CHAPTER VIII . THE PORT ROYAL AFFAIR
It was evident that something more than blockade service was contemplated. Preparations commenced in New York, were carried forward on a heretofore unprecedented scale at Hampton Roads, where the "Wabash" dropped anchor on the 18th of October. I still continued as the navigating officer. I was impressed most favorably by the remarkable personality of Admiral DuPont. He seemed the embodiment of all the elements that make of a sailor and gentleman, an Admiral of a fleet. Handsome, dignified, yet affable and courteous, learned in his profession, competent in all its branches, exact in the strict performance of his own duty, equally so in exacting the same attention from his subordinates, quiet and observing, just and impartial, he attracted faithful and earnest men to him with affectionate and respectful regard - I know he did have mine. Subsequent events confirmed my early impressions, with an admiration for his personal courage - physical and moral - that has never been lessened or turned by the criticisms of him following the first attack by his fleet upon Charleston.
It was not until the 28th of October that Admiral DuPont's fleet, after manifold delays, convoying a large army under General Timothy Sherman, set sail from Hampton Roads - the grandest, most imposing maritime sight I, or any one this side of the sea, ever witnessed. Upwards of fifty ships, men of war and transports studded the sea in close order of three columns, the "Wabash" leading the center column. Captains John Rogers and Charles Henry Davis had jointed DuPont's staff, and General Sherman and his staff also took passage with us. Amongst the latter was Horace Porter, and as he has taken occasion in his voluminous contributions to Magazine history of the war to comment upon my horsemanship, I take this occasion to remark that he was just the worst sailor I ever saw, succumbed at the first ripple, and was dog sick the entire voyage - and funny always, he seemed to be proud of it when well!
All went well at first, as the fleet had to conform to the sailing orders, keeping pace and place with the slowest, the flagship. I was specially careful in the navigation, giving plenty of room for the inner column to clear the projecting shoals. In this of course, Captain Davis, a noted astronomer, took part in advice over courses, but the observations and computations were wholly done by me and results accepted without question. On rounding Cape Hatteras, giving it a wide berth, the threatening weather turned into a furious gale, and the fleet was dispersed in all directions, each ship looking out for its own safety. Looking to such an event, each ship had been provided with sealed orders to a rendezvous off Port Royal, although it had been generally given out by newspaper correspondents, those fertile spies upon all movements - that Charleston was our destination. On the 4th day we found ourselves with forty of our consorts off Port Royal. Six of the transports had been lost, or had wandered, with loss of life on several which foundered after rescue of most of the troops on board.
A whole day passed in surveying the shoals and buoying the channel, which work was done by a little surveying steamer, the "Bibb", on which I was engaged with Captains Davis and Rogers, during which Commodore Tatnall with a mosquito fleet attacked us, but was driven back by our gun boats under Captain Ammen. That evening and the next morning saw the fleet, including the troopship and transports, safely within the shoals which stretch out some miles beyond the inner harbor and form a perfect breakwater in time of storm. A gale suspended the attack the next day, but we improved it by a reconnaissance of the defending forts, drawing their fire, and by the formulating the order of the attack by the Admiral. It seems a waste of time and ink to describe the battle of the following day, and I should confine myself to the part I played in it - small as it was. I am not writing a history of the war nor of the navy, but only the adventures of one of the millions of youngsters who, old men today, are amusing themselves with the music of their self-blown horns.
