Page images

upon the advancing ships, and hurl tremendous bolts of wrought iron against the armor of the Ironsides. The frigate halts. At a distance of about twelve hundred yards from that work she delivers from seven guns a broadside of 15-inch shot that dashes against the sea-face of Sumter with a heavy crash. Bricks fly from the parapet and whirl from the traverse. A shell smashes a marble lintel in the officers' quarters, hustles through a window on the other side, and, striking the parapet, hurls a tornado of bricks far to the rear. The works on Morris Island burst into the deafening chorus-on land and on sea, from all the batteries of the outer circle, from all the turrets of the inner circle.

It was manifest that the Ironsides was appointed to test the strength of the fort. Fort Sumter acknowledged the compli ment by pouring the contents of her biggest guns into that pride of the Yankee navy. Advancing on her circling course, the Ironsides made way for her attendant warriors; and one by one, as their turrets moved in the solemn waltz, they received the fire, sometimes diffused, sometimes concentrated, of the surrounding circle of batteries. The first division of the ships curved on its path under an iron storm that rended the air with its roar, and burst upon their mail in a quick succession of reports; sometimes with the heavy groan of crushing, sometimes with the sharp cry of tearing. Delivering a fire of shot and shell as they passed the works on Morris Island, the Ironsides and her monitors moved slowly out of range. As the Ironsides withdrew from the action, taking position to the south of Fort Sumter, steam was seen issuing from her in dense volumes, and it was believed that she was seriously damaged.

The Keokuk, a double-turreted iron-clad, led into the fight four monitors. More bold than even the Ironsides, she advanced under a tornado of shot to a position within about nine hundred yards of Fort Sumter. Halting at that distance, she discharged her 15-inch balls from her turrets against the sea-face of that fort. Crushing and scattering the bricks on the line of her tremendous fire, she failed, however, to make any serious impression on the walls. A circle of angry flashes radiated towards her from all sides, while a tempest of iron bolts and round-shot crashed against her sides. For about twenty minutes she stood still, in apparent helplessness. At the expiration

of that time she moved slowly on, and after receiving the fire of the works on Morris Island, passed out of range. She was fairly riddled, for she had been the target of the most powerful guns the Confederates could command. Great holes were visible in her sides, her prow, her after-turret, and her smokestack. Her plates were bent and bolts protruded here and there all over her. She was making water rapidly, and it was plain to see that she was a doomed ship.

After the Keokuk and her companions had passed out of range, the circular movement was not renewed. The ships retired outside the harbor to their anchorage; and after about two hours and a half of a most terrible storm of shot and thunder of artillery, Fort Sumter and its supporting batteries settled down under sluggish clouds of smoke into triumphs of quiet.

Our victory was one of unexpected brilliancy, and had costus scarcely more than the ammunition for our guns. A drummer boy was killed at Fort Sumter and five men wounded. Our artillery practice was excellent, as is proved by the fact that the nine Yankee vessels were struck five hundred and twenty times. The Keokuk received no less than ninety shots. She did not outlive the attack on Fort Sumter twelve hours. The next day her smoke-stack and one of her turrets were visible during low water off Morris Island, where she had sunk.

The battle had been fought on the extreme outer line of fire, and the enemy had been defeated at the very threshold of our defences. Whether his attack was intended only as a reconnoissance, or whether what was supposed to be the preliminary skirmish was in fact the whole affair, it is certain that our success gave great assurances of the safety of Charleston; that it had the proportions of a considerable victory; and that it went far to impeach the once dreaded power of the iron-clads of the enemy.*

*It is a question of scientific interest whether, in the construction of ironclads, the Confederate plan of slanted sides is not superior to the Yankee plan of thick-walled turrets-the Virginia-Merrimac, and not the Monitor, the true model. The Yankee monitor is an upright, cylindrical turret. If a shot strikes the centre line of this cylinder, it will not glance, but deliver its full force. On the contrary, the peculiarity of the Virginia-Merrimac was its roof-shaped sides,

The month of April has but few events of military note eyond what has been referred to in the foregoing pages. The check of Van Dorn at Franklin, Tennessee, and the reverse of Pegram in Kentucky, were unimportant incidents; they did not affect the campaign, and their immediate disasters were inconsiderable. The raid of the latter commander into Kentucky, again revived reports of the reaction of public sentiment in that unhappy State in favor of the Confederacy. It was on his retreat that he was set upon by a superior force of the enemy near Somerset, from which he effected an escape across the Cumberland, after the loss of about one hundred and fifty men in killed, wounded, and prisoners.

