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ATTACK ON FORT SUMTER.
that fortification, engaging its left or northwest face [its weakest side,'] at a distance of from one thousand to eight hundred yards; firing low and aiming at the central embrasure.” The commander then knew nothing of the great hawser and its dreadful festoons, that hung in the prescribed path of his warriors.
But it was soon discovered, and the silence of the lower Confederate batteries, and especially of powerful Fort Wagner, as the squadron moved by them—a silence which created the most painful forebodings and suspense-was explained.
The Weehawken, its bow furnished with a contrivance for exploding torpedoes and removing obstructions, went forward, leading the procession of strange monsters of the deep, and at three o'clock came suddenly upon that fearful boom, and could go no farther. Her propeller became entangled in the horrid net-work, and she seemed subject only to the action of the tide. The other vessels were drawing nearer and nearer, their people wondering why the Weeharoken hesitated, when suddenly the silence was broken, as the heavy barbette guns of Fort Sumter poured a stream of plunging shot and shell upon the thralled vessel. Rodgers saw that contest there would be fatal to his ship, and he managed to withdraw. Then, followed by the other vessels, he attempted to pass by Sumter, in the channel between it and Cummings's Point, but was there confronted by the rows of piles. It was well that he was stopped, for had he gone into the open way through one of the rows, the Weehawken would doubtless have been blown to atoms by the monster torpedo just mentioned.
Meanwhile Dupont was bringing the monitors into position for a simultaneous attack on Fort Sumter, when his ponderous flag-ship, the New Ironsides,' struck by the tide, became almost unmanageable, and confused the line. He signaled for the other vessels to disregard her, and take positions for the most effective work. Lieutenant-Commander Rhind then ran the little Keokuk within five hundred yards of the fort, and hurled upon it her immense projectiles, until she, herself, was riddled, began to sink, and was compelled to withdraw. The Montauk and Catskill were almost as near, and these, with the remainder of the monitors, poured a tremendous storm of heavy metal on the fort. At the same time the guns of Forts Sumter, 196
1 See notice of the character of Fort Sumter on page 118, volume I.
• This vessel was built at Philadelphia by Merrick & Sons, at a cost of $780,000. She was of 3,486 tons burden. She was launched in May, 1862. Her armament was of 200-pounder rifled Parrott guns, capable of throwing solid shot six miles, and her complement of men was 500. She did good service during the war, and was accidentally burnt near Philadelphia, in December, 1866.
; Mr. Swinton, author of Campaigns of the Army of the Potomac, who was on board the flag-ship during the action, and sent a graphic account of it to the New York Times, thus depicted the scene in the turret of a "monitor" in action : " Here are two huge guns which form the armanent of each monitor-the one 11, the other 15 inches in diameter of bore. The gunners, begrimed with powder and stripped to the waist, are loading the gun The allowance of powder, 85 pounds to each charge, is passed up rapidly from below; the shot, weighing 420 pounds, is hoisted up by mechanical appliances to the muzzle of the gun, and rammed home; the gun is ran out to the port and tightly compressed. The port is open for an instant; the captain of the gun stands bebind, lanyard in hand-Ready, fire!—and the enormous projectile rushes through its huge parabole, with the weight of 10,000 tons, home its mark."
CHARACTER OF THE BATTLE.
Moultrie, Wagner, and the batteries within range, having an aggregate of nearly three hundred pieces,' were hurling heavy shot and shells upon the squadron then within the focus of their concentric fire, at the distance of from only five to eight hundred yards. These were thrown at the rate of one hundred and sixty a minute. The greater portion of them glanced off the mailed ships as harmlessly as if they had been pistol-shot, while others made severe bruises. The weaker Keokuk suffered most, having been hit ninety times. Both her turrets were riddled, and nineteen holes were made in her hull, some of them eighteen inches in diameter. She withdrew, went down the coast of Morris Island to Light-House inlet, and there sunk, at eight o'clock in the evening, after her people had safely abandoned her.
“ The best resources of the descriptive art,” wrote an eye-witness, “ I care not in whose hand, are feeble to paint so terrific and awful a reality. Such a fire, or any thing even approaching it, was simply never seen before. The mailed ships are in the focus of a concentric fire of five powerful works, from which they are removed only from five to eight hundred yards, and which, in all, could not have mounted less than three hundred guns. And, understand, these not the lighter ordnance, such as thirty-two or forty-two pounders, which form the ordinary armament of forts, but of the very heaviest caliber—the finest and largest guns from the spoils of the Norfolk Navy Yard, the splendid ten and eleven-inch guns cast at the Tredegar Works, and the most approved English rifled-guns (Whitworth and others) of the largest caliber made. There was something almost pathetic in the spectacle of those little floating circular towers, exposed to the crushing weight of those tons of metal, hurled against them with the terrific force of modern projectiles, and with such charges of powder as were never before dreamed of in artillery firing. It was less the character of an ordinary artillery duel, and more of the proportions of the war of the Titans in the elder mythologies. There was but one conviction in the minds of all who were made acquainted with the facts, whether among the naval officers engaged or intelligent outside observers—the fight could not be renewed. And yet it was fully expected, on the night of the battle, that another trial would be made in the morning. I saw many of the captains of the iron-clads during that night. All were ready to resume the battle, though each man felt that he was going to an inevitable sacrifice. I confess I prayed that the fiery cup might pass from them, and that no impetuosity might prompt our leader to throw the fleet again into that frightful fire..