In addition to my duties as "navigator," I had command of, and drilled the third division of great guns, ten 9-inch Dahlgrens - the after division on the gun deck. I had also the command of the rifle brigade of blue jackets, to be employed at need, for landing parties with the marines. In the five circles made by the fleet between the forts, Beauregard and Walker, each circle coming nearer to Fort Walker, I worked my battery first starboard, and alternately the port guns for all they were worth, personally passing from gun to gun, sighting and firing in the "fire at will" order - from 10-second fuses we came to five-second fuses at distances from 1200 to 500 yards. The constant roar of the guns, the clouds of smoke drifting through the open ports, the half-naked sweating bodies of the stalwart men laboring at the gun tackles, the rushing about of the powder monkeys and shell men, the cheers and shouts of command, the occasional passing of wounded men through our division and lowering them to the sick bay established on the orlop deck, the lulls in our firing on the turns, and the view of our close following consorts, pouring in turn their streams of shot and shell upon the enemy's works, responding only at intervals, while spouting sand, bursting shells and flying fragments attested the accuracy of their aims, all contributed to the excitement of the hour, and banished even the idea of personal harm. Jackson, Captain of the forecastle, a splendid handsome sailor, mangled by a heavy shot, as he was placed in the cot to be lowered below, touched his forelock to me, feebly whispering "Hurrah!" He died before the surgeons could touch him. A man of one of the forward divisions came hopping along like a frog, stark mad; three men seized him and carried him howling, below. At one of the turning points, firing ceasing, I took a turn on deck where I could see better than through the port; as I stood on the starboard "horse block" a rifled shot from Fort Walker passed clean through the main mast, just missing Admiral DuPont and his staff on the bridge, and throwing a shower of splinters over him and all on the quarter deck. Corbin waived his hat at me, while the Admiral never moved his binnacles from his eyes. On coming before Port Walker the last time - not 500 yards away, it was evident that the rebels had enough. The "Wabash" dropped her anchor. I went aloft to the main top, and could see the garrison flying out into the woods in all directions - the log of the "Wabash" says that I so reported it. Captain John Rodgers went ashore under a flag of truce, ostensibly to receive the surrender, but there was no one to meet him; the entire position was deserted. My rifle brigade was called away, landed immediately in front of the works, and rushed into the forts. Captain Rodgers had previously, searching for some one, hoisted his boat's flag on a flag pole near the half demolished barracks. I had brought with me a large ensign, which with Captain Rodgers and old quarter master Dennis, we hoisted over Fort Walker. Meantime, the transports came rushing up from below, the troops landed, our rifle brigade was with some difficulty collected, re-embarked on tugs and to the ship. Sailor-like, except those posted cut on picket, they had the first chance at the camp and looted it extensively, bringing to me swords, pistols, a double-barreled shotgun, and curiously enough several articles of feminine adornment found in the deserted tents and barracks, one of which, a really beautiful fan I accepted, and it is now doing duty at the opera in the hands of my daughter, while the dress sword of the Captain of the Washington Artillery Company of Charleston, hangs on my wall at Lenox. There were many dead men lying about, many guns were disabled, and the interior of the fort a wreck. The body of Dr. Buist, a celebrated surgeon of Charleston I found in a bomb-proof - lying on his back half stripped, uncovering a frightful wound from a shell fragment. It was afterwards sent under a flag to his friends, together with his trunk intact as we found it. Captain Raymond Rogers came ashore, and gently read a part of the funeral service, as we buried the dead. By his order I made a rough sketch of the fort, describing its battery, etc., which will be found in the Naval Records. Late that evening, while getting my men off to the ship, I met Horace Porter, then a Lieutenant on Sherman's staff, with his trousers off wading ashore, who sung out: "Hello, shipmate! Here we are!" Lively as a cricket, he evidently rejoiced that his contact with salt water did not extend much above his knees. When I have seen him gravely presiding at meetings as President of the Naval League, I have recalled his wretched seamanship exhibited on the "Wabash," and his joyful skipping ashore on the sacred soil. Fort Beauregard on the opposite side of the bay was evacuated without a shot, as were all points and places bordering on those waters. Had any energy been shown, we could have also taken Savannah and perhaps Charleston that week. They were practically defenseless from attack by land, and their people in great consternation and panic. The garrison at Hilton Head fled through the woods, meeting Commodore Tatnall's little fleet on Scull creek and, being given ample time, passed to Savannah. Had Sherman pushed his army in pursuit he could easily have captured the entire lot, and had our gun boats followed Tatnall's, they could have taken him and cut off the retreat of what was simply a disorganized frightened mob; all the rebel reports show this was not only feasible, but they wondered why we did not make a request for a surrender which they were fully prepared to grant. However, "hind sights are better than fore sights." Our army settled down and made itself comfortable, contenting itself with little fruitless expeditions in conjunction with gun boats, made easy by the practical abandonment of the defenses of all the bays, rivers and harbors on the coast from Charleston to Florida, the only one held being Fort Pulaski at the entrance of the Savannah river, which in its turn was battered to pieces and surrendered later; Charleston and Wilmington, N.C. remained the only ports where an outside blockade was to be maintained on the Atlantic Sea coast.
In the course of duty I surveyed the Savannah river and Mud creek, in company with Captain John Rodgers and the present General James H. Wilson, then a Lieutenant of Engineers, going close to Savannah, had a perilous night in a canoe, manned and piloted by negro fishermen, establishing beyond doubt in Wilson's and my mind, that our gun boats could readily pass above and out off Port Pulaski, if not capture the city itself. Captain Rodgers, however, differed in his report, which Wilson and myself declined to sign, so nothing came from it.
