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The men work'd on in silence,
With never a shout or cheer, Till 'twas whisper'd from bow to quarter,
“Start forward! All is clear."
Then groan'd the ponderous engines,
Then flounder'd the whirling screw; And, as ship join'd ship, the comrades
Their lines of battle drew.
The moon through the fog was casting
A blur of lurid light,
Was flash'd into the night:
“Steam on! and, whatever fortune
May follow the attack,
No vessel must turn back.”
It was hard, when we heard that order,
To smother a rising shout;
And we burn'd to give it out.
All wrapp'd in the foggy darkness,
Brave Bailey moved ahead; And stem after stern his gunboats
To the starboard station led.
Next Farragut's stately flag-ship
To port her head inclined ;
Bell's squadron closed behind.
Ah! many a prayer was murmur'd
For the homes we ne'er might see;
And the silence and night grew dreadful
With the thought of what must be.
For many a tall, stout fellow
Who stood at his quarters then, In the damp and dismal moonlight,
Never saw the sun again.
Close down by the yellow river,
In their oozy graves they rot; Strange vines and strange flowers grow o'er them,
And their far homes know them not.
But short was our time of musing;
For the rebel forts discern'd
And their batteries on us turn'd.
Then Porter burst out from his mortars,
In jets of fiery spray,
Where his leaf-clad vessels lay.
Howling, and screeching, and whizzing,
The bomb-shells arch'd on high, And then, like gigantic meteors,
Dropp'd swiftly from the sky,
Dropp'd down on the low, doom'd fortress
A plague of iron death,
With their puffs of sulphurous breath.
The whole air quaked and shudder'd
As the great globes rose and fell, And the blazing shores look'd awful
As the open gates of hell.
Fort Jackson and Fort St. Philip,
And the battery on the right, By this time were flashing and thundering Out into the murky night.
Through the hulks and the cables, sunder'd
By the bold Itasca's crew, Went Bailey in silence, though round him
The shells and the grape-shot flew.
No answer he made to their welcome,
Till abeam St. Philip bore;
In his broadsides' steady roar!
Meanwhile, the old man in the Hartford
Had ranged to Fort Jackson's side: What a sight! he slow'd his engines
Till he barely stemm’d the tide.
Yes, paused in that deadly tornado
Of case-shot and shell and ball,
And he lay there, wood to wall !
Have you any notion, you landsmen,
Who have seen a field-fight won,
Hurld out from a ten-inch gun?
I tell you, the air is nigh solid
With the howling iron flight;
Where the Hartford lay that night.
Perch'd aloft in the forward rigging,
With his restless eyes aglow,
Sat Farragut, shouting his orders
To the men who fought below.
And the fort's huge faces of granite
Were splinter'd and rent in twain, And the masses seemed slowly melting,
Like snow in a torrid rain.
Now quicker and quicker we fired,
Till between us and the foe A torrent of blazing vapor
Was leaping to and fro;
While the fort, like a mighty cauldron,
Was boiling with flame and smoke, And the stone flew aloft in fragments,
And the brick into powder broke.
So thick fell the clouds o'er the river,
You could hardly see your hand, When we heard from the foremast rigging
Old Farragut's sharp command:
“Full head! Steam across to St. Philip! Starboard battery, mind your
aim ! •Forecastle, there, shift your pivots! Now
Give them a taste of the same!”
St. Philip grew faint in replying,
Its voice of thunder was drown'd. “But, ha! what is this? Back the engines !
Back, back! The ship is aground !”
And own the swift current came sweeping
A raft spouting sparks and flame; Push'd on by an iron-clad rebel, Under our port side it came.
At once the good Hartford was blazing,
Below, aloft, fore and aft. “We are lost !” “No, no; we are moving !"
Away whirl'd the crackling raft.
The fire was soon quench’d. One last broadside
We gave to the surly fort; For above us the rebel gunboats
Were wheeling like devils at sport.
And into our vacant station
Had glided a bulky form: 'Twas Craven's stout Brooklyn, demanding
Her share of the furious storm.
We could hear the shot of St. Philip
Ring on her armor of chain,
Taking and giving again.
We could hear the low growl of Craven,
And Lowry's voice, clear and calm, While they swept off the rebel ramparts
As clean as your open palm.
Then, ranging close under our quarter,
Out burst from the smoky fogs
The ship of bold Charley Boggs.
IIe waved his blue cap as he passed us;
The blood of his glorious race,
Once more in a living face.
Right and left flash'd his heavy broadsides ;
Rams, gunboats,-it matter'd not;