Putnam, Chatfield and Shaw. Each of these officers displayed the highest gallantry, and died on the rampart or in the immediate front of the attack.

Major Gilchrist, describing the scene of conflict the morning after the battle, thus speaks of the heroic dead: ‘In the salient and on the ramparts they lay heaped and pent, in some places three deep. Among them Colonel Putnam, with the back part of his head blown off; still the remarkable beauty of his face and form evoked from his victorious foes a sigh of pity. On the crest, with but few of his ‘sable troop’ beside the flag he had vainly planted, was the corpse of the youthful Colonel Shaw.’ The wounded, Confederate and Federal alike, were sent to the hospitals in Charleston, and received every attention from the medical corps. The Federal dead were buried on the field ‘to be unearthed again by the advancing sap and Federal shells.’

We extract from the reports and accounts the following incidents: By the explosion of a 15-inch shell and the falling of tons of sand, General Taliaferro was so completely buried that it was necessary to dig him out with spades. During the heaviest period of the bombardment, [242] about 2 p. m., the flag halyards were cut and the flag fell into the fort. Instantly Major Ramsay, Lieutenant Readick, Sixty-third Georgia (artillery), Sergeant Shelton and Private Flinn, Charleston battalion, sprang upon the parapet, raised and refastened the flag. Seeing the flag fall, Capt. R. H. Barnwell, of the engineers, seized a battleflag and planted it on the ramparts. Again the flag was shot away, and Private Gilliland, Charleston battalion, immediately raised and restored it to its place. Lieut. J. H. Powe, of the First South Carolina artillery, so distinguished himself at his gun as to be specially and conspicuously mentioned, with Lieutenant Waties and Captains Adams, Buckner, Dixon and De Pass, for unsurpassed conduct. Lieut.-Col. D. B. Harris, chief engineer of the department, came down to the fort in the midst of the terrific cannonade. His cool and gallant bearing and well-known ability and judgment inspired confidence and contributed to the morale of the garrison. The signal made by General Gillmore to Admiral Dahlgren, fixing twilight as the time of assault, was read by the Confederate signal corps and duly transmitted to General Beauregard.

Maj. Lewis Butler, Sixty-seventh Ohio, in Colonel Putnam's column, was by the side of that officer when he was killed. He bore testimony to the care of the Federal wounded, saying that General Beauregard's order directed ‘that special care be taken of the wounded captured at Wagner, as men who were brave enough to go in there deserved the respect of the enemy;’ and that ‘the effects, money and papers, belonging to members of the Sixty-seventh Ohio who died in Charleston hospital, were sent through the lines by flag of truce.’

About the 11th of August, during a heavy fire on Wagner, a 15-inch shell burst in one of the gun chambers, doing much damage, and mortally wounding and killing several at the gun. Among the former was First Sergt. [243] T. H. Tynes, Company A, Lucas' battalion of artillery. Capt. John H. Gary, seeing his gallant sergeant fall, went at once to him, and was overcome by the sight of his terrible wound. ‘I am dying, Captain, but I am glad it is me, and not you.’ Devoted to his sergeant, Gary burst into tears, when Tynes gasped, almost with his last breath, ‘I can be spared; but our country can't spare you, Captain.’ His noble-hearted captain fell at the same gun the next day. Gary was an accomplished young officer, of the highest promise, beloved and honored by his command, and distinguished for his personal gallantry.

Speaking of Wagner and its remarkable strength, Major Johnson, than whom no more competent judge could testify as to the qualities of a defensive work, pays this tribute:

Not only had the massive earthwork proved the thoroughness of its plan and construction by its wonderful endurance, but the batteries had been so well protected on the faces of the work as to admit of their being put into immediate condition and readiness for action. This was due to the thoughtful and energetic measures adopted during the day, such as stopping the embrasures with sand-bags, and even covering many of the lighter guns on the land side so as to prevent them from injury until they were needed. Most of all, the care taken to preserve the magazine from danger was now to be proved and rewarded.

Brigadier-General Davis, at that time colonel of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, and in Gillmore's command, says of Wagner in ‘Annals of the War,’ Philadelphia Times, 1879: ‘This was one of the strongest earthworks ever built, and gave evidence of the highest order of engineering ability.’

After the signal defeat of this last attempt, July 18th, to carry Battery Wagner by storm, General Gillmore proceeded to lay siege to the fort, and approached by [244] regular sap.1 The limits of this history will not permit a detailed account of this most interesting period of the history of Battery Wagner and Fort Sumter. In Major Johnson's book the full record will be found, and in the reports and correspondence published by act of Congress, the history and progress of the siege are related in every particular.

