Page images



quietly to Philadelphia, and there exhibited for awhile for the benefit of the fund of the Union Volunteer Refreshment Saloon.' It is said that the cost of the Atlanta was defrayed entirely by the proceeds of the voluntary sale of their jewelry by the misguided women of the Confederate States. The example was followed at Charleston, where the building of a gun-boat was begun, with the expectation of money from similar sources, to carry it on.

Although the attack on Sumter in April was a failure, the Government was determined to renew the attempt in connection with a land force. Dupont's views were so decidedly in opposition to the measure, because he could anticipate no other result than failure again, that soon after the capture of the Atlanta, when Gillmore was preparing to move vigorously in a siege of Charleston, Dupont was relieved, and Commodore Foote was appointed his successor. The latter died in New York while on his way to his new post of duty, and Admiral Dahlgren was ordered to the command of the


squadron. That officer reached Port Royal on the 6th of July, and heartily sympathizing with Gillmore in his plans, entered vigorously upon the duties assigned him.


Gillmore found Folly Island well occupied by National troops under General Vogdes, who had employed them in preparations for future work. Through its almost impenetrable jungles he had cut roads, and it was thoroughly picketed in every part. He constructed a strong work on the southern end of it, to command the approaches down the Stono River. Another was erected on Folly River that commanded Secessionville; and at a narrow part of the island, a mile from its northern end, a line of intrenchments was cast up, with a redoubt at each end. Such was the situation on that island, soon to be made famous in history, when Gillmore arrived there, and, with the practiced eye of a skillful engineer, after traversing it, selected positions for batteries to bear the fortifications on Morris Island. His plan of campaign was quickly conceived. It was to approach Charleston by Folly and Morris Islands. To do this, he must overcome Fort Wagner, on the latter island, a very strong work, lying within twelve hundred yards of Fort Sumter, heavily



1 See page 578, volume I.


2 See page 202, volume II.

3 Folly Island is about seven miles in length, and not over one in width at its broadest part. On the west it is separated from James's Island by marshes traversed by Folly River, a narrow but deep stream. The eastern side borders on the ocean. Light-House inlet, which separates it from Morris Island, is five or six hundred yards wide. At the time we are considering, the island was covered with pine timber throughout nearly its whole extent, with an almost impenetrable tangled undergrowth. "I have never seen such a mass of briers and



armed and fully garrisoned by veterans, under Colonel Lawrence M. Keitt. This carried, Battery Gregg, on Cummings's Point, must fall as a conse quence, when the National guns might be brought to bear heavily on Fort Sumter, and possibly hurl their shot and shell into the city of Charleston. To this work Gillmore now addressed himself.


The first movement of the new commander was to cause the erection of strong batteries on the northern end of Folly Island, to cover the passage of his troops over Light-House inlet. These were begun under the direction of General Vogdes, on the 15th of June," and were prosecuted with vigor under a heavy fire, frequently, from the Confederate guns on Morris Island. The Nationals were completely masked by the thick pine forest, and their foe could only guess their position and what they were about, for they were as silent as mutes. Their works were completed at the beginning of July, and were superior of their kind. They were made of sand and marsh sod. The batteries were embrasured and revetted, with maga

[graphic][merged small][merged small]



ceeded to distract the attention of the Confederates, and mask his real design, by sending General A. H. Terry, with nearly four July S. thousand troops, up the Stono River, to make a demonstra

tion against James's Island, while Colonel Higginson, with some negro troops, went up the Edisto to cut the Charleston and Savannah railway, so as to prevent troops from being sent from the latter to the former place. Higgins went in the gun-boat John Adams, with two transports, but in his attempt to reach the railway he was repulsed, and returned with two hundred "contrabands," who gladly followed him. Terry's movement was successful, for it drew the attention of the Confederates to James's Island, and caused them to send re-enforcements thither from Morris Island.

July 10.

Thirty hours after Terry's departure, General George C. Strong silently

thorns anywhere else," wrote a conspicuous actor in the military events there. "There was not a road of any description, and the only way to pass from one end of the island to the other, was along the beach, which was not always practicable at high tides."-History of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment, by its commander, Brevet Brigadier-General W. W. H. Davis, page 218.

1 This was the appearance of one of the bomb and splinter-proofs of Gillmore's works on Folly Island, at the time of the writer's visit there, in the spring of 1866. This picture is from a photograph by Samuel A. Cooley, photographer of the Fourth Army Corps.

7 See explanation of this word in this connection on page 501, volume I.


July 9, 1863.

