Mercury, December 28, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Dec. 12, 1863
—The week just past has been one of unusual interest in the Department of the South. The first item is the loss of one of the iron monitors, on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 6th. The cause of her loss is enveloped in mystery to those on shore. We hear of a dozen different stories concerning it; some say that she was sunk by excessive rolling, as there was a heavy sea on at the time; while it is stated by others that she was sunk by a torpedo floating down the harbor; and others assert that some part of her boiler gear exploded and, forced downward, went through her bottom, thereby causing the catastrophe. Putting aside all speculations as to how it happened, it will bring to the mind of many persons at home, as well as some abroad, that it was almost time that the “Iron Fleet” off Charleston had made itself famous for something more remarkable than “completing preparations.” The country we think would feel better satisfied to pay a half million dollars apiece for every monitor before Charleston, providing they were sunk in a genuine endeavor to anchor in rebellion roads. If we don’t look sharp, U.S. Grant may send fighting Joe Hooker to the rear of Charleston before the monitors have been cleared of barnacles! The next item is the unfortunate penetration of one of our magazines by a rebel bomb shell. The shell came through a part of the magazine which the engineers were engaged in repairing, they having removed the sod and sand bags for the purpose of covering the top with four or five feet more of earth. The shell struck the top and broke through the roof, falling among a pile of capped shell, exploding twenty of them, besides a number of kegs of powder. The casualties resulting therefrom were four men killed, eleven men seriously wounded, and seventeen slightly, with the usual number scared — your correspondent among the last mentioned.
The next piece of news which you are no doubt apprised of through the Richmond papers, is the capture of Pocatiligo bridge by Brig. Gen. Seymour; so goes the yarn, on good authority too. The possession of this bridge by the Union forces may cut off some of the supplies of Charleston, but not to such an extent as to hasten a termination of the siege. It places Savannah in a rather tight position so far as direct communication with Richmond is concerned; but still they have a circuitous railroad open through the interior of Georgia, unless Grant’s army cuts them off at Atlanta. Still, holding Pocatiligo bridge is an advantage, which if backed by a sufficient number of men may induce the Commanding General to act independent of the “web feet,” although going up to the rear may be a hard road to travel, as it must be expected the rebels have taken every precaution to hold the rear since the taking of Pocatiligo bridge.
Gen. Gillmore seems determined to keep the citizens of Charleston awake, for hardly a night during the past week but what the rebellious city has been fired in some spot. Every night about 11 o’clock we open on the city. One night, being on grand guard at Fort Strong, everything was quiet as the grave, save the breaking of the droning swell on the beach, which made the quiet more intense. Hardly a breath of wind was stirring, when the roar of a 200-pound Parrott broke the silence. You could hear the missile whizzing through the air, and in just forty seconds, you see a sudden gleam — and hear a low rumbling noise, which plainly tells you that it has burst over Charleston. In five minutes the second shot is fired, with like effect, when you distinctly hear the alarm bells tolling, to warn the sleepy citizens of danger; and you observe James Island batteries signalizing to those on Sullivan’s Island, when away they blaze with mortars and columbiads, vainly endeavoring to silence the “indefatigueables.” They have a mortar battery on Sullivan’s Island, with seven mortars in it, which they let go every time we fire into the city, and you may suppose that there is a little noise about midnight, when the Yankees fire two pieces to the rebels’ one. Yesterday, Fort Sumter was in a blaze, but how it was brought about, I am at a loss to tell, unless the garrison set fire to the fort, or our forces have fired a few Greek shells into it. The fire and smoke were plainly visible from our camp all the forenoon, and till two o’clock in the afternoon. While Sumter was in flames, the contending batteries were unusually active in pelting each other; fourteen mortars were steadily kept firing into Sumter, Fort Strong attended to James Island, Fort Putnam poured into Moultrie, and the 300-pounders shook the folks up in Charleston. I think every gun and mortar the contending armies have mounted were brought into play at that time, for the roar of ordnance was steady and terrible. It was not safe for a man to venture out of the entrenchments between Forts Strong and Putnam, so steady was the fall of fragments of exploding shell, or round and steel pointed shot. Col. E. N. Hallowell, while riding up to Fort Putnam, had his horse shot from under him but was not touched himself. The rain commencing about 2 o’clock yesterday afternoon, the firing ceased, and has not yet been renewed.