This period, properly the close of the second year of hostilities, presents a striking contrast with the corresponding month of the former year with respect to the paramount aspects of the war. In April, 1862, the Confederates had fallen back in Virginia from the Potomac beyond the Rappahannock, and were on the point of receding from the vicinity of the lower Chesapeake before the advancing army of McClellan. Now they confronted the enemy from the Rappahannock and hovered upon his flank within striking distance to the Potomac, while another portion of our forces manoeuvred almost in the rear and quite upon the flank of Norfolk. Twelve months ago the enemy threatened the important Southern artery which links the coast of the Carolinas with Virginia; he was master of Florida, both on the Atlantic and the Gulf; and Mobile trembled at every blast from the Federal bugles of Pensacola. Now his North Carolina lines were held exclusively as lines of occupation; he was repulsed on the seaboard; his operations in Florida were limited to skirmishing parties of negroes; and Mobile had become the nursery of cruisers in the very face of his blockading squadron. A year ago the grasp of the enemy

on which the shot glances. The inventor of that noble naval structure, Commander Brooke, claimed the slanted or roof-shaped sides as constituting the original feature and most important merit of his invention. We may add now that to the genius of this accomplished officer the Confederacy was variously indebted; for it was a gun of his invention-"the Brooke gun"-that fired the bolt which pierced the turret of the Keokuk, and gave the first proof in the war that no thickness of iron, that is practical in the construction of such a machine, is sufficient to secure it

was closing on the Mississippi from Cair. to the Gulf; but while Butler was enjoying his despotic amusements and build ing up his private fortunes in the Crescent City, the strong holds of Vicksburg and Port Hudson were created, and held at bay the most splendid expeditions which the extravagance of the North had yet prepared. A year ago the enemy, by his successes in Kentucky and Tennessee, held the way almost into the very heart of the Confederacy, through Eastern Tennessee and Western Virginia. Now the fortunes of the war in that whole region were staked upon the issues of impending battle.

For three months the "grand hesitation" of the North had continued. With some seven or eight hundred thousand soldiers in the field and countless cruisers swarming on our coasts, the enemy had yet granted us a virtual suspension of arms since the great battles of Fredericksburg and Murfreesboro', interrupted only by petty engagements and irresolute and fruitless bombardments. He had shown that he possessed no real confidence in the success of his arms; he had so far failed to reduce any one of "the three great strongholds of the rebellion," Richmond, Charleston, and Vicksburg; and he had ceased to map out those plans of conquest of which he was formerly so prolific.


Close of the Second Year of the War. Propriety of an Outline o some succeeding Events.-Cavalry Enterprises of the Enemy.-The raids in Mississippi and Vir. ginia.-SKETCH of the BattleS OF THE RAPPAHANNOOK.-The Enemy's Plan of Attack. -The Fight at Chancellorsville.-The Splendid Charge of "Stonewall" Jackson.— The Fight at Fredericksburg.-The Fight at Salem Church.-Summary of our Victory. -DEATH OF "Stonewall" JACKSON.-His Character and Services.

THE second year of the war, having commenced with the fall of New Orleans, 1st of May, 1862, properly closes with the events recorded in the preceding chapter. Of succeeding events, which have occurred between this period and that of publication, we do not propose to attempt at this time a full narrative; their detail belongs to another volume. It is proposed at present only to make an outline of them, so as to give to the reader a stand-point of intelligent observation, from which he may survey the general situation at the time these pages are given to the public.

The next volume of our history will open on that series of remarkable raids and enterprises on the part of the enemy's cavalry, which, in the months of April and May, disturbed many parts of the Confederacy. We shall find that the extent of these raids of Yankee horsemen, their simultaneous occurrence in widely removed parts of the Confederacy, and the circumstances of each, betrayed a deliberate and extensive purpose on the part of the enemy and a consistency of design deserving the most serious consideration.

We shall relate how the people of Richmond were alarmed by the apparition of Yankee cavalry near their homes. But we shall find causes of congratulation that the unduly famous expedition of Stoneman was not more destructive. The damage which it inflicted upon our railroads was slight, its hurried pillage did not amount to much, and the only considerable capture it effected was a train of commissary wagons in King William county.

Other parts of the Confederacy, visited about the same time

« PreviousContinue »