Mercury, October 20, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Oct. 10, 1863
—The monotony of life was somewhat broken last Monday night, October 5th, by an insane attempt by the rebels to either capture or destroy the Ironsides. Their plans to destroy the vessel were to place torpedoes under her and blow her up. The attacking party came down out of the inner harbor about 9 o’clock, passed the two monitors lying between Gregg and Moultrie, hugging themselves in the belief that they were unseen.17 But the ever watchful tars were very well aware of all the rebel manoeuvres. They let them go ahead, as it was the intention of the navy to trap the bold rascals. After the rebels had made the distance opposite the Ironsides, by running close along the beach of Sullivan’s Island, they struck boldly, but cautiously, out for their prize. On they came, with muffled oars; but while they were approaching, the crew of the Ironsides were silently preparing to give their nocturnal (or infernal) visitors a warm reception. At length the rebel boats are within hailing distance — the marine on the bow of the Ironsides cries —”boat ahoy!” no response from the boats, but sudden and vigorous strokes with the oars, and shouts of, “pull hard! the Yankees are all turned in — we’ve got her sure — pull, pull, let’s get aboard before they awake.” A rocket from the Ironsides told the monitors to begin — out of their huge guns, they threw grape, cannister and shrapnel — the crew of the ‘old invincible’ mounted the railing and poured down a continual stream of minnie balls, which must have convinced the unlucky rebels that the Yankees were wide awake. Another nice little Yankee invention was used to advantage on this occasion; it is almost as nice as ‘Greek Fire’; it is a contrivance to squirt steam. One party of rebels who were to place the torpedoes under the vessel, got out of range and pulled round to that side of the ships not in action, and got so close as to warrant them in throwing their infernals into the water, when lo! the skin-peeling element was in their midst! It is needless to say that they dropped their infernal machines, and intentions too. They could not stand such a novel mode of warfare as that, so they pulled for the nearest land under the control of Beaury — Sullivan’s Island. I believe we did not take many prisoners, as the rebels decamped sooner than the officers supposed they would. We are waiting to hear another protest, or bull, by little “Peter,” against squirting steam.
While the navy was doing such active service, the land forces were all prepared and waiting for an invasion of the right little, tight little isle. There was no surety, but the rebels, by attracting all our attention to one point, would come like an avalanche on some other, as they agree that this island is their greatest loss. But they troubled us no more that night, nor will they be apt to for some time. The attempt of the rebels to get possession of or destroy the Ironsides is pretty conclusive evidence that they admire her qualities as a fighting ram, or have a wholesome dread of her capacity to prove their obstructions all bosh. We shall no doubt be posted on her abilities that way soon, as matters appear to be coming to a point. Couriers ride, as if for dear life, bearing ponderous and ominous looking envelopes; some look grave and reticent, others look cunning and knowing, like your London “cabby,” while a few look as though they appreciated their business, by attending to it without making believe they know what their errand is. Everybody has a fancy of his own as to what is to be done, when, and how. But I must confess that I’m a “know-nothing.” A very important and humane arrangement has been instituted in this department, which deserves mention. The brave soldier who is killed, or dies by some frightful wound or lingering disease, is to be decently buried. The regiment or company to which a deceased soldier belonged are not to assume the responsibility of burial without an order to that effect from the Provost Marshal’s office; each corpse is to be provided with a good substantial coffin, and if the deceased has no clean garments among his own effects (which must be proved), one is furnished, and a white board, with the name, rank, and age of the deceased neatly and legibly marked thereon. The relatives and friends of the deceased are to receive an official notice of the facts, detailing the manner of death, or sickness before death, and every item so far as known of the conduct of the deceased in the field. This is indeed an improvement on the old order of things.
The casualties have been large the past week, in comparison with what they have been in weeks previous; not less than 15 men killed since last Sabbath, and 21 seriously wounded. The rebels have been successful in spilling more loyal blood, but the day of retribution will surely come.
One of our hundred-pound batteries pretty effectually silenced the rebel work on the north end of James Island yesterday. I believe our battery has been ordered to keep open on them, while our men are at work on Gregg and Wagner. So long as our long guns pitch shell into the rebels, they have no chance of killing off the fatigue parties.
October 10, 1863
This is Gooding’s 33rd letter to the Mercury
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