Posts Tagged Gen Quincy Gillmore
News was received the last of November that the matter of pay had come up in a new form. Governor Andrew in his message recommended the provisions of an Act which passed the Massachusetts Legislature November 16 in words as follows: ” An Act to make up the Deficiencies in the Monthly Pay of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth Regiments,” etc., and Section I. of this Act read as follows: — ” There shall be paid out of the Treasury of the Commonwealth to the non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates of the Fifty-fourth and Fifty-fifth regiments of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, to those who have been honorably discharged from the service, and to the legal representatives of those who have died in the service, such sums of money as, added to the amounts paid them by the United States, shall render their monthly pay and allowances from the time of their being mustered into the service of the United States equal to that of the other non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates in the volunteer or regular military service of the United States.”
Upon the receipt of a copy of the Governor’s address and the Act, Colonel Hallowell, on November 23, wrote to Governor Andrew, that notwithstanding the generous action of the State authorities, the men of the Fifty-fourth had enlisted as other soldiers from Massachusetts, and that they would serve without pay until mustered out, rather than accept from the United States less than the amount paid other soldiers. Enlisted men were not less prompt to write to their friends expressing their disapprobation. Theodore Tilton, in a communication to the Boston “Journal,” dated New York, Dec. 12, 1863, quotes from a letter received by him “from a Massachusetts soldier in the Fifty-fourth ” [see the post for 12/11] –
Our brigade number was changed from “Fourth” to “Third” on November 23. Its colored regiments were still required to perform an undue proportion of fatigue work, and but few details for grand guards came for them. After this discrimination had long been borne, General Gillmore in an order said,—” Colored troops will not be required to perform any labor which is not shared by the white troops, but will receive in all respects the same treatment, and be allowed the same opportunities for drill and instruction.”
Thanksgiving Day, November 26, by general orders, was observed by the suspension of all unnecessary labor. At 1.30 p. M. the Fifty-fourth formed with side-arms only, and marched to the beach in front of the Third Brigade headquarters. There, with all the other troops on the island they joined in religious services. It was a glorious day, well fitted for the thorough enjoyment of the feast and sports which followed. In response to a call of the “Black” Committee the friends of the regiment had contributed for Thanksgiving dinner many luxuries. From this source, the company funds, and the efforts of the officers and company cooks, a most abundant and unusual feast was provided. In the afternoon there was much amusement and sport indulged in by the men. A greased pole some twenty feet high was erected, and at the top was suspended a pair of trousers the pockets of which contained $13. After four hours of ludicrously unsuccessful trials on the part of a number of men, Butler of Company K secured the ” full pay ” and the trousers. Wheelbarrow and sack races closed the games.
Our new and old works being in readiness at Cumming’s Point, what General Gillmore calls the ” second bombardment of Sumter ” was begun October 26. Its purpose was to prevent guns being mounted there, and to cut down the southeast face, that the casemates of the channel face be taken in reverse. General Seymour had returned and assumed command of the island on the 18th. Under his direction our batteries opened from seven heavy rifles (including a three-hundred-pounder) in Wagner, and four in Gregg and from two mortars. Some fire was directed against Fort Johnson also, the enemy replying briskly. The next day the cannonade was renewed with one gun in Gregg turned upon the city. Our range against Sumter being less than was the case during Wagner’s siege, rendered the force of our shot much greater. Sharpshooters in Sumter armed with the long-range Whitworth rifles were trying to disable our gunners in Gregg, without success.
