GENEALOGY EXPRESS

 

Welcome to
Black
History & Genealogy

The
BLACK PHALANX;

A History of the

NEGRO SOLDIERS OF THE UNITED STATES
in the Wars of
1775-1812, 1861-'65,
By
Joseph T. Wilson
Late of the 2nd Reg't. La. Native Guard Vols. 54th Mass. Vols.
Aide-De-camp to the Commander-In-Chief G. A. R.
Author of
"Emancipation," "Voice of a New Race,"  "Twenty-Two Years of Freedom," etc., etc.
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56 Illustrations
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Hartford, Conn.:
American Publishing Company
1890

PT II.

CHAPTER VII. -
DEPARTMENT of the SOUTH
pg. 249
 

     The appearance of the negro in the Union army altered the state of affairs very much.  The policy of the general Government was changed, and the one question which Mr. Lincoln had tried to avoid became the question of the war.  General Butler, first at Fortress Monroe and then at New Orleans, had defined the status of the slave, "contraband " and then "soldiers," in advance of the Emancipation Proclamation.  General Hunter, in command at the South, as stated in a previous chapter, had taken an early opportunity to strike the rebellion in its most vital part, by arming negroes in his Department, after declaring them free.
     Notwithstanding the President revoked Hunter's order, a considerable force was organized and equipped as early as December, 1862; in fact a. regiment of blacks was under arms when the President issued the Emancipation Proclamation.  This regiment, the 1st South Carolina, was in command of Colonel T. W. Higginson, who with a portion of his command ascended the St. Mary's river on transports, visited Florida and Georgia, and had several engagements with the enemy.  After an absence of ten or more days, the expedition returned to South Carolina without the loss of a man.
     Had there been but one army in the field, and the fighting confined to one locality, the Phalanx would have been mobilized, but as there were several armies it was distributed among the several forces, and its conduct in

[Pg. 250]
battle, camp, march and bivouac, was spoken of by the commanders of the various armies in terms which any class of soldiers, of any race, might well be proud of.
     General Grant, on the 24th of July, following the capture of Vicksburg, wrote to the Adjutant-General:

     "The negro troops are easier to preserve discipline among than are our white troops, and I doubt not will prove equally good for garrison duty.  All that have been tried have fought bravely."

     This was six days after the unsurpassed bravery of the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers—representing the North in the black Phalanx—had planted its blood stained banner on the ramparts of Fort Wagner.  It was the Southern negroes, who, up to this time, had reddened the waters of the Mississippi. It was the freedman's blood that had moistened the soil, and if ignorance could be so intrepid still greater daring might be expected on the part of the more intelligent men of the race.
     The assault on Fort "Wagner, July 18, 1803, was one of the most heroic of the whole four years' war.  A very graphic account of the entire movement is given in the following article:

     "At daylight, on the morning of the 12th of July a strong column of our troops advanced swiftly to the attack of Fort Wagner.  The rebels were well prepared, and swept with their guns every foot of the approach; to the fort, but our soldiers pressed on, and gained a foothold on the parapet; but, not being supported by other troops, nor aided by the guns of the fleet, which quietly looked on, they were forced to retreat, leaving many of their comrades in the hands of the enemy.
     "It is the opinion of many that if the fleet had moved up at the same time, and raked the fort with their guns, our troops would have succeeded in taking it; but the naval captains said in their defence that they knew nothing of the movement, and would have gladly assisted in the attack had they been notified.
     "This, unfortunately, was not the only instance of a want of harmony or co-operation between the land and naval forces operating against Charleston.  Had they been under the control of one mind, the sacrifice of life in the siege of Forts Wagner and Sumter would have been far less.  We will not assume to say which side was at fault, but by far the greater majority lay the blame upon the naval officers.  Warfare kindles up the latent germs of jealousy in the human breast, and the late rebellion furnished many cruel examples of its effects, both among the rebels and among the patriots.  We have had the misfortune to witness

[Pg. 251]
them in more than one campaign, and upon more than one bloody and disastrous field.
     "By the failure of this attack, it was evident that the guns of Wagner must lie silenced before a successful assault with infantry could be made; and, in order to accomplish this, a siege of greater or less duration was required.  Therefore earthworks were immediately thrown up at the distance of about a thousand yards from the fort, and the guns and mortars from Folly Island brought over to be placed in position.
     "This Morris Island is nothing but a narrow bed of sand, about three miles in length, with a breadth variable from a few hundred yards to a few feet.  Along the central portion of the lower end a ridge of white sand hills appear, washed on one side by the tidal waves, and sloping on the other into broad marshes, more than two miles in width, and intersected by numerous deep creeks.  Upon the extreme northern end, Battery Gregg, which the rebels used in reducing Fort Sumter in 1861, had been strengthened, and mounted with five heavy guns, which threw their shot more than half way down the island.  A few hundred yards farther down the island, and at its narrowest portion, a strong fort had been erected, and armed with seventeen guns and mortars.  This was the famous Fort Wagner; and, as its cannon prevented any farther progress up the island, it was necessary to reduce it before our forces could approach nearer to Fort Sumter.
     " It was thought by our engineers that a continuous bombardment of a few days by our siege batteries and the fleet might dismount the rebel cannon, and demoralize the garrison, so that our brave boys, by a sudden rush, might gain possession of the works.  Accordingly our seige train was brought over from Folly Island, and a parallel commenced about a thousand yards from Wagner.  Our men worked with such energy that nearly thirty cannon and mortars were in position on the 17th of July.  On the 18th of July the bombardment commenced.  The land batteries poured a tempest of shot into the south side of Wagner, while the fleet moved up to within short range, and battered the east side with their great guns. In the mean time the rebels were not silent, but gallantly stood to their guns, returning shot for shot with great precision.  But, after a few hours, their fire slackened; gun after gun be came silent, as the men were disabled, and, when the clock struck four in the afternoon, Wagner no longer responded to the furious cannonade the Federal forces. Even the men had taken shelter beneath the bomb-proofs, and no sign of life was visible about the grim and battered fortress.
     "Many of our officers were now so elated with the apparent result of demolition, that they urged General Gillmore to allow? them to assault the fort as soon as it became dark.  General Gillmore yielded to the solicitations of the officers, but very reluctantly, for he was not convinced that the proper time had arrived; but the order was finally given for the
attack to take place just after dark.  Fatal error as to time, for our troops in the daytime would have been successful, since they would not

