Today in History:

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

Page 35 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.

results which they are intended to secure. They are to forbid the passage of hostile naval force into our harbors and up to our arsenals, cities, and depots, but are not expected to prevent the landing and moving of troops beyond the reach of their guns.

Our defense against an attack or invasion by the land forces of an enemy is to be found in the patriotism and valor of our volunteer soldiery. But our best and most numerous army could make no adequate defense against a single well-armed vessel. Permanent shore batteries, armed with heavy artillery, supply this defense.

163. The old maxim that "forts cannot withstand a competent and attack, but are able to resist and repel vessels," is a maxim still. It has been amply illustrated during the present war. Fort Pulaski feel before and attack from land batteries, breaching in the line of its principal magazine, while the probabilities of reducing it by the fire of the fleet were not even discussed among military and naval men.

Fort Sumter, in April, 1863, repulsed in fort minutes Admiral DuPont's gallant attack with nine iron-clads, eight of which were of the most formidable class, and yet that work was easily demolished by sore batteries. It reflects no discredit upon our navy to say that Fort Wagner, with its garrison covered as it was by a secure bombproof and with facilities for keeping its supplies of men, ammunition, and guns unimpaired, could never have been captured by a naval force, or by any other means than those adopted, viz, by sapping up to the ditch of the work, and then assaulting or threading an assault from the advanced trenches.

On the 3rd day of March, 1863, three turret iron-clads of the best class engaged Fort McAllister, mounting seven guns, on the Great Ogeechee, Georgia, for eight hours, inflicting but little injury on the work. Captain P. Drayton, commanding the naval force says, in his report:

Immense holes were cut into the earth, the traverses and faces much cut away, but still no injury was done which a good night's work would not repair, and I do not believe that it can be made untenable by any number of iron-clads which the shallow water and narrow channel will permit to be brought into position against it.

Other examples might be cited. In those above given, two of the works were open sand batteries, in which the cannoneers were exposed to fire, and the guns were, therefore, liable to be temporarily silenced, as was frequently the case with Fort Wagner. For this reason the accumulation of guns in open works exposed to the concentrated fire of a fleet very materially impairs the defense. They should be distributed, due regard being had to their security against assault.

164. A comparison of the two sieges of Fort Pulaski and Fort Wagner, the former a caseated brickwork, and the latter a sand for improvised for the occasion, leads to the query whether all our batteries should not be constructed of a material like sand, in which repairs are easily made, or clad with invulnerable iron plates.

165. The invention of rifle cannon, the astonishing increase within the last few years in the calibers of both rifled and smooth-boors, and the use of iron armor for batteries, afloat and ashore, have relatively increased the efficiency of shore batteries as defenses against those afloat for the following reasons:

First. There is no limit, excepting in the cost, to the thickness of the armor that can be put upon our forts.

Second. There appears to be no limit to the size of guns that can be made and handled with facility on shore; while

Page 35 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.