The following incidents embracing a period of fifty days are given from the records: On July 20th the fort was subjected to a combined attack by the batteries on land and water, and on the 23d, the second parallel was opened within 870 yards of the fort. Another attack from the fleet and the batteries followed on the 24th, and for five hours the fort was assaulted by the bombardment. During this period Wagner, Gregg and the batteries from James island fired incessantly on the enemy's working parties. Daily for the remainder of the month of July, the fleet assaulted the fort, and the land batteries fired throughout the night. On August 10th the third parallel was established, 540 yards distant. During this night Wagner, Sumter and the James island batteries drove off the enemy's working parties. The heavy guns of the enemy being advanced, he opened breaching batteries on the gorge wall of Sumter, firing over Wagner, and the fleet engaged Fort Sumter.

Covering the period August 16th to 26th, Major Johnson makes the notes following:

August 16th. Engineers' working force, 350 to 450, having been engaged day and night for six weeks, has [245] converted the two faces of Sumter nearest to Morris island into a compact redan of sand, encased with brick, having a height of 40 feet and general thickness of 25 feet, with portions of the gorge 35 to 40 feet thick. Upward of twenty guns have been removed from the armament since July, leaving but thirty-eight for the present service of the fort.

August 17th. First day of the great bombardment of Fort Sumter; 948 shot from eleven guns on Morris island and from the fleet. Wagner and Gregg under fire from the land batteries and fourteen vessels. Wagner fought the fleet with three guns for more than an hour. Capt. J. M. Wampler, of the engineers, was killed at Wagner.

August 18th. Fourteen guns from Morris island firing on Sumter; three ironclads, five gunboats, and siege batteries on Wagner.

August 19th. The Ironsides fires on Wagner all day and fifteen guns from breaching batteries on Sumter. Working parties stopped by Wagner's picket fire from the ridge in front.

August 20th. Eighteen guns fire on Sumter, one being a 300-pounder Parrott rifle; range from 3,447 to 4,290 yards. Twenty-five thousand pounds of powder removed from the fort. Wagner shelled all day by fleet, Ironsides and four gunboats. Marsh battery (between Morris and James islands), designed to fire upon Charleston at 7,000 yards, completed by the enemy.

August 21st. More powder (9,700 pounds) removed from Sumter. General Gillmore demands the surrender of Fort Sumter with the immediate evacuation of Morris island. Assault made on ‘the ridge’ in front of Wagner and repulsed. General Gillmore on Morris island, in his demand for Sumter and the evacuation of the island, gave General Beauregard four hours to answer, failing in that time to receive his reply he threatened to fire upon the city, and did so, its sleeping inhabitants having no notice whatever. This act of uncivilized warfare was properly rebuked by General Beauregard, and due time was allowed for the removal of women and children, and the hospitals, with their sick and wounded.

August 22d. Sixth day for Sumter. Only four guns left in serviceable condition. Main flagstaff falling, colors were flown from the crest of the gorge. A night [246] attack by five monitors, firing about fifty shells in the direction of the western magazines, was serious. The fort replied with two guns, firing six shots, the last fired from its walls. The monitors drew a heavy fire on themselves from Fort Moultrie. The rear-admiral, desiring to ‘force the obstructions,’ prepared three or four times to do so, but never reached them. Casualties, 5 wounded.

August 23d. Seventh day. Sumter soon reduced to one gun (Keokuk's) in good condition, and two guns partly serviceable. Work pressed to secure magazine from danger of another attack by monitors firing in reverse. Flagstaff twice shot away; more powder shipped; casualties, 6 wounded. The fort is breached and demolished by seven days firing (total, 5,009 rounds) at the close of the first period of the great bombardment.

August 24th. Council of defense held by the chief engineers and colonel commanding. The second period opens with only one-fourth of the daily rate of firing hitherto received. General Gillmore urges upon the rear-admiral the scheme of cutting off communications from Morris island by picket-boats off Cummings point. Second failure to carry ‘the ridge’ in front of Wagner (25th).

August 27th to 29th. Capture of ‘the ridge’ and pickets of Morris island by Union charge (26th). Three days of nearly suspended firing on Sumter.

