Henry F. W. Little.

The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion online

. (page 10 of 52)
Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 10 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

house Inlet, and at Secessionville, on James Island, there
had as yet been no discovery of our works.

In his book entitled " The Defense of Charleston Har-
bor," Maj. John Johnson (Confederate), speaking of the
opening of the tire from the rebel batteries on the south
end of Morris Island, on June 12, says : " It may well be
asked. Why was not the tire of the Confederates more
vigorously maintained ? Only their confidence that nothing
serious was meant by the Federals can account for the
oversight, while it cannot excuse it." While the dense
wood and underbrush and the sand-hills afforded good
concealment to the working parties, Major Johnson says :
" But it was chiefly to a ruse practiced on the artillerists of
Morris Island that the concealment was due. A block-
ade-running steamer grounded and became a wreck off
the inlet. When General Vodges advanced a few field-
guns on the beach to shell the wreck, the Confederate
batteries drove them ofi\ and thenceforward, their men
being unmolested in plundering the cargo, the impression
was conveyed to the Confederates that only a picket force
was opposed to them."

Upon assuming command of the Department of the
South, General Gillmore's first movement was the con-

New Hampshire Volunteers. 107

struction of the strong batteries on the north end of Folly
Island, which had now been completed, and everything
was in readiness for inaugurating the offensive operations
contemplated. The real attack was to be made by a force
landing on Morris Island, preceded b}^ the unmasking
and opening of the batteries on Folly Island. For the
purpose of detracting the attention of the Confederates,
Gen. A. H. Terry, with about thirty-live hundred men,
aided by three gunboats, made a strong demonstration up
the Stono River against James Island, and Col. Thomas
W. Higginson, w'ith two hundred and tifty men of his
regiment (the First S. C. Colored), and a section of the
First Conn. Light Battery, with the armed steamer "John
Adams," the transport '' Enoch Dean,"' and the small tug
" Governor Milton," ascended the South Edisto River, with
the intention of cutting the Savannah Railroad and burning
the bridge. Colonel Higginson was defeated in his attempt
to reach the railway, and was compelled to abandon and
destroy the tug '' Milton." General Terry's expedition
was more successful, for it drew the attention of the Con-
federates to James Island, and caused them to send large
reinforcements from Morris Island. On the i6th of July,
he was engaged at Grimball's Landing, on James Island,
and lost fourteen killed, twenty wounded, and twelve cap-
tured or missing. On the 6th of July, Rear-Admiral John
A. Dahlgren relieved Rear-i\dmiral Samuel F. DuPont,
of the blockading fleet, thereby placing the naval forces to
cooperate with the land forces in this Department in the
hands of a new commander.

During the afternoon of the 9th, the company cooks
brought up our rations, and a detail was sent back for our
rubber blankets, and during the early hours of the morn-
ing of the loth, the brush in front of our masked batteries
was carefully removed and the embrasures were carefully
shoveled out, long before the early dawn. Major John-

io8 History of the Seventh Regiment

son, in his book entitled, "The Defense of Charleston
Harbor," says, "some cutting away of brushwood from
the front of the concealed works had already been heard
by the Confederates, but as there was no removal of the
brush, the batteries continued to be undiscovered up to the
last moment." And he further says, " Capt. Charles T.
Haskell, Jr., of the Twenty-first S. C. Volunteers, scout-
ing from Morris Island, in a small boat, made discovery
of the barges moored in the creek back of Foil}' Island,
and that even this discovery failed to alarm the defend-
ers of Morris Island as it should have done," which
shows how securely the secret of our work had been kept,
and how well the suspicions of the garrison and pickets of
the Confederates on Morris Island had been allayed.

On the night of July 9, and about thirt}' hours after the
departure of General Terr3''s expedition. Brig. Gen.
George C. Strong embarked his command in boats or
barges at a point near the southwestern extremity of Folly
Island, and cautiously proceeded up the creek toward the
north end of the island, and near the left of Little Folh'
Island, and awaited the opening of our batteries.

