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our men, and nerved them to endure the fatignes of the few weeks which followed, with a patience which was at once commendable and surprising.
On the night of the assault, as soon as its disastrous termination became known, a line of inclined palisading was set up, stretching from right to left across the island, from the beach to the creek which forms its western boundary. This obstacle was intended to check any sortie which the enemy might make, and several days were devoted to strengthening the line thus defined, which was about thirteen hundred yards from Wagner, while at a point about two and a half miles from Sumter, a breaching battery was begun, with the view of testing at that distance the effect of a fire from the heavy rifled guns, which were originally intended to be used at a much shorter range. This battery was located on a spur of the island, which projected several hundred yards into the marsh on our left, and the batteries which were established at this point were designated the Left Batteries, to distinguish them froin those which were located on the main body of the island, and in front of Wagner, to whose fire they were exposed.
During the bombardment of the eighteenth, several thirty-pound rifled pieces had been used from the left, and were retained there to prevent the passage of steamers from the city to the north end of the island. One evening just before sunset, one of these guns was turned upon Sumter and two or three shells fired at that fortress, which had the effect of producing as many unmistakable clouds of brick dust, thus showing that they had penetrated the parapet before bursting. It was not intended, however, to employ pieces of this calibre, while guns capable of throwing five times the weight of metal lay idle, and means were taken to bring a portion at least of these guns to bear, at as short a range as could be obtained, and as Wagner lay nearly in a direct line, between our advanced works on the right and Ft. Sumter, it is obvious that an advance toward the former would be an equivalent advance toward the latter. Accordingly after a careful examination of the ground to be occupied, our lines were advanced, on the night of the twenty-third a distance of nearly
five hundred yards, and to a point within a range of two miles fronı Ft. Sumter. The labors of the troops were this night attended with entire success, and the ground thus occupied formed the second parallel of the siege. Every precaution was taken to preclude the possibility of our being dispossessed of this line, and within a few days it was considered as well fitted to resist an assault, as Ft. Wagner itself. Indeed, this locality soon assumed the appearance of a small fortress. A large central magazine was soon completed, with smaller service magazines, for the use of the breaching and defensive guns. On the lett of the parallel, and extending across the creek which limited its extension in that direction, was stretched a boom of heavy timbers, securely fastened together, for the purpose of obstructing the passage of any flanking party in boats, should an attempt of this character be made; but on the right of the parallel stretched a beach, swept by the enemy's fire, and an excel. lent path for the passage of a sortie. The difficulty of defending this flank, was met by the construction of what was designated the Surf Battery, a structure whose foundation of logs, carefully prepared during the daytime, was laid at night. Upon this was built a parapet entirely composed of well filled sand-bags, with three enubrasures, of boiler-plate, for howitzers at its extremity, and with emplacements for two pieces near the shore. The beach was perfectly commanded by this work which would have poured a galling fire into an advancing column.
The construction of breaching batteries at this point, was prosecuted with great energy, and on the first of August platforms had been laid for seven, although the parapets were as yet incomplete, and the guns did not open fire for more than two weeks.
Although the destruction of Fort Sumter was the most prominent feature in our present operations, it was deemed advisable to push onr approaches toward Wagner as rapidly as was consistent with a regard for the lines of our sappers, and our pickets forced back those of the enemy, night after night, in order that an advance might not be discovered, until too nearly completed to be arrested, and on the night of August ninth, the third parallel was established, three hundred and thirty yards in advance of the second, and five hundred from Fort Wagner. The flanks of the ground thus gained were made as secure as possible, by the use of abatis and inclined palisading, so placed as to prevent an enemy from gaining our rear, should he pass either extremity of the parallel. It was considered unwise to risk ordinary field guns so far in advance, and their places were supplied by the use of little affairs, called after their inventor Requa batteries. They consisted of twenty-five rifled barrels, so arranged as to deliver their fire in one flame, but with a lateral divergence which could be varied at will, and although their offensive properties were not severely tested in this siege, a favorable opinion was formed of them, by most of those under whose observation they came.
