The Civil War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1203, p. 542.
May 16, 1863
At length the long expected moment arrives. Nine Federal iron-clads are seen off the Bar, accompanied by twenty-four wooden vessels of war, while others are coming up in the distance. A great number of transports having troops on board are in the mouth of the "Stono" River, and 6000 Federal soldiers have been already landed on "Cole's" Island. Their object is to take the land defences of Charleston in the flank, while the fleet make an effort to force a passage past the forts. Should they succeed, the city of Charleston will lie at the mercy of the North, and its cause, which has sustained so many disappointments and repulses, will receive a great encouragement. But I have every faith in the result of the coming encounter, for never at any time have the Confederates been more determined to do or die then they express themselves now. Every preparation has been made, every appliance pressed into service by General Ripley, the Brigadier commanding, to give the foe a warm reception; and, surrounded as he is, apparently by obstacles that appear insurmountable, his zeal and success seem perfectly wonderful. His head-quarters during the coming fight will he in Fort Sumter itself, and, as he expresses it, he will 'fight it low down' until not a brick nor stone is left for another to rest upon before he gives in. If the mail-clad monsters now in the offing are repulsed, it will be to General Ripley and the brave men under him that victory will be due. I send you now a sketch of sinking torpedoes by moonlight in the channels by which the enemy will probably advance to the attack. As this letter must run the gauntlet of the blockading squadron, and may very probably be captured, I will be silent as to how many thousand pounds of powder are contained in each of these strange engines of warfare. In my next letter I will do my best to give a graphic account with pen and pencil of the impending fight, which will be assuredly one of the most extraordinary ever witnessed--armour-plated ships against sand-batteries, earthworks, and brick and stone forts.
The anxiously-awaited attack took place yesterday afternoon, at three p.m. I immediately started for Fort Sumter, whence I intended to witness the fight. Upon my way, as I crossed the Battery promenade to the boat, a scene met my eye which demonstrated undoubtedly that the ladies of Charleston had no undue fear for the result of the attack, which, if successful, would place their homes at the mercy of an exasperated foe. I sketched the scene, and finished the drawing in the evening, while the garrison of Fort Sumter were repairing damages. The engagement, of which no doubt you have received full particulars, lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. There were eight turreted ironclads, including the boasted double-turreted "Keokuk" and an immense plated frigate known as the Ironsides. All these marine monsters were armed with eleven and fifteen inch guns. They were all struck by the forts repeatedly; and, after maintaining the fight for the time I named, they steamed away, evidently much damaged. This morning we have ample evidence of the fact. The Keokuk has sunk, while another of the Monitors has been towed away south, disabled. Six ironclads only are left off Morris Island, anchored out of range of our guns. With them is the Ironsides, with all her pumps at work, proving plainly enough that she had been hit below the water-line. Clothes clotted with blood have been picked up that have floated from the Keokuk, and there can be little doubt that she was pierced through and through, and that the loss of life on board her has been severe. I will forward other sketches as opportunity offers of the incidents of the fight, the thickest part of which I witnessed from this place. The Confederate loss does not amount to more than four men killed and about a dozen wounded. There were a few casualties here, and we had two of our guns dismounted by the fire from the ships. The fight may be renewed at any moment if the Federals have the stomach for the attempt; but I think they have suffered too much to provoke another encounter. In my sketch of the Battery promenade during the fight, Castle Pinckney may be seen in the foreground to the left; then Battery Bee, Fort Moultrie, and Fort Beauregard, on Sullivan's Island. In the centre is Fort Sumter, with the Keokuk to the left and the other turreted ironclads. Between Sumter and Cumming's Point Batteries, on Morris Island, on the right, are other Monitors, and the Ironsides. The small, isolated fort in the centre middle distance is Fort Ripley. The Yankee transports have landed some thousands of men on Folly Island, south of Morris Island, who will, as soon as possible, receive every attention.
My Sketch shows all that remains of the boasted Keokuk, that was to take so great a share in destroying Fort Sumter and forcing an entrance into Charleston Harbour. In all probability her guns will be recovered by the Confederates, and the vessel itself may be raised, should the remainder of the Yankee fleet follow the example of the Monitor, which has already retired in a helpless condition, apparently, from the scene of action.