Henry F. W. Little.

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

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taken from me by an officer in General Hancock's corps.
I wish it was in my power to restore along with his field-
glass, the sword he wore : however, I am gratified at be-
ing able to hand to 3-ou the only reminder of the gallant
services of the dead soldier, which was in ni}- possession."

New Hampshire Volunteers. 173

It is pleasing to note the touches of good feeHng, and
the many friends and comrades of the late Colonel Put-
nam will most truly appreciate the kindly act of Colonel
Anderson, who thus remembered his friend and classmate,
and so tenderly performed the last sad rites over the sup-
posed body of the honored dead. To Captain Hendricks,
his family and friends will ever feel grateful for the resto-
ration of the trophy, made the more sacred by its associa-
tions with the departed and which is now placed in the
hands of those whose pride it is to hold in high esteem the
soldier's sacrifice to his country's cause.

Bernard McElroy, who belonged to Company A, was
the colonel's orderly, and was constantly near him and
should have been able, above all others, to identify the
body, if such a thing had been possible, alter the assault
and at the time of the flag of truce ; but as Mac has long
since " passed over the river," further information upon
that point has, we fear, been forever lost. Mac went into
the charge with him, but was sent back with the colonel's
saddle, as his horse w^as shot from under him soon after
leaving our lines, the colonel doing the rest of the assault
on foot.

The recollection of his exemplary life and heroic death
will ever be sacredly cherished by kindred and friends,
and the thousands of soldiers who have served in his com-
mand, and especially by the officers and men of the old
Seventh whom it was his fortune to personally command.
In his death the Union Army lost one of its best and bravest

174 History of the Seventh Regiment


evacuation of morris island by the enemy. AN






Durino- the month of August the Seventh had been bri-
gaded with the Tenth Connecticut, Twenty-tburth Massa-
chusetts, and One Hundredth New York, which was styled
the Third Brio-ade, and was under the command of Col.
Joseph R. Hawley, of the Seventh Connecticut. At that
time there were five brigades on the island, besides eleven
batteries of artillery and a detachment of the Eleventh
Me. Infantrv, and a detachment of the First Mass. Cav-
alry and the First N. Y. Engineers. These brigade
formations had not been changed at the time of the evacu-
ation of Morris Island by the enemy. Late in the evening
of the 6th of September, the following order from General
Gillmore was issued for the purpose of carrying Fort
Wagner by assault at the hour of low tide, on the following
morning, that hour being selected in order to give our

New Hampshire Volunteers. 175

forces the use of the broad beach for the assauking col-
umn to move upon :

Department of the South,
Headquarters in the Field,

Morris Island, S. C, Sept. 6, 1863.
Special Order No. 513.

I. Fort Wagner will be assaulted at 9 a. m. to-morrow,
the 7th inst., by troops to be designated by Brigadier-Gen-
eral Terry, who will command in person. The artillery
fire upon the work will be kept up until the troops mount
the parapets, and will cease at a given signal. The as-
sault will be in three columns, as follows : First, a col-
umn of two small regiments of picked troops will debouch
from the advanced trenches, mount the parapet of the sea
front and the bomb-proof and the traverses, spike the guns,
and seize and hold the sally-port; Second, a column of
one brigade, drawn up right in front in the trenches, in
rear of the first column, will debouch upon the beach by
regiments, pass the sea-front of the fort, file sharp to the
left and mount the parapet of the north and west faces,
regiment after regiment, as they gain the requisite dis-
tances ; Third, a column of one brigade, left in front,
will follow behind the second column, and deploy across
the island in rear of Fort Wagner, facing Cummings
Point, with skirmishers well out in the front.

n. The guards of the trenches will be held in reserve
at their appropriate stations. The balance of the infantry
force of General Terry's command will be kept under
arms from and after 8 o'clock in the morning, near the
Beacon House. The batteries of field artillery will be
ready for action near the Lookout.


Brigadier- General Covniianding.
Edw. W. Smith,

Assistant Adjutant- General.

