« PreviousContinue »
ments of the situation on the Peninsula. We must, for the present, leave affairs there in the crisis to which we have brought them, while we refer to a serious recurrence of disasters about this time on our sea-coast and rivers, where again the lesson was repeated to us of the superiority of the enemy on the water, not by any mysterious virtue of gunboats, but solely on account, as we shall slow, of inefficiency and improvidence in our government.
On the 4th of March, the town of Newbern, in North Carolina, was taken by the Federals, under command of General Burnside, after a feeble resistance. The day before, the Federals had landed about ten thousand troops fifteen miles below Newbern, and at the same time had ascended the river with a fleet of gunboats, which, as they advanced, shelled the woods in every direction. The next morning the fighting was com menced at early dawn, and continued until half-past ten o'clock. when our forces, being almost completely surrounded, weru compelled to retreat. All the forts on the river were aban doned. Fort Thompson was the most formidable of these. I was four miles from Newbern, and mounted thirteen heavy guns, two of them rifled 32-pounders. The guns at Fort Ellis,
. three miles from Newbern, were dismounted and thrown dow the embankment. Fort Lane, mounting eight guns, two miles from Newbern, was blown up. In the first attack upon our lines, at 7 o'clock, the enemy had been repulsed three times successively by our infantry, with the assistance of Fort Thompson; but having flanked our forces on the right, which caused a panic among the militia, he had changed the fortunes of the day. The railroad bridge across Neuse river was not burnt until after all our troops had crossed, except those whose escape had been effectually cut off by the enemy. The Federals achieved a complete victory after a contest of very short duration, having taken about five hundred prisoners, over fifty pieces of cannon, and large quantities of arms and ammunition.
The easy defeat of the Confederate forces at Newbern, the surrender of our fortifications, on which thousands of dollars had recently been expended, and the abandonment not only of our heavy guns, but of some of our field-guns also, was a sub iect of keen mortification to the South. The fact was knowu that our force at Newbern was verv inadequate-100 more than five thousand—a part of whom were militia, and had been left, despite of appeals to the government for reinforcements, to en. zonnter whatever force Gen. Burnside should choose to bring against them. Gen. Branch, who was in command of the Confederate forces, and who displayed courage and judgment, was compelled to fight at Newbern. To have given it up without a struggle, after all that had been done there, would have brought him into discredit with the government, the people, and the troops. As it was, the enemy had gained an important position within easy reach of the Wilmington and Weldou road. But few persons remained in the town. Seven trains left for Goldsboro', all crowded to overflowing by fugitive soldiers and panic-stricken people. A shell from the enemy's gunboats fell within twenty-five feet of the last train as it moved off, Women and chiidren were overtaken by the trains many miles from Newbern, some in vehicles of various kinds, and many on foot. The panic and disorganization extended for miles, and yet there was a nobility in the determination of the populatiou of Newbern to fly anywhere rather than court security in their homes by submission to the enemy. The town of Newbern originally contained twelve hundred people; when occupied by the enemy, it contained one hundred people, male and female, of the old population.
On the 12th day of April one year ago, the guns and mor tars of the South Carolina batteries opened upon the then hos tile walls of Fort Sumter. Strangely enough, the first anni versary of the event was signalized by the startling and uncomfortable announcement that Fort Pulaski, the principal defence of the city of Savannah, had surrendered to the Yan. kees, after a brief bombardment. The news was all the more unpleasant, from the fact that the day before the public had been informed by telegraph that the enemy's batteries had been silenced.” It seems that they were not silent until our flag was struck. The surrender was unconditional, and the garrison, consisting of more than three hundred men, four of whom had been wounded and none killed, were made prisoners
Another Confederate disaster on the coast shortly ensued, in the surrender of Fort Macon. This fort, on the North Carolina coast, was surrendered on the 25th of April, after a bombardment from the enemy's land batteries of less than twelve hours It commanded the entrance to Beaufort harbor, and was said to be the most formidable fortification on the North Carolina coast.
For these painful and almost humiliating disasters on our coast and rivers, a ready but very silly excuse was always at hand. A most pernicious and false idea appeared to have taken possession of the public mind with reference to the essential superiority of the enemy on water. A
A very obvious reflection of common sense dissipates the idea of any essential advantage which the enemy had over us on the water. The failures in our defences had been most unjustly attributed to the bugbear of gunboats, when they ought to have been ascribed to no more unavoidable causes than our own improvidence and neg lect.
