Henry F. W. Little.

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

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of Charleston. Colonel Serrell takino- Lieutenant Serrell
of his command and a fourteen-foot board with him,
started across the marsh, and where it was too soft sat on
the board and pushed it forward between their legs. The
day was very hot, making the eftbrt anything but pleas-
ant. In the evening Colonel Serrell reported that he
thought a battery could be constructed in the marsh,
giving the position by bearings. Experiments were made
by the colonel, and on the 2d of August a general plan
for the construction of a marsh battery was submitted by
him to General Gillmore, which received his immediate

Except the commanding general and a few others in the
army, and those immediately engaged upon it, there is
reason to believe that it was looked upon unfavorably and
its success doubted by many who would now give much to
have their names identified with its history. Until it worked
all right it was called " SerrelTs foolishness."

Examinations continued to be made to find a location
where the erection of a battery might possibl}^ be done with

New Hampshire Volunteers. * 135

less labor and expense, so on ihe 30th of July experiments
were made with a rod of three-quarter-inch iron thirt}'
feet long. In many places this rod would sink of its own
weight ten feet or more, and could then be pushed perhaps
twenty-tive feet, to the bottom, with a man's hand. The
marshes were covered wdth a species of tall, coarse grass,
from four to five feet high. The roots of this grass did not
form a sod, but were very fine and did not grow deep.

At flood-tide the entire marshes were covered, and the
top of the grasses were visible above the water. The
marshes adjacent to jNIorris Island were well interspersed
with creeks, the banks of which, owing to oyster and other
shell deposits, would sustain a man's weight, but let him
attempt to go far from the. creek, and he would become
hopelessly imprisoned. Some idea of the jelly-like con-
sistency of this mud may be conveyed by stating that two
men standing upon a plank could, b}" the proper motions,
make the entire mass beneath them visibly move for several
hundred square yards.

The obstacles w^ere man}' and apparently insurmounta-
ble, but General Gillmore ordered the building of a battery
to be supplied with a .two-hundred-pounder rifled Parrott
gun. His orders were to so mount it that it should be
practicable to protect it and so that it could deliver shells
in Charleston. The public is already familiar with the
story that in the requisition made for labor and material for
its construction, it is said that fifty men were called for,
eighteen feet tall, to work in mud fifteen feet deep.

A causeway of planks fastened to piles was about this
time constructed across the marsh trom our left centre bat-
teries on Morris Island to Block Island, and this was used
as a means of getting to the creek, where boats would be
in waiting for the fatigue or working parties to convey
them to the spot designated for the Marsh Battery, which
was the correct name for the battery to be erected. An

136 History of the Seventh Regiment

experiment was first made to ascertain the sustaining qual-
ities of the mud, by placing a platform four feet square,
composed of three-inch plank, upon the surface where the
proposed battery was to be built, and then placing succes-
sive layers of bags of sand upon it until a pressure of four
hundred pounds to the square foot had been obtained, and
to do this the men had to walk upon boards. This was
left twentv-four hours when it was found there was no sign
of settling and it was again loaded to a height of seven
feet, obtaining a pressure of six hundred and fifty pounds
to the square foot. It then began to lean a little to the
side where the men had stood. Again the sand-bags were
piled on two feet higher, obtaining a pressure of nine hun-
dred pounds to the foot. At this point the whole lipped
over, and strange as it may appear, the platform only sank
about one foot at one corner, and there it cut squareh'

On the 2d of August, General Gillmore ordered the
building of the batter}-, and this after he had been assured
that it would require ten thousand days' work ; men
were at once set at work on Folly Island, cutting down
trees, mostly yellow pines, which were to be towed up the
creek in rafts ; and at the camp of the engineers on Morris
Island, men were put at work filling sand-bags, which
were hidden behind the heavy sand ridges during the day,
and transported by boats at night to the required spot.

Capt. Daniel Eldredge, of the Third N. H. Volunteers,
in his history of that regiment says regarding the building
of the Marsh Battery, " Piling was necessary as one of
the adjuncts, but no pile-driver could be used. The mere
statement of this fact requires temerity, because it has been
told many times that a pile-driver was used (by night, of
course), and cushions put on the bottom of the hammer
and the top of the pile to deaden the noise. Such was not
the case, however, as the piles were driven b}- a method

Co. D.

