« PreviousContinue »
REPULSE AT FORT WAGNER.
shot dead, a short distance from the fort, and fell among the slain of his faithful dusky followers. Near him General Strong and Colonel Chatfield were mortally wounded; and Colonels Barton, Green, and Jackson were severely so, at the heads of their regiments, while many other officers of lower grades and scores of men were killed or maimed. The bereaved brigade, fearfully shattered and unable to continue the contest, fell back under Major Plympton, of the Third New Hampshire. Very few of the colored troops, whose bravery and fortitude had been well tested, remained unhurt, and these were led away by Lieutenant Higginson, a mere lad, into the sheltering gloom.
On the repulse of the first brigade of assailants, the second and smaller one, commanded by Colonel H. L. Putnam, of the Seventh New Hampshire, acting as brigadier-general, hurried forward and resumed the assault vigorously. This brigade was composed of Putnam's own regiment, the Sixtysecond and Sixty-seventh Ohio, commanded respectively by Colonels Steele and Voorhees, and the One Hundredth New York, under Colonel Dandy. For half an hour these brave men continued the assault unflinchingly, though losing fearfully every moment. Many of them scaled the parapet, got into the fort, and there fought hand to hand with the garrison, not only in getting in, but in getting out again. Finally, when their brave leader, Colonel Putnam, was killed at the head of his troops, and nearly all of his subordinate commanders were slain or wounded, and no supports were at hand, the remains of the brigade, like the first, were led away into the gloom, and the assault ceased. The contest was too unequal. The Confederate garrison was in full force, and did not lose, in that fearful struggle, over one hundred men, while the Nationals, marching up uncovered toward the fort, lost a little more than fifteen hundred men. The Confederates said they buried six hundred bodies of the Unionists. Among them was that of Colonel Shaw, which was thrown into a deep trench that was filled above him with the slain of his colored troops, and so they were buried.
1 This shows the land-front of the fort, with the sally-port, near which Colonel Shaw was killed.
2 The deaths of Colonels Shaw and Putnam caused the most profound sorrow, not only in the army, but throughout the country. Colonel Shaw was only twenty-seven years of age when he gave his life to the cause of Right and Justice. He was son of Francis G. Shaw, of Staten Island, New York, and when the war broke out was a member of the New York Seventh Regiment, so conspicuous in the movement for opening the way to Washington through Maryland. See chapter 18, volume I. He was with his regiment in those opening scenes of the war, and then received a commission in the Second Massachusetts, in which he did brave service, and had narrow escapes from death in the battles of Cedar Mountain and Antietam. He was appointed colonel of the first regiment of colored troops raised in Massachusetts, and at the head of these he fell just as he gave the word, "Onward, boys!" He is spoken of as one possessed of a most genial nature; of "manners as gentle as a woman's; of a native refinement that brooked nothing coarse; and of a clear moral insight that no evil association could tarnish." Because he commanded negro troops the Confederates hated him; and they foolishly thought they had dishonored him when, as it was savagely proclaimed, his body had been "buried in a pit under a heap of his niggers."
Colonel Haldimand S. Putnam, who was about the same age as Shaw, was a young man of most exemplary character and great promise. He was a graduate of West Point Military Academy, and had reached the rank of captain in the army when the war broke out. He shared the unlimited confidence and respect of General Scott, who, in the spring of 1861, made him his messenger to carry important military papers into the Southern States and to Fort Pickens. He was engaged in laying out the fortifications of Washington in the autumn of that
FORT WAGNER BESIEGED.
Gillmore now modified his plans for reducing Fort Wagner. Abandoning the idea of assaults, which had proven so disastrous, he prosecuted the work of regular approaches with great vigor. It was a difficult task, and required all of the rare engineering skill of the commander to accomplish it, for the dry part of the island, along which his approaches must be made, was narrower than that on which the fort stood, the whole width of which the latter covered. At the same time the besiegers were exposed to a crossfire from Fort Sumter, Battery Gregg, and batteries on James's Island. Fort Wagner could be easily re-enforced from Charleston at any time, and a crushing force might be called by railway to that city, and sent to Morris Island. Gillmore weighed all these contingencies, and worked on hopefully
and successfully. Five days after his repulse," he had completed his first parallel, and had in position two 200-pounder Parrott guns and two 84-pounder Whitworth's, under the direction of Commander F. A. Parker, of Dahlgren's squadron, and ten siege-mortars. In addition to these were two 30-pounder Parrott field-guns, and three Requa batteries of rifle barrels for defensive service. The distance of these batteries from Fort Sumter was about four thousand yards. He had also opened his second parallel, six hundred yards in advance of his first, in which three heavy breaching-batteries named respectively Brown, Rosecrans, and Meade, were speedily made ready. These were composed of two 200-pounder and five 100pounder Parrott guns, all trained upon Fort Wagner, Battery Gregg behind it, and Fort Sumter beyond. Besides these, there were four breaching-batteries established on the left, a little over four thousand yards from Fort Sumter, named Hayes, Reno, Stevens, and Strong. These mounted one 300pounder, two 200-pounders, four 100-pounders, and four 20-pounder Parrott guns. Near the Beacon House were five 10-inch siege-mortars in position. These works were constructed with great difficulty, and chiefly under cover of night.' The heavy guns and mortars had to be dragged through deep sand and mounted under heavy fire from the Confederate works; yet with great patience and fortitude the National troops labored on and completed them.