Just before 4 o'clock on the morning of the loth, the
reoiment was ordered to move back a short distance from
the batteries, when we were formed in line, and were
ordered to support the batteries. The morning dawned
pleasant and beautiful, but the atmosphere was close and
sultry ; a little after 4 o'clock the fort3^-seven guns and
mortars opened from our batteries on Little Foll}^ Island,
and were shortly afterward joined by the guns from the
monitors, in the harbor, which made a formidable cross-
tire on the rebel works ; and the music of these heavy guns
in support of the land batteries was terrific. The rebel
forces on Morris Island were so taken by surprise at so
heavv an onset that it was some little time before they
could get their batteries at work, and then came the tire

New Hampshire Volunteers. 109

from Forts Gregg and Wagner at the north end, and from
all the guns in the batteries at the south end of Morris
Island that the rebels could bring into use, and for nearly
three hours this heavy bombardment was kept up. About
7 o'clock General Strong's brigade, awaiting patiently for
orders to cross, quickly rowed their barges from the cover
of Little Folly Island, and at once pulled for the Morris
Island shore, crossing Lighthouse Inlet near the left of
Little Folly Island, and under. a heavy infantry lire and
the fire of the batteries on the south end of Morris Island
a landing w^as made, line formed, and the rifle-pits and
batteries at once charged and taken ; this success was
at once followed by the crossing of the Seventh in
barges, immediately in front of our batteries, and with
other troops who came after us we were formed in sup-
port of General Strong's brigade. The batteries on the
south end of Morris Island were captured with about two
hundred of the rebel garrison, the remainder of their
forces were soon skedaddling up the island towards Fort
Wagner, and our advance followed them up and a little
beyond the Beacon House, and at 9 o'clock two thirds of
the island was ours. We believe had an assault at once
been made on Wagner that we should have had the island
by sunset wholh^ in our possession, but for some unac-
countable reason this was not done, and was undoubtedly
a grave mistake on the part of our commanding general,
which was afterwards more fully demonstrated in all our
minds, and all Confederate authorities on the subject unite
in the opinion that the Union Army lost a great oppor-
tunity in not assaulting Fort Wagner that evening.

The rebels in their haste to get out of harm's way were
obliged to leave almost everything behind, and we found a
great variety of articles in their camps, including equip-
ments, arms, ammunition, clothing, muster-rolls, and the
personal baggage of the officers and men. We found this

no History of the Seventh Regiment

island to be more of a sand \\ aste than the one we had
just left, with scarcely a half-dozen trees, and very lew
shrubs upon it; but we were nearer Charleston.

Early in the afternoon First Lieutenant Worcester, of
Company H, with a detail from the regiment, advanced as
skirmishers and established a picket line where the first
parallel was afterwards located. These pickets were
under a constant fire of musketry Irom Fort Wagner, but
the distance was so great that the force of the bullets was
nearh^ spent before reaching us. A ten-inch mortar shell
fell during the afternoon, within a few yards of the pickets
stationed on the beach, which fortunately did not explode,
and consequently did no harm.

The fleet followed up the advantage gained by the land
forces and the iron-clads steamed in close to Fort Wagner,
and firing occasional shells helped to keep the rebels from
establishing a heav}- picket line in our imm.ediate front
during the day.

About 4 o'clock p. m. the Seventh was ordered to the
front and took its station near the Beacon House, which
was onlv about four thousand vards from Fort Sumter,
from which fort a halt-dozen guns had been firing upon
our advancing troops since lo o'clock a. m., including two
powerful Brooke rifles, one of which was fractured five
da3's atfer. The day was intensely hot and the men suf-
fered for water. Small details of men were sent back to
Folly Island with loads of empt}^ canteens, and we got a
small amount of food from the bags of those rebels who
were forced to drop them in their hurry to get back to
Wagner. The average Confederate haversack as we
found it on jMorris Island, consisted of a meal sack with a
lono; strino- tied around the mouth and lastened to the
roundabout belt in front, and slung back over the left
shoulder, which was easily got rid of by cutting the string
at the roundabout, letting the bag fall oft' over the shoulder

New Hampshire Volunteers. hi

behind. We remember to have personally captured one
of these bags, and found a conglomeration of uncooked
rice, corn meal, and a small piece of plug tobacco, which
we eagerly divided \vith another comrade, who in return
gave us a graham pilot biscuit, some black beans,_ and
a piece of bacon which he had taken from another bag.