August 30th. Heavy shelling of Fort Sumter from the breaching batteries; casualties, 5; damages caused by the 10-inch rifle (300-pounder) very severe. Recovery of guns by night from the ruins, and shipment to city by gang under Asst. Eng. J. Fraser Mathewes. This night, transport steamer Sumter with troops, fired upon by mistake and sunk by Fort Moultrie.

August 31st. Fort Sumter received only fifty-six shots. Fort Moultrie engaged with four monitors for four hours, suffering no damage. Maj.-Gen. J. F. Gilmer announced as second in command at Charleston.

September 1st. Mortar firing on Wagner disabled four guns. Fort Sumter suffers again from the heavy Parrotts, 382 shots, and in the night from the ironclad squadron, 245 shots, crumbling the walls and threatening the magazine as before; casualties, 4; the fort had not a gun to reply. This attack of the ironclads ends the second period of the first great bombardment. The work of saving guns from the ruins and removing them to the [247] inner harbor began on the night of August 27th, and proceeded regularly from this date forward.

September 2d. Desultory fire on Fort Sumter. The sap approaches within 80 yards of Wagner.

September 3d and 4th. Wagner under fire and returning it, assisted by Gregg and the James island guns. On the night of the 4th, Major Elliott relieved Colonel Rhett in command of Fort Sumter. Failure, same night, of the plan to assault Cummings point (Battery Gregg).

September 5th. Slow fire from batteries and New Ironsides on Wagner. The assault on Battery Gregg, Cummings point, made and repulsed on the night of 5th.

September 6th. Head of sap opposite the ditch (east) of Wagner.

This was the last day of Wagner's defense, and the fifty-eighth day of the attack by land and sea. The sap had progressed on the sea face so far as to enable a large force to move on that flank and gain the rear of the fort, while the whole front was covered by the last parallel within 50 yards of the fort. The fire of the fleet and mortar fire from the trenches, with incessant fire along the parapet by the land batteries, made it fatal work for most of the fort's sharpshooters, and the gun detachments.

The garrison of the fort at this memorable period was as follows: Col. Lawrence M. Keitt, commanding; Maj. H. Bryan, adjutant-general; Capt. Thomas M. Huguenin, First South Carolina infantry (artillery), chief of artillery; Capt. F. D. Lee and Lieut. R. M. Stiles, engineers; Lieut. Edmund Mazyck, ordnance officer. The artillery: Captain Kanapaux's company, Lafayette South Carolina artillery; Company A, First South Carolina infantry (artillery), Lieut. J. L. Wardlaw; Company A, Second South Carolina artillery, Capt. W. M. Hunter; Company E, Palmetto battalion artillery, Capt. J. D. Johnson. The infantry: Twenty-fifth South Carolina, Lieut.-Col. John G. Pressley; Twenty-seventh Georgia, Maj. James Gardner; Twenty-eighth Georgia, Capt. W. P. Crawford. The total for duty was less than 900 men and officers, infantry and artillery. [248]

During the day of the 6th, about 100 casualties were reported by Colonel Keitt. On this day Colonel Keitt, after consulting his engineers, reported to General Ripley the situation at the fort as desperate and recommended its evacuation, and added: ‘If our sacrifice be of benefit, I am ready. Let it be said so, and I will storm the enemy's works at once. . . . Before day dawns we should assault him if we remain here. Answer positively and at once.’ This dispatch was sent at 3:15 p. m., and at 5 o'clock General Ripley signaled Colonel Keitt to prepare to leave the fort at night. The evacuation was successfully accomplished, the rear guard leaving Cummings point at 1:30 a. m. on the 7th. The infantry having left the fort by midnight, its command was turned over to the rear guard, under Captain Huguenin, 25 men, Company A, First South Carolina infantry (artillery), 10 men, Twenty-fifth South Carolina, under Lieuts. F. B. Brown, R. M. Taft and James A. Ross. Capt. C. C. Pinckney, ordnance officer of the First district, Lieut. Edmund Mazyck, ordnance officer of Wagner, were also present and assisting Captain Huguenin.