General Gillmore further says : " About midnight on
the 6th, it was reported to me that the enemy was evacu-
ating the island. Such was the celerity of his flight that

176 History of the Seventh Regiment

nearl}- the whole of his force made its escape. Seventy
men were intercepted on the water and taken. Our forces
at once occupied the north end of the island. Eighteen
pieces of ordnance of various calibres were captured in
Fort Wagner, and seven in Battery Gregg, making an
aggregate of thirty-six pieces taken on the island. Nearly
all of them were large. Fort Wagner was found to be a
work of the most formidable character, far more so indeed,
than the most exaggerated statements of prisoners and de-
serters had led us to expect. Its bomb-proof shelters,
capable of containing from fifteen hundred to sixteen hun-
dred men, remained practically intact after one of the most
severe bombardments to which any earthwork was ever
exposed. The attempt to tbrm an opening into the bomb-
proof by breaching, tailed for want of time. The heavy
projectiles were slowl}' eating their way into it, although
their effect was astonishingly slight. Indeed, the penetra-
tion of rifle projectiles, fired at a sand parapet, standing at
the natural slope, or approximately so, is but trifling."

The siege of Wagner had lasted lor fiftN'-eight days, and
had required twenty-three thousand five hundred soldiers'
days' work of six hours each, eight thousand days' work
on defensive arrangements, fifty-six thousand days' work
against Sumter, ninety-nine thousand days' work against
Wagner. There were about forty-six thousand sand-bags
used, almost exclusively for revetting.

According to Confederate authority, on September 4, at
Charleston, a conference of general oflicers was held in
relation to the evacuation of Fort Wagner and Morris
Island, which resulted in determining General Beauregard
to hold out so long as night communication could be kept
up by row boats. On September 5, instructions were
given regarding fuse, in case evacuation became neces-
sary, stating " that at least three safety fuses be inserted
in a pile of cartridges, or a barrel of powder in each mag-

Co. E.

Co. E.

1» W^

Co. G.

Co. G.

New Hampshire Volunteers. 177

azine, to be carefully trained to prevent premature explo-
sion, and of proper length to insure the actual departure
of the last man. The fuses to burn tifteen seconds to the
foot, all the smaller guns to be spiked or otherwise injured.
Shot or shell to be rammed down without a cartridge, us-
ing a wedge of wood. Arrange to burst the columbiads
with bolts, Tennessee caps, fuse, etc., if they arrive in
time ; otherwise, put in two cartridges, two solid shot,
another cartridge, then till the gun to the muzzle,
adding fuse." However, the fuse did not prove to be
in good condition, and after experimenting with it,
Captain Huguenin, to whom the "blowing up" had been
assigned, otlered to make assurance doubly sure by set-
ting on fire two barrels of resin, first placing them in
the hospital adjoining the magazine ; but was not permitted
to do so, as the order was for fuse to be used. Captain
Huguenin was accidentallv left on the island, but was res-
cued by a boat which was seeking to escape capture itself,
he wading out to it. He was probably the last Confeder-
ate to leave the island.

At midnight on the 5th, Col. L. M. Keitt, commanding
Fort Wagner, signaled, "I had nine hundred, not four-
teen hundred men. About one hundred of those were
to-day killed and wounded. The parapet of the salient
is badly breached. The whole fort is much weakened.
A repetition to-morrow of to-day's fire will make the fort
almost a ruin. The mortar fire is still very heavy and
fatal, and no important work can be done. Is it desirable
to sacrifice the garrison? To continue to hold it is to do
so. Captain Lee, the engineer, has read this and agrees.
Act promptly and answer at once." Of the evacuation,
General Beauregard says in the Century's War Book :
" The instructions were prepared by me, with much delib-
eration and thought. The withdrawal of the troops began
as previously agreed upon, and was conducted in silence,

178 History op^ the Seventh Regiment

with great coolness and precision. Owing to some defect
in the fuses, however, tlie powder magazines of neither
Wagner nor Gregg were exploded, although they had
been lit with all due precaution by able officers."

The next day General Beauregard telegraphed to Rich-
mond :

6 Sept., 1S63, 8 p. M.

" Terrible bombardment of Wagner and Gregg for
nearly thirty-six hours. Front work much damaged, re-
pairs impossible. Approaches of enemy within fort}'
yards of salient. Casualties over one hundred and fift}'.
Garrison much exhausted. Nearly all guns disabled.
Communication with city extremely difficult and danger-
ous. Sumter being silenced, evacuation of Morris Island
becomes indespensible to save garrison. It will be at-
tempted to-night. This is the (ifty-eighth day of attack."