Our fleet took possession, in turn, of Ossabaw and Warsaw Sounds, New Brunswick bay, the St. Johns river, Fort Macon, Jacksonville and Mosquito Inlets, without serious opposition. In all of the expeditions I may say, without exception, I took part either with my "Rifle brigade" of blue jackets on shore or, in command of one of the armed launches of the "Wabash," having most interesting experiences sometimes under fire, but ordinarily our processes of occupation of abandoned forts and rebel positions were rather peaceful.
One reconnoissance was accompanied by an introduction to a musketry fire of our foes, which led me to prefer my natural element - the sea - as a field for practical expressions of my patriotism.
With General James H. Wilson on my launch, and a company of soldiers on small tugs, we passed up Wilmington creek, a small stream encircling Tybee and Wilmington island, and connecting the Savannah river with Warsaw sound. Coming quite near to the suburbs of Savannah, the soldiers landed in the swamps. I put on shore my boat Howitzer, and we slowly pushed ahead, encountering what is called a sharp fire from a force concealed in a clump of live oaks and shrubs. Wilson thought it best to fall back to the boats. Tatnall's little fleet were passing in the river quite near. We had seen all we wanted, and with a few wounded soldiers we retreated, firing, while my little 12-pounder boat Howitzer on wheels helped to keep our enemy from being hasty.
Wilson, brave and energetic, had armed himself with a new-fangled repeating gun called a "Burnside" rifle. We were in a ditch together, seeking some shelter. His rifle had a jammed cartridge which effectually arrested its machinery; he pulled and pulled at it, uttering exclamations at each failure, consigning its inventor and the gun itself to perdition in language unparliamentary, making "the air blue." I remarked: "Wilson, don't swear so!" with no effect. We left a few poor fellows stark in the marsh, carried to the boats the wounded, embarked in good order, and were soon [ ] beyond further attack. Swords on such occasions are of no use except as cumbersome badges of office, nor are Burnside rifles.
The effect of the Port Royal affair upon the Confederates was so great, that every fort and battery erected with great pains and engineering skill, at any place accessible to our gun boats, was abandoned in great haste; they did not wait for us to assail them.
At St. Mary's, as we approached, the inhabitants and the soldiers fled. The long train of cars loaded with furniture and personal effects pulled out as we came near the town. On it was a Mr. Yulee, a famous Southern politician, and the rear guard of the Confederate Troops. Our gun boats fired at the moving train, when the little locomotive with two or three cars was detached and made for the bridge, crossed it in time and disappeared in the woods beyond. A small sidewheel stemboat with "Darlington" painted on its paddlebox also was winding about in the muddy narrow stream, making for the upper shallow waters. In our launches we pursued and overtook her hard aground, and filled with a shrieking, hysterical lot of women, old men and children whom we had difficulty in pacifying. I was left temporarily in charge of the prize. I don't know what they expected, but such a pandemonium of terror stricken people made the job no easy one. The engineer was half drunk, very sullen, and I noticed that roaring pine wood fires were blazing in his furnace, and the steam guage showed high pressure. We had no engineer with us, so putting him in charge of a sailor, I said to him: "You let the steam off, open your doors and obey orders, and if you don't, you (addressing the sailor), blow his brains out!" "Yes sir!" said Jack, pulling out his pistol, cocking it and edging up close to the fellow, who concluded instantly, and well he might, to do his work. The "Darlington" was loaded to its capacity with household goods, amongst them a large black bear, which later was shipped on the "Wabash," and became a funny and grotesque pet of the crew, until she came to a tragic end. Evans, in his "Sailors Log," tells some stiff yarns about poor "Bess" who was the heroine of many an escapade, and made lots of fun, but became so mischievous - but never vicious - that Corbin determined to send her ashore and let her roam at will on the deserted islands at Port Royal.
She was induced by Foley, the boatswain's mate and her particular friend and chum, to enter the launch, and on reaching the shore had to be dragged out of the launch. On sniffing the long-forgotten odor of the soil, she commenced turning somersaults, rolling over and over, until she disappeared from my sight as I watched the landing with my glass from the ship, the launch's crew following her. Foley reported almost in tears on his return that poor "Bess" rolled until she died. I could fill a page with accounts of her amusing tricks and cunning.
I got the "Darlington" afloat and moored her to the wharf, and her pacified passengers went back to their deserted homes, taking their goods with them, and the army folk took possession of the boat. I went ashore, visited the train at which I had fired from my boat Howitzer, and saw a ghastly sight. Seated upon an old sofa placed on a flat car with piles of chairs, bureaus, etc., were the decapitated bodies of two soldiers, guns between their knees, both evidently struck by the same shot. I hope it was not from my gun.
