Today in History:

26 Series I Volume XXVIII-I Serial 46 - Ft. Sumter - Ft. Wagner Part I

Page 26 S. C. AND GA. COASTS, AND IN MID. AND E. FLA. Chapter XL.

from Wagner alone almost enveloped the head of our sap, subtending, as it did, and angle of nearly 90 degrees, while the flank fire from the James Island batteries increased in power and accuracy.

To push forward the sap, in the narrow strip of shallow, shifting sand by day, was impossible, while the brightness of the prevailing harvest moon rendered the operation almost as hazardous by night. Matters, indeed, seemed at a stand-still, and a feeling of despondency began to peeved the rank and file of the command.


139. In this emergency it was determined to commence simultaneously and vigorously two distinct methods of attack, viz:

First. To keep Wagner perfectly silent with an overpowering curved fire, so that our engineers would have only the more distant batteries of the enemy to annoy them; and,

Second. To breach the bomb-proof with rifled guns, and thus deprive the enemy of their only shelter in the work.

Accordingly all the light mortars were moved to the front, and placed in battery; the capacity of the fifth parallel and the advanced trenches for sharpshooters was enlarged and improved; the rifled guns in the left breaching batteries were trained upon the fort and prepared for prolonged action, and powerful calcium lights, to aid the night work of our cannoneers and sharpshooters, and blind those of the enemy, were got in readiness. The co-operation of the powerful battery of the New Ironside, Captain [Stephen C.] Rowan, during the daytime, was secured.

140. These final operations against Fort Wagner were actively inugutated at break of day on the morning of September 5. For forty-two consecutive hours the spectacle presented was of s surpassing sublimity and grandeur. Seventeen siege and Coehorn mortars unceasingly dropped their shells into the work over the heads of our sappers and the guards of the advanced trenches; nine rifled guns, in the left batteries, pounded away at the southwest angle of the bomb-proof, while during the daytime the New Ironside, with astonishing regularity and precision, kept a constant stream of shells from her eight-gun broadside ricochetting over the water against the parapet vertically, exploding in or over the work and searching every part of it. The calcium light turned night into day, throwing our own men into impenetrable obscurity, while they brilliantly illuminated every object in front and brought the minutes detail of the fort in sharp relief. In a short time the fort became silent, exhibiting but little sign of life.

Our sappers rapidly pushed forward their works, suffering from the James Island batteries principally, which, night and day, kept up a galling fire upon the head of the sap, following its progress toward the work, until so near that friends as well as foes would be trenches enjoyed entire immunity from danger. Indeed, the sense of security was so great that they fearlessly exposed themselves to view, and the reliefs off duty defiantly mounted the parapets of their works to while away their leisure time, or groping their way forward among the torpedoes with a skill which the most bitter experience only could have conferred, approached the ditch, and took a deliberate survey of the fort and its surroundings.

Page 26 S. C. AND GA. COASTS, AND IN MID. AND E. FLA. Chapter XL.