« PreviousContinue »
all, except the Hartford, undertook to put about and return the way they came.
For this purpose the Richmond came close in to the left bank, under the batteries, and then circled round, her course reaching nearly up to the opposite point. In executing this maneuvre, she gave our batteries successively a raking position, and they took excellent advantage of it, seriously damaging her, as the crashing of her timbers plainly told.
The Mississippi undertook to execute the same manœuvre, of turning round and making her escape back to the point she started from. She had rounded and just turned down stream, when one of our shots tore off her rudder, and another went crushing throngh her machinery. Immediately after came the rushing sound of steam escaping from some broken pipe, and the now unmanageable vessel drifted aground directly opposite our crescent line of batteries. Her range was quickly gained, and she was being rapidly torn to pieces by our missiles, when her commander gave the order for all hands to save themselves the best way they could. At the same time fire broke out in two places. At this time her decks were strewn with dead and wounded. Some fifty-five or sixty persons saved themselves by jumping overboard and swimming to the shore.
The dead and wounded were left upon the Mississippi, which soon floated off and started down with the current. All the other vessels were now out of range, and the spectacle of the burning ship was a grand and solemn one, yet mingled with painful thoughts of the horrible fate of those mangled unfortunates who were being burned to death upon this floating
As the flames would reach the shells lying among her guns, they exploded one by one, adding to the novel grandeur of the sight. The light of the burning wreck could be seen, steadily increasing its distance, for two hours and a half. At five minutes past five o'clock, when the Mississippi was probably within five miles of Baton Rouge, a suddeu glare lit up the whole sky. The cause was well known to ve the explosion of the magazine. After a considerable interval of time, a long rumbling sound brought final proof that the Mississippi, one of the finest vessels of the United States navy, which had earned an historical fame before the comvencement of the present war, for her nsefulness in the Gulf
during the Mexican war, and as the flag-ship of the Japan ex pedition, was a thing of the past.
The victory of Port Hudson forms one of the most satisfactory and brilliant pages in the history of the war. The fleet, with the exception of the Hartford, had been driven back by our batteries, and a grateful surprise had been given to many of our people, who had acquired the disheartening conviction that gunboats could treat shore batteries with contempt. So far our strongholds on the Mississippi had bid defiance to the foe, and months of costly preparation for their reduction had. been spent in vain.
While these events were transpiring on the Mississippi, the long line of inland hostilities remained unvaried and almost silent. In Virginia and in Tennessee, the powerful armies of Lee and Hooker, Bragg and Rosecrans, had camped for months in close proximity, without a cannonade, and almost without a skirmish. To some extent the elements had proclaimed a truce, while the hesitating temper of the enemy betrayed a policy strangely at variance with the former vigorous campaign in the same season of the last year. Especially was the besitation remarkable in Virginia, where the new cominander-inchief of the enemy-Hooker-was a violent member of the Abolitionist party. He was the chief of that clique among the Yankee officers who made the war, not to realize the dream of a restored Union, but for the subjugation and destruction of the Southern social system, the massacre or exile of the inhabitants of the Southern country, and the confiscation of their entire real and personal property.
Beyond the Mississippi there was scarcely any thing to remark but a new assignment of military commands. We had now west of the Mississippi Lientenant-gen. Kirby Smith, Gen. Price, Gen. Magruder, and Gen. Sibley. Gen. Smith had been placed at the head of the department, and had already issued an order announcing that fact; Gen. Price was assigned to lead the field movements for the redemption of Arkansas and his own State, Missouri; Gen. Sibley was moving to other im portant points; and Gen. Magruder's field of operations was Texas.
We have to record but a single incident in the spring of 1863, to break the long silence of the lines of the Rappahan.
nock. On the morning of the 17th of March the enemy civ$8ed the river at Kelly’s ford, with both a cavalry and artilery force, numbering probably three thousand men.