[Pg. 252]
have collided with each other; they could have seen their foes, and the arena of combat, and the fleet could have assisted them with their guns, and prevented the landing of the re-enforcements from Charleston.
     " It was a beautiful and calm evening when the troops who were to form the assaulting column moved out on to the broad and smooth beach left by the receding tide.
     "The last rays of the setting sun illumined the grim walls and shattered mounds of Wagner with a flood of crimson light, too soon, alas!  to be deeper dyed with the red blood of struggling men.
     "Our men halted, and formed their ranks upon the beach, a mile and more away from the deadly breach.  Quietly they stood leaning upon their guns, and awaiting the signal of attack.  There stood, side by side, the hunter of the far West, the farmer of the North, the stout lumber man from the forests of Maine, and the black Phalanx Massachusetts had armed and sent to the field.
     "In this hour of peril there was no jealousy, no contention.  The black Phalanx were to lead the forlorn hope.  And they were proud of their position, and conscious of its danger.  Although we had seen many of the famous regiments of the English, French, and Austrian armies, we were never more impressed with the fury and majesty of war than when we looked upon the solid mass of the thousand black men, as they stood, like giant statues of marble, upon the snow-white sands of the beach, waiting the order to advance.  And little did we think, as we gazed with admiration upon that splendid column of four thousand brave men, that ere an hour had passed, half of them would be swept away, maimed or crushed in the gathering whirlwind of death!  Time passed quickly, and twilight was fast deepening into the darkness of night, when the signal was given.  Onward moved the chosen and ill-fated band, making the earth tremble under the heavy and monotonous tread of the dense mass of thousands of men.  Wagner lay black and grim in the distance, and silent.  Not a glimmer of light was seen.  Not a gun replied to the bombs which our mortars still constantly hurled into the fort.  Not a shot was returned to the terrific volleys of the giant frigate Ironsides, whose shells, ever and anon, plunged into the earth works, illuminating their recesses for an instant in the glare of their explosion, but revealing no signs of life.
     "Were the rebels all dead?  Had they fled from the pitiless storm which our batteries had poured down upon them for so many hours?  Where were they?
     "Down deep beneath the sand heaps were excavated great caverns, whose floors were level with the tide, and whose roofs were formed of huge trunks of trees laid in double rows.  Still above these massive beams sand was heaped so deeply that even our enormous shells could not penetrate the roofs, though they fell from the skies above.  In these dark subterranean retreats two thousand men lay hid, like panthers in a swamp, waiting to leap forth in fury upon their prey.
     "The signal given, our forces advanced rapidly towards the fort,

[Pg. 253] - BLANK

[Pg. 254]


AT FORT WAGNER
Desperate charge of the 54th Mass., Vols., in the assault on Fort Wagner, July 1__, 1864

[Pg. 255]
while our mortars in the rear tossed their bombs over their heads.  The Fifty-fourth Massachusetts [Phalanx Regiment] led the attack, supported by the 6th Conn., 48th N. Y., 3rd N. H., 76th Penn. and the 9th Maine Regiments.  Onward swept the immense mass of men, swiftly and silently, in the dark shadows of night.  Not a flash of light was seen in the distance!  No sentinel hoarsely challenged the approaching foe!  All was still save the footsteps of the soldiers, which sounded like the roar of the distant surf, as it beats upon the rock-bound coast.
     "Ah, what is this! The silent and shattered walls of Wagner all at once burst forth into a blinding sheet of vivid light, as though they had suddenly been transformed by some magic power into the living, seething crater of a volcano!  Down came the whirlwind of destruction along the beach with the swiftness of lightning!  How fearfully the hissing shot, the shrieking bombs, the whistling bars of iron, and the whispering bullet struck and crushed through the dense masses of our brave menuever shall forget the terrible sound of that awful blast of death, which swept down, shattered or dead, a thousand of our men.  Not a shot had missed its aim.  Every bolt of steel, every globe of iron and lead, tasted of human blood.
     " 'Forward! ' shouted the undaunted Putnam, as the column wavered and staggered like a giant stricken with death.
     " ' Steady, my boys! ' murmured the brave leader, General Strong, as cannon-shot dashed him, maimed and bleeding, into the sand.
     "In a moment the column recovered itself, like a gallant ship at seawhen buried for an instant under an immense wave.
     "The ditch is reached; a thousand men leap into it, clamber up the shattered ramparts, and grapple with the foe, which yields and falls back to the rear of the fort.  Our men swarm over the walls, bayoneting the desperate rebel cannoneers.  Hurrah! the fort is ours!
     "But now came another blinding blast from concealed guns in the rear of the fort, and our men went down by scores.  Now the rebels rally, and, re-enforced by thousands of the chivalry, who have landed on the beach under cover of darkness, unmolested by the guns of the fleet.  They hurl themselves with fury upon the remnant of our brave band.  The struggle is terrific.  Our supports hurry up to the aid of their comrades, but as they reach the ramparts they fire a volley which strikes down many of our men.  Fatal mistake!  Our men rally once more; but, in spite of an heroic resistance, they are forced back again to the edge of the ditch.  Here the brave Shaw, with scores of his black warriers, went down, fighting desperately.  Here Putnam met his death wound, while cheering and urging on the overpowered Phalanx men.
     "What fighting, and what fearful carnage!  Hand to hand, breast to breast!  Here, on this little strip of land, scarce bigger than the human hand, dense masses of men struggled with fury in the darkness; and so fierce was the contest that the sands were reddened and soaked with human gore.
     "But resistance was vain.  The assailants were forced back again to

[Pg. 256]
the beach, and the rebels trained their recovered cannon anew upon the retreating survivors.
     "What a fearful night was that, as we gathered up our wounded heroes, and bore them to a place of shelter!  And what a mournful morning, as the sun rose with his clear beams, and revealed our terrible losses! What a rich harvest Death had gathered to himself during the short struggle!  Nearly two thousand of our men had fallen.  More than six hundred of our brave boys lay dead on the ramparts of the fatal fort, in its broad ditch, and along the beach at its base.  A flag of truce party went out to bury our dead, but General Beauregard they found had already buried them, where they fell, in broad, deep trenches."

     Colonel Shaw, the young and gallant commander of the 54th Regiment, was formerly a member of the famous 7th N. Y. Regiment.  He was of high, social and influential standing, and in his death won destruction.  The confederates added to his fame and glory, though unintentionally, by burying him with his soldiers, or as a confederate Major expressed the information, when a request for the Colonel's body was made, "we have buried him with his niggers! "
     A poet has immortalized the occurrence and the gallant Shaw thus:

'They buried him with his niggers!'
Together they fought and died.
There wan room for them all where they laid him.
(The grave was deep and wide).
For his beauty and youth and valor,
Their patience and love and pain;
And at the last together
They shall be found again.

'They buried him with his niggers!'
Earth holds no prouder grave;
There in not a mausoleum
In the world beyond the wave.
That a nobler tale has hallowed,
Or a purer glory crowned.
Than the nameless trench where they buried
The brave so faithful found.
'They buried him with his niggers I'
A wide grave should it be:
They buried more in that shallow trench
Than human eye could see.
Aye, all the shames and sorrows
Of more than a hundred years
Lie under the weight of that Southern soil
Despite those cruel sneers.
They buried him with his niggers!'
But the glorious souls set free
Are lending the van of the army
That fights for liberty.
Brothers in death, in glory
The same palm branches bear;
And the crown is as bright o'er the sable brows
As over the golden hair.