On the morning of September 6, at 2.15 a. m., Beaure-
gard signaled Colonel Keitt : " Repair work with soldiers
and negroes on island. I will determine to-day what
measures to adopt. No action shall be taken in haste. It
is too late to act to-night."

At 8.45 A. M. on the same morning Colonel Keitt sig-
naled Beauregard: "Incessant fire from Yankee mortar
and Parrott batteries. Can't work negroes, better look
after them promptly. Had thirty or forty soldiers wounded
in an attempt to work. Will do all I can, but fear the
garrison will be destroyed without injuring the enemy.
The fleet is opening, but I hope we may stand till night."

At 10.30 A. M. Colonel Keitt again signaled to Beaure-
gard : " Boats must be at Cummings Point early to-night,
without fail."

At 3.15 P. M. he again signaled to Beauregard : "Will
boats be here to-night for the garrison? And if our sacri-
fice be of benefit, I am ready, let it be said so and I will
storm the enemy's work at once, or lose every man here.

=■ w

c^ ^




New Hampshire Volunteers. 179

The enemy is within fifty yards of us, and before dawn we
should assault him if we remain here. Answer positively
and at once. Assistant Engineer Stiles has fust inspected
the fort and says it is untenable. The enemy will by
night advance their parallel to the moat of this battery.
The 2^1'i'ison must be taken awav immediately after dark,
or will be destroyed or captured. Pray have boats. I am
sending the sick and wounded to Cummings Point. I
have not in the garrison four hundred effective men, ex-
cluding artillery. I shall say no more."

It seems that General Beauregard finally consented to
act, for during the day, September 6, by Special Order
No. 176, he directed the evacuation, with the following
details :

" Two iron-clads to take position near Sumter. All
land batteries to be prepared to sweep all the water faces
of Gregg. Transports to be near Cummings Point, to
receive the men from row-boats. The row-boats, in large
numbers, to be at or near Cummings Point directly after
dark. A naval officer to have charge of the boats. A line
of couriers to extend from boats to Wagner. Wounded to
be first removed, then the garrison, except two companies
to remain till the last, to make show of occupation and
defend in case of assault. To not approach boats nearer
than one hundred yards before assignment. The last to
leave Wagner must not be till Gregg has been entirely
provided for. Two officers to be left to light the tuses (fif-
teen-minute fuses) to blow up magazines and bomb-proofs.
Gregg to be evacuated last. The troops to embark with
loaded guns. If enemy should attack Wagner at once, or
the explosion should be prevented, three rockets from
Gregg to announce it, and all the batteries, Sumter, and
gunboats will open on Wagner and will also do so if the
explosion takes place, and fire slowly at the spot all

i8o History of the Seventh Regiment

The evacuation then took place, and in his report the
next day, Colonel Keitt sa^-s :

"The order was received by me between 4 and 5 p. m.,
September 6, bv signal. Details were received at dark
through Captain McCabe, of General Ripley's staff." He
further says: "A new rifle-pit was made across the
island, after dark, a quarter-mile below (south of) Gregg,
with a force of seventy-seven negroes. Then sent all the
negroes by a flat-boat to Fort Johnson, from Cummings
Point. Several men fainted in the bomb-proofs on the 5th
from foul air and excessive heat."

About 9 p. M. he received notice that the boats were
ready, and the evacuation was begun. The rear guard
was thirty-five men, twenty-five of Company A, First
S. C. Infantry, and ten men of the Twenty-fifth S. C. In-
fantry. The officers were Capt. T. A. Huguenin and
Lieutenants Brown and Taft. At 11 p. m. of the 6th, Col-
onel Keitt turned over the command of Wagner to Captain
Huguenin, and then went with Major Bryan, of Beaure-
gard's staff^ to Cummings Point. An attempt to take aw^ay
three howitzers failed, and they were spiked on the shore
at Gregg. He gave an order to light fuse in Gregg when
he saw the Yankee boats in Vincent's Creek attacking
his retreating troops. Embarked about 1.30 a. m. with his
rear guard, and as they started, the Yankee barges opened
a musketry fire upon them, without harm. He says he
arrived at district headquarters in Charleston, at 3 a. m. of
the 7th, that fuses were lighted (giving the names of the
officers), but, owing to their faulty construction, the maga-
zines and bomb-proofs were not blown up. He sa3's the
guns in both Forts Wagner and Gregg were spiked, but
as Wagner was within thirty steps of the sappers, it was
not safe to attempt to break up the carriages. There was
not powder enough in Gregg to blow up the magazine,
and he had sent the day before for a supply, but the boat


\ r


New Hampshire Volunteers. i8i

and dispatches had been captured, and the capture was
not reported to him till Saturday night. Colonel Keitt was
censured bv Beauregard on September 19, for failing to
destroy the guns.