July 10.


embarked two thousand men' in small boats, on Folly River, and rowed softly, thoroughly masked by the tall marsh grass and the shadows of night, to the junction of that stream with LightHouse inlet. The movement was unperceived by the Confederate sentinels, and the occupants of Morris Island were astounded when at dawn, the next morning, Vogdes's unsuspected batteries opened a tremendous cannonade, and Dahlgren's monitors, Weehawken, Catskill, Montauk, and Nahant, at the same time opened a cross fire, and there stood revealed a strong force ready to pass over and give battle. After a two-hours' cannonade, during which Dahlgren's guns were directed toward Fort Wagner to keep its garrison quiet, General Strong threw his men rapidly ashore in the face of a heavy fire of artillery and musketry, and by nine o'clock in the morning, after a sharp but short struggle, he had full possession of all the Confederate works on the southern end of Morris Island, with eleven guns and much camp equipage. The Confederates fled toward Fort Wagner, hotly pursued by Strong as far as a oncefine mansion, known as the Beacon House, where they came in range of the guns of the fort, and halted. Three-fourths of the island was now in possession of the Nationals. Strong's skirmishers pushed up to within musket-range of Fort Wagner. But prudence required a suspension of operations for awhile, for the weather was intensely hot, and the victorious troops had been under arms all night.

[ocr errors]


Strong's troops rested the remainder

of the day and the night following, and at five o'clock the next morning he led them to an assault on Fort Wagner. They pressed boldly July 11. up, and had reached the parapet, when they were met by a fire so withering that they recoiled, yet without very serious loss. The Nationals were not disheartened by the repulse, while the attack created the greatest consternation at Charleston. Mayor Macbeth, after consultation with Beauregard, "advised and earnestly requested all women and children, and other non-combatants, to leave the city as soon as possible," in anticipation of an attack; and the Governor of the State made a requisition of three thousand negroes, to work on additional fortifications for the defense of the city. The Charleston press made frantic appeals to the people that revealed its fears,*

1 These consisted of the Third New Hampshire, Sixth and Seventh Connecticut, Ninth Maine, Seventysixth Pennsylvania, four companies of the Forty-eighth New York, and a battalion of sharp-shooters.

2 This was the appearance of the Beacon House after the struggle for the possession of Fort Wagner, on the 18th of July. It was the head-quarters, for awhile, of Acting Brigadier-General W. W. H. Davis, of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, and was used by Gillmore as a signal station.

The loss of the Nationals on Morris Island since the landing of Strong, the day before, was about 150 men. Beauregard reported the Confederate loss during the same time at 300 men. The troops engaged in this assault were the brigades of Generals Strong and Seymour, and consisted of the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania Forty-eighth and One Hundredth New York, Third New Hampshire, Ninth Maine, and Sixth and Seventh Connecticut.

The Charleston Courier urged the exertion of every effort to retake the sea-coast islands. "Failing in this," it said, "and even should Sumter become untenable, then let us resolve on a Saragossa defense of the



and Beauregard, as usual, issued bombastic orders, and fulminated harmless thunder of words against the "Yankee abolitionists.""

It was now evident to General Gillmore that Fort Wagner was stronger than he supposed it to be, and that it could only be taken by regular approaches. He carefully calculated the chances of success, and concluded that while the Confederates might concentrate a greatly superior force on his front, the island was so narrow, with the sea on one side and a deep creek and marshes on the other, that he need not fear danger from flank movements. Besides, should the Confederates attempt an advance from Fort Wagner, Dahlgren's guns would fatally sweep them with an enfilading fire. Satisfied that he might proceed with safety, he did so, and at once cast up sheltering works in the vicinity of the Beacon House, preparatory to a bombardment and another assault on Fort Wagner.

* July, 1863.

In the mean time General Terry, who had made a lodgment on James's Island, had found lively work to do. Beauregard had received re-enforcements of Georgia troops from Virginia, and these he sent to co-operate with troops on James's Island in an attempt to surprise and capture Terry and his command. At the dawn of the 16th," these advanced rapidly upon Terry, from near Secessionville, under General Hagood, driving in the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, on picket duty. But Terry was never asleep in the presence of danger. His troops, with the gun-boats Pawnee, John Adams, Huron, Mayflower, and Marblehead, in Stono and Folly rivers, were ready to receive the assailants, who were very easily repulsed. This accomplished, Terry, whose whole movement had been a feint, withdrew from James's Island, according to arrangement, to join in the meditated attack on Fort Wagner. In this engagement Terry lost about one hundred men, and Hagood about two hundred.