----------

Burled with a band of brothers
Who for him would fain have died;
Buried with the gallant fellows
Who fell fighting by his side;

Buried with the men God gave him.
Those whom he was sent to save;
Buried with the martyr heroes.
He has found an honored grave.

Buried where his dust so precious
Makes the soil a hallowed spot;
Buried where by Christian patriot.
He shall never be forgot.
Buried in the ground accursed.
Which man's fettered feet have trod;
Buried where his voice still speaketh.
Appealing for the slave to God;

Fare thee well, thou noble warrior.
Who in youthful beauty went
On a high and holy mission,
By the God of battles sent.

Chosen of him. 'elect and precious,'
Well didst thou fulfil thy part;
When thy country 'counts her jewels,'
She shall wear thee on her heart."

[Pg. 257]

     The heroic courage displayed by the gallant Phalanx at the assault upon Fort Wagner was not surpassed by the Old Guard at Moscow.  Major-General Taliaferro gives this confederate account of the fight, which is especially interesting as it shows the condition of affairs inside the fort:

     "On the night of the 14th the monster iron-plated frigate New Iron sides, crossed the bar and added her formidable and ponderous battery to those destined for the great effort of reducing the sullen earthwork which barred the Federal advance.  There were now five monitors, the Ironsides and a fleet of gunboats and monster hulks grouped together and only waiting the signal to unite with the land batteries when the engineers should pronounce them ready to form a cordon of flame around the devoted work.  The Confederates were prepared for the ordeal.  For for fear that communications with the city and the mainland, which was had by steamboat at night to Cummings' Point should be interrupted, rations and ordnance stores had been accumulated, but there was trouble about water.  Some was sent from Charleston and wells had been dug in the sand inside and outside the fort, but it was not good.  Sand bags had been provided and trenching tools supplied sufficient for any supposed requirement.
     "The excitement of the enemy in front after the 10th was manifest to the Confederates and announced an 'impending crisis.'  It became evident that some extraordinary movement was at hand.  The Federal forces on James Island had been attacked on the morning of the 16th by General Hagood and caused to retire, Hagood occupying the abandoned positions, and on the 17th the enemy's troops were transferred to Little Folly and Morris Islands.  It has been stated that the key to the signals employed by the Federals was in possession of General Taliaferro at this time, and he was thus made acquainted with the intended movement and put upon his guard.  That is a mistake.  He had no such direct information, although it is true that afterwards the key was discovered and the signals interpreted with as much ease as by the Federals themselves.  The 18th of July was the day determined upon by the Federal commanders for the grand attempt which, if successful, would level the arrogant fortress and confuse it by the mighty power of their giant artillery with the general mass of surrounding sand hills, annihilate its garrison or drive them into the relentless ocean, or else consign them to the misery of hostile prisons.
     "The day broke beautifully, a gentle breeze slightly agitated the balmy atmosphere, and with rippling dimples beautified the bosom of
the placid sea.  All nature was serene and the profoundest peace held dominion over all the elements.  The sun, rising with the early splendors of his midsummer glory, burnished with golden tints the awakening ocean, and flashed his reflected light back from the spires of the beleag-

[Pg. 258]
uered city into the eves of those who stood pausing to gather strength to spring upon her, and of those who stood at bay to battle for her safety.  Yet the profound repose was undisturbed; the early hours of that fair morning hoisted a flag of truce between the combatants which was respected by both.  But the tempest of fire which was destined to break the charm of nature, with human thunders then unsurpassed in war, was gathering in the south.  At about half-past 7 o'clock the ships of war moved from their moorings, the iron leviathan the Ironsides, an Agamemnon among ships, leading and directing their movements, then monitor after monitor, and then wooden flagships.  Steadily and majestically they marched; marched as columns of men would march, obedient to commands, independent of weaves and winds, mobilized by steam and science to turn on a pivot and manoeuvre as the directing mind required them; they halted in front of the fort; they did not anchor as Sir Peter Parker's ships had done near a hundred years before in front of Moultrie, which was hard by and frowning still at her ancient enemies of the ocean.  They halted and waited for word of command to belch their consuming lightnings out upon the foe.  On the laud, engineering skill was satisfied and the deadly exposure for details for labor was ended; the time for retaliation had arrived when the defiant shots of the rebel batteries would be answered; the batteries were unmasked; the cordon of fire was complete by land and by sea; the doomed fort was encircled by guns.
     "The Confederates watched from the ramparts the approach of the fleet and the unmasking of the guns, and they knew that the moment had arrived in which the problem of the capacity of the resistant power of earth and sand to the forces to which science so far developed in war could subject them was to be solved and that Battery Wagner was to be that (lay the subject of the crucial test.  The small armament of the fort was really inappreciable in the contest about to be inaugurated.  There was but one gun which could be expected to be of much avail against the formidable naval power which would assail it and on the land side few which could reach the enemy's batteries.  "When those guns were knocked to pieces and silenced there was nothing loft but passive resistance, but the Confederates, from the preliminary tests which had been applied, had considerable faith in the capacity of sand and earth for passive resistance.
     "The fort was in good condition, having been materially strengthened since the former assault by the indefatigable exertions of Colonel David Harris, chief engineer, and his valuable assistant, Captain BarnwellColonel Harris was a Virginian, ex-officer of the army of the United States and a graduate of West Point, who had some years before retired from the service to prosecute the profession of civil engineering.  Under a tempest of shells he landed during the fiercest period of the bombardment at Cummings' Point, and made his way through the field of fire to the beleaguered fort to inspect his condition and to inspire the garrison by his heroic courage and his confidence in its strength.  Escaping all the dangers of war, he fell a victim to yellow fever in Charleston, be-

[Pg. 259]
loved and honored by all who had ever known him.  The heavy work imposed upon the garrison in repairs and construction, as well as the strain upon the system by constant exposure to the enemy's fire, had induced General Beauregard to adopt the plan of relieving the garrison every few days by fresh troops.  The objection to this was that the new men had to be instructed and familiarized with their duties; but still it was wise and necessary, for the same set of officers and men, if retained any length of time, would have been broken down by the arduous service required of them.  The relief was sent by regiments and detachments, so there was never an entirely new body of men in the works.
     "The garrison was estimated at one thousand seven hundred aggregate.  The staff of General Taliaferro consisted of Captain Twiggs, Quartermaster General; Captain W. T. Taliaferro, Adjutant General; Lieutenants H. C. Cunningham and Magyck, Ordnance Officers; Lieutenants Meade and Stoney, Aides-de-Camp; Major Holcombe; Captain Burke, Quartermaster, and Habersham, Surgeon-in-Chief; Private Stockman of McEnery's Louisiana Battalion, who had been detailed as clerk because of his incapacity for other duty from most honorable wounds, acted also in capacity of aid.
    