For some time General Gillmore had contemplated the planting of a battery in the marsh west of Morris Island, at a point whence, he believed, he might throw shells into the city of Charleston, or at least reach the wharves and shipping there. This was now attempted, under the direction of Colonel Serrell. At a point midway between Morris and James's island's, and a mile from the former, a battery was erected upon a platform of heavy timbers imbedded several feet in the black mud, there about sixteen feet in depth, overgrown with reeds and rank marsh grass, and traversed by winding and sluggish streams.2 When the foundations were laid, the redoubt was
year, when he was appointed Colonel of the Seventh New Hampshire Volunteers. With these he went boldly to the assault of Fort Wagner, and there became a martyr to the cause of Justice and Civil Liberty. His countrymen will always delight to honor his memory.
1 The Confederates had constructed a heavy work on James's Island, which they named Battery Simkins. This, with two or three smaller works in that direction, annoyed the flank of the besiegers very much, while the works in front continually galled them.
2 Colonel Serrell assigned to a lieutenant the superintendence of the work. When the spot chosen for building the battery was shown to the latter, he said the thing was impossible. "There is no such word as 'impossible' in the matter," the colonel answered, and directed the lieutenant to build the battery, and to call for every thing required for the work. The next day the lieutenant, who was something of a wag, made a requisi
BOMBARDMENT OF FORT WAGNER.
piled upon it. It was composed wholly of bags of sand taken from Morris Island through the little creeks, in boats, during the nights. Under the gun platform heavy piles were driven entirely through the mud, into the solid earth, and on it was mounted
it was finished, and the "Angel" was ready to carry into the citadel where the rebellion was planned its messages of wrath.2
Gillmore's preparations for attack were all completed by the middle of August, and on the morning of the 17th, the heavy guns of twelve batteries and from Dahlgren's entire naval force at hand, were opened on Forts Sumter and Wagner and Battery Gregg, the first in command of Colonel Alfred Rhett, the second under Colonel Lawrence M. Keitt, and the third under Captain Lesesene. Fort Sumter, lying at a distance of two miles and a half from Gillmore's batteries, was the chief object of attack, for it was necessary to make it powerless for offensive purposes before the siege of Fort Wagner might be prosecuted, without great loss of life. Upon it Gillmore's breaching-guns and the heavy ones of the Passaic and Patapsco (the monitors lying at a distance of two thousand yards) were brought to bear, and before night its walls had begun to crumble fearfully. The firing was renewed every morning until the 24th, when Gillmore sent a dispatch to Halleck, saying, "I have the honor to report the practical demolition of Fort Sumter, as the result of our seven days' bombardment of that work, including two days of which a powerful northeasterly storm most seriously diminished the accuracy and effect of our
fire. Fort Sumter is to-day a shapeless and harmless mass of ruins. My chief of artillery, Colonel J. N. Turner, reports its destruction so far complete that it is no longer of any avail in the defenses of Charleston."
In the mean time the "Swamp Angel" had been ready for business, and Gillmore sent a summons to Beauregard to evacuate Morris Island and Fort Sumter within four hours after the reception of his message, on penalty of a
tion on the quartermaster for one hundred men, eighteen feet in height, to wade through mud sixteen feet deep, and then went to the surgeon to inquire if he could splice the eighteen-feet men, if they were furnished him. This pleasantry caused the lieutenant's arrest, but he was soon released, and constructed the work with men of usual height-Davis's History of the One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania, page 253.
1 This gun was taken through the sand on a sling cart, or truck (see page 240, volume II.), and then floated on a raft of pine timber to its destination.
2 Its distance from Charleston, in a direct line, was 8,800 yards, or about five miles; and to carry a shell that distance, it had to be fired at an elevation of thirty-five degrees.
