網頁圖片
PDF
[ocr errors][merged small]

fired his first gun, a signal for the ships to come into action. They quickly obeyed the summons, and in a short time the engagement was general. The line of forts and batteries, to which Fort Pickens and the ships were now opposed, extended four miles round the bay from the navy yard, on the northeast, to Fort McRae on the south-west. Besides the old works of Forts Barrancas and McRae, there were now erected no less than fourteen separate batteries, mounting from one to four guns each, many of them ten-inch columbiads, and some twelve and thirteen-inch sea coast mortars. These powerful fortifications were defended by some eight thousand men, while Col. Brown had under his command at Fort Pickens but one-sixth of that number. The bombardment continued till night, and, resumed again the next morning, was very effective, and silenced fort McRae and the navy yard, and very materially lessened the firing of Fort Barrancas and other batteries. The village of Warrinarton took fire, and both in it and the navy yard a large number of buildings was destroyed; a rebel steamer at the wharf was also abandoned. The firing was continued till dark, and occasionally during the night with mortars, when the combat ceased. Fort Pickens, as Colonel Brown stated in his official report, "though it has received a great . many shot and shell, is in every respect, save the disabling of one gun carriage and the loss of service of six i men. as efficient as it was at the com-: mencement of the combat; but the: ends I proposed in commencing having: been attained, except one, which I find

i to be impracticable with my present means, I do not deem it advisable fari ther to continue it, unless the enemy think proper to do so, when I shall

meet him with alacrity Our loss

would have been heavy but for the foresight which, with great labor, caused us to erect elaborate means of protection, and which saved many lives. I lost one private killed, one sergeant, one corporal and four men (privates) wounded, only one severely."

The blockade of the mouths of the Mississippi was, from the nature of the case, very difficult, and for a considerable time it was evaded with more or less success. On the 1st of July,, the famous privateer Sumter, Raphael Semmes commander, passed out, made a dozen or more captures of merchantmen, and ran into Nassau, where British sympathy and aid were freely extended. Sometime after, Semmes, continuing his devastating course, brought the Sumter into Gibraltar, where the Tuscarora found him and kept him in durance, till the privateer captain and company were tired out, and sold their vessel to escape capture. But the blockade, though by no means perfect or complete, was sufficiently so to be very vexatious to the rebels in New Orleans, and roused them to make efforts to break it if possible. A steam ram was constructed during the summer for this purpose, at Algiers, opposite New Orleans. Taking a strong, old tow-boat as a foundation, iron plating was put on the vessel, and a prow of timbers and iron, very strong, projected about ten feet, and was calculated to produce a terrible

blow on the side of any vessel against which it might strike.

Confident of the destructive power of the ram, Manassas, it was determined to attack the blockading fleet which, early in October, was stationed at the head of the Passes, protecting our men, who were engaged in erecting fortifications at the point where the Mississippi diverges into five mouths, and where a well arranged fort would command the entire navigation of the river. Late on the night of the 11th of October, as the steamer Richmond was lying at the south-west pass receiving coal from a schooner, suddenly the Manassas was discovered in close proximity, attended by gun boats and barges laden with combustibles. A tremendous blow was inflicted on the fore part of the Richmond, tearing the schooner from her fasts, and forcing a hole through the ship's side. The ram passed aft, and tried to breach the stern of the Richmond, but her works getting deranged she failed in this, and having received the fire of the steamer's port battery, she was glad to draw off. In a few minutes, the Preble, Vincennes and Water Witch having slipped their cables passed down with the current, the Richmond following and covering their retreat. The Vincennes and Richmond grounded on the bar, the others passing over free; and the fire rafts were entirely avoided. This was about 8 o'clock in the morning of the 12th, and the enemy's five gun boats opened fire, which was continued for two hours without any particular effect, when they sailed back up the river. The damage to the side of the

Richmond was repaired, temporarily and the army transport, McClellan, coming up early in the afternoon, assisted in getting the Richmond off the bar. This was successfully accomplished on the morning of the 13th, and the afternoon of the same day the Vincennes was also got afloat, when the entire fleet was carried without further injury down the pass. Not a single life was lost from the rebel attack.