The taking possession of Jacksonville was an interesting proceeding, and the "Wabash's" launches playing an important role, as we were towed up the St. Johns River by the light draft gun boats, we raided the shores, took possessions of and spiked the guns of the several abandoned forts. In one of them we found a solitary and not unhappy prisoner who made haste to surrender. I had a talk with him. He said his battery - a very well built one, with four heavy 32-pounder naval guns, pointing directly down the stream - was commanded by the Reverend Mr. Smith, a Baptist preacher of the neighborhood who, upon seeing our gun boats, said: "You boys stay here and fight, and I'll go back here a piece and pray for you" and that was the last they saw of him, so they concluded they would do likewise.
Jacksonville was in flames as we anchored off the town, the large lumber mills, cotton storehouses and warehouses sending up dense masses of smoke. It was useless to attempt to extinguish the conflagration, but we landed in the town, were met by some of its officials - who were promised protection. I was ordered, with my boat guns and men, to the outskirts, and went into camp, having three howitzers and about fifty bluejackets to hold the bridge. There were several alarms during the night, but nothing happened to greatly distract my slumbers, stretched out on the soft side of a plank, except the knocking down, with the butt of my pistol, a crazy drunken sailor who "ran a-muck" through some negro cabins and our camp creating a great disturbance, almost in the presence of the enemy a few hundred yards away, on the other side of the bridge. He was later on in the hospital and sick bay for some weeks; and on recovery he came "to the mast" and hat off thanked me that I did not shoot him. The troops coming up that night, the sailors were relieved of shore duty, and I took up my quarters on the "Ottawa" with Captain Thomas H. Stevens. It is a somewhat interesting fact that Judge Fraser, in whose office at Jacksonville I wrote a line to my wife, afterwards was my next door neighbor at Elizabeth, New Jersey, and his son Philip, a clerk in my office. The Judge claimed to have been a Union man and persecuted for his stand against the rebellion.
While at Jacksonville, we were told that the famous yacht "America" had run the blockade into the St. Johns river, and was now secreted in the swamps above. An expedition was started to find and recover her. The steamboat "Ellen", with the launches, found her, sunk in deep water, her masts betraying her location. The "Ellen," under Acting Master Budd was left to raise her. Her sails and some rigging were found secreted in the nearby swamp. A sailor, by diving into her hold, succeeded in placing long tapered pine plugs into auger holes, bored along her keelson; Captain Budd built a coffer dam around her hatchway, and with his steam pumps and tackles raised her. She was sent North and by some process best known to him, General B.F. Butler got possession of her as a yacht, but she finally came back to the navy, sailed in one of the big yacht races, upholding her fame, and was used as a practice ship at the Naval Academy. All I had to do with raising her was in her discovery.
The "Wabash", collecting her launches and men, proceeded to Mosquito Inlet, where the insignificant, improvised gun boats "Penguin" and "Mary Andrew," under another Acting Master Budd and Acting Master Mather had forced the entrance and lay inside. Arriving off the Inlet late in the afternoon, we saw the vessels inside were in trouble. A sailor was seen making frantic signals on the sea beach. On fetching him on board he told a startling story of a fight with guerillas - the killing of both Budd and Mather, with many of their crews, his escape and fear that both ships were in the possession of the rebels. Our launches and cutters were called away, armed with double crews, and with myself in command of the party, we crossed the bar and boarded the "Mary Andrew" pell mell on both sides. I had doubted the sailor's yarn as to the vessels having been captured, but nevertheless arranged the programme upon the basis of the fact, and it was a mercy that no one was hurt as we clambered in upon her low decks, cutlasses and pistols in hand. They were without commanders and much demoralized, the purser of the "Mary Andrew" being about the only officer who had not "lost his head." A number of wounded men were lying on her decks, amongst them poor old Dennis, the quarter master who had helped raise our flag on Fort Walker, and who died soon after I distributed my men between the "Mary Andrew" and "Penguin," got things into shape, and waited for dawn, despatching a cutter to the "Wabash" at anchor in the offing with a note to Captain Raymond Rodgers, explaining things. It seems that Budd and Mather the day of our arrival had gotten up a boat expedition to visit large accumulations of live oak timber belonging to the Government when the war broke out, and known to be some four or five miles up the Inlet. They reached the timber and set it on fire, unmolested, but on their return in the narrow stream were opened upon by a murderous rifle fire from the bushes at close range. Budd and Mather were killed outright with most of their boats’ crews. Many were killed or wounded in the boats following them. Budd's and Mather's boats drifted ashore and were taken by the rebel guerilla bands; the men in the other boats jumped overboard and floated down stream, holding on to the gunwales until out of range. Some swam to the opposite shore, as had the sailor whom we had picked up off the sea beach. When daylight came, I moved both vessels up opposite a plantation house, in the midst of a beautiful orange grove, fired a few shells into the grove and at the house, where some ununiformed but armed men were seen. A white flag was raised, and I sent a boat to communicate with the bearer of it. He was a very decent sort of a chap, the owner of the house and grove, also the Captain of a guerilla band raised in the neighborhood.