At 12:30 the rear guard was withdrawn from the parapet and marched out of the fort for Cummings point. Huguenin, Pinckney, Mazyck, Ross and Ordnance Sergeant Leathe alone remained to lay the slow match which had been carefully prepared. Captain Huguenin reports: ‘In five minutes the train was fixed.’ Captain Pinckney reports regarding the spiking of the guns: ‘The vents of most of the pieces were greatly enlarged. In most cases the spikes dropped in loosely, and we were obliged to use two or three of them. We could have remedied this by driving them in and hammering the edges over the orifice, but absolute quiet was obviously necessary.’ The 10-inch columbiad was prepared for bursting. Ross took the lanyard and Huguenin gave the order: ‘The last gun from Battery Wagner, fire!’ The primer failed! Another failed! A cartridge from a [249] Whitworth rifle was opened and the vent primed, but from some unknown cause the piece could not be fired. The fire from the parapet having ceased, and the enemy being just under the fort, Captain Huguenin lit the slow match to the magazine. The fuse burned brightly and the officers left the fort. But no explosion followed! The fort was under the fire of mortars, and doubtless a bursting shell cut, or put out the fuse; and the disabled fortress remained for the enemy's inspection.

At Battery Gregg, Capt. H. R. Lesesne successfully spiked his two 10-inch guns, spiked and threw overboard the other pieces, and fired the magazine. The transportation for the garrisons of Wagner and Gregg was skillfully collected at Cummings point and managed with perfect order by Lieut.--Col. O. M. Dantzler, Twentieth South Carolina.

The Confederate ironclads Palmetto State and Chicora sent their boats to assist in taking off the command of Colonel Keitt. The enemy's guard-boats from the rear of Morris island were very active and attacked the transport furiously, at long range. Overtaking two small boats, carrying some forty-odd men, under Lieutenant Hasker of the Confederate navy, they took both boats, and thus the Federal navy secured the only prisoners taken during the evacuation.

Referring to Major Johnson's journal of August 21st, 25th and 26th, and September 5th, mention is there made of attacks on ‘the ridge’ in front of Wagner, and on Battery Gregg. These events will now be noticed more in detail. On the 21st, a force of the enemy charged the ridge and were repulsed, but established their line behind sand hillocks within 20 yards of the picket line. Lieutenant-Colonel Dantzler, with the Twentieth South Carolina, reinforced the pickets, crossed the ridge, and drove back the force in the hillocks, re-establishing the vidette stations and inflicting severe punishment on the intruders. General Hagood, commanding at the time at [250] Battery Wagner, reported the gallant and zealous service of Colonel Dantzler, and the splendid conduct of his command on this occasion.

On the 25th, the attack on the ridge was repeated with more determination and was repulsed with heavy loss to the assailants, and 25 casualties on the part of the defense. The fire of Wagner's picket line from the ridge had been so faithful and so effective that Gillmore's chief engineer reported that the sap could not advance unless it was silenced. ‘The engineer officers of the sap express the earnest wish that the enemy be driven out of the ridge with the bayonet.’

On the 26th, General Gillmore ‘ordered General Terry to take and hold the ridge, and placed the resources of the command at his disposal for that purpose.’ On the evening of the 26th a Federal brigade charged and carried the coveted prize, capturing 67 prisoners, the larger part of the force holding the ridge. The engineer in charge of the sap remarked upon the position: “Rude rifle-pits in the excellent natural cover afforded by the ridge, were found, and sand-bags of a superior quality had been freely used for loopholes and traverses.”

On September 5th, the signals between General Gillmore and Admiral Dahlgren apprised General Ripley of an intended boat attack by way of Vincent's creek on Battery Gregg, to be made that night. Gregg was accordingly ready for it. It came about , 1:30 o'clock on the morning of the 6th, and is reported by Captain Lesesne as follows:

I ordered the guns trained on the most probable point of attack, double loaded with canister, one 10-inch gun bearing on the beach in front and one on the extreme point in rear. Two 12-pounder howitzers were placed on the beach to the right of the work (under Lieut. E. W. Macbeth, First regular infantry) from the right of Battery Gregg to the beach. The artillery was supported by Major Gardner, commanding the Twenty-seventh Georgia. The enemy advanced from the point in about twenty [251] boats; when within 100 yards of the beach I opened upon them with the 10-inch gun, followed by the howitzers. The infantry commenced firing shortly afterward. The enemy returned the fire with their boat howitzers and musketry. A few succeeded in landing but quickly returned to their boats. After the fire had been kept up for about fifteen minutes the whole force retreated. Our casualties were 1 man mortally and 5 slightly wounded.

General Gillmore signaled to Admiral Dahlgren, who had furnished the boats and crews, that he found Gregg prepared for the attack and had failed.