As the shades of evening settled down around us. Lieu-
tenant Worcester's men were relieved by a new detail, and
the picket line was advanced further to the front, the line
extending across the island. We occupied with our re-
serve the line of ground which had been occupied by our
pickets during the day, and where was afterwards con-
structed the lirst parallel, beyond the Beacon House,
which all who were present at the siege of INIorris Island
will well remember. At dark the firing almost wholly
ceased, and the men who were weary and worn with the
severe fatigue of the day, after throwing up a slight breast-
work, lay down on the sand-hills in line, and soon forgot
their hardships and were dreaming of their homes far
away, and no one could foretell what the morrow^ might
bring forth. Our pickets were now within six hundred
yards of Fort Wagner, and a line of pickets was established
by the rebels during the night, immediately in our front,
and occupying a ridge extending entirely across the island.

At early dawn on the morning of the nth, and before
the morning mist had lifted itself above those sand-hills, a
disposition of the forces comprising the brigade under
General Strong was made for an assault upon Fort Wag-
ner. The assaulting column was at once ordered forward
and the Seventh was ordered into line for support. The
assault was sharp and furious, and lasted less than a half-
hour, but the garrison of Morris Island had been consider-
abl}' reinforced during the night so that the force inside of
Fort Wagner numbered about one thousand int'antr}' and
two hundred artillerists, about four hundred men more

112 History of the Seventh Regiment

than the el^ective strength of the garrison the day previous-
The assault proved a failure, with a loss of killed,
wounded, and captured of about three hundred and thirty.
The Seventh being in the supporting column lost no men
in this assault. Then came the order to entrench, and the
two months' siege of Fort Wagner at once commenced.
In this tirst assault on Fort Wagner, the assaulting column
consisted of four companies of the Seventh Connecticut,
the Ninth Maine, and the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania.
The supporting column consisted of the Sixth Connecti-
cut, Forty-eighth New York, Third and Seventh New

This assault demonstrated to General Gillmore that Fort
Wagner, w^hen properly garrisoned, was stronger than he
had supposed it to be, and after consultation with Rear-
Admiral Dahlgren he concluded to establish counter-bat-
teries against it, and to attempt with the combined lire of
the land batteries and gunboats, to drive the enemy from
it, or open the way to a successful assault. Batteries were
accordingly established and were ready to open fire on the
morninp" of the i8th.

On the night of the nth, the Seventh was still at the
front, and we got a ration of hard bread, the first we had
issued to us since leaving Folly Island. As the plunging
fire from the guns of Sumter, Wagner, Gregg, and Moul-
trie, and the enfilading fire of Fort Johnson, the Horse-
shoe battery, and Battery Bee on James Island had been
very annoying, during the day we were directed to
strengthen our slight earthworks, this being the first en-
trenchment of any kind yet made upon this end of Morris
Island by our troops. On the morning of the 12th, we
were relieved by the One Hundredth New York, and were
ordered back to a camping-ground midway down the
island, among the sand-hills, where the Twenty-first S. C.
Volunteers had been in camp when they were routed from

Co. D.

Co. D.

Co. D( Peace).


Co. D( War time).

New Hampshire Volunteers. 113

the south end of the island. We found their camp about
as they had left it, with all kinds of property and camp
utensils scattered promiscuously around. The guns from
Fort Sumter reached our camp and made life very uncom-
fortable for us, as they kept up a constant fire day and
night, from their two Brooke rifles, w^iich were heavy, long-
range guns, throwing their shells as far as the south end
of the island.

The descent upon Morris Island had been a successfully
accomplished fact, and our forces w^ere occupying about
three miles of the southern portion of the island, while the
rebels held about a mile of the northern part, having within
their lines two strong fortifications, but wnth their commu-
nications with the City of Charleston seriously threatened
and impaired, while the monitors and vessels of the fleet
kept up a constant and effective bombardment during
each day on Forts Wagner and Gregg.

General Terry's demonstration on James Island having
accomplished its purpose, his forces were successfully
withdrawn on the 17th, and w^ere ordered to Folly and
Morris Islands.