He had the bodies of Budd and Mather by him, rolled up in matting; also the bodies of the killed sailors; his wounded prisoners were in the house, and he offered to let me take the dead and wounded if I wanted them, and handed me Captain Budd's and Mather's watches and other personal effects taken from their bodies. I took the bodies of the Captains, buried the other dead, and removed the wounded to the vessels. While the parley was going on some of his men appeared, and filled our boats with delicious oranges! Such is war! The bodies of Budd and Mather were later sent to their families with their trinkets.
New commanding officers were sent to the "Mary Andrew" and the "Penguin," and Mosquito Inlet remained in our posession to the end of the war, without further disturbance.
Up to this time I had, as other officers of the "Old Navy", been serving as "Acting Lieutenant on temporary service" under an irregular appointment by the Secretary of the Navy, being thus distinguished from the Acting Masters and Ensigns appointed from the Merchant Marine. The Navy Department had recommended to Congress the reinstatement of the officers of the old navy to the regular navy, and to the same rank they would have held, if they had not resigned. The President had endorsed the recommendation, but up to this time Congress had not acted upon it.
Admiral DuPont had constantly, since commanding the Squadron, urged this measure, for reasons amply set forth in his letters to the Navy Department, of which he kindly gave me copies, which with the recommendation of the Secretary, Mr. Welles, will be found in the collection of my official correspondence. On the return of the "Wabash" to Port Royal from these Southern expeditions, finding that Congress had failed to act in the matter, he determined to give me a command of my own. The old fishing companion of my youthful days in Springfield, and our neighbor, Commander Albert G. Clary, was then in command of the converted gun boat "Dawn," stationed in Ossabaw sound. Clary, well advanced in years, not very active and in poor health, desired to be relieved of his duty, so after some conversation with me, the Admiral ordered me to relieve Commander Clary, and I soon found myself the Captain of this tidy craft - my first independent command of a ship-of-war. Important alterations were made in her accommodations and battery, building me a spacious, snug and comfortable cabin, adding to her armament a 100-pounder rifled Parrott gun, and I resumed her station in Warsaw and Ossabaw sounds, as proud of my ship and the duty confided to me, as much as if she had been a Line-of-Battle ship. I held this command and station from the 19th of August, 1862 to the 31st of March, 1863, during which time the "Dawn" was engaged with the batteries at Bulah, Fort McAllister, and participated in the attacks upon and destruction of the Confederate steamer "Nashville" in the Ogeechee river, as well as in numberless expeditions ashore and afloat in those and contiguous waters. Several other vessels, the "Wissahickon," Commander John L. Davis; the "Connemaugh," Commander Reed Worden; the monitor "Montauk," Commander J. L. Worden, and various other vessels from time to time made up the force, and formed a happy little pugnacious society of our own, our squabbles with our opponents being interspersed with days off, hunting over the deserted sea Islands for the wild cattle and hogs, which supplied our crews with fresh meat; fish and oysters were abundant and delicious, and the waters and lagoons were covered with wild ducks, affording good sport, which a captured double barreled shot gun enabled me to indulge in frequently. On one of my excursions in search of fresh meat, our landing party were following a small drove of cattle, when out of the woods came a little dried-up wrinkled, young-old man, armed with a gun. He turned his weapon, muzzle-down, leaned upon the butt and stood in a thoughtful attitude, hat off, motionless. We surrounded and took him in. His name was Murphy, a former fisherman and pot-hunter, and claimed to be a good pilot in the inner waters of Georgia. He had resisted being drafted into the rebel army, and taken refuge on the abandoned sea island, where he had supported himself for some time with his shot gun and plunder of abandoned houses. I took him on the "Dawn," got him rated as a pilot, brought his shot gun, and he turned out one of the best of pilots, the best sportsman, thoroughly informed of every turn, twist and trail of the region, and withal the bravest little chap that I ever knew. I turned him over to Pendergrast who relieved the "Dawn," and he it was, who thrust a boarding pike through Lieutenant Pelt, the commanding officer of the boarding party from Savannah, which captured the "Water Witch" in Warsaw sound, and made Pendergrast and nearly all his crew prisoners. Poor little Murphy, at the same instant was shot dead and fell by the side of Pelt, almost the only one who put up a stout resistance on that occasion and fought like a demon. I keep that old shot gun of his as a memento of him and the many pleasant hours, at off moments, passed with the wild fowl and game, whose habits and haunts he so well knew.
