Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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tacked by a party of Eebels, who
succeeded in throwing a shell into
her magazine and blowing her up ;
killing 2 and wounding 8 of the 8d
E. I. Artillery.

Dupont, like most old sailors, was
naturally partial to fighting on deck,
and not a lover of iron-clads. The
issue of this struggle ripened his
distrust into detestation. He had
failed, with 1,000 men and 30 guns,
to take, at the first effort, Vhat was
probably the best fortified seaport
on earth, defended by at least ten
times his force in men and metal ;
and he utterly refused to repeat the

There were no movements there-

after in South Carolina under Hun-
ter; save that CoL Montgomery,
with 300 of his 2d S. C. (negroes) on
two steamboats, went** 25 mUes up
the Combahee river, burnt a pon-
toon-bridge, with some private pro-
perty, and brought away 727 very
willhig slaves — all that they could
take, but not nearly all that wished
to be taken. The 2d S. C. recruited
two full companies out of ^ the spoils.'

The Fingal, a British-built block-
ade-runner, which had slipped ** into
Savannah with a valuable cargo of
arms, and been loaded with cotton
for her return, found herself unable,
especially after the fall of Pulaski,
to slip out again; and, after many
luckless attempts, was unloaded, and
iron-clad into what was esteemed a
high state of warlike efficiency — 14
months having been devoted to the
work. She was now christened the
Atlanta, and, wafted from the
wharves of Savannah by a breeze of
prayers and good wishes, moved
down the inlet known as Wilming-
ton river into Warsaw sound, at-
tended by two gunboats and intent
on belligerency. Meantime, two poor
Irishmen, tired of the Confederacy,
had escaped to Hilton Head, and
there revealed the character of the
craft and the nature of her seaward
errand. Hunter^s Adjutant, Hal-
pine, a brother Irishman, who had
wormed out their secret, by the help
of a fluid wliich seldom fails to un-
loose the Celtic tongue, at once sped
the information to Dupont; who
forthwith dispatched the Weehawken
and the Nahant to Warsaw sound,
wherein the Cimarone alone had
been previously stationed.

** April 8.


• Not. 12, 1861.

Digitized by




Oapt. Jolin Eodgers, in the Wee-
hawken, had been several days in
Warsaw sound ere the Atlanta made
her appearance. At length, jnst
after daylight," he espied her emerg-
ing from WUmington river, with the
Eebel flag deflwtly exalted. Per-

•ceiving his approach, the Atlanta
sent him a ball, then halted to await
his coming. The Eebel tenders, it
was said, had only come down to
tow up the prizes, leaving the At-
lanta at liberty to pursue her victori-
ous career : their decks being crowded
with ladies, who had voyaged from
Savannah to enjoy the spectacle and
exult over the victory.

But there was not much of a
fight— certainly not a long one.
Rodgers disdained to aiftwer the
Bebel's fire till he had shortened the

•intervening distance to 300 yards;

wwhen, sighting his 15-inch gun, he
struck and sliivered the shutter of one
of her port-holes, with the iron and
wood-work adjacent. Loading and
sighting again, he fired and struck
her iron pilot-house; carrying it away
bodily, and severely wounding two
of her three pilots. His next shot
grazed the wreck of what had been
tiie pilot-house; his fifth, fired at
100 yards' distance, smashed through
her side, bending in her four inches
of iron armor, shivering eight inches
of plank, killing one and wounding
18 of her gunners ; passing through
and falling into the water. Here-
upon, the Eebel fiag came down and
a white one went up ; just 26 min-
utes after Eodgers first descried his
antagonist; and 15 after she had
opened the battle. Her consorts
slunk away unharmed ; their passen-
gers returning to advise their fellow-

citizens tbat raising the siege of
Charleston was not so easy a task as
they had fondly supposed it. The
Atlanta, it now appeared, had
grounded, broadside to, just as she
began the fight, but had nevertheless
fired briskly and harmlessly to the
end of it. She had 4 large guns and
165 men.

Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore having
relieved Gen. Hunter,** as Com. Dahl-
gren soon aft«r relieved** Com. Du-
pont, movements were at once set on
foot looking to systematic operations
against Fort Sumter and Charleston.
To a comprehension of these move-
ments, a preliminary glance at the
situation seems necessary.

