Page images
PDF
EPUB

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,
As the captain's latest order

Was flash'd into the night:

“Steam on! and, whatever fortune

May follow the attack,
Sink with your bows all northward :

No vessel must turn back.”

It was hard, when we heard that order,

To smother a rising shout;
For it waken’d the life within us,

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 ;
And midmost, and most in danger,

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
That the whole great fleet was moving,

And their batteries on us turn'd.

Then Porter burst out from his mortars,

In jets of fiery spray,
As if a volcano had open'd

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,
Shattering earth and granite to atoms

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;
Then, oh! but he sent them a greeting

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,
Not a cable's length from the fortress,

And he lay there, wood to wall !

Have you any notion, you landsmen,

Who have seen a field-fight won,
Of canister, grape-shot, and shrapnel

Hurld out from a ten-inch gun?

I tell you, the air is nigh solid

With the howling iron flight;
And 'twas such a tempest blew o'er us

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,
And the crash of her answering broadsides

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 queen of the waves, the Varuna,

The ship of bold Charley Boggs.

IIe waved his blue cap as he passed us;

The blood of his glorious race,
Of Lawrence the hero, was burning

Once more in a living face.

Right and left flash'd his heavy broadsides ;

Rams, gunboats,-it matter'd not;

« PreviousContinue »