The Charleston Battalion was assigned to that part of the work which extended from the Sally port or Lighthouse Inlet creek around to the left until it occupied part of the face to the south, including the western bastion; the Fifty-first North Carolina connected with these troops on the left and extended to the southeast bastion; the rest of the work was to be occupied by the Thirty-first North Carolina Regiment, and a small force from that regiment was detailed as a reserve, and two campanies of the Charleston Battalion were to occupy outside of the fort the covered way spoken of and some sand-hills by the seashore; the artillery was distributed among the several gun-chambers and the light pieces posted on a traverse outside so as to sweep to sea face and the right approach.  The positions to be occupied were well known to every officer and man and had been verified repeatedly by day and night, so there was no fear of confusion, mistake or delay in the event of an assault.  The troops of course were not ordered to these positions when at 6 o'clock it was evident a furious bombardment was impending, but, on the contrary, to the shelter of the bomb-proofs, sand-hills and parapet; a few sentinels or videttes were detailed and the gun detachments only ordered to their pieces.
     "The Charleston Battalion perferred the freer air of the open work to the stifling atmosphere of the bomb-proofs and were permitted to shelter themselves under the parapet and traverses.  Not one of that heroic band entered the opening of a bomb-proof during that frightful day.  The immense superiority of the enemy's artillery was well understood and appreciated by the Confederate commander, and it was clear to him that his policy was to husband his resources and preserve them as best he could for the assault, which it was reasonable to expect would occur during the day.  He recognized the fact that his guns were only

[Pg. 260]
defensive and he had little or no offensive power with which to contend with his adversaries.  Acting on his conviction he had the light guns dismounted and covered with sand bags, and the same precaution was adopted to preserve some of the shell guns or fixed carriages.  The propriety of this determination was abundantly demonstrated in the end.
     "About a quarter past 8 o'clock the storm broke, ship after ship and battery after battery, and then apparently all together, vomited forth their horrid flames and the atmosphere was filled with deadly missiles.  It is impossible for any pen to describe or for anyone who was not an eye-witness to conceive the frightful grandeur of the spectacle.  The writer has never had the fortune to read any official Federal report or any other account of the operations of this day except an extract from any other account of the operations of this day except an extract from the graphic and eloquent address of the Rev. Mr. Dennison, a chaplain of one of the Northern regiments, delivered on its nineteenth anniversary at Providence, R. I.  He says: 'Words cannot depict the thunder, the smoke, and lifted sand and the general havoc which characterized that hot summer day.  What a storm of iron fell on that island; the roar of the guns was incessant; how the shots ploughed the sand banks and the marshes; how the splinters flew from the Beacon House; how the whole island smoked like a furnace and trembled as from an earthquake.'
     "if that was true outside of Wagner it is easy to conceive how intensified the situation was within its narrow limits towards which every hostile gun was pointed.  The sand came down in avalanches; huge vertical shells and those rolled over by the ricochet shots from the ships, buried themselves and then exploded, rending the earth and forming great craters, out of which the sand and iron fragments few high in the air.  It was a fierce sirocco freighted with iron as well as sand.  The sand flew over from the seashore, from the glacis, from the exterior slope, from the parapet, as it was ploughed up and lifted and driven by resistless force now in spray and now almost in waves over into the work, the men sometimes half buried by the moving mass.  The chief anxiety was about the magazines.  The profile of the fort might be destroyed, the ditch filled up, the traverses and bomb-proof barracks knocked out of shape, but the protecting banks of sand would still afford their shelter; but if the coverings of the magazines were blown away and they became exposed, the explosion that would ensue would lift fort and garrison into the air and annihilate all in general chaos.  They were carefully watched and reports of their condition required to be made at short intervals during the day.
     Wagner replied to the enemy, her 10-inch columbiad alone to the ships, deliberately at intervals of fifteen minutes, the other guns to the land batteries whenever in range, as long as they were serviceable.  The 32-pounder rifled guns was soon rendered useless by bursting and within two hours many other guns had been dismounted and their carriages destroyed.  Sumter, Colonel Alfred Rhett in command, and Gregg, under charge of Captain Sesesne, with the Sullivan and James Island batteries at long range, threw all the power of their available metal at the assail-

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ants and added their thunders to that universal din; the harbor of Charlston was a volcano.  The want of water was felt, but now again unconsciously the enemy came to the assistance of the garrison, for water was actually scooped from the craters made in the sand by the exploded shells.  The city of Charleston was alive and aflame with excitement; the bay, the wharves, the steeples and streets filled with anxious spectators looking across the water at their defenders, whom they could not succor.
     "At 2 o'clock the flag halliards were cut by a shot and the Confederate garrison flag was blown over into the fort; there was an instant race for its recovery through the storm of missiles, over the broken earth and shells and splinteres which lined the parade.  Major Ramsey, Sergeant Shelton and private Flinn of Charleston Battalion, and Lieutenant Riddick,of the Sixty-third Georgia, first reached it and bore it back in triumph to the flagstaff, and at the same moment Captain Barnwell of the engineers, seized a battle-flag, and leaping on the ramparts, drove the staff into the sand.  This flag was again shot away, but was again replaced by Private Gaillard, of the Charleston Battalion.  These intrepid actions, emulating in a higher degree the conduct of SErgeant Jasper at Moultrie during the Revolution, were cheered by the command and inspired them with renewed courage.
     "The day wore on; thousands upon thousands of shells and round shot, shells loaded with balls, shells of guns and shells of mortars, percussion shells, exploding upon impact, shells with graded fuses - every kind apparently known to the arsenals of war leaped into  and around the doomed fort, yet there was no cessation; the sun seemed to stand still and the long midsummer day to know no right.  Some men were dead and no scratch appeared on their bodies; the concussion had forced the breath from their lungs and collapsed them into corpses.  Captain Twiggs, of the staff, in executing some orders was found apparently dead.  He was untouched, but lifeless, and only strong restoratives brought him back to animation, and the commanding officer was buried knee-deep in sand and had to be rescued by spades from his imprisonment.  The day wore on, hous followed hours of anxiety and grim endurance, but no respite ensued.  At last night came; not however, to herald a cessation of the strife, but to usher in a conflict still more terrible.  More than eleven hours had passed.  The fort was torn and mutilated; to the outside observer it was apparently powerless, knocked to pieces and pounded out of shape, the outline changed, the exterior slope full of gaping wounds, the ditch half filled up, but the interior still preserved its form and its integrity; scarred and defaced it was yet a citadel which, although not offensive, was defiant.
     It was nearly eight-o'clock at night, but still twilight, when a calm came and the blazing circle ceased to glow with flame.  The ominous pause was understood; it required no signals to be read by those to whom they were not directed to inform them that the supreme moment to test the value of the day's achievements was now at hand.  It meant nothing but assault.  Dr. Dennison says the assault was intended to be