After four days’ bombardment, a breach was disclosed in the southeast face of Sumter, extending half its length, on which our land and sea fire was concentrated. For about a week longer our bombardment was kept up with great vigor, during which time the enemy suffered many casualties, and Sumter was pounded into a mound of debris covering the lower casemates, in which the garrison found safe refuge…
In honor of some of the officers who had fallen during the operations, Gregg was renamed Fort Putnam ; Wagner, Fort Strong; the Bluff Battery, Fort Shaw ; the new work near Gregg, Battery Chatfield; a work on Lighthouse Inlet, Battery Purviance; and another opposite the last, on Folly Island, Fort Green. By the same order General Gillmore announced that medals of honor, his personal gift, would be furnished to three per cent of the enlisted men who had borne part in the engagements and siege. This medal, however, was not received for some months. In the case of the Fifty-fourth it was awarded to the four men specially mentioned in Colonel Hallowell’s report of the assault of July 18, previously printed herein. There arrived for the regiment a present from Mrs. Colonel Shaw of one thousand small copies of the Gospels, neatly bound in morocco of various colors, which were distributed.
Mercury, November 5, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Oct. 17, 1863
—Since my last, little has occurred worth mentioning in affaires de guerre. But we may hope for something pretty soon, as there are indications that powder is soon to be used in very large quantities. To give the reasons on which I base my suppositions of early action would very likely get your humble servant in a rather complicated position, i.e., the Provost Guard House — but it is enough to say that the troops here have not been playing holiday at any time since Wagner was taken. And be it further known, that any department under command of a General like Gen. Gillmore will always earn the gratitude of the nation, — saying nothing about the government funds. If success be the fruit of perseverance, then the army of the South will be successful in an eminent degree, and every man feels sure of success; although none know precisely when, or how it is to be attained. They feel confidence in the head of affairs, and so long as men feel confident of their leaders, there is no such word as fail.
The rebels have been very quiet the past week. It is very unaccountable, but they let our working parties work almost the whole day without molesting them; but all the suspicious work is done under cover of night, so the rebels probably suppose the Yankees are only making themselves comfortable for the winter; but they may find out pretty soon that we want better accommodations than this sand patch affords; we want to know by experience whether the Mills House is equal to the Revere, or St. Nicholas, providing — it stands. Last Monday, the obsequies of Ensign Howard took place. Ensign H. was wounded the night of the attack on the Ironsides; he fingered during the week, till Sunday last, on which day he died. He was said to be a very good officer, and his loss is felt to be a great one by both officers and men. He was followed to the grave by one company of marines, a squad of about 60 sailors, and a large number of officers from the fleet, headed by the Post band.
The health of the troops is improving since the cool weather has set in permanently; I have not noticed an ambulance pass by our street but twice during the past week, but I take the large number of men returning to duty as a test, rather than any diminution in the calls of ambulances.
Col. E N Hallowell returned to his command today. He is looking quite hale and hearty after his severe sickness, caused by wounds received before Fort Wagner on the 18th July. His familiar voice acted like electricity on the men on dress parade today, and Col. Littlefield says he never saw such an apt illustration of the adage that “sheep know the Shepherd’s voice.”
Died, Oct. 15th, of consumption, Nathaniel Jackson, of Hudson, N.Y., Co. A, 54th Mass. Vols.
Morris Island was ours; but no sooner had the enemy evacuated than Wagner, Gregg, and the intervening ground were daily subjected to a fire from the James and Sullivan’s Island batteries.
As Forts Wagner and Gregg were ordered to be turned for offensive purposes, a covered way between these two works begun, and new batteries ordered to be constructed, there were heavy demands for fatigue. Besides its details at Cumming’s Point, the Fifty-fourth soon began to send working parties for the ” Bluff Battery ” in the southerly sand-hills near the beach-front. To retard our progress with the works at the front, the enemy maintained a constant cannonade. …
First Sergeant Gray of Company C had received a Masonic charter and organized a lodge on Morris Island. The meeting-place was a dry spot in the marsh near our camp, where boards were set up to shelter the members.. Furloughs for thirty days having been granted a certain: proportion of the troops, the Fifty-fourth men selected departed, overjoyed at the prospect of seeing home and friends. The equinoctial storm set in about the middle of September, accompanied by high tides and wind. The dike protecting our camp was broken, and the parade overflowed, necessitating considerable labor to repair damages. With the cessation of this severe storm cooler weather came, — a most welcome relief.