On the 15th, the regiment moved back to a camping-
ground about a half-mile tarther to the rear, but not out of
reach of the shells from the Brooke rifles on Fort Sumter.

The fortifications at the first parallel were being armed
with ten, twent}^ and thirty-pounder Parrott guns, and
fourteen mortars, presumably some of those used in the
batteries back on Folly Island. A battery still further in
the rear and on the left or land side of the island was
started for the purpose of mounting some one-hundred and
two-hundred-pounder Parrott guns. Our engineers also
erected a lookout on one of the highest sand-hills near our
camp, from which could be seen the rebel batteries all
about us, and awav in the distance over Battery Greo-o:
could be plainly seen the City of Charleston. On the top


History of the Seventh Regiment

of this lookout was established a siiinal station, for the
purpose of signaling the fleet and the forces on Folly
Island, and for the purpose of observing anything the
enemy might be doing. Every day and night large details
were made from the regiment for fatigue up at the first
parallel or over on the battery at the left. The distance
of the first parallel was estimated to be about nineteen
hundred and twenty yards from Wagner. In a short time
oar forces had mounted twent3'-seven rifled guns and four-
teen mortars. Reinforcements began to arrive rapidly,
both for the army and navy, large quantities of ammu-
nition were brought over from Folly Island, the tents
of the newly arriving troops were pitched back among
the sand-hills, the south end of Morris Island began to
show sicrns of considerable activitv, and evervthing tended
to impress us with the idea that something in the shape of
a movement of the land forces and nav}' was about to be

4\ ir. »^ S 4', u St

■ma \j[\i^^


New Hampshire Volunteers. 115














On the morning of Jul}' 18, considerable commotion was
noticed in the different camps of the troops on the island,
and the weather was warm and sultry. The previous
night had been warm and showery, and as we fell in for
our rations of hard-tack and coffee, not a man in the com-
mand tor a moment thought the day would be made mem-
orable by a land and naval bombardment of uncommon
severity, and would end in a second and bloody assault
upon Fort Wagner and a disastrous repulse to the Union

ii6 History of the Seventh Regiment

However, about 9 o'clock a. m., the troops on the island
were ordered out from their camps among the sand-hills,
under arms and in light marching order, upon the beach.
A large number from the Seventh New Hampshire had
been detailed for fatigue duty the night before, and during
violent thunder showers, had worked until nearly day-
break, supplying the gun and mortar batteries with ammu-
nition which was to be used in bombarding Fort Wagner.
The monitors and the new " Ironsides" at once moved up
and engaged Fort Wagner, and a steady fire was kept up
until about noon, which was vigorously returned by the
guns of Forts Wagner, Gregg, Sumter, Moultrie, and the
batteries on James Island. Owing to the heavy rains of
the previous night it was nearl}- noon before the land
batteries could open fire.

The troops gathered upon the beach, stacked arms, and
quietly rested at will, interesting themselves largely in
watchincT the firincr of our fleet. At noon the different
company cooks brought us from the camping-grounds near
bv, our rations of hard-tack and coffee, and at 12.30 Com-
pany D, under command of First Lieut. Wm. C. Knowl-
ton, was ordered to the battery on the left of our works,
for the purpose of throwing up a further protection of
earthworks in front of the battery, which was accomplished
inside of a half-hour, and the company returned to the
regiment on the beach. Shortly after 12 o'clock Rear-
Admiral Dahlgren, having his flag on the monitor " Mon-
tauk," accompanied by four monitors and the new " Iron-
sides," and these followed by five wooden gunboats, closed
in toward Fort Wagner, and together with the land batter-
ies opened a terrific fire, and the roar of heavy ordnance
was deafening. The wooden gunboats kept up a slow but
accurate fire from their large pivot Parrott rifled guns, and
very efl'ectually shelled Fort Wagner, while they were
wholly out of range of the guns of the fort, but the shell-

New Hampshire Volunteers. 117

in" from the fleet and land batteries combined was so se-
vere, that neariy all the troops of the enemy, both infantry
and artillerists, were compelled to seek safet}^ in the
bomb-proofs. The guns were all silenced on the south or
land side of the fort, and nearly silenced on the sea front;
for in most instances the gunners were driven completely
away from their guns.

