This is Gooding’s 35th letter to the Mercury

Mercury, November 3, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Oct. 24, 1863

Messrs. Editors:

—We have no news of any great interest, save what would be considered contraband. Items are as scarce as birds’ teeth; and everything and everybody is quiet as a burglar when the police are around. The rebels keep up a little gun practice daily, but the harm it does is very trifling, further than to make the fatigue parties do a little skedaddling behind the breastworks.

We heard pretty brisk firing on James Island last Wednesday, lasting about an hour and a half; but we have heard no particulars as to what it was. From the direction of the smoke of the guns, the firing must have been in the vicinity of the fight of July 16th.

It is rumored that a detachment of the 55th Mass. has been badly cut up; a detachment of 200 men are away from the regiment, but where they are no one knows; the fact of a number of the men being away, and the firing on James Island, may have given rise to the story; I cannot vouch for its correctness, and am inclined to think it is a canard.  The prospect of active operations is rather obscure; but of course those who know “what is what” don’t mean that the secret shall be shared by the public or the “milishey” either. So all we have to do is grin and bear it. Morris Island begins to look as though civilized people were its inhabitants, but how can it be otherwise? Wherever the cosmopolitan Yankee goes, improvement goes with him; warehouses, docks and shipping are sure to spring up as soon as Mr. Yankee plants his feet, wherever there is land to put a house on and water enough to float a mud scow. His genius will make the land larger, or the water deeper, or else there is no virtue in machinery. Some of Johnny Bull’s blockade runners may make a mistake before long, if Morris City progresses as it does now — they will take it that Uncle Sam’s new city is Charleston, and run smack in before they find out their mistake. The navy remains quiet, with the indication of so continuing. But it is said that Admiral Dahlgren is seriously ill; the climate has acted very badly on his health, and it is very questionable if he ever completely recovers.

The Monitors had a little “brush” last night. It seems the rebel ram undertook to come out, for what purpose is quite obvious; she got down the harbor as far as Fort Moultrie, when the little cheeseboxes opened on her savagely. The Monitors were walking round the harbor in fine style, evidently to get around the ram, to head her off, and capture her; but it is likely the rebels recollected the fate of the Fingal,20 for the ram speedily made tracks for the city, well satisfied no doubt that the cheeseboxes are hard cases.

Shortly after the naval skirmish, there was a pretty brisk fire of musketry on Sullivan’s Island; but it is probable it was nothing more than a picket encounter. The pickets are liable to fall in with each other nightly, in their aquatic perambulations.

Old Sumter stands like a deserted castle, a lonely looking mark of departed power and glory. One can hardly realize when standing within less than half a mile of her crumbled walls, what a mighty sway she once wielded over this and the adjacent islands. She fires no gun now, neither do we see any men on the ruined walls. She must be practically deserted; only a few men left to preserve the name of possession. Her flag waves daily, but it is raised but a very few feet above the ruined walls and cannot be seen unless you are within a mile of the Fort, as it is rather unsafe for a man to show himself on the top of the wall. A Parrott gun is very quick in execution. The rebels have a continuous fine of batteries from Moultrie up to Mount Pleasant, but it is shrewdly suspected that the most of them are “dummies.” A few fifteen inch shell will soon reveal what they are.

Last Tuesday night there must have been an extensive conflagration in Charleston; the flames could be distinctly seen from Gregg for over three hours. While the fire was raging, the rebels ceased their regular gun practice, no doubt to view the scene going on at home.