« PreviousContinue »
OPERATIONS IN CHARLESTON HARBOR-GILLMORE EFFECTS A LODGMENT ON
OFFICERS OF COLORED REGIMENTS-MOBS IN NEW YORK CITY-HOSTILITY
TO THE DRAFT--ORDER OF THE PRESIDENT, RESPECTING THE TREATMENT OF COLORED'SOLDIERS HELD AS PRISONERS BY THE REBELS—THE PRACTICAL SUPERIORITY OF THE PRESIDENT-CAUSES OF PUBLIO AGITATION
HILE events of such magnitude were occurring on
the banks of the Potomac, General Gillmore, who had superseded Hunter in command at Charleston, surprised, on the 10th of July, the rebels in the fortifications on the south end of Morris Island, in Charleston Harbor, and captured two hundred prisoners, eight single-gun batteries, and three mortars. General Strong, the next day, in command of the attacking party, advanced on Fort Wagner, and attempted to carry it by assault, but failed." It was a spirited affair, and is thus described by Captain Gray, the only one, of four captains, that was saved: “General Strong, with two thousand men, went up Folly River, in the Light-house Inlet, while over forty guns and mortars, in battery, which had been put in position on Folly Island, concealed by trees from the enemy's khowledge, were ready to open their unexpected fire at the right moment. The gunboats were to engage the rebel batteries on the opposite side of the island. The boats containing the troops arrived in good time, preceded by eight boat-howitzers from the gunboats. The first boat contained General Strong and Staff, and then came the battalion of the Seventh Connecticut volunteers.
A GALLANT ATTEMPT.
"General Gillmore told Colonel Rodman that the General concluded that our battalion was the most reliable, and could be trusted, and was selected for that reason. The batteries opened at daylight, and in a short time the
discovered the boats, and threw shell and solid shot, trying to sink them. The shot and shell struck and burst all around us, but only one boat was struck, containing some of the Sixth Connecticut volunteers, killing one and wounding two or three." But the batteries of Gillmore are unmasked, and pour such a terrible fire on the astonished garrison, that they fly from
"The General's boat had got two discharges of grape. Just at this moment, Lieutenant-Colonel Rodman said to the General, “Let me land my command, and take that battery. The General hesitated at first, and then said, "Go.' Colonel Rodman stood up in the stern of his boat, and gave the command, “Seventh Connecticut, man your oars and follow me!' At the order, we all headed for the shore, and as the boats struck, every man sprang, as if by instinct, and in an instant the men were in line. We advanced rapidly to the first line of rifle-works; our skirmishers cleared it with a bound, and advanced to the second line. Our main forces moved to the first line--the foe retired, firing."
“We bivouacked for the night under easy range of Fort Wagner. At about half past two in the morning, General Strong came and called the LieutenantColonel out. He soon returned, and said, “Turn out; we have got a job on hand. The men were soon out, and into line, but rather slow to time, as they were tired with the work of the day before.
“The programme was, to try to take Fort Wagner by assault. We were to take the lead, and to be supported by the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania and Ninth Maine. Silently we moved up to the advance line of our pickets, our guns loaded and aimed, and bayonets fixed. We were then de
A PAINFUL POSITION.
ployed into line of battle, (we had one hundred and ninety officers and men, all told,) reached and crossed the neck of land that approached the fort–our right resting on the beach. Our orders were, to move steadily forward until the pickets fired; then follow them close, and rush for the works; and we were promised ready support. General Strong gave the order, 'Aim low, and put your trust in God. Forward, the Seventh!' And forward we went-being not over five hundred yards from the fort when we started. We had not gone far, before the picket fired; and then we took the doublequick, and with a cheer rushed for the works. Before we reached the outer works, we got a murderous fire from the riflemen behind the works. A few fell--a check in the line. An encouraging word from the officers, and right gallantly we reached the outer works; over them, with a will, we went, down the opposite side-across the moat—there being about one foot of water in it-right up to the crest of the parapet; and there we lay, anxiously waiting for our support to come up so far as to make it a sure thing for us to rise up and go over with a bound-our men, in the meantime, busying themselves by picking off the sharp-shooters and gunners.
