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Illustration of the Attack on Charleston

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1202, p. 523.

May 9, 1863


The unsuccessful attempt on Charleston by the Federal iron-clad fleet has so recently been detailed in this Journal that it will not be necessary to give more than a few particulars of the fleet's advance, in relation to which we have an Engraving on the preceding page. "The attack," says the correspondent of the New York Herald, "would have commenced an hour or two earlier then it did had it not been that the Admiral was advised to wait for the ebb tide, rather than sail up with the flood tide, as the former would be more apt to discover the locality of the obstructions in the channel; and the tide turned at eleven o'clock. During these hours of suspense the eye had an opportunity at taking the features of the scene on which the great act was to be played. The blue waters danced in the bright sunshine, and flocks of sea-birds dipped their white wings in the waves and uttered their shrill cries as they swooped downward after their prey. Over the parapets of Forts Sumter and Moultrie the rebel defenders were watching our movements and signalising them; and even on the roofs and steeples of the distant city we could see hundreds of spectators. Distinctly in view were the numerous batteries extending from the Wappoo Creek on the Ashley River, following the contour of James Island down to the Lighthouse Battery, on the south point of Morris Island. On the other side they were more numerous still. Breach Inlet Battery, on the lower end of Sullivan's Island, Fort Beauregard, and on up to Fort Moultrie; while in the centre of the picture, rising as it were from the water, stood Fort Sumter, displaying the rebel flag on one angle and the palmetto flag on the opposite angle; and beyond, Fort Ripley and Castle Pinckney, the city filling up the background. Meanwhile the attacking vessels lay at anchor in the main ship channel, within a mile of the batteries on Morris Island, without provoking a hostile shot. They lay in the order named in the plan of attack, as follows:--The Weehawken, Passaic, Montauk, Patapsco, New Ironsides, Katskill [sic] , Nantucket, Nahant, and Keokuk. Five ships were in reserve. At half-past twelve the fleet commenced to move. The distance to the positions at which they were directed to attack was nearly four miles, and for almost all that distance they were within range of the enemy's batteries. But again there was a delay. Grappling-irons attached to the Weehawken had got foul of her anchor-cable, and it took nearly an hour to set matters right. At last the difficulty was got over, and once more the vessels were underway. Slowly they moved up the ship channel. They passed within easy range of Fort Wagner on Morris Island, but not a shot disputed their progress; they passed the battery at Cumming's Point, named, I believe, Battery Bee, but still not a discharge from a rebel gun. And it was not till the vessels had got fairly between the two upper points of Morris Island and Sullivan's Island, which are about a mile apart, and were rounding to make the entrance of the harbour, that the ominous stillness was broken. Fort Sumter opened the ball with her barbette guns; Fort Moultrie took up the loud refrain. The various batteries joined in the deafening chorus, and the ironclads found themselves within a circle of fire, concentrated from all the rebel guns that could be brought to bear upon the point." Our Engraving shows the iron-clad frigate New Ironsides and two of the Ericsson batteries replying to the enemy with the thunder of their huge batteries.

The Charleston Mercury sums up the casualties and damage sustained by the forts in Charleston Harbour in the recent battle of ironclads against stone walls as follows:--

The enemy fired about eighty shots--mostly 15-inch and steel-pointed shells--at Fort Sumter. This estimate was made from Sullivan's Island. Forty only struck the work. One 10-inch gun was temporarily disabled by a shot; one columbiad, of old pattern, burst; one 7-inch rifled gun dismounted by recoil; and one gun was disabled for a few moments by fracture of the elevating screw through recoil. Not a person was killed in Fort Sumter from any cause. Sergeant Faulkener and Privates Chaplin, Minnix, and Penn, company B, were injured by a shower of bricks thrown from a traverse on the rampart by a large shot of the enemy. A drummer-boy, Ahrens, was struck on the head by the explosion of a shell over the parade. A negro labourer was also wounded. The regimental ensign was pierced near the centre by a ball. The Confederate flag was also perforated. There was but one casualty at Fort Moultrie. A shot from one of the Monitors cut away the flagstaff a few feet above the parapet, and the staff fell upon Private Lusby, Company F, 1st S.C. (regular) Infantry, inflicting injuries from the effects of which he soon died. The closest range into which the enemy ventured was estimated by the officers of the post at about 1200 yards. The flagstaff has been replaced, and, as no other portion of the fort sustained any damage whatever during the engagement, the post is in excellent condition to join in another trial of strength with the turretted armada. Battery Bee, on Sullivan's Island, was the recipient of occasional shots from the enemy; but was not in any way injured, nor were there any casualties amongst the men. The Beauregard Battery, with three of its guns, also took part in a general melée of heavy artillery, and twice received a broadside from the enemy. The battery was in no respect damaged, although many of the Yankee round shot fell upon the sand in the immediate neighbourhood.

Previous: The Iron-Clad Frigate New Ironsides and Two Ericsson Batteries Going into Action at Charleston.--See Page 523.IllustrationVolume 42, no. 1182, p. 2 (21 paragraphs)
Next: Foreign and Colonial NewsArticlevol. 42, no. 1203, p. 526 (11 paragraphs)
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