As communications were not very frequent with our squadron, the first news of this matter at the North was through the high sounding telegram of Capt. Hollins, the commander of the expedition and formerly of the U. S. navy: "Fort Jackson, Oct. 12th, 1861: Last night I attacked the blockaders with my little fleet. I succeeded, after a very short struggle, in driving them all aground on the South-west Pass bar, except the Preble, which I sunk. I captured a prize from them, and after they were fast in the sand, I peppered them well. There were no casualties on our side. It was a complete success.''

It was some satisfaction, soon after, to get at the truth, as above narrated, and Capt. Hollins' "peppered them well," (which, by the way, was done at a safe distance and with very indifferent results,) was found to be rather poetical and extravagant than worthy of any »redit.

In carrying out the policy of the government with respect to points of importance on the southern coast, the navy department appointed, in June, a special board of army and navy officers to consider and report upon the whole subject. The commission gave full and careful

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

attention to the matter, and made various recommendations in regard to future operations in behalf of the Union, and for cutting off the means derived by the rebels from running the blockade. Accordingly, an expedition on a larger scale than heretofore attempted was fitted out, the destination of which was kept secret up to the last moment. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman, a brave and accomplished officer, was placed in command of the land forces, numbering about 15,000 men; while the naval portion of the expedition, consisting of the steam frigate Wabash,

I twenty-two first-class and twelve smaller steamers, and twenty-six sailing vessels, was commanded by Commodore

|: S. F. Dupont, one of the ablest officers in the service.

The expedition sailed on the 29th of

| October, from Hampton Roads, and

j met with very stormy weather. Several transports were disabled and four lost entirely, and it was not till the night of Nov. 3d, that the expedition arrived off Port Royal, South Carolina. Soundings were carefully made, it being found that the rebels had

j | removed the buoys marking out the pathway; the next day, a reconnaissance in force was made to gain information respecting the batteries on shore, their strength, position, etc. It was ascertained, that, at the south-easterly point of Hilton Head Island, stood Fort Walker, and on the opposite land of Bay Point or Phillip's Island, was Fort Beauregard, both being works of scientific construction and mounting some 20 guns each.

Th- flag ship having passed safely

VOL. IV.—11.

through the channel, and all the arrangements having been effected, on Thursday, Nov. 7th, the weather proving favorable and perfectly clear, the armed vessels of the fleet advanced over the tranquil waters to the deadly encounter. The transports, freighted with thousands of soldiers, remained behind, yet within sight of the grand movement. The loss of the ferry boats, which had been provided to transport the troops over the shallow waters to the shore in the rear of the forts, had compelled a change of plan, by which the co-operation of the military was abandoned, and the whole responsibility of the attack was thrown upon the navy.

It had been ascertained by the reconnaissance, that Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, was the most powerfully armed of the defences, that the greater part of its guns were presented on two water fronts, and that the flanks were but slightly guarded, especially on the north, where an attack was less to be expected. The " mosquito fleet," under Tatnall, formerly of the U. S. navy, consisting of seven small steamers, kept at a very safe distance in the northern part of the harbor. Under these circumstances our fleet made its advance.

The Wabash led the way, the gun boats following, steaming slowly up the bay, and receiving and returning the fire of the rebel fortsthen, turning southwardly, they passed nearer the stronger work, and delivered fire with fearful effect. By this arrangement, no vessel became stationary, and the rebels could not gain by experiment and practice anything like a perfect aim. Notwithstanding the impression in favor of land batteries over ships when not iron clad, and notwithstanding the rebels, confident of success, fought bravely and worked their guns in the best manner, the terrible storm of shot and shell from our ships, which passed five times between the forts, was beyond all endurance. At half-past eleven, the enemy's flag was shot away, and an hour or so later, they gave up the fruitless contest and ran away. Numbering some 2,000 in all, they made a rapid retreat to save themselves from capture by our troops. In the course of the afternoon, Fort Walker was taken possession of, and a large body of troops landed; and as the other fort was found to be abandoned, the stars and stripes were hoisted on its flag-staff, the next morning at sunrise.*

Our success was complete. The losses were few and not important (eight being killed and twenty-three wounded) ; forty-eight cannon and large quantities of ammunition and stores were taken; and the rebels were astounded at the defeat they had met with. The day following the engagement, the Seminole was sent on a reconnaissance up the river towards Beaufort; she met with no obstructions, and with three gun boats had no difficulty in reaching Beaufort. The village was found to be entirely abandoned, only one white person being left, and he, to the disgrace of the "chivalry," was drunk. The