They advanced within six miles of Culpepper Court-house, where shey were engaged by the brigade of Gen. Fitzhugh Lee. The fight was severe and lasted several hours. The Yankees were finally repulsed, and fell back routed and panic-stricken, after having inflicted a loss upon us of about one hundred in killed
and wounded. They had fought with some advantages at first, • bravely contesting their ground, and it is not improbable that
a report of reinforcements coming up to us was the occasion of their retreat. When the retreat was ordered, they fled in dismay and confusion.
This affair—if it was worth any thing-cost us the life of one of the most brilliant artillery officers in the army. Major Pelham, of Alabama, who had acquired the title of “the gallant Pelham” from the hands of Gen. Lee in the official report of the battle of Fredericksburg, was killed by the fragment of a shell. At Fredericksburg, he had distinguished himself by sustaining the concentrated fire of a number of the enemy's batteries. In that terrible trial he had stood as a rock. In the affair which cost him his life, he had just risen in his saddle to cheer a troop of cavalry rushing to the charge, when the fatal blow was given. He was only twenty-two years of age, and had been through all the battles in Virginia. Unusual honors were paid his remains, for they were laid in the capitol, and tributes of rare flowers strewn upon the bier of “the young Marcellus of the South.”
NAVAL ATTACK ON CHARLESTON. The city of Charleston had long been the object of the enemy's lust; it was considered a prize scarcely less important than the long contested one of Richmond; and with more than their customary assurance, the Yankees anticipated the glory and counted the triumphs of the capture of the cradle of the revolution. It was thought to be an easy matter for Admiral Dupont's iron-clad fleet to take the city, and the Yankee newspapers for months had indulged the prospect of the capture of Charleston as a thing of the future that only awaited their pleasure.
On Sunday morning, the 5th of April, foar “ monitors,” tho Irorsides (an armor-plated frigate with an armament of twentytwo 10, 11, and 15-inch guns), and thirty vessels of various sizes, were seen off the bar. Four monitors and thirty-tive wooden vessels were added to the fleet on the following day; thirty-five vessels, for the most part transports, appeared in the Stono, and the enemy landed a force of about six thousand men on Coles' and Battery Islands. These facts, with other indications, led Gen. Beauregard to count upon an attack on Tuesday, and the expectations of that sagacious and vigilant commander were not disappointed.
The atmosphere early on Tuesday morning, 7th of April, was misty, but as the day advanced, the haze lightened, and the monitors and the Ironsides were seen lying off Morris Island. Between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, a dispatch from Col. Rhett, commandant of Fort Sumter, informed Gen. Beauregard that five monitors and the Ironsides were approaching the fort. The fleet were seen rounding the point of Morris Island, the Keokuk in the advance. It was a happy moment for the defenders of Charleston. So long had suspense reigned in that city, that the booming of the signal gun and the announcement that at last the battle had begun was a positive relief. A thrill of joy came to every heart, and the countenances of all declared plainly that a signal victory over the mailed vessels was reckoned upon without doubt or misgiving. The long-roll beat in Fort Sumter; the artillerists in that work rushed to their guns. The regimental flag of the 1st South Carolina Artillery, and “the stars and bars” of tho Confederate States, flaunted out from their flagstaffs on the fort, and were saluted as the enemy advanced with an outburst of “Dixie” from the band and the deep-mouthed roar of thirteen pieces of heavy artillery.
On came the mailed monitors. Their ports were closed, and they appeared deserted of all living things. They moved northwardly towards Sullivan's Island, and at a distance from its batteries of about 1,200 yards they began to curve around towards Sumter. A flash, a cloud of smoke, a clap of thunder, herald a storm of heavy shot, which bursts from the island upon the side of the frigate. The ships move on silently. Tho deep-mouthed explosions of Sumter in the next instant burst upon the advancing ships, and hurl tremendous bolts of wronght 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
a through a window on the other ende, 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 compliment 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 snccession of reports; sometimes with the heavy groan of crushing, some times 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 vol. umes, 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 abont twenty min. utes she stood still, in apparent helplessness. At the expiration