Co. D.

Co. D.

Co. D.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 137

known as forcing. A pile, which in this particular case
was a long, heavy plank, was sharpened at one end and
was then placed upright, sinking of its own weight a short
distance. A long horizontal bar was fastened to this, as
high up as was practicable, the fastening being several
feet distant from the centre of the bar. Then the long end
was pushed upward, after a rope had been attached, and
the short end was fastened to a platform laden with sand-
bags. Then about a dozen or more men pulled down the
long end by the rope, and the pile went down. This was
varied by making the bar fast at the centre, and a group
of men pulling by the ropes at either end of the bar forced
the pile down ; this operation was varied by making the
bar fast at the centre, and forcing the pile down. The
foundadon of this famous batter}- w^as what is termed a
grillage, and was made of large yellow pine logs, crossed
and bolted together, and substantially like a hollow square.
This hollow square was for the purpose of permitting the
gun itself and its platform to rest on an entirel}' independ-
ent foundation, so as not to disturb the battery itselt —
that is, the parapet — when the gun should be tired.
Again, being independent, it will readil}' be seen that
should the gun and its platform sink, it w^ould force up-
ward the parapet, while on the other hand should the par-
apet sink, it would leave the gun and its foundation

The foundation for the gun w^as iirst prepared by laying
down upon the grass itself a thick layer of this same marsh
grass, cut near by, which was thoroughly trampled down
into the mud. Upon this were placed two tarpaulins,
covering the entire space the size of the gun platform, and
upon these was placed about fifteen inches of sand, while
over this were placed three layers of three-inch yellow
pine plank. The lower layer of the pine plank touched
the sand, the middle layer touched the lower layer, and

138 History of the Seventh Regiment

they crossed each other at right angles, both being Liid
diagonally to the line of fire. The upper layer of plank
was laid in the line of tire. The two lower layers of plank
exactly litted the hollow square formed by the grillage of
the parapet, and the ends rested upon a strip spiked to
the sheet piling, upon the inside and entirely around the

Under the grillage of logs forming the foundation of the
parapet were placed grass and tarpaulins, the same as in
the foundation for the gun, and the interstices between the
yellow pine logs were filled with sand. All bags injured
in the transportation and all other broken bags of sand
were piled within a short distance of the logs, upon the
marsh, and evenly distributed, in order to prevent the edge
of the marsh from rising in case the battery itself should
settle. The parapet was erected upon the grillage of logs
around the foundation of the gun ; the logs being in layers
or groups of six and firmly bolted together, and was com-
posed almost wholly of bags of sand, while the gun plat-
form, gun carriage, and gun itself rested upon the
foundation inside the square tbrmed by the grillage foun-
dation of the parapet.

A causeway was erected from the battery and forming
a junction with the causeway leading to Block Island,
which at flood-tide was under water, and consequently out
of sight of the enemy. This causeway was completed
August 12, and aided very much in approaching the bat-
tery, although we were obliged to march over it in single
file, a distance of nearly a mile.

Many officers and men of the forces stationed on Morris
Island can truly say that they assisted in the construction
of the Marsh Battery. The engineer officers who person-
ally superintended the construction of this battery were
Col. (afterwards General) Edward W. Serrell, now of
New York City : Capt. Charles P. McKenna, Lieut.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 139

Nathan M. Edwards, Lieut. Charles B. Parsons, Lieuten-
ant Hartmann, and Lieutenant Serrell, of the First N. V.
Engineers ; Lieut. A. J. Wadlia, of the Third N. H. Vol-
unteers ; Lieut. William C. Knowlton, of the Seventh
N. H. Volunteers. The work upon the battery had to be
performed wholly at night, and the peculiar construction
involved, required little or no noise : to protect the work-
ing parties from possible attack during the construction a
boom made of heavy logs securely fastened together by
irons, was placed across the mouth of the creek near the
northern end of Morris Island, and was securely anchored
to the adjacent banks ; and a strong force of picket boats
was kept in the creek above the battery and was known
as the Boat Infantry Picket, and it was quite a formidable
force, composed of infantry detailed for the purpose.