No man could possibly feel with greater intensity all the instincts and motives that prompted the renewal of the battle, than the grand old sailor, the noble Dupont; and yet no man could possibly see with more clearness the blind madness of such an attempt. He dared to be wise."
The terrible fight did not last more than forty minutes, during which time, it was estimated, the Confederates fired three thousand five hundred
1 According to the report of General Ripley, who was in charge of the defenses of Charleston, only 76 of these guns were brought to bear on the squadron.
? Mr. Swinton said: “Some of the commanders of the iron-clads afterward told me that the shot struck their vessels as fast as the ticking of a watch."
3 The turrets of the Keokuk were made of iron, nearly six inches in thickness, and yet they were per etrated, without much difficulty, by the steel-pointed shot hurled against them.
4 Mr. Swinton in the New York Times.
REPULSE OF THE SQUADRON.
shots. Dupont, seeing the Keokuk nearly destroyed, half his other vessels injured,' his flag-ship placed in peril, and Fort Sumter apparently but slightly injured, he was satisfied that further efforts to reduce that work by the navy alone would be futile, so at five o'clock he signaled the squadron to retire.
The attack on Sumter was a failure, but did not involve disaster. Dupont lost but few men,' and only one vessel (the Keokuk), the remainder of his squadron being in a condition to be easily repaired. He was blamed by the inexpert and zealous for not longer continuing the fight, or renewing it the next day, but subsequent events vindicated the soundness of his judgment. His withdrawal gave the Confederates great joy, and “the happy issue," Beauregard said in a general order, “inspired confidence in the country that the ultimate success of the Confederates would be complete. Had a sufficient supporting land force been employed in vigorously attacking the Confederates on Morris Island, and keeping the garrisons of Battery Gregg and Fort Wagner engaged while the squadron was attacking Fort Sumter, the result might have been different. But only about four thousand of Hunter's troops had aught to do with the expedition directly. These, under General Truman Seymour, Hunter's chief of artillery, were posted behind a thicket of palm-trees, on Folly Island, at Light-House inlet, with pontoons and cannon, ready to dash across to Morris Island and attack the Confederates there when the squadron should reduce Fort Sumter and silence the guns of Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg; but they were not permitted to co-operate in that work. The squadron failed, and the land troops had nothing to do. “A mere spectator,” General Hunter wrote to Admiral Dupont the next day from the transport Ben Deford, “I could do nothing but pray for you, which, believe me, I did most heartily.”
• April 8,
? The Nahant received thirty wounds, one of which was produced by a heavy rifled-shot which struck ber pilot-house, and dislodged several bolts, by which Edward Cobb, quartermaster, was fatally hurt, and the captain and pilot were injured. The Passaic received as many wounds. One of the shot which struck the top of her turret broke all of the eleven one-inch plates of iron that composed it, and injured the pilot-house. The port of the Nantucket was firmly closed by a shot that damaged it. The Nero Ironsides had one of her port shutters carried away by a shot, and her wooden bows were penetrated by shells; and the deck-plating of the Catskill was torn up by a shell.
* Only one man died of injuries received, and about twenty-five were wounded, principally on board the Keokuk and Nahant.
: All the trophies of victory secured by the Confederates were “two 11-inch Dahlgren guns, two United States flags, two pennants, and three signal flags.” The guns were immediately put into the Confederato service"substantial trophies of the affair," Beauregard said.
PREPARATIONS FOR BESIEGING CHARLESTON.
THE SIEGN OF CHARLESTON TO THE CLOSE OF 1863.-OPERATIONS IN MISSOURI,
ARKANSAS, AND TEXAS.