In recognition of the capture of Morris Island and the demolition of Sumter, General Gillmore was promoted major-general of volunteers. To do him honor, a review of the First Division, Tenth Army Corps, took place on Morris Island September 24. Partial relief from excessive labors had permitted the troops to refit. Line was formed on the beach at low tide, the division extending a distance of some two miles. The pageant was unsurpassed in the history of the department. Our colored brigade presented a fine appearance, and many compliments for the Fifty-fourth were received by Captain Emilio, commanding.
Mercury, October 1, 1863 [OAF]
Morris Island, Sept 19, 1863
—”All quiet” in this department of the South is a very appropriate mode of expressing the operations the past week with us here. Although you may expect at no distant day to hear of stirring actions, that is, if signalizing, backing up and backing down mean anything. The monitors run up—fall in line — up goes a signal from the flag vessel — they break ranks, and, blow off steam out of gun range of old Moultrie. A comical chap in our company says, he guesses “they are having dress parade.” We expected to see the cheese boxes knock Sullivan’s Island batteries higher than a kite long ago, but we are agreeably left to keep expecting. But the land forces are busy preparing for something, but what it is to be I can’t venture to say for fear it may prove greatly the reverse. But if I were a rebel, and lived in Charleston, I should feel decidedly skittish to see the villainous Yankees planting those dangerous Parrot guns right in front of the city, and less than 4 miles off too. Mr. Beauregard is aware that those barbarous engines of war will carry a message a little over five miles. Hence his persistent efforts to shell us out of Wagner and Gregg. The mathematician of the regiment estimates that if the number of shells wasted by old Beaury costs three dollars in good money, it will only take three months and seven days to run out the last Confederate loan — each shell costing $15 in rebel scrip. I think Senator Toombs should point out the utter folly and extravagance of Beauregard’s course, as the Senator is deeply concerned about the Confederate finances.
Night and day the rebels are pouring shell around Wagner, Gregg, and on our camps on Black Island, or at the “Swamp Angel” but so far, they would have accomplished as much had they fired at the moon. Yesterday, they appeared to be unusually extravagant — from the north end of James Island all the way down to Seceshville, they kept their batteries open (numbering 12 guns), firing at — nobody knows; it is certain their shot came no where near Morris Island. It is said a magazine was blown up on James Island last Tuesday, but I cannot rely upon it; there certainly was a great smoke seen over there, but it might have been a fire in the woods. Of course, every rebel magazine blown up is considered a gain to the Union cause, in the same light of the “utter demoralization” of such and such a rebel army, or a “strong Union sentiment” existing in this or that section, and many persons are credulous enough to believe that all such natural combinations will end the war, instead of good hard fighting. The best mode of creating Union sentiments now, is by planting artillery near the thresholds of those who are without them, and if you get that close to them, you must fight hard to get there; that is, you will have to demoralize the army between you and the apocryphal Union section by giving them a good sound drubbing, or else capture and put them in the penitentiary. We had a heavy gale here, lasting all day Wednesday and Thursday; the rain came down as it only can in these latitudes, with a vengeance. The most of the shipping inside the bar had to be towed out, for fear some of them would be swept ashore. The beach was strewn with boats, broke loose from vessels in the offing, stumps of huge trees, timber and spars. I saw the floor ribs of a good-sized ship high and dry on the beach, drove up by the fury of the waves. She may be a relic of the stone blockade, as I saw a piece of a vessel’s knighthead marked “Corea,” and I believe there was a ship of that name in the stone fleet. The weather is quite cool here since the storm; it is very comfortable in the day time, but the nights make an overcoat indispensable. I believe the bark Growler, or Grumbler, has arrived at last. Misfortunes or blessings never come singly — now we have cold weather, we have ice water. But the soldiers thank the donors all the same, and bless the good people who thought of them weeks ago, when the days were long and sultry.
As I have taken too much of your space, I will end by giving the thanks of the 54th regiment to their friends in the Sperm City for the interest taken in our behalf. May they ever have plenty of “spondulicks” to relieve the boys in the field, if they can’t relieve us on picket.