Gen. Gillmore found in the De-
partment of the South a total force
of 17,463 officers and soldiers — the
most of them veterans of approved
quality, in good part brought thither
by Foster. Considering the naval
cooperation that might at all times
be counted on, his real force must,
for all purposes except that of a de-
termined advance into the he^ist of
the enemy's territory, have been ftdly
equal to 20,000 men. For defense,
against any but a sudden attack or
surprise, it was hardly less than
25,000. But he had so many posts
to hold in a hostile region, and such
an extensive line (250 miles) to picket,
that 11,000 was the very utmost that
he could venture to concentrate for
any oflfensive purpose that might not
be consuinmated within a few days
at farthest. And he had, apart from
the navy, 96 heavy guns (all service-
able but 12 13-inch mortars, which
proved too large, and were left un-
used), with an abundance of muni-
tions, engineering tools, &c.

*» Juno 17, 1863.

*• June 13.

' July 6.

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He found our forces in quiet pos-
seesion of nearly or quite bH the Sea
islands west of the Stono, with Sea*
lNX)ok and FoUj islands, east of that
inlet. Our pickets still — as on the
day of Dupont's attack— confronted
those of the enemy across Lighthouse
inlet, which separates these from Mor-
ris idand.

Gillmore's plan of operations —
oarefrilly matured before he entered
upon his command — contemplated a
descent by surprise on the south end
of Morris island — well known to be
strongly fortified and held — ^which,
being taken, was to be firmly held as
a base for operations against Fort
"Wagner, a strong and heavily armed
ear^work at the n<Nih end of that
island, 2,600 yards from Fort Sum-
ter, held by a strong garrison under
Col. Lawrence M. Keitt. This car-
ried, the less formidable earthwork
a(t Cumming's Point, on the extreme
north, must fall, enabling us to plant
batteries within a mUe of Sumter,
and within extreme shelling distance
of Charleston itself. Thus, even prior
to the reduction of Sumter, it was
calculated that our iron-clads might
pass that fortress, remore the chan-
nel obstructions, run the batteries on
James and Sullivan's islands, and go
up to the city. To distract the ene-
my's attention and prevent a concen-
tration of forces from a distance to
resist our establishment on Morris
island — ^which Gillmore regarded as
the most critical point in 'his pro-
gramme — Gen. A. S. Terry was sent
up the Stono to make a demonstra-
tion on James island ; while Col. Hig-
gioson, steaming up the Edisto, was
to make a freeh attempt to cut the
railroad, so as to prevent the recep-

ti(m of rSenforcements from Savan-

Save as a distraction of the enemy,
this latter movement proved a fail-
ure. CoL Eigginson, with 800 men
and 3 guns, on the gunboat John
Adams and two transports, pushed^
up the Edisto,. making an opening
through a row of piles at Wiltown,
to within two miles of the railroad
bridge ; hxit he was so long detained
here as to lose the tide ; so that the
two transports, going* farther up, re-
peatedly grounded, and found the
bridge defended by a 6-gun battery,,
whereby Higginson was worsted and
beaten off; being compelled to bum
the tug Gov. Milton, as she could
not be floated. He balanced the ac-
count by lUringing off 200 negroes..

Terry's movement was successful,
not only in calling oS the enemy's
attention Srara the real p<Hnt of dan-
ger, but in drawing away a p<»*tion
of their forces from Morris island,
where they were needed, to James
island, where they were not*

FoUy island — a kmg, narrow beach
or sand-spit, skirting the Atlantic
ocean south of the entrance to
Charleston inner harbor — is, like
most of the adjacent islands, barely
elevated above the sea-level, and in
purt flooded by the highest tides.
Though naked for half a mile toward
the north end, it is, for the most
part, densely wooded ; and ridges of
sand, covered by a thick screen of
forest and underbrush along Light-
house inlet, effectually shield it fi^m
observation from Morris island. Here
Saxton found Gten. Vogdes firmly
posted, alert and vigilant, and gradu-
ally, circumspectly strengthened him
without attracting hostile observation

' Jul7 10.

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till he had 47 guns in battery within
speaking distance of the Bebel pick-
ets, with 200 rounds of ammnnition
and all necessary appliances foi' each
— ^the Rebel batteries right inhisfront
being intent 6n destroying a block-
ade-nmner which had been chased
aground by our cruisers just south
of the entrance to Lighthouse inlet.
Meantime^Gen.Terry's division,4,000
strong, and Gren. Strong's brigade of
2,500, were quietly transferred to Fol-
ly island, under the cover of darkness,
and kept out of s%ht, while Vogdes
made a great parade of strengthening
his defenses as though he apprehend-
ed an attack.

