Today in History:

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

Page 38 S. C. AND GA. COASTS, AND IN MID. AND E. FLA. Chapter XL.

173. While it would have been entirely practicable for us to have pushed forward our approaches to Fort Wagner without the fire from our gunboats (with greater loss of men and material, of course), their presence abreast of Morris Island kept the gunboats of the enemy beyond range in the harbor, and saved us the time and labor of establishing batteries for that special purpose.

This is simply a deliberate expression of an opinion entertained, it is believed, by all unbiased men of intelligence and experience who witnessed the operations before Charleston. No disparagement of the navy is here intended; on the contrary, the gunboats rendered most valuable assistance. The New Ironside, in particular, under the energetic command of Captain Rowan, was very efficient.

174. Throughout the period occupied by the land forces in accomplishing their portion of the joint programme of attack (see paragraphs 35, 36, and 37), which, in fact, ended with the demolition of Fort Sumter on the 23rd of August, and subsequent to this until Forts Wagner and Gregg were captured on the 7th of September, the navy rendered all the co-operation that was necessary, or that was desired of it.

175. Of the cause which prevented any attempt by the navy to remove or pass the channel obstructions and enter the inner harbor, I am perhaps not expected to speak at any length. I will, however, refer to one or two events.

176. As soon as the labors of the siege of Fort Wagner were over, on the navy day, indeed-September 7-Colonel Serrell, assistant engineer on my staff, had an interview with Admiral Dahlgren upon the subject of the channel obstructions. He was instructed to make an offer to the admiral of such men and means from the army as might be required in removing them. Colonel Serrell's experience as an engineer, and his firm belief that the channel could be cleared of al obstructions with no greeat difficulty, and without serious loss of life, were the reasons why he was selected for this mission. I learned from Colonel Serrell, and subsequently from the admiral himself, that the musketry fire that might be delivered from the ruins of Fort Sumter was considered a serious obstacle in the way of removing the channel obstructions.

177. On the 26th of September, I received a letter from the admiral, asking me when my batteries would "be able to operate on Sumter," and whether he "could depend" on my "driving the enemy out of it," and stating also that "with Sumter in our possession, the obstructions ranging from that work to Moultire, whatever they are, would be removable with no great trouble and little risk."

I replied on the 27th of September that I would open on Sumter whenever the admiral was ready to move in-the next morning, if it was desired.

178. As an open assault would be necessary to get "Sumter in our possession," and as we could not expect to hold it, if we got it, until after the navy achieved success inside the harbor, occupying, as the work did, the center of a circle, with the enemy's batteries on three-fifths of the circumference thereof, unapproachable by land, and having not only a direct but a reverse fire upon each of its five faces, and as the only object to be gained in "possessing it" was to relieve parties operating against the obstructions from the annoyance of its musketry fire, I made an offer to the admiral in my letter of September 27 to undertake the removal of the obstructions myself.

This offer the admiral with great candor declined, saying that that

Page 38 S. C. AND GA. COASTS, AND IN MID. AND E. FLA. Chapter XL.