At midday General Gillmore, who was on the island,
rode up with his staff', and ascending the lookout which
had been erected on the sand-hills near the beach, and
just opposite the left of our regiment, watched, through
his lorgnette, the effect of the shells. During that seem-
inglv long summer afternoon the troops on the beach wit-
nessed one of the grandest of bombardments b}' land and
naval forces that had taken place since the commencement
of the war.

The forces on Morris Island were commanded by Brig.
Gen. Truman Seymour, and the infantry was arranged in
three brigades, the First under command of Brig. Gen.
George C. Strong, was composed of the Fort3'-eighth New
York, Col. W. B. Barton : Seventy -sixth Pennsylvania,
Capt. J. S. Littell; Third New Hampshire, Col. J. H.
Jackson ; Sixth Connecticut, Col. J. L. Chatfield ; Ninth
Maine, Col. S. Emery; with the Fifty-fourth Massa-
chusetts (colored), Col. Robert G. Shaw. The Second
Brigade under command of Col. H. S. Putnam, of the
Seventh N. H. Volunteers, consisted of the Seventh New^
Hampshire, Lieut. Co.. J. C. Abbott; One Hundredth
New York, Col. G. B. Dandy ; Sixty-second Ohio, Col.
F. B. Pond; Sixty-seventh Ohio, Col. A. C. Voris. The
Third Brigade, which took no active part in this second
assault upon Fort Wagner, was commanded by Brig. Gen.
T. G. Stevenson, and consisted of four excellent regi-
ments from the forces of General Terry, which had just
arrived from James Island. These troops were made up

ii8 History of the Seventh Regiment

of fine material, were led by competent officers, and were
composed largely of regiments belonging to the Tenth
Corps, with a few regiments which had formerly belonged
to the Thirteenth Corps, which had been discontinued on
June II, and a few of the regiments of that corps had
been transferred to the Department of the South.

Col. R. T. Graham, who had commanded the Confed-
erate forces on Morris Island during the engagements on
the loth and nth, had been relieved on the morning of
the 14th by Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro, who at
once placed their fortifications in the best possible condition
for defense, and the Contederate garrisons were largely

The tide serving about 4 o'clock p. m., the iron-clads
closed in to within about three hundred yards of Wagner,
and the mortars and guns of the land batteries and every
available gun of the naval forces now opened with re-
newed energy, and the sixty-four guns and mortars of our
land and naval forces combined, were promptly answered
by the heav}^ guns, some thirty or more, of Forts Sumter
and Moultrie, Battery Gregg, and the heavy batteries
on James Island ; the deafening roar of about one hun-
dred guns of the heaviest calibre, worked with such rapid-
ity, seemed almost unbroken. Rear-Admiral Dahlgren
received a signal from General Gillmore during the after-
noon, informing him that an assault would be made at
twilight. This signal, it seems, was read by the Confed-
erates, but the increased attack from the land batteries and
the fleet would naturally forestall such an event. In the
midst of this heavy firing a boaf s crew was called for, and
the old crew of the colonel's barge at St. Augustine at
once responded, under Corporal Palmer, of Company F,
and rowed out to one of the advanced monitors, to carry
an officer, with a communication from the general. The
damage in our trenches from the heavy fire of the enemy

New Hampshire Volunteers. 119

during the dav, had been slight. A caisson was exploded
in one of our batteries by a shell, and a few casualties
occurred. Our earthworks had been carefully constructed,
and afforded our artillerists considerable protection.

From our position on the beach we could see the shells
exploding in and around the tort, the clouds of dust rising
high in the air, as they plunged into the loose sand of
which it was built. Three times the rebel colors were shot
away, and as many times a few daring men came out upon
the parapet and raised them again. Ignorant as was
everyone, from the commanding general down, of the
construction of the fort, it seemed as if that shower of pon-
derous missiles, bursting all around them, must destroy or
drive away the garrison. How^ever, we were soon to be
undeceived. Long and dreary seemed the hours of the
afternoon as we lay upon the hot sand of the beach,
scorching in the rays of an unclouded sun, and speculat-
ing upon the results of the bombardment. Just before
sundown General Gillmore called up his brigade command-
ers, with General Seymour, and upon Colonel Putnam's

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 10 of 52)