Hitherto our advance had been almost entirely by the use of the flying sap, which consists simply in the disposition of a sufficient number of men in such a manner that if at a given signal, each begins a trench at his feet, throwing the earth to the front, and unites his own work with that of his comrade on either side, the desired parallel and its approaches will be established, although inuch additional labour is required to complete the work thus begun. As the assignment of the men to their posts must be made in silence, and during the darkest portion of the night, an engineer officer has good reason to congratulate himself, if he can successfully execute his task. It will be readily understood, that when the men have once begun their labors, they lose no time in interposing between the enemy's guns and themselves as heavy a body of earth as they can throw up, for as a stimulus to active exertion the fear of a lively fire of grape and canister stands unrivalled.
Meanwhile a singular structure was rising from the surface of the adjacent marsh, at a point more than three quarters of a mile from the nearest point of the island, and four miles from Charleston, for whose benefit its armament was especially designed. This work, under the soubriquet of the “Swamp Angel,” soon became widely known, and although its fire never proved very destructive, it demonstra
ted that without any further advance on our part, Charleston might be rendered an undesirable place of residence. Its construction, which was prosecuted almost entirely during the night, was begun by spreading upon the surface of the marsh two thicknesses of heavy tarpanlin.
Upon the surface thus prepared a platfornı of heavy logs was laid, having in its centre a rectangular opening, slightly larger than the platform of the battery; upon this platform of loys was laid the parapet, constructed entirely of sand bags, which had been filled during the daytime at a point nearly a mile and a half distant, and transported to their destination at night in boats. Around the rectangular opening, a continuous line of planks were thrust down through the soft mud, to the sandy bottom of the marsh, the planks being edge-to-edge, and thus forming a huge chest, nearly filled with the soft soil, upon the top of which a heavy tarpanlin was spread, and over this several inches of sand, and upon this a massive platform of yellow pine, whose weight was partially sustained by the sand and its substratum, and partially by the sheet piling just described. Upon this foundation, which was independent of that which sustained the parapet, was laid the platform proper of the gun, an eight-inch Parrott rifle. The battery was connected with the island by a foot-way, sustained mainly by piles thrust into the marsh, and partially by a bearing surface of light planks.
Thirty-five shots in all were fired from this battery toward Charleston : the Greek fire which attained so great a notoriety at the time, was a worthless composition, inferior in power to many substances which have been in use for years. It failed to inflame a dry pine board which was held in contact with its flame, until it had burned out. Careful parents often entrust their children with fire-works which are far more dangerous in their character.
As soon as the suspicions of the rebels were fully aroused as to our intentions with regard to Fort Sumter, they put forth the most strenuous exertions to protect its exposed portions from our fire, both by piling sand bags against its parapet, and by hanging cotton bales hooped with iron from its coping. The power of cotton to resist the impact of a projectile, has always been overestimated, and in this case it utterly failed to accomplish its object.
The fire of our breaching batteries was first opened upon Sumter, on the sixteenth of August. Its effect could easily be watched with the naked eye, at a distance of more than two miles. The cloud which followed the explosion of the shells in the parapet was uniformly red, showing that the mass of pulverized brick which was thrown out, must have been very large, to thus mark the usual color of the smoke. At the end of the first day's bombardment the fort presented a ragged appearance, and the efficiency of our fire had surpassed the expectations of the most sanguine. The sight from the rear of our batteries was an impressive one. The huge projectiles flew forward to their destination with a rushing sound, not unlike that of steam escaping from the safety-valve of a locomotive, and their course could easily be traced, from the gun nearly to the fort. Much annoyance, and some loss of life were caused by the premature explosion of many of the shells, those from our right batteries necessarily passing over the troops in the advanced trenches. The cause of these accidents was diligently sought for, and various remedies applied without success. When we consider that within a small fraction of a second, the shell receives a rotaline motion equal to nearly one hundred revolutions per second, the wonder is, not that premature explosions occur at all, but that the friction of the rough iron interior against the powder inside does not cause such an accident at every discharge. It was also supposed that the flame of the gun's discharge penetrated the base of the shell, and ignited its charge. The first difficulty has since been remedied by applying to the interior a smooth adhesive lining of asphaltum. The defects in the base of the shell can be avoided by more careful casting. The bombardment lasted seven days, the last two or three being chiefly devoted to breaking up the larger fragments which had been previously detached.
No sooner had this result been attained, than our energies were addressed to the reduction of Fort Wagner, which still loomed up as defiantly as ever, and barred our farther progress on land. The navy, which it was hoped would enter