HERE was comparative quiet along the coasts of South
Carolina and Georgia for some time after the attack of the iron-clad squadron on Fort Sumter. Dupont kept a careful watch over the movements of the Confederates, especially those on Morris Island. He had been instructed not to allow them to erect any more fortifica
tions on that strip of land, for it had been determined to seize it, and begin a regular and systematic siege of Charleston by troops
General Hunter was relieved of the command of the Department of the South, and General Q. A. Gillmore, who captured Fort Pulaski the year
before,' was assigned to it. He arrived at Hilton Head on the June 2,
12th of June, and immediately assumed command. He found
there not quite eighteen thousand land troops, mostly veterans. A greater portion of them were the men left there by General Foster. The lines of his Department did not extend far into the interior, but were of great length, parallel with the coast. He had to picket a line about two hundred and fifty miles in length, besides establishing posts at different points. This service left him not more than eleven thousand men that might be safely concentrated for operations directly against Charleston. He had at his disposal ninety-six heavy guns, but only eighty were effective, a dozen 13-inch mortars being too large. He was well supplied with materials of every kind to carry on a siege, and he worked diligently in preparations for it. The National forces were then in possession of most of the sea-coast islands west of the Stono River, and also of Folly Island, eastward of Stono inlet, where their pickets confronted those of the Confederates on Morris Island, at Light-House inlet.
At about the time of Gillmore's arrival, rumors reached Dupont that his blockading vessels were in danger from a very powerful iron-clad ram, which for fourteen months had been in preparation at Savannah, and was then completed. The rumor was true. A swift British blockade-runner, named Fingal, built in the Clyde, which had gone up the Savannah River full eighteen months before with a valuable cargo, and had not been able to get out to sea again, had been converted into a warrior which the Confederates believed would be a match for any two monitors then afloat.
She was thoroughly armed with a coat of thick oak and pine, covered with heavy
i See page 319, volume II.
CAPTURE OF THE “ATLANTA."
bars of iron. She bore four great guns, and was provided with a powerful beak. She was named Atlanta, and her commander was Lieutenant W. A. Webb, formerly of the National Navy, who had a crew of one hundred and sixty men.
Deserters from the Atlanta reported her ready for work, and Admiral Dupont sent the Weehawken, Captain Rodgers, and Nahant, Commander Downes, to Wassaw Sound, to watch her. She was considered by her commander a match for both, and on the morning of the 17th of June, she was seen moving rapidly down the Wilmington River to attack them, accompanied by two wooden gun-boats of Tattnall's Mosquito Fleet, which were intended to tow up to Savannah the captured monitors. After the battle, the Atlanta was to proceed to sea, and destroy or disperse the blockading squadrons off Charleston and Wilmington. She was provided with instruments, and with stores of every kind for a long cruise, especially of choice liquors. No one among the Confederates doubted her invincibility. The gun-boats that accompanied her were crowded with people from Savannah, many of them women, who went down to see the fight and enjoy the victory; and when the National vessels appeared in sight, Captain Webb assured the audience” that the Yankee monitors would be in tow before breakfast.
Like many prophesies of the Confederates, Webb's was not fulfilled, and the spectators were grievously disappointed. As the ram pushed swiftly toward the Weehawken, the latter held back its fire until its antagonist was within short range, when a gun, sighted by Rodgers himself, sent a fifteeninch solid shot, which carried away the top of the Atlanta's pilot-house, wounded two of her pilots, and sent her aground. Rodgers fired only four more shots. The last one struck the ram point blank, fearfully bent her iron armor, and shivered twelve inches of live-oak planking and five of Georgia pine back of it. One man was killed and seventeen were wounded by the blow, when Webb ran up a white flag. In the space of fifteen minutes after the first shot was fired, the Atlanta was prisoner to the Weehawken, and the astonished Webb said to his crew, “Providence, for some good reason, has interfered with our plans, and we have failed of success. I would advise you to submit quietly to the fate that has overtaken you.' In that brief space of fifteen minutes, the glowing visions of ruin to the National Navy, the raising of the blockade of Wilmington, Charleston, and Mobile, and the speedy recognition of the Confederacy as a nation by Great Britain and France, which the Conspirators and their friends had indulged when contemplating the Atlanta, faded away. Instead of raiding up the Atlantic coast, spreading terror among the inhabitants of seaport towns, she was taken
1 The Atlanta was 190 feet in length, and 40 in width. Her main deck was only a few inches above the water. From this roso her gun-deck 8 feet, sloping at an angle of about 30 degrees, leaving a flat surface on the top. She was heavily plated with strips of iron two and a half inches in thickness, covering thick oak and pine planking. She was armed with four of Brooke's (English) rifled cannon, whose projectiles were steel-pointed, and at her bow was an iron beak six feet in length, to which was suspended a submarine torpedo, charged with 50 pounds of gunpowder, for blowing up any vessel she might attack.
2 Captain Rodgers said his first shot took away from the Atlanta her desire to fight, and the last, her ability to get away. He captured 145 men, including officers, without losing a man himself. The Secretary of the Navy spoke of the affair as “the most marked and extraordinary in the service during the year.” The Atlanta made another of the list of Confederate iron-clads wbich the Nationals had recently captured or destroyed.