* A general order was issued by the secretary of the navy, expressing the high gratification of the department at the brilliant success of the expedition.

f On the 20th December, the " stone fleet," as it was jailed, gathered on the coast of South Carolina, and sixteen old whaling vessels, carefully prepared for the

negroes left in possession had already begun to pillage and destroy. "The whole country have left, sir," said an intelligent mulatto boy, "and all the soldiers gone to Port Royal Ferry. They did not think that you could do it, sir." On the 12th of November,' Dupont, Sherman, and other officers, visited Beaufort, and found every thing in a sad state of confusion and disorder, the negroes being left to work their will on property of all descriptions.

The government in this, as in the case of Hatteras Inlet, had not made provision for pressing the advantages which had been gained. Had Gen. Sherman been provided with light draft steamers and other facilities, there seems no reason to doubt that, under the terror caused by the rebel defeat, a successful attack might have been made upon Charleston and Savannah; but delays occurred. Gen. Sherman set to work fortifying his position at Hilton Head. He did not, occupy Beaufort until December 6th; nor, although Tybee Island, commanding the approach to Savannah, was taken possession of by | Commodore Dupont, Nov. 25th, did Gen. Sherman, or his successor, do any thing effective for some time later. j This, together with the unwillingness to use the negroes in work of every kind, for which they were much better fitted than the northern troops, helped to delay matters, and some of the fruits of our victory were thus lost.f

purpose, were sunk off the harbor of Charleston. Others, a few days afterward, were sunk in an other spot, the idea being to embarrass or perplex, not destroy, navigation. A great outcry was made by foreign newspapers, hostile to the Union, and Lord Russell even undertook to remonstrate with our government upon

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

In order to secure, as far as possible, the valuable product of the country, i.e., cotton, an order was issued by the secretary of the treasury, Nov. 30th, prescrib. ing the appointment of agents at the ports or places occupied by the forces of the United States,who should secure and prepare for market the cotton and the products and property which might be found or brought within the lines of the army, or under the control of the federal authority. The negroes were to be employed in this work, and the cotton when gathered, it was directed, should be shipped to New York and there sold by regularly appointed agents, and the proceeds paid to the United States government.

On receipt of these orders at Port Royal, General T. W. Sherman distributed his forces to give the required aid to preserve what the torch of the rebels—which was every night of impunity employed with greater vigor— had left of the crops in the vicinity. The organization of the negroes, abandoned by their masters, or thronging in numbers to the Union lines, was a matter of no little difficulty. The general superintendence and direction of the plantations, with a view to their preservation and the care and regulation of the negroes at work on them, was assigned by Secretary Chase to Air. E. L. Pierce, as special agent of the treasury department, a gentleman every way qualified, and who entered on his

an act so dreadful as destroying one of the harbors of the world. His lordship was quietly informed of the real object had in view, and also reminded that even after the sinking of the ships, the port had been entered and the blockade broken by an English trading

work with zeal and discretion. The results were encouraging, and gave promise of future improvement in the negro race.

The first movement of any consequence in General T. W. Sherman's department after the occupation of Beaufort, December 6th, was a joint military and naval expedition, directed against a fortified position of the enemy on a mainland at Port Royal Ferry. Accordingly, at the end of December, a method of attack was settled upon by General Sherman and Captain Dupont, in which their forces were jointly to cooperate. The command of the naval operations was assigned to Commander C. R. P. Rodgers; the military movements were conducted by Gen. Stevens. The preparations of both were made' with the greatest skill, and carried out with remarkable accuracy. The batteries of the enemy were destroyed and the houses of the vicinity burnt.

As stated on a previous page (see p. 41), Jackson, the rebel governor of Missouri, had been put to flight by Gen. Lyon at Booneville, whence he retreated to the south-western portion of the state to get aid. Gen. Lyon continued the pursuit vigorously; the rebels, however, were met in Jasper county, by a force of some 1,500 Union troops, under Col. Franz Sigel, a brave and spirited officer, who was pushing forward to prevent a junction of Jackson's force with that which was hastening to his assistance from another quarter. Sigel, on the 4th of July, found the rebels at. Brier Forks, near Carthage, with a force more than twice his in number, and professing themselves

« 上一頁繼續 »