One incident may serve to show the sort of spirit which found home in his little weazened frame. We were after ducks on Raccoon Key; a big brilliant cock mallard rose from a muddy branch, and fell to my gun on the opposite side. I gave it up reluctantly as a "lost bird" - not so, Murphy. Although bitter cold, he stripped, and taking a header plunged into the muddy stream. The water where he struck was barely a foot or two deep and the bottom soft mud or ooze, and there he stuck head down, his skinny little legs waving desperately a few feet from the bank. I got hold of them, hauled him ashore, gasping and nearly dead, plastered with mud to his chest. He cleared his eyes, face and hair, and notwithstanding my expostulations, threw himself again into the stream, flat on his chest and paddled himself across, retrieved the duck, scraped off the mud, put on his clothes; when shivering and teeth chattering we got back to the “Dawn," a stiff hot toddy was administered and completely revived him. This may not be a war incident, but I relate it in memory of this brave little fellow who gave his life to the cause, but like another is unwept and unhonored and his deeds unsung.
The Privateer "Nashville," with a cargo of munitions of war had succeeded in getting into the Ogeechee after depredations on our commerce before our occupations of the inland waters. Our blockade was therefore more important, to prevent her escape to sea, a possibility which gave great concerns to DuPont and the Powers at home. She was a powerful ocean sidewheel steamer, heavily armed and equipped, and lay plainly in sight but above Fort McAllister - out of range of our guns.
Our little wooden fleet had made several attempts to get at her, but our fight with the fort, as well as torpedoes and obstructions prevented our reaching her. Her presence, and constantly threatened attacks like that of Pelt, caused extra vigilance and precautions at night; my nights were passed on deck, our positions shifted after dark; men slept at the guns, steam kept up; picket boats with signals stationed up the streams and steel nettings spread against hoarders. The work was tedious and wearisome. Admiral DuPont determined to bring things - so far as the Nashville was concerned - to an end. The monitor "Montauk" under Captain J.L. Worden, the famous commander of the original "Monitor," and one of the first improved duplicates of her class, joined our little fleet at Ossabaw, also one of Porter's mortar flotilla, which had put into Port Royal in distress. With these additions, we delivered ineffectually several attacks upon Fort McAllister, kicking up clouds of sand, dismounting a gun or two, and being forced after several hours bombardment to drop down and out of range; on one occasion the "Montauk" was much hurt by striking a submerged torpedo, compelling her to run upon a mud bank while the leak was stopped at low water. During these scrimmages the "Dawn's" 100-pounder rifle did its duty, but it was not a strong gun, and we were cautioned against its excessive use. These repeated attacks, however, determined the Confederate commander of the "Nashville" to make an effort to get to sea, but on a dark night following our attack the "Nashville" grounded, and the morning showed her still aground, but quite near the fort. Our fleet moved up promptly; the "Montauk" took position regardless of the fire from Fort McAllister," and firing her big guns across the strip of marsh within easy range of the "Nashville," soon set her on fire and she blew up with a tremendous concussion; fragments of her wreck came floating down to us with the ebbing tide.
That Mortar boat! As her commanding officer hardly knew the difference between a 13-inch mortar and a shot gun, Worden asked me to show him how to load train and fire it. Great things were hoped but not expected from it. My experience with mortar firing was limited to the occasional practice with them at Annapolis. The schooner was anchored close under the rank marsh grass and from her mortar I myself fired, all the shells used; few reached the target and few exploded. After the war, at Thomasville, Georgia, I saw one of them placed as an ornament in the front garden of Dr. Hopkin's, who told me that he was the surgeon at Fort McAllister during our engagements, saw one of the mortar shells bury itself in the sand, marked the spot, dug up the shell and transplanted it to his garden as a specimen of the things "you Yankees flung at us."