During the siege of Wagner, General Gillmore had established a picket post at the mouth of Vincent's creek, on the James island side. Lieut.-Com. A. F. Warley, of the Chicora, with a launch and crew, and Capt. M. H. Sellers, with a detachment of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina in boats, the whole under the guidance of J. Fraser Mathewes, attacked and captured this picket on the 4th of August, Captain Sellers losing one of his gallant followers. The night following, Lieut. Philip Porcher, on the unarmed steamer Juno, with a crew armed with rifles, was out along Morris island reconnoitering the fleet. Encountering an armed launch of the frigate Wabash, Porcher ran her down, attacked her crew with his rifles and received her surrender, with most of the crew. The launch was turned over to Commodore Tucker for his use in the harbor.

The account of the defense of Battery Wagner may well be concluded with the following extract from Major Johnson's work:

The hardships of defense in Wagner were certainly greater while they lasted than those endured in Sumter. . . .After the 17th of August, when the breaching batteries of Morris island were opened on Sumter and its demolition assured, the holding longer of the northern end of the island might appear to have been unnecessary. General Gillmore says truly: ‘Neither Fort Wagner nor Battery Gregg possessed any special importance as a defense against the passage of the ironclad fleet. They [252] were simply outposts of Fort Sumter. Fort Wagner in particular was specially designed to prevent the erection of breaching batteries against that fort. It was valueless to the enemy if it failed to accomplish that end, for the fleet in entering was not obliged to go within effective range of its guns.’ Why, then, was it held? The answer is, General Beauregard estimated it, if no longer an outpost of Fort Sumter, as indeed an outpost of the city of Charleston. He held it long enough to enable him to gain three weeks in perfecting the defenses of James island and the inner harbor.

The following dispatches between General Gillmore and Admiral Dahlgren, sent during the period July 22d to September 2d, and read by the Confederate signal corps, will show from the enemy's point of view how the conduct of Wagner was regarded, and how her fire damaged her adversaries:

July 22d. Dahlgren: We agree that a third assault of Fort Wagner cannot be made at the present time. I have made two that were unsuccessful and do not feel authorized to risk a third just now.

August 16th. Dahlgren: I shall open on Fort Sumter at daylight. Can you commence on Wagner as early as that?

August 16th. Gillmore: The monitors will commence to move at six and will open soon after. If it is an object to you, I will open fire earlier, but the tide is very bad before 6 o'clock for the monitors.

August 16th. Dahlgren: If I find the fire from Wagner too hot, I will stop firing from my advanced batteries until you get the monitors into action against Wagner.

August 17th. Dahlgren: What do you think of the morning's work?

August 17th. Gillmore: Sumter seems greatly damaged. What do you think?

August 17th. Dahlgren: I am satisfied with the firing thus far. The gorge wall is covered with shot holes.

August 19th. Dahlgren: I am now pushing my approaches to Fort Wagner, and need cover against sorties. I think I can destroy the traverse and dismount the heavy gun on the sea front of Wagner with the assistance of a [253] powerful fire from the New Ironsides. If that big gun were out of the way, could a couple of monitors be within 400 or 500 yards of Wagner all the time, night and day? A deserter says there are at least twenty Quaker guns on the parapet of Sumter.

August 19th. Gillmore: I am going in with the monitors to feel of Sumter. If the enemy's fire is heavy, please get your batteries in action.

August 21st. Dahlgren: The enemy's sharpshooters are annoying our advanced batteries seriously. Can you have it stopped?

August 21st. Gillmore: I will try to do so.

August 21st. Dahlgren: The fire of Fort Wagner is very galling. Cannot your monitors keep it down?

August 21st. Dahlgren: My approaches are suspended on account of the sharpshooters on Fort Wagner. Can you keep down that fire?

August 21st. Gillmore: I am going in with the ironclads to Sumter, and shall open about 11:30 o'clock. Please give the necessary directions in order that I may not be fired into.

August 22d. Gillmore: I have just returned from above. The Passaic, which was some distance in advance, got ashore. It took so much time to get her off, that when I was informed of the fact I would have had but little time to make the attack before daylight, so it was unavoidably postponed for to-night.

August 22d. Dahlgren: I received your dispatch stating that your attack is postponed until to-night. I think with our batteries in operation against Sumter she cannot fire a gun at you even in the daytime, if she has any to fire, which I doubt.

August 22d. Gillmore: It is not of Sumter that I am apprehensive, but of Moultrie and adjacent forts; but most all of Sumter's have been sent to Moultrie, which makes no difference in the fire. This I am inclined to endure rather than have a monitor ashore to defend or destroy, which would change the whole course of operations.