A writer in the " Southern Bivouac," March, 1886, says
that when it was determined by the Confederates to reduce
Sumter in 1861, with artillery, Clement H. Stevens, a
3'oung clerk in the Planters and Mechanics' Bank at
Charleston, astonished his friends by devising the Cum-
mings Point Battery, covering the heavy timbers with rail-
road T rails, laid at an angle of forty-five degrees. It
also states that Capt. Frank D. Lee and Capt. Langdon
Cheves, of the Confederate Engineer Corps, planned and
built Fort Wagner. Captain Cheves was killed by the
first shell fired at and bursting within the fort July 10, 1863.
Fort Wagner was six hundred and thirty feet from east
to west, and two hundred and seventy-five feet from
north to south. The sea face contained a bomb-proof
magazine, forming a heavy traverse to protect the three
guns north of it from the land fire. Behind the sea face,
a bomb-proof to accommodate not more than nine hundred
men, standing elbow to elbow, was built, and this space
was reduced one third for a hospital. The front was pro-
tected by a ditch filled with water at high tide. It is said
that the only two models of forts used at West Point for
instruction are those of Wagner and Sevastopol.

Speaking of the assault on Fort Wagner on July 18,
1863, a writer in the same magazine describes Colonel
Shaw as a young officer of slight and short figure, arrayed
in a short jacket, with long, light hair, which fell low upon
his neck and across his shoulders, and in referring to the
attack says: "And conspicuous in the van, on came the
little, misguided, unfortunate Massachusetts colonel, Shaw,
his long hair waving behind him as he led his sable enfant
■perdiis. A portion followed him over the ditch and

i82 History of the Seventh Regiment

planted their flag upon the ramparts, where the colonel
was shot and instantly killed. Conspicuous among the
Federal corpses was that of a tall, superbly tbrmed man,
an otlicer, whose calm features, only the more clearly cut by
the chisel of death, gazed toward a cloudless sky : a breath-
less Apollo. This was Colonel Putnam of the Seventh
New Hampshire. Although, horrible to relate, the entire
back part of his head had been blown off, the wonderful
beauty of his face remained intact and unshadowed, evok-
ing from his foes a sigh of pity. On the crest, surrounded
by a few, a very few, of his sable troops, at the foot of the
flag he had vainly planted, was the body of Colonel Shaw.
One would have thought at a cursory glance that it was
the corpse of a mere boy."

One of the prisoners taken at this time said that during
the last night of the siege, they had heard us digging, and
as they supposed we were coming directly under their
works, their officers were impressed with the belief that
we were constructing a mine for the purpose of blowing up
the fort, which probably hastened the evacuation, for fear
the garrison might be destroyed.

Once inside of Fort Wagner, with a chance for observa-
tion, we did not wonder that it had so long withstood the
heavy pounding from our batteries, for under skillful en-
gineering it had been made one of the strongest earth forts
ever constructed. And then we could plainly see reasons
why the assault made upon July i8 had so sadly been a
failure, and how the general " killing," as the rebels
termed it, had taken place, and to us, it now seemed very
doubtful whether more troops would have helped the mat-
ter very much, except in adding to the already enormous
list of casualties ; as we found the guns of the fort so
mounted as to sweep every inch of earth approaching the
structure. A heavy flanking breastwork, designed espe-
cially for infantry and rifle men, which if only partially

New Hampshire Volunteers. 183

manned must have created a terribly withering cross-tire
from which it would seem almost impossible to escape, and
with the torpedoes planted around the approaches to the
fort, and the chevaux-de-frise of sharp-pointed stakes with
iron spear points between, tirmly planted in the counter-
scarp of the ditch, and presenting their points about two
feet below the crest, placed there since the second as-
sault, it would seem almost an impossibility that another
successful assault could be made tVom our trenches upon
the front of the fort.