[Pg. 262]
a surprise.  He over-estimates the equanimity of the Confederate commander if he supposes that that bombardment, which would have waked the dead, had lulled him into security and repose.  The buried cannon were at once exhumed, the guns remounted and the garrison ordered to their appointed posts.  The Charleston Battalion were already formed and in position; they had nestled under the parapet and stood ready in their places.  The other troops with the exception of part of one regiment, responded to the summons with extraordinary celerity, and the echoes of the Federal guns had hardly died away before more than three-fourths of the ramparts were lined with troops ; one gap remained unfilled; the demoralized men who should have filled it clung to the bomb-proofs and stayed there.  The gallant Colonel Simpkins called his men to the gun-chambers wherever guns existed.  De Pass, with his light artillery on the traverse to the left, his guns remounted and untouched, stood ready, and Colonel Harris moved a howitzer outside the fort to the right to deliver an enfilade fire upon the assailants.
     "The dark masses of the enemies columns, brigade after brigade, were seen in the fading twilight to approach; line after line was formed and then came the rush.  A small creek made in on the right of the fort and intercepted the enemy's left attack; they did not know it, or did not estimate it.  Orders were given to Gaillard to hold his fire and deliver no direct shot.  It was believed the obstacle presented by the creek would confuse the assailants, cause them to incline to the right and mingle their masses at the head of the obstacle and thus their movements would be obstructed.  It seemed to have the anticipated effect and the assaulting columns apparently jumbled together at this point were met by the withering volleys of McKethan's direct and Gaillard's cross-fire and by the direct discharge of the shell guns, supplemented by the frightful enfilading discharges of the lighter guns upon the right and left.  It was terrible, but with an unsurpassed gallantry the Federal soldiers breasted the storm and rushed onward to the glacis.
     "The Confederates, not fourteen hundred strong, with the tenacity of bull dogs and a fierce courage which was roused to madness by the frightful inaction to which they had been subjected, poured from the ramparts and embrasures sheets of flame and a tempest of lead and iron, yet their intrepid assailants rushed on like the waves of the sea by whose shore they fought.  They fell by hundreds, but they pushed on, reeling under the frightful blasts that almost blew them to pieces, some up to the Confederate bayonets.  The southeast bastion was weakly defended, and into it a considerable body of the enemy made their way but they were caught in a trap, for they could not leave it.  The fight continued; but it was impossible to stem the torrent of deadly missiles which poured out from the fort, the reflux of that terrible tide which had poured in all day, and the Federals retreated, leaving near a thousand dead around the fort.
     "There was no cessation of the Confederate fire.  Sumter and Gregg threw their shells along with those of Wagner upon the retiring foe; nor

[Pg. 263]
was the conflict over in the fort itself.  The party which had gained access by the salient next the sea could not escape.  It was certain death to attempt to pass the line of concentrated fire which swept the faces of the work, and they did not attempt it; but they would not surrender, and in desperation kept up a constant fire upon the main body of the fort.  The Confederates called for volunteers to dislodge them a summons which was promptly responded to by Major McDonald, of the Fifty-first North Carolina, and by Captain Rion, of the Charleston Battalion, with the requisite number of men.  Rion's company was selected, and the gallant Irishman, at the head of his company, dashed at the reckless and insane men, who seemed to insist upon immolation.  The tables were now singularly turned; the assailants had become the assailed and they held a fort within the fort, and were protected by the traverses and gun chambers, behind which they fought.  Rion rushed at them, but he fell, shot outright, with several of his men, and the rest recoiled.  At this time General Hagood reported to General Taliaferro with Colonel Harrison's splendid regiment, the Thirty-second Georgia, sent over by Beauregard to his assistance as soon as a landing could be effected at Cummings' Point.  These troops were ordered to move along on the traverses and bomb-proofs, and to plunge their concentrated fire over the stronghold.  Still, for a time, the enemy held out, but at last they cried out and surrendered.
     "The carnage was frightful. It is believed the Federals lost more men on that eventful night than twice the entire strength of the Confederate garrison.  The Confederates lost eight killed and twenty wounded by the bombardment and about fifty killed and one hundred and fifty wounded altogether from the bombardment and assault.  Among the killed were those gallant officers, Lieutenant Colonel Simkins and Major Ramsey and among the wounded Captains DePass and Twiggs, of the staff, and Lieutenants Storey (Aide-de-Camp), Power and Watties.  According to the statement of Chaplain Dennison the assaulting columns in two brigades, commanded by General Strong and Colonel Putnam (the division under General Seymour), consisted of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts, Third and Seventh New Hampshire, Sixth Connecticut and One Hundredth New York, with a reserve brigade commanded by General Stephenson.  One of the assaulting regiments was composed of negroes (the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts) and to it was assigned the honor of leading the white columns to the charge. It was a dearly purchased compliment.  Their Colonel (Shaw) was killed upon the parapet and the regiment almost annihilated, although the Confederates in the darkness could not tell the color of their assailants.  Both the brigade commanders were killed as well as Colonel Chatfield.
     "The same account says:  'We lost 55 officers and 585 men, a total of 640, one of the choicest martyr rolls of the war.'  By 'lost,'  'killed' is supposed to be meant, but still that number greatly falls short of the number reported by the Confederates to have been buried on the 19th by them and by their own friends under a flag of truce.  These reports show

[Pg. 264]
that 800 were buried, and as a number were taken prisoners, and it is fair to estimate that three were wounded to one killed, the total loss of the Federals exceeded 3,000.  The writer's official report estimates the Federal loss at not less than 2,000; General Beauregard's at 3,000.  The Federal official reports have not been seen. 
     "The limits prescribed for this paper would be exceeded if any account of the remaining forty-eight days of the heroic strife on Morris Island were attempted.  It closes with the repulse of the second assault, and it is a fit conclusion to render the homage due to the gallantry of the contestants by quoting and adopting the language of Dr. Dennison's address: 'The truest courage and determination was manifested on both sides on that crimson day at that great slaughter-house, Wagner.' "

     It was no longer a question of doubt as to the valor of Northern negroes.  The assault on Fort Wagner completely removed any prejudice that had been exhibited toward negro troops in the Department of the South.  General Gillrnore immediately issued an order forbidding any distinction to be made among troops in his command.  So that while the black Phalanx had lost hundreds of its members, it nevertheless won equality in all things save the pay.  The Government refused to place them on a footing even with their Southern brothers, who received $7 per month and the white troops $13.  However, they were not fighting for pay, as "Stonewall" of Company C argued, but for the "freedom of our kin" Nobly did they do this, not only at Wagner, as we have seen, but in the battles on James Island, Honey Hill, Olustee and at Boykin's Mill.
     In the winter of 1864, the troops in the Department of the South lay encamped on the islands in and about Charleston harbor, resting from their endeavors to drive
the confederates from their strongholds.  The city was five miles away in the distance.  Sumter, grim, hoary and in ruins, yet defying the National authority, was silent.
General Gillmore was in command of the veteran legions of the 10th Army Corps, aided by a powerful fleet of ironclads and other war vessels.  There laid the city of Charleston, for the time having a respite. General Gillmore was giving rest to his troops, before he began again to throw Greek tire into the city and batter the walls of its defences.  The shattered ranks of the Phalanx soldiers rested in the