The part taken in the construction of this battery by the
Seventh New Hampshire was of the most laborious kind,
and by reference to my diary I tind that on the night of
August 10, a detail for fatigue duty, of about one hundred
men of the regiment, under command of Lieut. William C.
Knowlton, of Company D, was ordered out with arms, and
the writer of this happened to be one of the detail from
Company D, and will never forget how disgustingly muddy
and nasty that job was. x\fter proceeding over the Block
Island causeway to the creek, for the branch causeway had
not then been completed, we embarked in boats, and were
conveyed up the creek, opposite to and about a mile to the
left of Fort Wagner, in the wide marsh between Morris
and James Islands, where we were landed, and were im-
mersed in mud half way to our shoulders. We proceeded
to stack arms, the guns at once disappearing in the sott
mud as far as the middle bands, so that it was by the ut-
most exertion that we could extricate them the next morn-
ing, just before daylight, when we were ordered back to
camp. It was then that we appreciated the recommenda-

140 History of the Seventh Rj^giment

tion of the engineer officer, who, when told to make out his
requisition for what would be needed to establish a battery
at this place, is reported to have made as a part of his
requisition, fifty men, eighteen feet tall, to work in mud
fifteen feet deep. If ever we appreciated height, it was on
this particular occasion, and our tallest men were the sub-
ject of much envy. Here we rolled up heavy pine logs all
night long, the end of a rope being fastened to a stake in
the spot designated for the battery, and the other end of
the rope being passed around the end of the log, there be-
ing a rope at each end. They were rolled into position
by a detail of men at each rope, the logs disappearing in
the mud about as fast as they were hauled in from the
channel ; but after continued exertion, and bv the aid of
numerous sand-bags and planks we established a founda-
tion. We remember the night was ver}- dark and the men
were not allowed to make much noise, and the mud seemed
to be the nastiest mud with which we ever came in con-
tact. About all the clothing we had on was completely
spoiled, but we had assisted in the construction of the
Marsh Battery.

Again, on the night of the 21st of August, Company H
had the honor of supporting this battery ; this being the
night the first gun, more familiarly known among the sol-
diers as the "Swamp Angel," was fired into the City of
Charleston. I can vouch for the statement made by Lieut.
William F. Spaulding, concerning the detail on this night,
as in my diarv I find that the Seventh New Hampshire was
detailed for picket or support for batteries in the trenches
on this particular night. Lieutenant Spaulding in relating
his experience at the Marsh Battery on that night says :

" At this time I was first sergeant of Company H, and
in command of the company. Captain Ames and Lieu-
tenant Farlev beino; either sick or on detached dutv. and
Lieut. John H. Worcester had been killed in the charge

New Hampshire Volunteers. 141

on Fort Wagner, July 18. As we were in the trenches
that night, with the regiment, the field ofiicer of the day
approached my company, asking, ' Who is in command
here?' I saluted, and said, ' I am, sir.' He glanced at my
chevrons and then said, ' Well, sergeant, I want you to
take your company out to the Marsh Battery. If you are
attacked hold your position at all hazards, and I will send
you reinforcements.'

"■ He sent an officer as guide to the landing. From the
shore to the creek, which was quite a distance across the
marsh, we found a causeway about four feet wide, termin-
ating abruptly at deep water. Across the creek was laid
one plank about two teet wide. This we had to cross one
at a time, and as you may well imagine, it was a slow
operation. There w^as no moon, yet it was light enough
to see fairh^ well, but the plank and the water were about
the same color, and we could only get along by sliding one
foot forward and then following it with the other.

