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Robert E. Lee Portrait
pages 264 and 265 we publish
two views of
Charleston Harbor—one from the Battery, looking
seaward, and showing Fort Sumter in the distance; another from our blockading
fleet, showing the entrance to the harbor, with our iron-clads just over the
The following narrative of the
attack of 7th is from the officers of the Keokuk:
The fleet, after leaving Hilton
Head, rendezvoused in the mouth of the Edisto. Several days were occupied in
gathering the vessels and making final arrangements—issuing orders and otherwise
arranging for the great combat. All being completed, the fleet left in
detachments, and assembled off Charleston on Sunday, the 5th instant. The
iron-clad fleet crossed the bar and entered Charleston Harbor on Monday. The
Keokuk, drawing less water than any of the others, was sent in first, to find
the channel and replace the buoys. Proceeding up the main ship-channel, the
Keokuk found an easy and unobstructed entrance, with full eighteen feet of water
in the shallowest places—more than has ever before been on
Charleston bar. The buoys were
replaced without difficulty, the rebels offering no opposition.
The Keokuk returned to the fleet,
and on the morning of the 7th the order was given the iron-clads to enter the
harbor. The order was to proceed in single file, or in line ahead. The Weehawken
was the leading vessel, having in front of her a scow, and then between the scow
and herself Ericsson's torpedo exploder, or "devil," as it has been called.
The Ironsides, with Admiral
Dupont on board, was the fifth in line, and the Keokuk the last. In this order
the bar was passed in safety, without detention. The order given to the
commanders of the various vessels was to keep on straight up the harbor until
they were within one thousand yards of the forts, and then to attack, directing
their efforts principally against Fort Sumter.
In this order the fleet moved on
steadily and gallantly up toward Forts Sumter and Moultrie, the rebels
withholding their fire until they got well up into the harbor. The Ironsides
stopped off Fort Moultrie, and let go her anchor, it being dangerous to take her
farther up on account of her drawing over fifteen feet. At this moment there
seemed to be a temporary misunderstanding, and all the iron-clads, except the
Weehawken and the Keokuk, gathered about the Ironsides, apparently supposing
that she had grounded and needed assistance. They were, however, soon signaled
to go into action. The Keokuk had kept inward until she led the line, and had
advanced to within four hundred yards of Fort Sumter, against whose granite
walls she hailed her heavy shot with all the rapidity that the energy of her
brave crew could furnish. The rebels, as was expected, immediately concentrated
their fire on the Keokuk, which assumed to lead in the attack. From Sumter,
Moultrie, Batteries Beauregard on Cummings Point, and from a fort erected on the
middle ground, the fire of four or five hundred guns were concentrated in a
terrible hail upon the devoted vessel. Such a fire had never, perhaps, in the
history of the world been equaled. It was met by the officers of the Keokuk with
heroic fortitude, while the balls were striking her at the rate of one every
second. Her guns were worked with vigor and precision, and their weight and
force were already making their mark upon the walls of Sumter.
THE ERICSSON DEVIL AND "WEEHAWKEN."
A, Ericsson Battery.—B,
Turret.—C, Pilot-house.—D, Smoke-stack.—E, Raft or Devil.—F, Lock String. — G,
It soon, however, became apparent
that she had none of the impregnability of
Ericsson's Monitors—that, in fact,
she was a failure. The rebel balls seemed to penetrate her as easily as if a
wooden vessel. The port-holes or shutters of her turrets became jammed and her
guns practically unserviceable.
During the thirty minutes she
remained under this concentrated fire one hundred shot struck her, ninety of
which were water-line shots, or such as would cause her to leak in a seaway. In
fact, she was perfectly riddled. Her flag was shot into tatters and the whole of
her sides battered, bruised, and pierced. Perceiving the severe injuries she had
received, the Admiral signaled her to retire out of action and anchor beyond
range. This was safely accomplished.
In the mean time the Monitors
Nahant and Catskill had moved up to the support of the Keokuk, and engaged Fort
Sumter. The Ironsides and other vessels at longer range were dividing their
attention between Moultrie and Sumter. Into and on the latter fort a heavy fire
was thus poured, and, it is believed, not without effect.
The engagement was kept up from
one until four o'clock, when, in obedience to the Admiral's signals, the fleet
retired slowly, receiving and returning the rebel fire until they anchored out
of range within the bar.
The Weehawken was assigned the
important duty which was faithfully performed in the midst of the fight, to
examine, and, if possible, to fire the obstructions which the rebels have
extended across the harbor from Fort Sumter to Moultrie. Protected by the scow
and the "devil" in front of her, she pushed straight up toward the obstructions.
They were found to consist of a net-work of chains and cables stretched across
the harbor, over which it was impossible for the Weehawken to run without
fouling her propeller, and which she found it impossible to force. To the
net-work the rebels are supposed to have suspended torpedoes and other submarine
explosives. Having completed
examination, and tested the
impossibility of working up the harbor until means are devised for the removal
of these obstructions, the Weehawken returned and reported to Admiral Dupont,
who ordered a discontinuance of the conflict.
It is believed that the damage
done to Fort Sumter by our fire was serious. So far as it showed externally it
consisted in two embrasures being knocked into one, and numerous indentations in
the wall, which, it is believed, a few hours more pounding would convert into a
serious breach. What damage or loss of life was sustained in the interior of the
fort is not, of course, known, but it is believed to have been considerable.
Fort Moultrie was also well
hammered, and at least one gun was dismounted. Beyond the sinking of the Keokuk,
the damage to the iron-clads was very slight, not more than would require
twenty-four hours to repair. They all came out of the contest in fighting trim,
and able to have continued the conflict lad it been desirable.
The Ironsides was hit frequently,
but besides having one port shutter injured was unharmed.
Our informant heard of no serious
casualties on board any of the vessels except the Keokuk. This vessel sunk next
morning, about one thousand yards fron Morris Island beach. She had thirteen
wounded, two of whom, including Acting-Ensign Mcintosh, will probably die.
The "devil" was not lost, as
stated by the rebel dispatches. When the Weehawken returned from the
reconnoissance of the obstructions, the scow she had in tow broke loose and
grounded off Morris Island. The rebels, thinking it a dangerous affair, peppered
away at it, thinking it was the "devil," or something worse.
A, Raft.—B, Torpedo-catcher.—C, Battery.—D,
THE IRON-CLAD "KEOKUK" ON THE WAYS BEFORE
LAUNCHING.—[SEE PAGE 267.]