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slowly and taking continual soundings as they proceeded, the line steamed by the mid-channel into the entrance between the two forts, firing to the right against Fort Beauregard in the distance, and to the left against Fort Walker at close range. When the Wabash had passed perhaps two miles beyond the forts, she made a short circuit to the south and led the line outward through the entrance and as near Fort Walker as the depth of water permitted, the ships successively delivering their fire at a distance of six hundred yards. When the proper point was reached the Wabash again turned and led the line inward, repeating the circular manoeuvre. Meanwhile a flanking column of five ships with thirty guns had also passed in and stationed itself at a convenient distance where it could at the same time bombard Fort Walker and watch the little rebel fleet which hovered up the sound beyond range.
A description of such a manoeuvre may be read in a minute, but it took more than an hour to execute each circuit of the ships. During this time the Confederate garrison of Fort Walker was defending its station with courage and persistence. Amid shot and shell which plowed up their embankments, buried them in showers of sand, dismounted their guns, and swept off the gunners, they replied to the fire of the ships, though the damage they inflicted was trifling and mainly to the rigging, showing their wild aim and the disturbance and difficulty under which they fought. When near one o'clock the Wabash turned and for the third time led the line inward past the forts the battle was decided. Fort Walker gave no re
sponse. Commander John Rodgers—who was in the Wabash as volunteer aide to the flag-officer, wrote:
Shell fell in it, not twenty-eight in a minute, but as fast as a horse's feet beat the ground in a gallop. The resistance was heroic- but what could flesh and blood do against such a fire ! ... The Wabash was a destroying angel-hugging the shore; calling the soundings with cold indifference; slowing the engine, so as only to give steerage way; signaling to the vessels their various evolutions; and at the same time raining shells, as with target-practice, too fast to count. Commodore Du Pont had kindly made me his aide. I stood by him, and I did little things which I suppose gained me credit. So when a boat was sent on shore to ask whether they had surrendered, I was sent. I carried the stars and stripes. I found the ramparts utterly desolate, and I planted the American flag upon those ramparts with my own hands
first to take possession, in the majesty of the United Nov. 9, 1861. States, of the rebel soil of South Carolina. The Confed
Moore, “ Rebellion
erate forces were in an utter panic; they deserted everyRecord;" thing. Arms, tents, personal property were abandoned,
and by men intent only upon safety and spurred by overwhelming fear.
The casualties numbered: in the forts, killed eleven, wounded forty-eight; on the ships, killed eight, wounded twenty-three. Fort Beauregard was abandoned the same evening, and the Union flag was raised over it at sunrise next morning. Upon examination during the few days following, it was found that the terror and flight of the enemy extended to all the adjacent islands. It had been intended, after the reduction and occupation of these forts, that the expedition should immediately proceed to the attack and capture of Fernandina, Florida. But the large expenditure of ammunition in the attack just made compelled
the war ships to wait for a new supply; while General Sherman on landing found the conquest so extensive as to require all his force and facilities. He said:
We had no idea, in preparing the expedition of such immense success. We found to our surprise that, instead of having difficult work to get one harbor, after one harbor was obtained we had a half a dozen important harbors at once. Such a panic was created among the enemy by the fall of Port Royal that they deserted the whole coast from the North Edisto to Warsaw Sound. This threw into our possession not only the harbor of Port Royal, Sherman, but the magnificent harbor of St. Helena, and the har- Report of
, bors of North Edisto, South Edisto, Tybee Roads, Warsaw Sound, and Ossabaw Sound. . . There is a network of waters, an inland water communication, running all the way from Charleston to Savannah.
the Committee on
the Conduct of the
The Fernandina expedition was therefore deferred, and the army bent its energies to the erection of suitable forts to protect the territory and harbors which had been gained. It was indeed a magnificent acquisition. Port Royal was the finest harbor on the Southern coast, deep enough for the largest vessels, roomy enough to hold the navies of the world; twenty miles from Savannah, thirty miles from Charleston - nearly midway between them. This was, if not the territorial, at least the agricultural heart of South Carolina; the famous Sea-Island region, which grows the best cotton in the world; the seat of fine plantations, of aristocratic families, of idyllic Southern homes, the pride and the delight of a society upheld by slavery; hospitable mansions, embowered in gardens of roses, oleanders, and oranges, terminating picturesquely long and venerable live-oak avenues. Near
by was Beaufort, the salubrious pleasure-town of the wealthy planters, where the aspiring statesmen of South Carolina had plotted treason and rebellion for a generation. Instead of realizing the dreams of splendor and power which led them astray, this grim visitation of the “ Lincoln gunboats” was their first fruit of the war they had kindled; every white inhabitant in flight; every homestead deserted, and the slaves wandering idly over the abandoned plantations, or pillaging in unrestrained license among the furniture, clothing, and trinkets which lay scattered and desecrated in the once proud homes of their masters.
VHE public mind would probably have dwelt
with more impatience and dissatisfaction upon the inaction of the armies, but for an event which turned all thoughts with deep solicitude into an entirely different channel. This was what is known as the Trent affair, which seriously threatened to embroil the nation in a war with Great Britain. The Confederate Government had appointed two new envoys to proceed to Europe and renew its application for recognition, which former diplomatic agents had failed to obtain. For this duty ex-Senator James M. Mason of Virginia and ex-Senator John Slidell of Louisiana were selected, on account of their political prominence, as well as their recognized ability. On the blockaderunner Theodora, they, with their secretaries and families, succeeded in eluding the Union cruisers round Charleston, and in reaching Havana, Cuba. Deeming themselves beyond danger of capture, they made no concealment of their presence or mission, but endeavored rather to “magnify their office.” The British consul showed them marked attention, and they sought to be presented officially to the Captain-General of Cuba; but that wary function