[Pg. 265]
midst of thousands of their white comrades-in-arms, to whom they nightly repeated the story of the late terrible struggle.  The solemn sentry pacing the ramparts of Fort Wagner night and day, his bayonet glittering in the rays of the sun or in the moonlight, seemed to be guarding the sepulchre of Col. Shaw and those who fell beside him within the walls of that gory fort, and who were buried where they fell.  Only those who have lived in such a camp can appreciate the stories of hair-breadth escapes from hand-to-hand fights.
     The repose lasted until January, when an important movement took place for the permanent occupation of Florida.  The following account, written by the author of this book, was published in " The Journal," of Toledo, O.:

     "The twentieth day of February, 1864, was one of the most disastrous to the Federal arms, and to the administration of President Lincoln, in the annals of the war for the union.  Through private advice Mr. Lincoln had received information which led him to believe that the people in the State of Florida, a large number of them, at least, were ready and anxious to identify the State with the cause of the Union, and he readily approved of the Federal forces occupying the State, then almost deserted by the rebels.  Gen. Gillmore, commanding the Department of the South had a large force before Charleston, S. C, which had been engaged in the capture of Fort Wagner and the bombardment of the city of Charleston, and the reduction of Sumter.
     "These objects being accomplished, the army having rested several months, Gen. Gillmore asked for leave to undertake such expeditions within his Department as he might think proper.  About the middle of December, 1861, the War Department granted him his request, and immediately he began making preparations for an expedition, collecting transports, commissary stores, drilling troops, etc., etc.
     "About the 1st of January, 1864, General Gillmore wrote to the General-in-Chief, Halleck, that he was about to occupy the west bank of St. Johns river, with the view (1st) to open an outlet to cotton, lumber, etc., (2d) to destroy one of the enemy's sources of supplies, (3d) to give the negroes opportunity of enlisting in the army, (4th) to inaugurate measures for the speedy restoration of Florida to the Union.
     "In accordance with instructions from President Lincoln received through the assistant Adjutant General, Major J. H. Hay, who would accompany the expedition, on the 5th of February the troops began to embark under the immediate command of General Truman Seymour, on board of twenty steamers and eight schooners, consisting of the following regiments, numbering in all six thousand troops, and under convoy

[Pg. 266]
of the gunboat Norwich:
     "40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry, Col. Guy V. Henry.
    
"7th Connecticut, Col. J. R. Hawley.
     "7th New Hampshire, Col. Abbott.
     "47th, 48th and 115th New York, Col. Barton's command.
     "The Phalanx regiments were: 8th Pennsylvania, Col. Fribley; 1st North Carolina, Lt.-Col. Reed; 54th Massachusetts, Col. Hallowell; 2d South Carolina, Col. Beecher; 55th Massachusetts, Col. Hartwell, with three batteries of white troops, Hamilton's, Elder's and Langdon's.  Excepting the two last named regiments, this force landed at Jacksonville on the 7th of February, and pushed on, following the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry, which captured by a bold dash Camp Finnigan, about seven miles from Jacksonville, with its equipage, eight pieces of artillery, and a number of prisoners.  On the 10th, the whole force had reached Baldwin, a railroad station twenty miles west of Jacksonville.  There the army encamped, except Col. Henry's force, which continued its advance towards Tallahassee, driving a small force of Gen. Finnegan's command before him.  This was at the time all the rebel force in east Florida.  On the 18th Gen. Seymour, induced by the successful advance of Col. Henry, lead his troops from Baldwin with ten days' rations in their haversacks, and started for the Suwanee river, about a hundred and thirty miles from Baldwin station, leaving the 2d South Carolina and the 55th Massachusetts Phalanx regiments to follow.  After a fatiguing march the column, numbering about six thousand, reached Barbour's Station, on the Florida Central Railroad, twenty miles from Baldwin.  Here the command halted and bivouaced, the night of the 19th, in the woods bordering upon a wooded ravine running off towards the river from the railroad track.
"It is now nineteen years ago, and I write from memory of a night long to be remembered.  Around many a Grand Army Camp-fire in the last fifteen years this bivouac has been made the topic of an evening's talk. It was attended with no particular hardship.  The weather was such as is met with in these latitudes, not cold, not hot, and though a thick vapory cloud hid the full round moon from early eventide until the last regiment filed into the woods, yet there was a halo of light that brightened the white, sandy earth and gave to the moss-laden limbs of the huge pines which stood sentry-like on the roadside the appearance of a New England grove on a frosty night, with a shelled road leading through it.
    "It was well in the night when the two Phalanx regiments filed out of the road into the woods, bringing up the rear of the army, and took shelter under the trees from the falling dew.  Amid the appalling stillness that reigned throughout the encampment, except the tramp of feet and an occasional whickering of a battery horse, no sound broke the deep silence.  Commands were given in an undertone and whispered along the long lines of weary troops that lay among the trees and the underbrush of the pine forest.  Each soldier lay with his musket beside him, ready to

[Pg. 267]
spring to his feet and in line for battle, for none knew the moment the enemy, like a tiger, would pounce upon them.  It was a night of intense anxiety, shrouded in mystery as to what to-morrow would bring.  The white and black soldier in one common bed lay in battle panoply, dream mg their common dreams of home and loved ones.
     "Here lay the heroic 54th picturing to themselves the memorable nights of July 17 and 18, their bivouac on the beach and their capture of Fort Wagner and the« terrible fate of their comrades. They were all veteran troops save the 8th Pennsylvania, which upon many hard fought fields had covered themselves with gallant honor in defense of their country's cause, from Malvern Hill to Morris Island.
     It was in the gray of the next morning that Gen. Seymour's order aroused the command.  The men partook of a hastily prepared cup of coffee and meat and hard-tack from their haversacks.  At sunrise the troops took up the line of march, following the railroad for Lake City.  Col. Henry, with the 40th Massachusetts Mounted Infantry and Major Stevens' independent battalion of Massachusetts cavalry, led the column.  About half-past one o'clock they reached a point where the country road crossed the railroad, about two miles east of Olustee, and six miles west of Sanderson, a station through which the troops passed about half-bast eleven o'clock. As the head of the column reached the crossing the rebel pickets fired and fell back upon a line of skirmishers, pursued by Col. Henry's command.  The enemy's main force was supposed to be some miles distant from this place, consequently General Seymour had not taken the precaution to protect his flanks, though marching through an enemy's country. Consequently he found his troops flanked on either side.
     "Col. Henry drove the skirmishers back upon their main forces, which were strongly posted between two swamps.  The position was admirably chosen  their right rested upon a low, slight earthwork, protected by rifle-pits, their center was defended by an impassable swamp, and on their left was a cavalry force drawn up on a small elevation behind the shelter of a grove of pines.  Their camp was intersected by the rail road, on which was placed a battery capable of operating against the center and left of the advancing column, while a rifle gun, mounted on a railroad flat, pointed down the road in front.
     "Gen. Seymour, in order to attack this strongly fortified position, had necessarily to place his troops between the two swamps, one in his front, the other in the rear.  The Federal cavalry, following up the skirmishers, had attacked the rebel right and were driven back, but were met by the 7th New Hampshire, 7th Connecticut, a regiment of the black Phalanx (8th Pennsylvania), and Elder's battery of four and Hamilton's of six pieces.  This force was hurled against the rebel right with such impetuosity that the batteries were within one hundred yards of the rebel line of battle before they knew it.  However, they took position, and supported by the Phalanx regiment, opened a vigorous fire upon the rebe
l earthworks.  The Phalanx regiment advanced within twenty or