Fort Wagner has fallen! The stronghold which bade defiance to every assault, and received for forty days the peltings of iron missiles vomited from the heaviest ordinance employed in modern warfare, has submitted to patient toil and labor with the spade. The enemy have admitted that Wagner was the key to Charleston, and our lights say that the reduction and occupancy of Sumter was an impossibility while it (Wagner) remained in possession of the enemy. These notices have been iterated and reiterated until the fall of Fort Wagner has become to be regarded by those far removed from the scenes of active operations as great an achievement as the capture of Fort Sumter, or the formidable Sullivan’s Island batteries. Fort Wagner and Battery Gregg, with some one hundred prisoners and a considerable amount of commissary stores, with seven or eight pieces of artillery, are our only trophies of victory.
For a week previous to the evacuation of Fort Wagner by the rebel forces, they had been removing their arms and ammunition, and when our forces took peaceable possession of it, the magazine was found to be empty, or nearly so. Their prisoners say no power on earth could keep us out of Fort Wagner or any other fort that could be approached by parallels. From the first landing of troops on Morris Island it has been regarded as lost. They admit that the city of Charleston can be destroyed by our combustible shells, and the rebel authorities seem to dare our commanding General to burn the city. For what are all those rebel batteries erected? To save the city of Charleston from destruction and to prevent its occupation by our forces. If we burn the city, half the necessity for rebel batteries has been taken away. And another thing: if Beauregard, or whoever else may have command, when he or they found that there was a fixed determination to bum it, if not surrendered, we would have [had) but very few of their insolent parleyings. I would spare the aged and infirm, the women and children, and give them ample time to go beyond the reach of danger, but the city I would burn to ashes. Not one stone of its buildings would I leave upon another for active rebels, armed and unarmed, I would dig graves beneath its smoldering ruins. It is not very likely that the rebels would occupy their works after the material interests of the city were destroyed. If the old nest which contains and has hatched out so many secession serpents was destroyed, the country would be spared many troubles, and a new order of beings not branded with treason or infatuated with slavery could find a home and habitation. The course would in the end be found to be one of the grandest steps toward restoring loyalty and peace, and remove the necessity of a standing army in South Carolina. For the sake of humanity, peace and victory give them "Greek fire," the torch and shell, not in anger or for revenge, but as a just, well merited punishment for treason, violation of the law, and other crimes.
From present appearances Charleston will not be burned, and the reduction of the other forts and batteries in Charleston harbor is as great a military problem as ever. There is a question between the relative activity of the land and naval forces now engaged in the sieges. The army claim to have achieved all the successes thus far, and that the navy have failed to fully co-operate with them. In the first place, with justice to the navy, it may be said to have been the right arm of the Federal service, and has been the safeguard of the army. The land forces have on many occasions owed their salvation to the naval. It seems to be unjust to deny the navy the high honors it deserves. What if victory has been achieved by the co-operation of the navy? One thing I think is demonstrated in the present siege: the superiority of the Ironsides over the Monitors for such operations. Rapidity of firing is just as essential as great weight of metal. Complete invulnerability cannot be attained. That is, an iron vessel could not be floated with a hull strong enough to resist steel-pointed shot of the weight modern improved guns can propel against it. Nothing but huge sandbanks can withstand these terrible missiles. During the siege of Fort Wagner, when the Ironsides would run up into the very jaws of their batteries on Sullivan's Island, right in the face of Wagner and Sumter, she invariably silenced them. One shell would not explode before another would take its place to fill the atmosphere with death. She did not give them breathing time. They could not take shelter from one shell and man and fire their guns before another could reach them, as they can easily do when engaged with the Monitors.
It is contraband to write of present operations, but I am privileged to have my say about the operations which led to the evacuation of Wagner and Gregg. We have lost as much of blood and suffered as much in toil as any other regiment in the Department in the performance of this task, and I presume that when the commanding General shall come to sum up his report of this affair, he will give us the credit we deserve. The truth cannot always be learned from newspaper correspondence, there is such wide scope for the ventilation of sentiments of prejudiced and irresponsible men. This may be "like pot calling kettle black," but I must say that after we have done as much as any other soldiers here, our flag should have been alongside the rest. Serrill's Engineers, who deserve the highest honor, planted their flag on the works, as did the 3d Rhode Island. If we had demanded to have our flag and urged its claims to a place there, as Col. Shaw would have done, it would have floated there. But not one suggested the propriety of it.