"x\rriving at the opposite shore, two logs had been laid
on the marsh side by side, the tops leveled off, and a plank
about a foot wide nailed on each. This continued for a
long distance, and then narrowed down to one plank, and
so continued until we reached the battery, which was said
to be a mile from shore. It took us about an hour to get
there. While going along the single plank some unfortu-
nate man \Aould slip one foot into the soft mud, and then
would occur a few words not fit for women or children to

'' I remember distinctly upon our arrival at the battery I
burst out laughing, when one of the sergeants asked me
what I was laughing at, I told him what the major's orders
were, ' Hold your position at all hazards and I will send
you reinforcements.' Now, as we had been fully an hour
getting there, if we were attacked we would either drive
the ' rebs ' off or they would gobble us before assistance

142 History of the Seventh Regiment

could get over the creek, three fourths of a mile or more
away. During the night we could hear at intervals, the
splash of oars and voices in low tones, which we knew to
belong to our picket boats. Along in the middle of the
night we heard footsteps coming down the plank walk.
When near enough I halted them and received the coun-
tersign. It proved to be a detachment of artiller}-. They
went right at work loading the gun, and, giving it an ele-
vation of thirty-five degrees, let her go.

" How it made things shake I Qiiite a while after the
shot was fired we could see a bright light resembling ' heat
lightning' in summer-time. Again after quite an interval
would come a faint boom. The light was the bursting of
the shell, the ' boom ' the noise of the explosion, Vthich
traveled so much slower than the light. It must be remem-
bered that the shell had to travel about seventy-nine hun-
dred yards before it reached its destination, the City of
Charleston. Again and again the artillery loaded and
fired that Parrott gun, we infantry' stowing ourselves
wherever we could find a place. The wind, of which there
was but very little, blew from the direction of the city.
Soon there was a big racket in the cit}-. Fire was set in
different places, and we could hear the fire bells ringing and
knew that the shells had done their work well. General
Beauregard charged General Gillmore with using Greek
fire. Whether it was used or not I cannot sa}', but I have
always been of the opinion that something of the kind was

" How many times the gun was fired that night I do not
know, but it was quite a number. At daylight we were
relieved and returned over our plank road. Once after-
ward I visited the • Swamp Angel " and found the breech
was blown out.*'

During the construction of this battery, a mock battery
was built to the left and front of the Marsh Batterv and

New Hampshire Volunteers. 143

was finished the night of August 21, being made of boards
and grass, under the supervision of Lieutenants Edwards
and Hartmann. of the First N. Y. Volunteer Engineers,
for the purpose of drawing the fire of the enemy, and it
was eminently successful. On the night of the 17th of
August, the Marsh Battery was ready for the gun which
had been brought up the creek on a boat constructed for
the purpose, and Lieutenant Wadlia, of the Third New
Hampshire, and Lieutenant Parsons, of the First N. Y.
Volunteer Engineers, made their preparations to put the
gun in place, having been detailed for this purpose.

The gun was a two-hundred-pounder Parrott, cast at the
West Point foundry, 1863, and was of a class numbered
six. It had upon its muzzle, " W. P. F., No. 6, 1863,
wt. 16.577, A. M." The " A. M.'' means Alfred Mordecai,
the inspector. The foundr}' number of the gun was five-
hundred and eighty-five. The depth of the bore was one-
hundred and thirty-six inches, or eleven and one third feet,
with a diameter bore of eight inches. A large boat about
thirty feet long had been prepared at the Engineer wharf,
near the south end of Morris Island, with heavy planking
over the entire top, and with the necessary " chocks," The
gun itself was prepared for handling, b}* forcing a round
timber into its capacious mouth as a wedge and handle.
Then pieces of timber were strapped around the body of
the gun to bring it up level with the reinforce. It could
then be rolled. An unusually strong platform had to be
constructed over which the gun was rolled to the boat, and
e?:traordinary care was required and exercised in placing
the gun in the exact spot to produce an even keel. The
boat with its valuable cargo was towed to the place of its
destination, where it was kept two days and nights await-
ing the completion of the battery and the requisite landing
place. The gunwale was not more than five or six inches
above the water, and the boat had to be pumped out often.


History of the Seventh Regiment

It took one night to roll the gun into the battery, and
one night to mount it, and it was ready for action.

The Marsh Battery was a costly experiment and not an
inexpensive plaything. There was used in its construc-
tion upwards of thirteen thousand bags of sand, one hun-
dred and twenty-three pieces of yellow pine timber of
tifteen to eighteen inches in diameter and forty-five to fifty-
tive feet long, five thousand feet of one-inch boards, eight
tarpaulins each eighteen by twenty-eight feet, ninety-five


Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 12 of 52)