Mercury, January 7, 1864 [OAF]
Morris Island, Dec. 26, 1863
Strategy and Common Sense
—Since my last there has been nothing extraordinary occurred in military affairs, and the indications are that nothing will occur between now and spring, unless brought on by the enemy. The whole face of nature now presents a drear and gloomy appearance, and the thousands who a month or two ago were full of hope and expectation have gradually come down to that frame of mind so well adapted to wait till something turns up. The fleet inside the bar has been steadily diminishing, so that there is nothing but the monitors and Ironsides left, together with three or four tugs, and provision/ schooners. The Philadelphia seems to have taken up winter quarters in the inlet, no doubt to save her from being rocked on the waves or the boisterous Atlantic. So, you see, Christmas has come and gone, but Charleston still holds her head high, as the leading city in the van of the rebellion. But then, Secretary Welles, in his annual report, considers it to be no great matter whether the Union army occupies the city or not, as it is not, he says, any strategic point of value or commercial importance to the Confederate guerrillas. All that is very fine, as a defence of the miserable operation of the naval arm during the recent operations against that stronghold; but it will not possibly make the nation see why having it in our possession is not better than to leave it in the hands of the insurgents. Strategy or not, almost every one knows that the rebels depend upon Charleston for a very large amount of ammunition, which is manufactured there on account of its central position and being connected by all the interior lines of railway with different parts of the Confederacy. But the worthy old gentleman does not think that it would be any object to somewhat curtail these facilities, and it has not struck him as an idea, that in sealing Charleston up as a commercial help to the rebels, the most effective way is to take it, so that the fleet employed to watch it could be employed elsewhere. But the worthy Secretary is looking to the establishment of something stunning in war ships, which, as a precautionary measure, is very well. But do, good Mr. Secretary, let us have the 4th of July in Charleston, and we will not regret not having spent a merry Christmas therein so much.
Santa Claus in a Novel Shape
Yesterday (Christmas) morning, we gave the rebels in Charleston a Merry (or dismal) Christmas greeting, by throwing a few shell in among them. The shell thrown evidently set fire to some part of the city, as there was a grand illumination visible in a few minutes after the shell were thrown. The wind being then from the northwest and the air very clear, the sound of the church bells could be distinctly heard at Fort Strong, but whether it was the regular ringing of Christmas bells by the Catholic and established churches, or merely the alarm bells on account of fire, is difficult to determine. From the hour (3 o’clock) it may have been both circumstances that occasioned the loud ringing of bells in the Palmetto City; one set of bells ringing to commemorate a glorious event, bringing joy and mirth to the rising generation, and reflection and thankfulness to those of mature age, — and the other, to warn the guilty conspirators of the avenging flame thrown in their midst, ready to leave them houseless, unless they make efforts to extinguish it.
Soon after, the rebel batteries on James and Sullivan’s Islands were opened, but with the same effect as heretofore — a waste of powder and shell; but about daylight we could hear very rapid and heavy firing* on James Island in the neighborhood where our gunboats are stationed in Stono river. I have not found out anything as yet in regard to it, but I suspect the rebels were retaliating on the gunboats for our firing on the city, and the gunboats of course must have given them as good as they sent. I don’t think it was anything more than for annoying each other in that quarter; at least I shall wait till I hear something more definite, as I may be sold a la Pocatiligo. Christmas was rather a dull day with us, the 54th. But the 3d U.S. had a stirring time — eating and drinking. Apple dumplings, equalling a young mortar shell in weight, with rye whiskey sauce, was the principal item on the bill of fare. So far as my observation went, apple dumplings formed the first and last course, but the boys enjoyed them notwithstanding the seeming lack of talent in the pastry cooks. The dinner to the boys shows a warm attachment between the shoulder straps and the rank and file, for the expense was borne by the officers. The meeting referred to in my last, squelched by conservatives throwing cold water on the fire [fine?] spun plans of the radicals, adjourned sine die.
Hereafter Lieut. J. W. Grace ceases to be such — why? he will wear two bars on his shoulders, which it is hoped, will be replaced by two leaves — in time.
*This was the attack on the Marblehead, the account of which we have published. [Mercury Editor]
December 26, 1863
This is Gooding’s 43rd letter to the Mercury
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