Mercury, September 21, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Sept. 9, 1863
—At last Wagner and Gregg have the old flag waving over them. Sumter is a mass of shapeless ruins; Gregg is occupied by our forces, a small detachment of men, to repair and hold it. The agreeable fact was doubted a long time this morning by those whose duties were otherwheres but the “front.” But by sunrise, all doubts were cleared by the evidence of prisoners and trophies. The attack was made about 2 1-2 o’clock this morning by Generals Terry and Stevenson, and in half an hour the welkin rang with the loud cheers of our victorious army. While one part of our force were taking possession of Wagner, another small detachment marched on battery Gregg; but the rebels, panic-stricken by flying fugitives from Wagner, commenced to follow. So by one well-directed blow, we have swept the rebels from their strongest positions for the defence of Charleston. This is emphatically a triumph of skill; repulsed twice with a great loss of life, the Commanding General has at last been successful in proving the oft boasted impregnability of the defences of Charleston to be all moonshine in the age of science and expedients. Gen. Gillmore can proudly say he has gained what the rebels most dreaded to lose, without the loss of hardly a life. To be sure life has been sacrificed in the preparations to accomplish the great end; for how could it be otherwise, when the work had to be done under a heavy fire, and a continuous rain of shell, grape, and canister. Indeed what seemed to be the preliminary of a grand coup de main, was in fact the work which scared the rebels out. The bombardment commenced at daylight, Sept. 5th, and was kept up without intermission till Sunday night at 11 1-2 o’clock by the land batteries, and Ironsides, and “cheese boxes.”12 No wonder Wagner fell! Such a continuous pour of shot and shell never struck one work so accurately and effectively as on Saturday and Sunday; our trenches then being so close to the parapet of Wagner that the recoil of pieces of shell from our own guns wounded our men, who were digging the “last parallel,” that our boys could have a covered way to enter Wagner. All hands are satisfied, one with the other, and all feel that they are well repaid for disappointments and toil, and that each and every man reflect[s] credit and glory on the old flag, which waves defiantly at the gates of rebeldom. I have not room to describe the infernal machines put in the way by the rebels to destroy our men; suffice it to say, these torpedoes have killed many of our men when struck by them with their spades. In the trenches they had another diabolical contrivance consisting of a hook, not unlike a “gaff” (used by whalemen in handling blubber), and a lance with a long shank, the point of the lance being about 9 inches from the hook. These are mounted on poles five or six feet long and were no doubt purposely made for spearing men when charging, and then pulling them in the fort with the hooks. I was in the work a short time today, but could not stay long enough to gain any correct idea of how it is arranged internally; the sand is piled up in huge heaps here and there, almost completely covering the entrance to the bomb-proofs. There is nothing evidently in its appearance now to give one a just appreciation of the engineering displayed in its construction. I have not been so far as Gregg or Sumter yet and if they smell as bad as Wagner, I don’t want to. The smell in Wagner is really sickening, dead men and mules are profuse, some exposed to the rays of sun, and others being half buried by earth thrown over them by our shot and shell during the bombardment. Forts Moultrie and Johnson are now vainly trying to make the “Yankee” leave Wagner, but the monitors bark at them every now and then, so they will soon be silent.
Killed Sept. 5th by our own guns — Charles Van Allen, of Lenox, Mass., and Aaron Spencer, of North Lee, Mass., both of Co. A, 54th Mass. regiment.
September 9, 1863
This is Gooding’s 28th letter to the Mercury
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