The suggestion of common sense is, that if it was possible to make a vessel ball-proof, it was certainly much easier to make a fortification ball-proof. The excuse had been persistently made for our lack of naval defences, that it was difficult to supply the necessary machinery, and almost impossible, with the limited means at our disposal, to construct steam-engines. But these excuses about lack of machinery and steam-engines did not apply to our land defences. No machinery was necessary; no engine was necessary; and no consultation of curved lines of naval architecture was required to make a land fortification ball-proof. The iron plate that was fitted on the side of a gunboat had only to be placed on a dead surface, to make the land fortification a match in invulnerability to the ironplated man-of-war. This was common sense. Unfortunately, however, it was a common sense which the scientists of West Point had been unable to appreciate. While the public mind had been busy in ascribing so many of our late disasters to some essential and mysterious virtue in iron-plated boats, it seemed never to have occurred to it that it was much easier to construct iron-plated batteries on land than the iron-plated sides of a ship, besides giving the structure the power of locomotion, and that our defeats on the water, instead of being charged to “gunboats,” or to “the dispensations of Providence," had been but the natural results of human neglect and human stupidity.
The Campaign in the Mississippi Valley.-Bombardment of Island No. 13.-The Scenes, Incidents, and Results.-Fruits of the Northern Victory.-Movements of the Federals on the Tennessee River.-The BATTLE OF SHILOH.-A "Lost Opportunity." -Death of General Albert Sidney Johnston.-Comparison between the Battles of Shiloh and Manassas.-The Federal Expeditions into North Alabama.- Withdrawal of the Confederate Forces from the Trans-Mississippi District.-General Price and his Command.-The FALL OF NEW ORLEANS.-The Flag Imbroglio.-Major-general Butler.-Causes of the Disaster.-Its Results and Consequences.-The Fate of the Valley of the Mississippi.
THE last period of our narrative of events in Tennessee, left Gen. Johnston making a southward movement towards the left bank of the Tennessee river, for the objects of the defence of Memphis and the Mississippi river, and indicated the important position of Island No. 10, forty-five miles below Columbus, as still in possession of the Confederates.
This important position in the Mississippi river was defended by General Beauregard with extraordinary vigor and success against the fleet of the enemy's gunboats, under the command of Flag-officer Foote. The works were erected with the highest engineering skill, were of great strength, and, with their natural advantages, were thought to be impregnable.
The bombardment of Madrid Bend and Island No. 10 commenced on the 15th of March, and continued constantly night and day. On the 17th a general attack, with five gunboats and four mortar-boats, was made, which lasted nine hours. The attack was unsuccessful. On the first of April, General Beauregard telegraphed to the War Department at Richmond. that the bombardment had continued for fifteen days, in which time the enemy had thrown three thousand shells, expending about one hundred thousand pounds of powder, with the result on our side of one man killed and none seriously wounded. The gratifying statement was also made in General Beauregard's dispatches that our batteries were entirely intact. We had disabled one of the enemy's gunboats and another was reported to be sunk, and the results of the bombardment so far as it had
continund, afforded room for congratulation that the fantasy of the invincible power of Yankee gunboats would at last be dispeiled, and that the miserable history of the surrender of all our forts to this power was destined to wind up in a decisive and brilliant Confederate triumph on the waters of the Mississippi. The daily bulletin from Island No. 10, for many days, represented that the enemy, after an incessant bombardment of many hours, had inflicted no injury. The people of the South were constantly assured that the place was impregnable, and that the enemy never could pass
The bombardment had been one of unparalleled length in the war. Every day the mortars continued to boom, and still the cannon of the island replied with dull, sullen roar, wasting shot and temper alike. The very birds became accustomed to the artificial thunder, and alighted upon the branches of trees overhanging the mortars in the sulphurous smoke. The scenes of this long bombardment are described as affording some of the most magnificent spectacles--the tongues of flame leaping from the mouths of the mortars amid a crash like a thonsand thunders, and then the columns of smoke rolling up in beautiful fleecy spirals, developing into rings of exquisite proportions, It is only necessary for one to realize the sublime poetry of war, as illustrated in the remarkable scenes at Island No. 10, to imagine a dozen of these monsters thundering at once, the air filled with smoke clouds, the gunboats belching out destruction and completely hidden from sight in whirls of smoke, the shells screaming through the air with an unearthly sound, and the distant guns of the enemy sending their solid shot above and around the island, dashing the water up in glistening columns and jets of spray.
While the people of the South were induced to anticipate a decisive and final repulse of the enemy on the waters of the Mississippi, the news reached them through Northern channels that the capture of Island No. 10 had been effected on the 8th of April, and that not only had the position been weakly sur rendered, but that we had saved none of our cannon or muni tions, had lost our boats, and had left about six hundred pris. oners on the island in the hands cf the enemy.
The evacuation of the island, which was effected in the greatest precipitation--our sick being abandoned, there being uc