The main portion of our regiment was in line of battle, on the right of Montgomery's Brigade. Detachments from the 54th Massachusetts, ad South Carolina, 100th New York, 10th Connecticut and the Marine Corps intercepted three of the rebel barges which contained the last remains of Gregg's and Wagner's garrison, numbering about one hundred men. One of the rebel barges escaped. Some of the rebels in their fright and excitement jumped overboard. There were some drowned, but the greater number were rescued. There were some few men found scattered around the works who seemed to court capture. Our pickets were apprized by a rebel soldier of the evacuation of Wagner about midnight, but before he could make it known that he bore information for us some of the pickets shot him. The detachment which captured these retreating rebels was part of a programme of movements to take Wagner by assault. The part they had to play was to intercept re-enforcements during the assault, and it was not until we had marched them away down to the Beacon House that one of their principle men admitted that the works had been abandoned. They, to a man, deny havingbeen in the fort on the 18th; They, say they relieved the men who held the battery at that time. About a week ago they conversed freely with us negroes," and seemed to have vague notions of retaliation. They all said that they belonged to the Charleston Battalion—-were boatmen carrying provisions over to Curnmings's Point. There was an officer with them who said that he was only assistant surgeon, but his rank is higher and he does not belong to the medical corps. He cut a mighty sorry figure as he marched at the head of his comrades, and on each side of them the silent, moody negro guard.-Now and then the Sergeant would give out the stern command, "Close up!" and Mr. Reb did not have to be told a second time.
Quite a considerable number of colored refugees have come into our lines since the capture of the whole of Morris Island. Ten persons made their escape on last Friday night: four children, one women and five men. They came from the city and confirm the report of the destructiveness of shells charged with "Greek Fire." They say that the citizens are running off their slaves by the thousands. They towed their boats down the harbor in safety, and the mother says that just as they got opposite Sumter the little baby broke out in shrill screams and would not be comforted. They gave up all for lost, but the heroic mother instantly made a wad of a shawl and filled its little mouth, and when they landed on the beach and surrendered to our pickets, the poor little things were almost suffocated. She thinks "it better die den all be slave.";
I cannot resist the temptation to refer to the conduct of the colored soldiers digging in the approaches. Says Sergt. Barquet: "Men born and reared on Southern plantations who never saw a gun can now talk as glibly as you please of planes, augers, ranges and distances, and the entire military vocabulary is becoming familiar to them. I overheard the following conversation between two contraband soldiers: 'Sam, Cohorn mortar trow shell great range; to fetch him, reb wastes much powder.' 'Ah! Jirn, Cohorn mortar wuss den grape and schrapanel; grape shell come straight in trench—de odder bound to go ober.' " What a fund of information these men have gained, and what a grand school for the soldier is here opened to them! Eight hours out of thirty-six toiling and laboring in the face of death, shell from front and flank, Minnie bullets, grape and shrapnel plunging, whizzing and plowing up"the earth on all sides. Some one of the officers of the Engineer Corps has to superintend the work of the fatigue parties.
Barquet gives the following scrap which will show how reckless and profane a man can be under the intoxicating influence of rum, and, is, to say the least, an incident worth telling: The fifth and last parallethad been reached; the rebels seemed to be frenzied with alarm, and their sharpshooters and heavy guns kept up an incessant play on the fatigue parties. An Irish Lieutenant of Serrill's Engineer Corps had charge of the operations on that night. The perilous march had been made without any casualties. When our fatigue reached the point of operations, the following colloquy occurred between the Irish Lieutenant and the men who had the dangerous duty to perform:
"Who comes there?"
"54th fatigue party!"
