Illustrations of the War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 43, no. 1234, p. 574.
December 5, 1863
Much of our information respecting the war unhappily raging in America comes from Northern sources, and is, consequently, more or less tinged with the particular views, not to say prejudices, of the writers. The accounts from the Southern section are, for the same reason, equally fallible. Yet they serve as correctives, and enable us to make a nearer approximation to the truth. Besides, looking at events from a different standpoint, the writers are able to see much that to those of the other side must needs be blank, thus completing the picture and making clear what would otherwise be obscure. By their help we see both sides of the shield. It is, therefore, with particular pleasure that we receive a batch of sketches, with accompanying details, from our Special Artist and Correspondent in the South--a pleasure heightened by its rarity. In a letter accompanying the sketches our Correspondent writes of numerous drawings which he has forwarded, but which we have not received. Among others, he particularises a sketch of the Battle of Chicamauga, the position of the Federal and Confederate armies in the Valley of Tennessee, and two large views of mountain scenery. Blockade-running has, of course, its failures. Some of our Correspondent's packages are doomed to the Gulf Stream, whilst others fall into the hands of the Federal cruisers, whence his sketches find their way occasionally into the pages of the illustrated journals of New York. In the latter case we must solace ourselves with the conviction that, though lost to us specially, our Artist's labours are not lost to the world.
Four of our Special Artist's Illustrations appear in the present Number, and we give the accompanying descriptive details from his pen, in the order in which the Engravings they refer to stand in our pages. Three of them, it will be seen, have reference to the siege of Charleston.
Since the Federal army has sought refuge in its intrenchments at Chattanooga the object of the Confederates has been to disturb its communications, and, if possible, to break up its supply-trains. With a view to this, a small force of picked men from General Longstreet's corps, armed with Whitworth telescopic rifles, were posted among the crags of Raccoon Mountain, overlooking a road on the other side of the Tennessee river, in use by the Federals. The position chosen was twelve miles in rear of the enemy's works, and, unfortunately for them, was not guarded. At the invitation of Captain Gorree, who was to take charge of the party, I accompanied the expedition; and the only way of reaching the place and avoiding the Federal scouts was by taking the Indian trails through the forest heights. Scarcely had we arrived at our destination and got the men hidden behind the rocks, when, far up the gorge, could be heard distinctly the rumbling of approaching wheels. Presently emerged the leading files of an infantry escort, followed by the first waggon. The order was not to fire until the open space of the road in front of us was filled. At last came the word, and a score of sharp cracks leapt in deafening echoes from crag to crag, and a score of mules, with their riders, went down, creating the most dire confusion. Then came such a stampede as was never before seen. The teams in front endeavoured to gallop on, but were prevented by one or more mules hanging dead in the traces; others behind made an effort to turn, but got blocked by those in the rear. Crack! crack! still went the rifles, until the road was choked with dead and dying men and mules, and overturned waggons. The escort, after firing a few shots in return, fled panic-stricken, followed by the exulting shouts of the Confederate riflemen.
The Federals as yet (writes our Correspondent on Aug. 24) have accomplished little or nothing as far as dash is concerned. In fact, General Gilmore, thwarted in his attempts on Battery Wagner and smarting at his frequent repulses, has demanded the surrender of the last-named work or has threatened to shell the city; and, in violation of all rules of warfare, he has turned his guns on unoffending women and children. The shelling commenced at midnight, but, fortunately, did little harm beyond terrifying the ladies left in the city. One house only was set on fire. I send you a sketch of a scene I witnessed in the neighbourhood of my own quarters. A fireman is running through the streets giving the alarm, and a watchman, thoroughly overcome, is taking leave of his senses and his staff in the foreground. Fortunately, the gun burst after a few discharges. The distance was over four miles.
During the last days of August the enemy made a great struggle for the possession of the Confederate rifle-pits in front of their own works. In their first attempt they were successfully repulsed; but on their second, the night after, they succeeded, owing to the bad conduct of some North Carolina troops, who were on picket. My sketch illustrates the first effort made to dislodge our troops, in which the Federals were defeated, with great loss. The entire garrison of Wagner, which is only a sandwork, never exceeded 1500, and this brave band defied the combined attacks of the Federal iron-clad navy and an army of twelve thousand men.
