Mercury, November 11, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Oct. 31, 1863
—The past week has been one of active operations here with us. Last Monday at noon, the bombardment of Sumter recommenced with a vigor unparalled in the annals of warfare. By reference to my notes, jotted down as the events occurred, your readers will have a better understanding of the work going on than otherwise. Monday noon, the three hundred pound Parrott was fired a little, to test her qualities; she commenced by putting one shot into Sumter. Then, feeling pretty well satisfied with that result, she half faced to the right and sent a shot whizzing into Moultrie; then, completely about face, she let old Fort Johnson have a taste of her sauce; still feeling a little more ambitious she right obliqued and sent a message to Castle Pinckney, which must have caused some commotion in the city, as Pinckney is not a great way from town. The rebels, thinking we were opening a regular engagement, assailed our batteries from all the positions. Moultrie, Bragg, Johnson, Simpkins, and one or two other batteries nameless to me, were soon blazing away at the Yankees for dear life, but I am happy to say they did no harm. After our side saw the rebels were “spiling” for a fight, they concluded to let them have a foretaste of what was to come on the morrow. Accordingly, the quondam rebel stronghold, Wagner, was let loose, and it was not long before the rebels were obliged to keep still.
Tuesday morning, at 6 A.M., the battle began to rage. Wagner, Gregg, and the new battery midway between Wagner and Gregg opened all their powerful pieces on poor old Sumter. If Sumter was a wreck before, how shall we express what she is now? Every shot fired at her hit, some of them going literally through the opposite wall. At 11 o’clock the monitors moved up in position, gave a few shots, and walked out, but the land forces never even relaxed their fire. Surely, but slowly, the great siege guns are doing their work; at each shot from the 300-pounder ton after ton of bricks, mortar and rubbish are toppled down into the water surrounding the grim old fortress. Moultrie and Johnson send a few shells over now and then, but they do but little damage. Boom! Boom! in pendulum regularity go the great guns, the sky in the north looks black, and the sun sets once more with the contending guns bellowing with vengeance; the mantle of night is dropped, but still the indefatigable Yankees are pounding the first refuge of armed treason. Two fresh monitors come up and relieve those that have worked since noon; strong, able men on shore are wending their way to the front to serve the guns all night; and long trains of wagons are going to Gregg, Wagner, and the new battery, loaded with shot, shell and powder. The way everything looks now is, that Sumter must and shall fall.
Wednesday, 28th. — The bombardment still goes on, but it is about the same as on the day preceding, a perpetual roar of artillery and a gradual opening of the east wall of Sumter. The outer wall is now a mass of debris, forming an inclined plane of about 25 degrees from the water to the top of the wall. The arches are plainly visible from Fort Wagner without the aid of a glass, but still the irrepressible 11th S.C. hold out, and indeed I see no reason why they should not. It is a question whether one shot out of a hundred thrown at the fort damages that particular corner that is inhabited. The rebels hold what may be termed the southwest corner, directly facing Fort Johnson, and in the position our batteries are, it can hardly be expected that we can damage that corner a great deal, as the projectiles would nine times out of ten glance off, thereby depleting our stock of ordnance stores to no advantage. So, in view of this, we have to be patient and wait to see how knocking down the east wall will affect the work.
Thursday, 29th. — This day, being one of a detail to report at Gregg, I had a good opportunity of seeing how things were progressing; from there could be seen the sad havoc made on the once formidable Sumter. The fort was at times enveloped in smoke for the space of 15 minutes, so rapid was the fall of shell, in and around it. At 10 o’clock, the flag and staff were shot off the wall and toppled in the water; then arose a shout from the gunners, pickets and fatigue party, with waving of hats, caps, and even shovels; every man left his work and mounted the parapets or anything that had an elevation of four or five feet, to see the thing. But, presto! amid the shouts and rejoicings, the bellowing of guns, the whizzing of ponderous balls, and the bursting of bombs over that doomed citadel, another flag is raised out of the black smoke, with the staff inclining greatly to one side; the balls are directed to it in rapid succession — the gallant rebel is forced to desist, till a lull, often occurring in a bombardment like this, enables him to appear again and set the staff firm and upright. After performing this daring feat, he coolly took off his hat, swung it around once, just in time to escape a 12 pound shot fired from a light field piece. After I saw this trick, you may be sure I had some grave doubts of ever getting the rascals out by this mode of attack, although they may be bombed out.
It is now Sunday, but still the battle goes on. The iron clads begin to show their abilities now; there seems to be especial inclination on the part of Moultrie to trouble them, for they lay right in range of her guns; but she has not given them a shot yet — they must make the dirt fly in Sumter, as all their shell are thrown inside. The old Ironsides will take the lead, I hear, when we get ready to talk to Moultrie.
I hope by next week’s mail you will receive the gratifying news that Sumter is surrendered. But we have gone so far that we must go ahead. Thank the Lord there is no land left to build batteries on; we have got to Cumming’s Point, so if they want any shoveling done, they must begin on the next Island — Sullivan’s.
October 31, 1863
This is Gooding’s 36th letter to the Mercury
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