“As near as I can ascertain, we were in this position from ten to twenty minutes, when both of the regiments that were to support us broke and fled, leaving us to take care of ourselves as best we might." Of course, a retreat had to be ordered, the line of which, for a thousand yards, was swept by a murderous fire. Of the one hundred and ninetyone.men, only eighty-eight-less than half-ever got back again. Of the mess of eleven officers of this gallant little band, only four were present at the next meeting. Fort Wagner was not taken, but a landing had been effected on Morris Island, and now it was generally believed that the . fall of Charleston was a mere question of time. The rebels were greatly alarmed.
Seven days after, another more formidable assault was made, with similar results. Previous to making it, Gillmore had surrounded the fort with a semi-circle of batteries, about eighteen hundred yards distant. The land attack was to be assisted by the iron-clads, under Admiral Dahlgren. About half-past, twelve, everything being ready, the signal was given, and, from land and water, à terrific bombardment was opened on the fort, and kept up all the afternoon. An incessant storm of shot and shell fell upon it, driving the gunners to cover. By, night-no sound coming from the fort, except as our own shells exploded in and over it-it was supposed that the guns had been effectually silenced. For eight hours, this tremendous fire had been kept up; and as the sun went down, sinking in a mass of black and angry clouds, the artillery of heaven opened all along the western horizon, and the sheeted lightning cast a ghastly, fitful light over the barren waste of sand and the torn and ragged fort, that to all human appearance was garrisoned only by dead men. It was now resolved? sarry it by assault, and Strong's brigade moved off to the perilous undertaking. This was composed of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored) regiment under Colonel Shaw, the Sixth Connecticut, Forty-eighth New York, Third New Hampshire, Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania, and Ninth Maine. As soon as its dusky outline could be seen moving over the sand, the guns from distant Sumter and from Cummings' Point, and last of all from the hitherto silent Wagner, opened on it with terrible fury. Nothing daunted, the brigade sprung forward on the doublequick, and dashing swiftly through the iron storm, made straight for the fort, now lit up in the gloom by its own incessant fire. A part reached the ditch, crprised it, and mounted the parapet-led by Colonel Saw, who fell there, waving on his men. But every foot of space was swept by the fire of the garrison, and in an incredibly
short interval of time, Strong was wounded, and every commanding offices wounded or killed. The brigade, shattered, and torn into fragments, rushed wildly back into the darkness. The Socond brigade, under Colone! Putnam, now advanced, and charging through the same desolating fire, mounted the ramparts, and, fighting hand to hand, actually got into a portion of the fort. But here it halted, shattered, exhausted, and powerless to advance another step. Putnam had fallen ; and through the pitchy darkness, which was incessantly seamed with fire from bursting shells and exploding cannon, the broken, confused ranks—melting away as they fled-staggered, bleeding, back to their intrenchments; and the deep, silent, black midnight closed over
The beach was strewed with the dead, whose dirge the waves sung as they rolled gently on the shore, while the wounded crawled away along the sand, sheltered by the darkness.
The presence of the colored troops in this assault, exasperated the garrison, and many acts of violence and cruelty were committed against their wounded officers. Colonel Shaw's body was pitched, with his negro soldiers, into the sand; and an exasperated feeling took possession of both armies. General Strong was wounded, and died soon after in New York. This repulse produced intense excitement all over the North, and charges against this or that person were made without much regard to justice. The colored regiment led the assault, and some laid the blame of defeat to this cause. It is very doubtful whether any other regiment would have succeeded better; still, placing it in this position was unwise, and cannot be justified on any military principle. To employ comparatively raw regiments-no matter whether colored or white-to do that which is regarded the hardest, most trying work the oldest veteran regiments are ever put to, is to tempt fortune and deserve defeat.