Our military engineers learned much tVom their experi-
ence against Fort Wagner, and at once became convinced
of the superiority of earthworks over brick and stone struc-
tures for military defenses ; it evidently surprised the
educated engineer as well as the ordinary civilian, and by
all it was a conceded fact that the dry loose sand of our
Atlantic coast could otier the greatest resistance to the lire
of heavy breaching ordnance — at least, so far as known —
if we except iron or steel armor of requisite thickness. It
was a demonstrated fact that the great bomb-proof of Wag-
ner was, on the night of the evacuation, nearly as safe as
when the breaching guns tirst opened upon it, and a few
hours' labor could have placed it in good condition for an-
other siege.

Fort Gregg was much smaller, but had the same appear-
ance of skillful engineering in its construction. The much
damaged portions of these strongholds were repaired as
rapidly as possible, changing front toward Fort Sumter
and the batteries around the harbor ; and a battery for a
three-hundred-pounder Parrott rifled gun was at once con-
structed at the right of Fort Gregg, which was afterwards
known as Battery Chatfield, where were also mounted some
heavy mortars. Our working parties were daily shelled
by Fort Moultrie and the batteries on James Island, as we
were now within easy range of them, and they did fearful


History of the Seventh Regiment

execution ; but we soon had our works completed, and had
a two-hundred-pounder Parrott mounted at Fort Gregg.
Our calcium light was now brought up to Cummings
Point, at Fort Gregg, and was placed on the beach oppo-
site that fort ; it was of great assistance to us, as it lighted
up the harbor, showing our gunners every steamer or
small boat that chanced to be moving around the harbor,
and gave us a splendid view of Sumter, at which fort we
occasionally threw a shell. It was displaved on the night
of November 11, for the first time, and Maj. John Johnson,
in his work on " The Defense of Charleston Harbor,"


says of our calcium light : "It was now put to use again,
and very often from Cummings Point, lighting up the
water between Morris Island and Fort Sumter well enough
to discover small boats, but failing to illuminate the fort as
brightly as it had done Battery Wagner. It was not so
bright as the full moon, but one could read by it, at Fort
Sumter, the large capitals of a newspaper. It w^as thought
at first that the enemy's purpose might be to discover the
parties working at repairs or placing obstructions on the
slopes, or possibl}^ to detect the passage of the transport
boats to and from the fort. But observation decided that

New Hampshire Volunteers. 185

the use of the light was rather for defensive purposes, to
reveal the approach of hostile boats from the Confederate
side. The importance of the light in warfare cannot be
too highh' estimated. At Fort Sumter the defense might
have been ver}- greatly simplified by its use ; but the shin-
ing mark it would have afforded the enemy was enough,
at this period of short range firing, to condemn it. This
calcium light was a great annoyance to the sentinels,
for it seemed to fascinate their gaze, diverting them too
much from the proper objects of their watch — in fact, it
blinded them no little by interposing its plane of illumina-
tion with dazzling effect between their eyes and the dark
waters of the harbor around them. The appearance of the
light would sometimes be striking and beautiful, as from a
focus of the intensest brilliancy the rays would appear to
dart forth and flash upon an expanse of inky blackness;
then, touching or tipping the crest of the gorge, they
would stream across the empty darkness of the interior, to
be caught and reflected by the jagged pinnacles of the
northern wall, standing out for a time in bold relief
against the midnight sky above and the gloomy crater of
the fort below. In fact, the view of the fort by night was
at all times most impressive in its strange silent grandeur."
On September S, both General Gillmore and Admiral
Dahlgren made arrangements to assault Fort Sumter at
night. It appears that after General Gillmore had arranged
his plans, he asked Admiral Dahlgren to put his men
under the army officer, but the latter declined, and each
proceeded with and under his own plan, and consequently
there was no concerted action. The monitor " Weehaw-
ken " got aground to-day and there was a lively fight
between Fort Moultrie and the iron-clads that came to the
assistance of the " Weehawken." During the engagement
a shell from the "Weehawken" struck the muzzle of an
eight-inch columbiad in Fort Moultrie, and glanced into


New Hampshire Volunteers. 187

some shell-boxes which were protected by a traverse, pro-
ducinoj an explosion, killing sixteen and wounding twelve

Online LibraryHenry F. W. LittleThe Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion → online text (page 15 of 52)