"Arrah, there should be here at this late hour a brigade of fatigue men. Now listen. There was niver a man hurt wid me," the shot then nearly blinding the men with their fizzing, fuming glare. "I want two parties of sappers and miners of four men each. First party come forward!" The men came. "No. 1 you're a sapper. No. 2, you're a miner. No. 3, you're a sapper. No. 4, you're a miner. No. 1, you're kilt! No. 2, you take his place. No. 3, you're kilt. No. 4, you must take his place." No. 1'S and 3's feelings may be better imagined than described. As a sort of climax to this arrangement, the inebriated officer said, "All I ask is two gabions to a man, and by to-morrow morning we'll be in the gates of Fort Wagner and the jaws of death and hell."
The boys went to work with a will, and before daylight an indignant rebel in the riflepits, just behind our parallel, was forced to exclaim to our boys,. "You black Yankee sons of b—s intend to bury us in sand, don't you?" On this night poor young Vanderpool was killed, three of the 104th Pennsylvania volunteers, and several wounded.
The Rev. Samuel Harrison has been appointed Chaplain of our regiment. This is most fortunate. Our regiment has felt the need of a chaplain. We have had but four sermons preached to us since we left the camp Readville, Mass.—one by Rev. James Lynch at St. Helena, and one on St. Simon's by the Chaplain of the 2d South Carolina Volunteers, and two on Morris Island by an able and eloquent agent of the American Tract Society, now home in the North, and whose name I disremember. Prayer-meetings are regularly held in our camp and I think there are a few evidences of a revival. These meetings are very boisterous, and many who believe in deep, fervent, devotional worship cannot take as active a part in them as they would if there was less excitement and fewer of their unearthly yellings.
Gen. Gillmore has commenced granting furloughs. Today some ten or twelve of the 54th go North in the steamer that bears this letter. Your humble servant defers his visit North to a more convenient season. Sergt.-Major Douglass, Sergt. Barquet, and Sergt. Gray of New Bedford, are among this first installment of absentees.
I have just seen another Letter from Gov. Andrew, to the effect that there is no law which prevents our receiving full pay—that the Paymaster is not a competent judge in the matter, and that free colored men, citizens of Massachusetts, regularly enlisted as Massachusetts volunteers, cannot be less than citizen soldiers whom the Paymaster has no right to know but as soldiers, and advising us to take ten dollars a month under protest only. The law referring to persons of African descent employed in the army cannot refer to us. There is no proof that any of our fathers are Africans. If they adopt this rule there is no such thing as an American in the country, for all whites and blacks are not aborigines.
DEPARTMENT OP THE SOUTH,
MORRIS ISLAND, S. C, Sept. 16, 1863.
It is with no ordinary feelings of gratification and pride that the brigadier-general commanding is enabled to congratulate this army upon the signal success which has crowned the enterprise in which it has been engaged. Fort Sumter is destroyed. The scene where our country’s flag suffered its first dishonor you have made the theatre of one of its proudest triumphs. The fort has been in the possession of the enemy for more than two years, has been his pride and boast, has been strengthened by every appliance known to military science, and has defied the assaults of the most powerful fleet the world ever saw. But it has yielded to your courage and patient labor. Its walls are now crumbled to ruins, its formidable batteries are silenced, and though a hostile flag still floats over it, the fort is a harmless and helpless wreck.
Forts Wagner and Gregg, works rendered memorable by their protracted resistance and the sacrifice of life they have cost, have also been wrested from the enemy by your per- severing courage and skill, and the graves of your fallen comrades rescued from desecration and contumely. You now hold in undisputed possession the whole of Morris Island; and the city and harbor of Charleston lie at the mercy of your artillery from the very spot where the first shot was fired at your country’s flag and the Rebellion itself was inaugurated. To you, the officers and soldiers of this command, and to the gallant navy which has co-operated with you are due the thanks of your commander and your country. You were called upon to encounter untold privations and dangers, to undergo unremitting and exhausting labors, to sustain severe and disheartening reverses. How nobly your patriotism and zeal have responded to the call the results of the campaign will show and your commanding general gratefully bears witness.
Q. A. GILLMORE,
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.