In his order congratulating his troops for their success on the 10th, Gillmore, after saying they had moved three miles nearer Sumter, frankly declared that their labors were but just begun. "While the spires of the rebel city still loom up in the distance," he said, "the hardships and privations must be endured before our hopes and expectations can find full frui tion in victory." To this the


troops gave full assent; and with a corresponding spirit he made preparations for another assault on Fort Wagner. Five batteries were erected across the island, from the sea to the marshes, by the New York Volunteer Engineers, in

[ocr errors]


city, manning and defending every wharf-fighting from street to street, and house to house-and, if failing to achieve success, yielding nothing but smoking ruins and mangled bodies as the spoil of the ruthless conquerer."

1 After the Emancipation Proclamation went forth, the epithet of "Abolitionist" was applied to the National troops, on the recommendation of Beauregard, hoping thereby to keep alive the fire of hatred in the bosoms of the people of the Slave-labor States. We find the Confederate commanders, in their reports, taking special pains to make the idea very prominent that the war was only for the abolition of slavery.

2 In his report to General Jordan, Beauregard's chief of staff, General Ripley, in command of the defenses of Charleston harbor, says: "Brigadier-General Hagood succeeded in driving the enemy, about two thousand in ■umber, from James's Island." He suppressed the fact that Hagood was repulsed, and that Terry left the island at his leisure for a more important field of action.


⚫ July, 1863.


which Parrott guns and heavy mortars were mounted. Besides these, he had three light batteries. Behind these works a storming party was formed, and when all was in readiness, at noon on the 18th," he opened a bombardment on the doomed fort. Dahlgren at the same time moved his monitors near to it, regardless of the fire from both Fort Sumter and Fort Wagner, and poured upon the latter a continuous fire of heavy shells. This bombardment was to have been opened at dawn, but a storm prevented the perfecting of the arrangements for assault until noon. From that hour until sunset a hundred great guns were steadily assailing the fort, which replied with only two guns at long intervals. The Confederates knew how useless and destructive of men would be the fighting of their own guns in such a conflict. They also believed that the bombardment was only precedent to another assault by troops; so the garrison was kept safely in the bomb-proofs, in readiness for closer and more hopeful work.'

When, as darkness was coming on, the roar of cannon ceased, it was followed by the roar of thunder among the clouds, for a fearful storm swept over land and water at sunset. The Confederate flag still waved defiantly over Fort Wagner. The garrison might be decimated by the bombardment, or driven away, but the flag was still there. It must be humbled; and a storming party, composed of three brigades, was prepared to do it while the tempest was in full career; and just as the twilight was deepening, the first assaulting column, under General Strong, moved toward the fort. It was composed of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored), under Colonel Robert G. Shaw; Sixth Connecticut, Colonel Chatfield; Forty-eighth New York, Colonel Barton; Third New Hampshire, Colonel Jackson; Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania, Colonel Strawbridge; and the Ninth Maine, Colonel Emory. The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts was the first regiment of colored troops organized in a Free-labor State, and its young colonel, anxious to prove the efficiency of men of that race in battle, eagerly sought the post of danger in the front ranks of the assaulting column, notwithstanding his men had arrived only two hours before, after a most fatiguing march, without rest or food, to reach the front.2

Strong moved forward to within half a mile of Fort Wagner, when he advanced his whole column at the double-quick, in the face of a shower of shot and shell, not only from the work in his front, but from Fort Sumter and Battery Gregg. Not many men had been hurt when the column had almost reached the ditch within short musket-range of the fort, and many believed that few of the garrison were left to oppose them. They were instantly undeceived, when the parapet suddenly blazed with the flame of musketry, and the howitzers in the bastions swept the ditch as the assailants crossed it. At the same time hand-grenades sent over from within made sad work among the Unionists; yet some of them scaled the second parapet, near the sally-port, and planted the National standard there. The bearer and the flag disappeared almost instantly. At about the same time the gallant Shaw was

1 Very few persons were injured during the tremendous bombardment that afternoon. In the fort four men were killed and fourteen were wounded. No one was hurt in the squadron, and only one man was killed and one wounded in Gillmore's trenches.

2 This regiment had been assigned to Strong's brigade at the request of its colonel, and to be with it in the contemplated assault, it had been marching for about two days through heavy sand, across marshes and creeks, in pelting rain and sweltering heat.

« PreviousContinue »