August 22d. Gillmore: Wagner is firing rapidly. I fear she will dismount some of our guns. Turner.

August 22d. Dahlgren: Wagner is firing very rapidly. [254] There is great danger of dismounting our guns. What can you do to stop it?

August 22d. Gillmore: I will send up some monitors at once.

August 22d. Turner: Can you not keep down Wagner's fire with mortars, 30-pounders, Parrotts and sharpshooters?

August 22d. Gillmore: Is the fire of the ironclads effectual in silencing the sharpshooters at Fort Wagner?

August 22d. Dahlgren: Between the gunboats and our batteries, Wagner's fire has been considerably kept under.

August 22d. Dahlgren: Are you going to attack tonight?

August 22d. Gillmore: Yes, if the weather will permit.

August 23d. Dahlgren: What did you ascertain as to the condition of Sumter?

August 23d. Gillmore: It was so foggy that but little could be ascertained. We received a very heavy fire from Moultrie. The admiral is now asleep.

August 23d. Badger: Did you receive any fire from Fort Sumter?

August 23d. Gillmore: She fired two or three times only, when we first opened.

August 26th. Gillmore: Would it be convenient for you to open a heavy fire on Sumter, sustaining it until nightfall?

August 26th. Dahlgren: I can open a pretty strong fire on Sumter, if you deem it necessary. One of my 8-inch guns is burst, and others are nearly expended. Do you think Sumter has any serviceable guns? My calcium lights can operate to-night on Sumter and the harbor, unless you wish otherwise, and we can arrange for investing Morris island.

August 26th. Gillmore: I am going to operate on the obstructions and a portion of my men will be without cover. I do not fear heavy guns from Sumter, but wish to keep down the fire of small guns. Your fire will help me very much. I am sorry that your guns are giving out.

August 26th. Dahlgren: I shall be able, I think, to light up the waters between Fort Sumter and Cummings [255] point, so that no small boats can approach the latter without being seen by your picket boats. Gillmore.

August 26th. Turner: Open all the guns in the left batteries on Sumter and keep them going through the day.

August 26th. Gillmore: To-night I shall need all the darkness I can get. If you light up you will ruin me. What I did want was the active fire of your batteries this afternoon on Sumter.

August 27th. Dahlgren: Can I take from your vessel another 8-inch gun and a 100-pounder? I have burst three 8-inch guns in all. We took 68 prisoners, including 2 officers, and gained 100 yards toward Wagner yesterday.

August 27th. Gillmore: You can take the guns with pleasure. My attempt to pass the forts last night was frustrated by the bad weather, but chiefly by the setting in of a strong flood tide.

August 27th. Dahlgren: Can you spare me some 200-pounder shells? My supply is very low. A constant fire on Sumter is more than my guns can stand very long. I have lost three 200-pounders.

August 29th. Gillmore: Much obliged. All your fire on Sumter materially lessened the great risk I incur.

August 29th. Gillmore: I will let you have either guns or projectiles, as many as you wish, if you will inform me how much you require.

September 1st. Gillmore: We have dismounted two guns on Sumter and injured one this a. m. But two remain. We are firing with great accuracy.


September 1st. Gillmore: I am glad the batteries are doing good execution. I hope you will give me the full benefit of your fire, as I intend to be in action to-night, if nothing prevents. I would advise great care in handling the hand grenades, as one of my men was killed and two wounded by a very ordinary accident.

September 2d. Gillmore: I think your fire on Sumter may be omitted to-day. Have just returned from above and am trying to get a little rest. I do not know what damage our fire did Sumter. My chief of staff wounded; his leg broken.


September 2d Adams: I wish to know if Sumter fired at the monitors last night while they were in action. Do not disturb the admiral if he is asleep, but please get me the information, as it will determine whether I continue firing on Sumter to-day.

September 2d. Gillmore: Not to my knowledge.


1 In his final report he said: ‘The formidable strength of Fort Wagner induced a modification of the plan of operations, or rather a change in the order previously determined upon. The demolition of Fort Sumter was the object in view as preliminary to the entrance of the ironclads. . . . To save valuable time, it was determined to attempt the demolition of Sumter from ground already in our possession, so that the ironclads could enter upon the execution of their part of the programme, . . . and arrangements were at once commenced, and the necessary orders given to place the breaching guns in position. Arrangements were also made to press the siege of Fort Wagner by regular approaches.’

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