At length, all being ready, Gten.
Terry, with 8,800 men, was con-
veyed" trp the Stono, and menaced
the Rebel works on the south end of
James island ; while 2,000 men, un-
der Gen. Strong, wei^ silently em-
barked" on small boats in Folly riv-
er, and rowed stealthily to the junc-
tion of Lighthouse inlet ; where they
were halted, behind a screen of
marsh-grass, while Vogdes's batteries
on the north end of Folly island
broke, at daylight," the slumbers of
th^ unsuspecting foe. Dahlgren's
irbn-clads, Catskill, Montauk, Ka-
hant, and Weehawken, forthwith
opened a cross-fire, which they main-
tained throughout the day ; address-
ing their civilities for the most part
to the tranquilizing of Fort Wagner.

After two hours' cannonade. Gen,
Strong threw his men ashore, disre-
garding a hot fire of Rebel artillery
and musketry, and, by 9 a. m., we
had carried all the enemy's batteries
on the south end of Morris island,
and held three-fourths of that island
firmly, with our skirmishers pushed

up to within musket-shot of Fort
Wagner. The intense heat and the
exhaustion of our soldiers, who had
been under arms all night, here ar-
rested operatitms for the day. Eleven
heavy guns, with much camp equip-
age, were ihe main trophies of our

Next morning, at 5, Gen. Strong
led his men to an assault cm Fort
Wi^er, whereof they reached the
parapet ; but were here met by so
Withering a fire that they recoiled,
with but moderate loss. Thus far^
our casualties on this island were
150 ; those of the l&bels were offi-
cially reported by Beatu^^ard at 300.

Convinced by this failure &at the
fortress was very much stronger than
it had been stipposed, and could oAly
be taken by regular ap^oaehes,
Gillmore now sat down before it,- in
ftill view of the fact that the enetny
could concentrate here at any time a
force fiu: larger than that which as-
sailed theto. But the narrowness of
the island, while it constrained the
besi^ers to work directly and con-
stantly under the fire of the fort, pre-
cluded fianking sallies, and rendered
an accumulation here of force by
the enemy of little practical account.
And, beside, every offensive move-
ment on their part must be made
under the enfilading fire of our gun-
boats; which constantly aided to
shield our working parties from a fu-
sillade that, destructive at best, would
else have been insupportable.

General Terry, on James island,
was attacked at daybreak ** by a
more numerous Rebel force of Geor-
gians, just arrived from Virginia,
who, expecting to surprise him, ad-
vanced rapidly, driving in the 64th

"Julys, P.M.

' Eyening of July 9.

' July 10.

» July 16.

Digitized by




Mass., then on picket duty; but they
found Terry wide awake and ready,
with the gunboats Pawnee, Huron,
Marblehead, John Adams, and May-
flower at hand ; by whose aid they
were easily driven off, with a loss of
some 200. Ours was 100. Terry
proceeded to Morris island forthwith,
to share in the meditated grand as-
sault on Fort Wagner.

The preliminary bombardment was
to have opened at daylight;** but
a terrible storm had so delayed our
preparations and dampened our pow-
der that it did not actually commence
till. 12i P.M. From that time till
dark, the rain of fire from our semi-
circle of batteries, ranged across the
island at the distance of a mile, while
our iron-clads, moving up to within
a few hundred yards, poured in their
heaviest missiles, regardless of the
fire of the fort and that of Sumter.
"Wagner, in fact, kept but two great
guns at work ; her men lying close
in their bomb-proofs, till, their flag
being shot away, a dozen or so in-
stantly swarmed out to replace it ;
when they as quickly disappeared.
On our side, fully a hundred great
guns steadily thundered ; the diells
of our monitors often throwing up
clouds of sand which must have
nearly choked the entrance to the
garrison's bomb-proof; tearing the
fort out of all regularity of outline,
all appearance of structure or sym-
metry. By many on our side, it was
fondly counted that her bomb-proof
must have been pierced and riddled,
her garrison shattered and routed,
by that tremendous bombardment.

Events proved how sadly mistaken
were all such sanguine calculations.
The garrison had lain all day in their

bomb-proof substantially tmharmed :
returning, for appearance's sake, per*
haps one shot for every five hundred
hurled at them, but r^rving their
strength and their iron for the sterner
ordejd which they felt to be at hand."*^

As the day declined, the roar of
our great guns, no longer incessant,
was renewed at longer and longer in-
tervals, and finally ceased; our iron-
clads, save the Montauk, returning
to their anchorage; while a thunder-
storm burst over land and sea ; sharp
fiashes of lightning intermitting and
intensifying the fast coming dark-
ness, as our leaders, galloping hither
and thither, perfected their disposi-
tions for the pending assault.

