This is Gooding’s 41st letter to the Mercury

Mercury, December 28, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Dec. 12, 1863

Messrs. Editors:

—The week just past has been one of unusual interest in the Department of the South. The first item is the loss of one of the iron monitors, on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 6th. The cause of her loss is enveloped in mystery to those on shore. We hear of a dozen different stories concerning it; some say that she was sunk by excessive rolling, as there was a heavy sea on at the time; while it is stated by others that she was sunk by a torpedo floating down the harbor; and others assert that some part of her boiler gear exploded and, forced downward, went through her bottom, thereby causing the catastrophe. Putting aside all speculations as to how it happened, it will bring to the mind of many persons at home, as well as some abroad, that it was almost time that the “Iron Fleet” off Charleston had made itself famous for something more remarkable than “completing preparations.” The country we think would feel better satisfied to pay a half million dollars apiece for every monitor before Charleston, providing they were sunk in a genuine endeavor to anchor in rebellion roads. If we don’t look sharp, U.S. Grant may send fighting Joe Hooker to the rear of Charleston before the monitors have been cleared of barnacles! The next item is the unfortunate penetration of one of our magazines by a rebel bomb shell. The shell came through a part of the magazine which the engineers were engaged in repairing, they having removed the sod and sand bags for the purpose of covering the top with four or five feet more of earth. The shell struck the top and broke through the roof, falling among a pile of capped shell, exploding twenty of them, besides a number of kegs of powder. The casualties resulting therefrom were four men killed, eleven men seriously wounded, and seventeen slightly, with the usual number scared — your correspondent among the last mentioned.

The next piece of news which you are no doubt apprised of through the Richmond papers, is the capture of Pocatiligo bridge by Brig. Gen.  Seymour; so goes the yarn, on good authority too. The possession of this bridge by the Union forces may cut off some of the supplies of Charleston, but not to such an extent as to hasten a termination of the siege. It places Savannah in a rather tight position so far as direct communication with Richmond is concerned; but still they have a circuitous railroad open through the interior of Georgia, unless Grant’s army cuts them off at Atlanta. Still, holding Pocatiligo bridge is an advantage, which if backed by a sufficient number of men may induce the Commanding General to act independent of the “web feet,” although going up to the rear may be a hard road to travel, as it must be expected the rebels have taken every precaution to hold the rear since the taking of Pocatiligo bridge.

Gen. Gillmore seems determined to keep the citizens of Charleston awake, for hardly a night during the past week but what the rebellious city has been fired in some spot. Every night about 11 o’clock we open on the city. One night, being on grand guard at Fort Strong, everything was quiet as the grave, save the breaking of the droning swell on the beach, which made the quiet more intense. Hardly a breath of wind was stirring, when the roar of a 200-pound Parrott broke the silence. You could hear the missile whizzing through the air, and in just forty seconds, you see a sudden gleam — and hear a low rumbling noise, which plainly tells you that it has burst over Charleston. In five minutes the second shot is fired, with like effect, when you distinctly hear the alarm bells tolling, to warn the sleepy citizens of danger; and you observe James Island batteries signalizing to those on Sullivan’s Island, when away they blaze with mortars and columbiads, vainly endeavoring to silence the “indefatigueables.” They have a mortar battery on Sullivan’s Island, with seven mortars in it, which they let go every time we fire into the city, and you may suppose that there is a little noise about midnight, when the Yankees fire two pieces to the rebels’ one.  Yesterday, Fort Sumter was in a blaze, but how it was brought about, I am at a loss to tell, unless the garrison set fire to the fort, or our forces have fired a few Greek shells into it. The fire and smoke were plainly visible from our camp all the forenoon, and till two o’clock in the afternoon.  While Sumter was in flames, the contending batteries were unusually active in pelting each other; fourteen mortars were steadily kept firing into Sumter, Fort Strong attended to James Island, Fort Putnam poured into Moultrie, and the 300-pounders shook the folks up in Charleston. I think every gun and mortar the contending armies have mounted were brought into play at that time, for the roar of ordnance was steady and terrible. It was not safe for a man to venture out of the entrenchments between Forts Strong and Putnam, so steady was the fall of fragments of exploding shell, or round and steel pointed shot. Col. E. N. Hallowell, while riding up to Fort Putnam, had his horse shot from under him but was not touched himself. The rain commencing about 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, the firing ceased, and has not yet been renewed.