CHARLESTON UNDER FIRE.
bombardment of Charleston, from which, as we have seen, the non-combatants had been requested by Mayor Macbeth to retire.' Gillmore knew this, and hence the short time given for a reply. Hearing nothing from Beauregard, he ordered the "Angel" to take some messages to the deeply-offending city. Several were sent in the form of shells weighing one hundred and fifty pounds each. Some of these fell in Charleston, and greatly alarmed the few people, but injured nobody. It gave Beauregard an opportunity to attempt to "fire the Southern heart," by a letter which he sent to Gillmore, and published in the newspapers, in which he denounced the course of his adversary as “atrocious and unworthy of any soldier," and said: "I now solemnly warn you that if you fire again on this city from your Morris Island batteries, without giving a somewhat more reasonable time to remove the non-combatants, I shall feel compelled to employ such stringent means of retaliation as may be available during the continuance of this attack." Gillmore laughed at this foolish threat, and the "Angel" continued its ministrations from time to time, until just as its thirty-sixth message was about to leave, the great gun burst and its labor ceased.
• August 21, 1863.
Fort Sumter being disabled, Gillmore now turned his chief attention to the reduction of Fort Wagner. While the walls of the former were crumbling, and its barbette guns were tumbling from their platforms under the fire of the batteries and the squadron, he had completed his fourth parallel to about three hundred yards from the fort on his front, and only one hundred from a ridge of sand dunes from behind which Confederate sharp-shooters greatly annoyed the workers. These were charged upon and driven away at the point of the bayonet by General Terry, when a fifth parallel was established close to the ridge. But the space there was so narrow that the concentring fire of the fort at short range, and enfilading ones from James's Island, not only made a farther advance almost impossible, but the position nearly untenable. Gillmore now saw that
another assault upon the fort was an imperative necessity. The first work to be done in that direction was to silence its guns and drive its garrison to the bomb-proof. For that purpose the light mortars were taken to the front, and the rifled cannon of the left batteries were trained on the fort. Powerful calcium lights were made to blaze upon it at night, exposing every thing on the parapet, blinding the garrison to all that was going on within the Union lines, and enabling the National sharp-shooters to prevent the Confederates repairing at night the damage done to the fort by bombardment during the day, which was kept up moderately without cessation. Finally, when every thing was in readiness, the New Ironsides, Captain Rowan, moved up to within one thousand yards of the sea face3 of the fort; and at the dawn of the 5th of September, his broadsides of eight guns, carrying
1 See page 202.
2 In his letter Beauregard said, that after an unsuccessful attack of more than forty days on the defenses of Charleston, and despairing of carrying them, Gillmore resorted "to the novel measure of turning his guns against the old men, the women and children, and the hospitals, of a sleeping city," which he denounced as an act of "inexecrable barbarity." To this Gillmore replied that it was a well-established principle of civilized warfare, that the commander of a place attacked and not invested, had no right to a notice of an intimation of bombardment, other than which is given by the threatening attitude of his adversary; and that it was the duty of such commander to see to it that the non-combatants were removed. In this instance, Beauregard, by his own admission, had had forty days in which to perform that act of humanity.
See page 195.
ASSAULT ON FORT WAGNER.
11-inch shells, and the land batteries, opened simultaneously upon the parapet. The garrison soon abandoned their cannon, and took refuge in the bomb-proof, upon which, for nearly forty hours, the great guns thundered without any sensible effect.
When the guns of Fort Wagner were silenced, Gillmore's sappers pushed rapidly forward, under the direction of Captain Walker, until Battery Simkins and its fellows on James's Island could annoy them no more, without danger of hurting the garrison. The men now worked without danger, and early in the evening of the 6th," the sap was carried by the south "Sept., 1863. face of the fort, leaving it to the left; the counter-scarp of the ditch was crowned near the flank of the east, or sea-front, by which all the guns in the work were masked, excepting in that flank; a line of palisades, which there protected it, were pulled up, and the trenches were widened and deepened so as to hold the assaulting troops.
The business of assault was intrusted to General Terry. He was directed to move upon the fort at nine o'clock (time of low tide), on the morning of
the 7th, with about three thousand men, in three columns, composed of the brigades of General Stevenson and Colonel Davis, and the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania and Third New Hampshire. The last two regiments were to form the storming party, and a regiment of colored troops, under Colonel Montgomery, was to be held in reserve near the Beacon House. The One Hundred and Fourth Pennsylvania (Davis's own) was to carry intrenching tools. In accordance with this arrangement, these troops were in readiness at two o'clock in the morning, near the Beacon House, when General Terry announced to them that the fort was evacuated. The Confederates had VOL. III.-92