Our men were formed in three
brigades: the first, led by Gen.
Strong, consisting of the 64th Mas-
sachusetts (colored), CoL Kobert Q.
Shaw, the 6th Connecticut, Col. Chat-
field, the 48th New York, Col. Bar-
ton, the 8d New Hampshire, CoL
Jackson, the 76th Pennsylvania, CoL
Strawbridge, and the 9th Maine,
CoL Emery : the 54th Mass. having
been assigned to this brigade at the
request of its young Colonel, between
whom and Gen. Strong a warm fit-
tachment had sprung up during their
brief acquaintance, formed and ripen-
ed in the field. Shaw's was the first
colored regiment organized in a
Free State ; audit shared his anxiety
to prove that it was not in vain that
Blacks as well as Whites had been
summoned to battle for their country
and the Freedom of Man. In order
to be here in season, it had been for
two days marching through heavy
sands and working its way across
cre^s and inlets, unsheltered through
the pelting rains of the intervening

» July 18.

Digitized by




nights : only reaching at 6 p. m. Gen.
Strong's headquarters, abont midway
of the island, where it was halted five
minutes; but there was now no time
for rest or food, and it went forward,
hungry and weary, to take its place
in the front line of the assaulting
column. That column, advancing a
few hundred yards under a random
fire from two or three great guns,
halted half an hour, during which
the 54th was addressed by Gen.
Strong and by its Colonel ; and then
— as the dusk was deepening rapidly
into darkness — ^the order to advance
was given, and, under a storm of shot
and shell from "Wagner, Sumter, and
Cumming's Point, our soldiers moved
swiftly on.

The distance traversed at double-
quick was perhaps half a mile ; but
not many had fallen imtil the pierced
but unshaken column had almost
reached the ditch and were within
short musket-range of the fort, when
a sheet of fire from small arms light-
ed up the enshrouding darkness, while
howitzers in the bastions raked the
ditch as our men swept across it, and
hand-grenades from the parapet tore
them as they climbed the seamed and
ragged face of the fort and planted
their colors for a moment on the top.
Here fell Col. Shaw, struck dead;
here, or just in front, fell Gen.
Strong, mortally wounded, with Col.
Chatfield and many noble officers
beside; while Cols. Barton, Green,
and Jackson, were severely wounded.
The remnant of the brigade recoiled
under the command of Maj. Plymp-
ton, 3d N. H. ; while all that was left
of the 54th Mass. was led off by a
boy, Lt. Higginson.

The first brigade being thus de-
molished, the second went forward,

led by Col. H. S. Putnam, 7th New
Hampshire, whose regiment, with
the 62d Ohio, Col. Steele, the 67th
ditto, Col. Voorhees, and the 100th
N. York, Col. Dandy, was now re-
quired to attempt what a stronger
brigade had proved impossible.

There was no shrinking, however,
imtil, after half an hour's bloody
combat before and upon the fort —
CoL Putnam having been kiUed, and
a large portion of his subordinates
either killed or wounded — ^no sup-
ports arriving, the remains of the
brigade, like the first, fell back into
the friendly darkness, and made their
way, as they best co.uld, to our lines,
as the Kebel yell of triumph from
"Wagner rose above the thunder of
their guns from Sumter and Cum-
ming's Point.

In this fearful assault, we lost fuUy
1,500 men; while the Eebel killed
and wounded did not much exceed
100. There were few or no prisoners
taken, save our severely wounded:
and the Eebels say they buried 600
of our dead. Among these was Col.
Shaw — ^a hereditary Abolitionist —
on whom they vainly thought to
heap indignity by " burying him in
the same pit with his niggers." His
relatives and friends grateftilly ac-
cepted the fitting tribute ;* and when
in due time a shaft shall rise from
the free soil of redeemed Carolina
above that honored grave, it will per-
petuate, alike for leader and* for led,
the memory of their devotion to the
holy cause whereto they offered up
their lives a willing sacrifice.

Fort "Wagner being thus proved,
at a heavy cost, impregnable to as-
sault — GUlmore — at once General
commanding and Eugineer-in-Chief
— ^resumed tiie work of its reduction

Digitized by




l>7 regular approaches. Among the
difficultieB to be confronted was the
narrowness of the neck of dry land
along which those approaches mnst
be carried: the fort covering the
entire width of the island where it
stood; whereas, at the point where
we commenced to run our parallels,
it is but a third, and at a point still
nearer the fort, is but a tenth so
wide. The faces of the fort were
mutually defensive, and it was pro-
vided with a sluice-gate for retaining
in its ditch the water admitted at the
highest tides. The problem was
complicated by the cross-fire from
Sumter, Cumming's Point, and se-
veral heavy batteries on James isl-
and. Its garrison could at all times
be readily supplied and reenforced
from Charleston ; while the besi^ers
were embarrassed, and their opera-
tions retarded, by the knowledge that
they might at any moment be as-
sailed without notice by a force of
twice or thrice their strength, sud-
denly concentrated by railroad from
the Bebel armies in any part of the

