Illustrations of the War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1199, p. 432.
April 18, 1863
Our View of Savannah is taken from Fort Bloggs, looking up the Savannah River. "Fort Bloggs," writes our Special Correspondent, "is the left flanking work of the land defences of the city; and below it, in the event of an attack, the river batteries may be expected to do all that is required of them. As I write news has been brought in that the Northern flotilla are moving out of Port Royal, and from appearances it is presumed they are going into the Savannah River. The long-looked-for fight may come off within the next forty-eight hours. I shall be there whenever it takes place with General Beauregard, who has invited me to accompany his staff. Foster and Hunter, the Northern Generals, have between forty and fifty thousand men, but I don't think they will meet with any better success than Burnside did at Fredricksburg."
Since the breaking out of the civil war there has been but little planting going on near the seaboard of South Carolina in consequence of the too close proximity of the Northern forces. The planters, therefore, are glad to turn over gangs of their negroes to the military authorities, by whom they are usefully employed in constructing earthworks. There seems little reason to doubt that the negroes work contentedly enough at the task of riveting their fetters still more tightly upon themselves. Nor is their ragged look to be in any way attributed to the existence of want or misery among them, to their masters' neglect, or to their own indifference to their personal appearance. The negro is perfectly willing to go about his work in rags for six days in the week provided that on the seventh he may attire himself in a garb of outrageous brilliancy. "The very men," writes our Correspondent, "portrayed in my sketch have more than once made me feel uncommonly mean and shabby when I have met them on Sunday in all their splendour and been forced to contrast my own well-worn and somewhat shabby attire with their brilliant costumes. The old uncle in front, who is shown leading off with his rammer, is what is here termed the 'boss' nigger or head man of the party. The rest are under his especial control, and over them he exercises his power in a right lordly fashion. As those who are working below throw up the earth, the labourers above, headed by the boss nigger, pace slowly forward and backward with their rammers, keeping perfect time, and accompanying their labour with some such ditty as the following:--
I don't like the lowland gal;
Tell you de reason why?
She comb har hair wid a herring-bone,
And dat don't please my eye.
But I do like de mountain gal;
Will you hab de reason why?
She comb har hair wid de tortoise-shell,
And har movements am so spry!
As a rule, the negroes appear to be the most contented labourers at this and similar work imaginable, and, what with their singing and constant chattering, do as little for their living as any class of men I ever saw."
Our Correspondent writes as follows respecting the attack by the Federal gun-boats on Fort M'Allister, which took place on March 2:--"As I was making up my packet, ready to send off by the first chance, I heard of a movement of the Federal gun-boats from Port Royal towards Savannah. Leaving the envelope open, I started to Fort M'Allister, on the Ogeechee, 150 miles off, believing that to be the point threatened, and arrived there just in time to be present at the attack. There were three turreted ironclads and a mortar-boat engaged, each ironclad being armed with a 15-inch and 11-inch gun. After eight hours of incessant firing the ironclads drew off, leaving, however, the mortar-boat still engaged, which kept throwing shell into the fort the greater portion of the night. To-day (the 3rd) none have resumed the attack, but how long it may be before the ball is renewed it is impossible to say. The Federals are exceedingly anxious to take the position, as it will enable them to turn the right of the Savannah defences by reaching the Gulf Railroad. The damage to the fort was trifling--the parapets and revetments somewhat knocked about, a gun dismounted, and a few men injured. It is calculated that at least fifty tons of metal were thrown into the work. My sketch is very rough, as it was made amidst flying sand and earth, besides which I had to keep dodging pretty briskly. We hear that the Federal transports are landing troops lower down; if so, we shall have it hot and strong."