Today in History:

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

Page 89 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.

with or could be maintained at night by means of row-boats, but for which purpose sailors or men able to handle boats and oars with efficiency were essential.

On the 5th instant, Brigadier-General Ripley, commanding the First Military District, prepared by my order a confidential letter, which was forwarded to the officer commanding Battery Wagner, pointing out that it might be necessary to evacuate Morris Island. In the letter the brigadier-general gave full instructions for destroying the magazine and rendering the guns useless in the event of abandoning the island.

Early on the morning of September 6, a dispatch was received from Colonel L. M. Keitt, commanding Battery Wagner, to the following effect:

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The parapet of salient breached. The whole fort is much weakened. A repetition to-morrow of to-day's fire (alluding to the 5th instant) will make the work almost a ruin. The mortar fire is still very heavy and fatal, and no important work can be done. Is it desirable to sacrifice the garrison? To continue to hold it is to do so. Captain [F. D.] Lee, the engineer, has read this, and agrees.

The casualties in Battery Wagner on September 5 were about 100 out of 900.

Another dispatch was received from Colonel Keitt, dated 8.45 a. m.:

Incessant fire from Yankee mortars and Parrott battery. Can't work negroes. Better look after them promptly. Had 30 or 40 soldiers wounded in an attempt to work. Will do all I can, but fear the garrison will be destroyed without injuring the enemy. The fleet is opening, but I hope that we may stand till to-night.

Again at 10.30 a. m. Colonel Keitt signaled:

Boats must be at Cumming's Point early to-night without fail.

During the day a letter was received from the same officer, as follows:

The enemy will to-night advance their parallel to the moat of this battery (Wagner). The garrison must be taken away immediately after dark, or it will be destroyed or captured. It is idle to deny that the heavy Parrott shells have breached the walls and are knocking away the bomb-proofs. Pray have boats immediately after dark at Cumming's Point, to take away the men. I say deliberately that this must be done or the garrison will ne sacrificed. I am sending the wounded and sick now to Cumming's Point, and will continue to do so, if possible, until all are gone. I have not in the garrison 400 effective men, excluding artillery. The engineers agree in opinion with me, or, rather, shape my opinion. I shall say no more.

Colonel Keitt's last telegram was as follows:

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The enemy's sap has reached the moat, and his bombardment has shattered large parts of the parapet. The retention of the post after to-night involves the sacrifice of the garrison. If the necessities of the service make this advisable, the men will cheerfully make it, and I will cheerfully lead them. I prefer to assault the enemy to awaiting and assault, and I will at 4 o'clock in the morning assail his works.

Things being in this condition, it became evident that an attempt still to retain possession of Batteries Wagner and Gregg must of necessity involve the loss of their garrisons. But before giving the final orders for the evacuation, I directed Colonel D. B. Harris, my chief engineer, to proceed to Morris Island, and examine into and report on the condition of affairs. His opinion was as follows:

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I visited our works on Morris Island to-day, and in consideration of their condition; of our inability to repair damages at Battery Wagner as heretofore; of the dispirited state of the garrison, and of the progress of the enemy's sap, am reluctantly

Page 89 Chapter XL. GENERAL REPORTS.