Within five days after the bloody
repulse of the 18th, a row of inclined
palisading had been stretched across
the island, some 200 yards in advance
of our front, with every added pre-
caution against a sortie that experi-
ence suggested, a bomb-proof maga-
zine constructed, and a first parallel
opened, with 8 siege and fidd-guns
and 10 siege mortars in position, be-
side three * Bequa batteries' of rifle-
barrels, designed mainly for defen-
sive service if needed. And now " a
second parallel was opened, 600
yards in advance of the first, in
which heavy breaching batteries

were established so soon as might be^:
their guns being trained partly upon
Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg
behind it, and partly upon Fort
3umter : fire being opened on the
latter, at a distance of two miles,
from two 8-inch and five lOO-pounder
rifled Parrotts. Meantime, a breach-
ing battery of two 200-pounder rifled
Parrotts and two 80-pounder Whit-
worths, likewise intended for Fort
Sumter, had been established by CoL
Serrell in the first parallel, which
was manned by Admiral Dahlgrea
from the navy, under Captain Fox-
hall A. Parker; and which, in one
week" of service, made a decided
change in the physiognomy of that
obstinate structure. Com'r Gteo. W.
Bodgers^ of the Catskill, was kiUed.
Still other breaching batteries were
simultaneously established on the
left, 800 yards farther from Sumter,
which participated in the bombard-
ment of that fort, and contributed to
its measurable success.

All these extensive and difficult
works were of course pushed forward
mainly under the cover of darkness,
which did not cause an intermission of
the enemy's fire, but materially inter-
fered with the accuracy of his aim.
The advancing over deep sand and
mounting, under fire, of the great
guns employed in these operations,
was a most arduous labor, taxing the
strength as well as patience and
courage of all engaged.

Gen. Gillmore had long since" re-
solved to establish a battery in the
marsh westward of Morris island, at
a point whence he believed it practi-
cable to reach the wharves and ship-
ping of Charleston, and had directed
CoL Serrell to make the requisite ex-

* Jul/ 23.

' Aug. 17-33.

» July 1ft.

Digitized by




aminatioiis. The marsli here was a
bed of soft, black mud, 16 to 18 feet
deep, overgrown with reeds and grass,
traversed by tortnous, sluggish wat«r-
courses, and overflowed at high tide.
Here, at a point midway between
Morris and James islands, fiilly five
miles from the lower end of Charles-
ton, on a capacions and substantial
. platform of logs, placed directly on
the surface of the marsh, but strength-
ened, beneath its gun platform, by
piles, driven through the mud into
the solid sand below — ^the rectangu-
lar space inclosed by them being
filled in with sand — was established
the * Marsh Battery;' mounting a
single 8-inch rifled Parrott, named
by the soldiers * the Swamp Angel.^
Protected by a sand-bag parapet and
epaulement, it was soon made ready
to transmit the compliments of the
besiegers to the heart of the Bebel-

When all was ready, fire was
opened^ with shot and shell, from
twelve batteries of heavy guns, on
Sumter, "Wagner, and the Cumming's
Point batteries, but mainly on Sum-
ter — ^the breaching guns being served
with great care and deliberation —
the distance of our batteries from
Sumter varying from 3,428 to 4,290
yards, or from two to two and a half
miles. Those in the second parallel
were exposed to a galling fire from
"Wagner, which, though somewhat im-
peded by a cross-fire from our iron-
clads, at times caused a partial sus-
pension of our bombardment ; while
a heavy north-easter, raging on two
days,** seriously affected the accuracy
of our fire at distant Sumter ; which
the Bebels were constantly strength-
ening by sand-bags so fast as it was

demolished by our shot Tet Gill-
more ceased firing on the 23d, be-
cause he considered, and reported to
Halleck, that Fort Sumter, as an
offensive work, was now practically
demolished : its barbette guns being
mainly dismounted; its stately and
solid walls reduced to a heap of un-
sightly ruins, whence most of the
guns were gradually withdrawn by
night, because no longer capable of
effective service upon or within its
walls ; and its garrison of artillerists
exchanged for one mainly of infan-
try, who were tolerably safe in the
bomb-proo& covered by its sheltering
ruins, but capable neither of imped*

Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 67 of 113)