Ment by the Shore-Batteries of the Federals.
The Federal commander, General Gilmore, having succeeded in erecting batteries on Morris Island some time since, commenced the bombardment of Fort Sumter with 200 lb. parrotts at over a range of two miles and a half. The grand old work which did such good service on the 7th of April last was unable to reply, and its brave garrison was compelled to be silent spectators of the gradual demolition if its walls. I have frequently paid visits to the work since the bombardment commenced, and the inclosed Illustration will give you an idea of the severity of the fire concentrated upon it. Every gun is dismounted, and nearly the whole of the parapet is swept away. The gorge-face is one mass of ruins, and the casemates scarcely afford shelter to the garrison. The fort will be held, however, as long as a brick remains; by the bayonet, if necessary. Such is the determination of General Beauregard.
In a letter published in the New York Tribune we find the following description of Fort Sumter, as it stood a few weeks ago:--
Who of these could recognise it in that forlorn-looking mass of rubbish to which the guns of a justly-incensed fatherland have now reduced it? On the extreme west corner, nearest to Charleston, are some faint indications of what it once was. A few square yards of masonry remain comparatively unhurt. Yet even here the parapet is knocked clearly away for a space of fifteen feet at least, and the eye rests on a house standing in the line of vision on the shore of Sullivan's Island, beyond the north channel, that intervenes between the land and the fort. Follow the jagged outline to the east, and you see other houses peeping over the top of the heap. Of some you can see nearly one half, from the crown of the roofs downward. Of others only the chimneys and upper shingles were visible a few days ago, and now the cloud of every shot, clearing away, shows you more of their forms, to prove that the mound of bricks is being gradually decreased in height. The shots and shells pound away at the remains, on an average, one in each half minute, through the entire day. All night long the mortars in our two advanced works go on with their pulverising practice. What structure, of brick or stone, could stand such hammering, so kept up! But it is on the east face, or sea-wall, of Sumter that destruction has done its work. Here has concentrated the fire of the army and navy. Four monitors--the Weehawken, the Patapsco, the Catskill, and the Lehigh--have since Tuesday kept up their awful fire of 15 in. shells. Many of these fall short. Some of them go clear over and beyond their mark. But when and where they strike the effects are noticeable in the masses of matter that immediately fly and fall from the parapet or sides of the work. A breach has been effected over which a storming-party could pass in a few minutes to the interior of the fort. The north-east corner, partially undermined, topples and threatens momentarily to fall. And still do the pitiless conical shells bury and explode in the walls, and the solid 300 lb., 200 lb., and 100 lb. shots follow them, to complete the overthrow of what the first have mined and honeycombed. How men can live and move around in Sumter is a mystery--it is almost, indeed, a miracle. They manage every evening to fire from the top of the heap, near the west angle, an "evening gun" at sunset, and to drop the flag. But latterly even these ceremonies have had to be modified. The sunset gun is only the firing of a bag of powder, whose flash is a signal to the city that the garrison holds out. Wrapping the ragged remnant of the flag round its frail stick is the only salute that can be given to the declining orb of day. The would-be sharpshooters are displaced, and no more crack their rifles vainly at the gunners in our works. The peeping pickets on the base, near the Charleston side of the fort, no longer peer inquisitively and timidly at us. They are all gone into the vaults and fastnesses of the fort, to undergo a process of slow incremation, by the crumbling rubble falling ever around and upon them from all sides. An awful and futile duty is theirs--to remain on this memorial of desolation, to suffer slow but certain death, as the exemplars of a fortitude and tenacity unjustifiable by the cause that evokes and exacts from these men the sacrifice of their lives. About 30 ft., it is estimated, have been taken from the average height of Fort Sumter, except upon the east or "sea face," where not more than a half of the original structure remains. The flagstaff has been thrice shot away. The flag is pierced and mutilated almost beyond recognition, and the field of white is all gone, only portions of the starry cross remaining. Still do our patient, impassive gunners pound away.