[Pg. 268]
thirty yards of the enemy's rifle-pits, and poured a volley of minie balls into the very faces of those who did not fly on their approach.
     "The 7th Connecticut and the 7th New Hampshire, the latter with their seven-shooters, Spencer repeaters, Col. Hawley, commanding, had taken a stand further to the right of the battery, and were hotly engaging the rebels.  The Phalanx regiment (8th), after dealing out two rounds from its advanced position, finding the enemy's force in the center preparing to charge upon them, fell back under cover of Hamilton's battery, which was firing vigorously and effectively into the rebel column.  The 7th Connecticut and New Hampshire about this time ran short of ammunition, and Col. Hawley, finding the rebels outnumbered his force three to one, was about ordering Col. Abbott to fall back and out of the concentrated fire of the enemy pouring upon his men, when he observed the rebels coming in for a down upon his column.
     "Here they come like tigers; the Federal column wavers a little; it staggers and breaks, falling back in considerable disorder!  Col. Hawley now ordered Col. Fribley to take his Phalanx Regiment, the 8th, to the right of the battery and check the advancing rebel force.  No time was to be lost, the enemy's sharpshooters had already silenced two of Hamilton's guns, dead and dying men and horses lay in a heap about them, while at the remaining four guns a few brave artillerists were loading and fixing their pieces, retarding the enemy in his onward movement.
     "Deficient in artillery, they had not been able to check the Federal cavalry in its dash, but the concentrated fire from right to center demoralized, and sent them galloping over the field wildly.  Col. Fribley gave the order by the right flank, double quick! and the next moment the 8th Phalanx swept away to the extreme right in support of the 7th New Hampshire and the 7th Connecticut.  The low, direct aim of the enemy in the rifle-pits, his Indian sharp-shooters up in the trees, had ere now so thinned the ranks of Col. Hawley's command that his line was gone, and the 8th Phalanx met the remnant of his brigade as it was going to the rear in complete disorder.  The rebels ceased firing and halted as the Phalanx took position between them and their fleeing comrades.  They halted not perforce, but apparently for deliberation, when with one fell swoop in the next moment they swept the field in their front.
     "The Phalanx did not, however, quit the field in a panic-stricken manner but fell hastily back to the battery, only to find two of the guns silent and their brave workers and horses nearly all of them dead upon the field.  With a courage undaunted, surpassed by no veteran troops on any battle-field, the Phalanx attempted to save the silent guns. In this effort Col. Fribley was killed, in the torrent of rebel bullets which fell upon the regiment.  It held the two guns, despite two desperate charges made by the enemy to capture them, but the stubbornness of the Phalanx was no match for the ponderous weight of their enemy's column, their sharpshooters and artillery mowing down ranks of their comrades at every volley.  A grander spectacle was never witnessed than that which this regiment gave of gallant courage.  They left their guns

[Pg. 269]
only when their line officers and three hundred and fifty of their valient soldiers were dead upon the field, the work of an hour and a half.  The battery lost forty of its horses and four of its brave men.  The Phalanx saved the colors of the battery with its own.  Col. Barton's brigade, the 47th, 48th and 115th New York, during the fight on the right had held the enemy in the front and center at bay, covering Elder's battery, and nobly did they do their duty, bravely maintaining the reputation they had won before Charleston, but like the other troops, the contest was too unequal.  The rebels outnumbered them five to one, and they likewise gave way, leaving about a fourth of their number upon the field, dead and wounded.
     "Col. Montgomery's brigade, comprising two Phalanx regiments, 54th Massachusetts and 1st North Carolina, which had been held in reserve about a mile down the road, now came up at double-quick.   They were under heavy marching orders, with ten days' rations in their knapsacks, besides their cartridge boxes they carried ten rounds in their overcoat pockets.  The road was sandy, and the men often found their feet beneath the sand, but with their wonted alacrity they speed on up the road, the 54th leading in almost a locked running step, followed closely by the 1st North Carolina.  As they reached the road intersected by the railroad they halted in the rear of what remained of Hamilton's battery, loading a parting shot.  The band of the 54th took position on the side of the road, and while the regiments were unstringing knapsacks as coolly as if about to bivouac, the music of the band burst out on the sulphureous air, amid the roar of artillery, the rattle of musketry and the shouts of commands, mingling its soul-stirring strains with the deafening yells of the charging columns, right, left, and from the rebel center.  Thus on the very edge of the battle, nay, in the battle, the Phalanx band poured out in heroic measures 'The Star Spangled Banner.'  Its thrilling notes, souring above the battles' gales, aroused to new life and renewed energy the panting, routed troops, flying in broken and disordered ranks from the field. Many of them halted, the New York troops particularly, and gathered at the battery again, pouring a deadly volley into the enemy's works and ranks.  The 54th had but a moment to prepare for the task.  General Seymour rode up and appealed to the Phalanx to check the enemy and save the army from complete and total annihilation.  Col. Montgomery gave Col. Hallowell the order 'Forward,' pointing to the left, and away went the 54th Phalanx regiment through the woods, down into the swamp, wading up to their knees in places where the water reached their hips; yet on they went till they reached terra firma.  Soon the regiment stood in line of battle, ready to meet the enemy's advancing cavalry, emerging from the extreme left.
     " 'Hold your fire !' the order ran down the line.  Indeed, it was trying.  The cavalry had halted but the enemy, in their rifle-pits in the center of their line, poured volley after volley into the ranks of the Phalanx, which it stood like a wall of granite, holding at bay the rebel cavalry hanging on the edge of a pine grove. The 1st Phalanx regiment

[Pg. 270]
entered the field in front, charged the rebels in the centre of the line, driving them into their rifle-pits, and then for half an hour the carnage became frightful.  They had followed the rebels into the very jaws of death, and now Col. Reid found his regiment in the enemy's enfilading fire, and they swept his line.  Men fell like snowflakes.  Driven by this terrific iire, they fell back.  The 54th had taken ground to the right, lending whatever of assistance they could to their retiring comrades, who were about on a line with them, for although retreating, it was in the most cool and deliberate manner, and the two regiments began a firing at will against which the rebels, though outnumbering them, could not face.  Thus they held them till long after sunset, and firing ceased. 
     "The slaughter was terrible; the Phalanx lost about 800 men, the white troops about 600.  It was Braddock's defeat after the lapse of a century."

     The rout was complete; the army was not only defeated but beaten and demoralized.  The enemy had succeeded in drawing it into a trap for the purpose of annihilating it.  Seymour had advanced, contrary to the orders given him by General Gillmore, from Baldwin's Station, where he was instructed to intrench and await orders.  Whether or not he sought to retrieve the misfortunes that had attended him in South Carolina, in assaulting the enemy's works, is a question which need not be discussed here.  It is only necessary to show the miserable mismanagement of the advance into the enemy's country.  The troops were marched into an ambuscade, where they were slaughtered by the enemy at will.  Even after finding his troops ambuscaded, and within two hundred yards of the confederate fortifications, General Seymour did not attempt to fall back and form a line of battle, though he had sufficient artillery, but rushed brigade after brigade up to the enemy's guns, only to be mowed down by the withering storm of shot.  Each brigade in turn went in as spirited as any troops ever entered a fight, but stampeded out of it maimed, mangled and routed. At sunset the road, foot-paths and woods leading back to Saunders' Station, was full of brave soldiers hastening from the massacre of their comrades, in their endeavor to escape capture.  At about nine o'clock that night, what remained of the left column, Colonel Montgomery's brigade, consisting of the 54th and 35th Phalanx Regiments, and a bat

[Pg. 271]


CHARGE OF THE PHALANX.

[Pg. 272] - BLANK

[Pg. 273] - DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH. -
tery, arrived at the Station, and reported the confederates  in hot pursuit.  Instantly the shattered, scattered troops fled to the roads leading to Barber's, ten miles away, with no one to command.  Each man took his own route for Barber's, leaving behind whatever would encumber him, arms, ammunition, knapsacks and cartridge boxes; many of the latter containing forty rounds of cartridges.  It was long past midnight when Barber's was reached, and full day before the frightened mob arrived at the Station.  At sunrise on the morning of the 21st, the scene presented at Barber's was sickening and sad.  The wounded lay everywhere, upon the ground, huddled around the embers of fagot tires, groaning and uttering cries of distress.  The surgeons were busy relieving, as best they could, the more dangerously wounded.  The foot-sore and hungry soldiers sought out their bleeding and injured comrades and placed them upon railroad flats, standing upon the tracks, and when these were loaded, ropes and strong vines were procured and fastened to the flats.  Putting themselves in the place of a locomotive, several of which stood upon the track at Jacksonville, the mangled and mutilated forms of about three hundred soldiers were dragged forward mile after mile.  Just in the rear, the confederates kept up a fire of musketry, as though to hasten on the stampede.  It was well into the night when the train reached Baldwin's, where it was thought the routed force would occupy the extensive work encircling the station, but they did not stop; their race was continued to Jacksonville.  At Baldwin's an agent of the Christian Commission gave the wounded each two crackers, without water.  This over with, the train started for Jacksonville, ten miles further.  The camp of Colonel Beecher's command, 2nd Phalanx Regiment, w^as reached, and here coffee was furnished.  At daylight the train reached Jacksonville, where the wounded were carried to the churches and cared for.  The battle and the retreat had destroyed every vestige of distinction based upon color.  The troops during the battle had fought together, as during the stampede they had endured its horrors together.

[Pg. 274]

     The news of the battle and defeat reached Beaufort the night of the 23rd of February.  It was so surprising that it was doubted, but when a boat load of wounded men arrived, all doubts were dispelled.
     Colonel T. W. Higginson, who was at Beaufort at the time with his regiment, (1st S. C.), thus notes the reception of the news in his diary, which we quote with a few comments from his admirable book, "Army Life in a Black Regiment":

                                                    " 'FEBRUARY 19TH.

     " ' Not a bit of it!  This morning the General has ridden up radiant, has seen General Gillmore, who has decided not order us to Florida at all, nor withdraw any of this garrison.  Moreover, he says that all which is intended in Florida is done - that there will be no advance to Tallahassee, and General Seymour will establish a camp of instruction in Jacksonville.  Well, if that is all, it is a lucky escape.
     "We little dreamed that on that very day the march toward Olustee was a beginning.  The battle took place next day, and I add one more extract to show how the news reached Beaufort.

                                                    " 'FEBRUARY 23, 1864.
     " 'There was a sound of revelry by night at a ball in Beaufort last night, in a new large building beautifully decorated.  All the collected flags of the garrison hung round and over us, as if the stars and stripes were devised for an ornament alone.  The array of uniforms was such, that a civilian became a distinguished object, much more a lady.  All would have gone according to the proverbial marriage bell, I suppose, had there not been a slight palpable shadow over all of us from hearing vague stories of a lost battle in Florida, and from the thought that perhaps the very ambulances in which we rode to the ball were ours only until the wounded or the dead might tenant them.
     " 'General Gillmore only came, I supposed, to put a good face upon the matter.  He went away soon, and General Saxton went; then came a rumor that the Cosmopolitan had actually arrived with wounded, but still the dance went on.  There was nothing unfeeling about it - one gets used to things,  - when suddenly, in the midst of the 'Lancers,' there came a perfect hush, the music ceasing, a few surgeons went hastily to and fro, as if conscience stricken (I should think they might have been), and then there 'waved a mighty shadow in,' as in Uhland's 'Black Knight,' and as we all stood wondering we were aware of General Saxton who strode hastily down the hall, his pale face very resolute, and looking almost sick with anxiety.  He had just been on board the steamer; there were two hundred and fifty wounded men just arrived, and the ball must end. Not that there was anything for us to do, but the revel was mis-timed, and must be ended; it was wicked to be dancing with such a scene of suffering near by.

[Pg. 275] - BLANK

[Pg. 276]


PHALANX RIVER PICKETS DEFENDING THEMSELVES
Federal picket boat near Fernandina, Fla., attached by Confederate sharpshooters
stationed in the trees on the banks.

[Pg. 277]
   
 " 'Of course the ball was instantly broken up, though with some murmurings and some longings of appetite, on the part of some, toward the wasted supper.
     " 'Later, I went on board the boat.  Among the long lines of wounded, black and white intermingled, there was the wonderful quiet which usually prevails on such occasions.  Not a sob nor a groan, except from those undergoing removal.  It is not self-control, but chiefly the shock to the system produced by severe wounds, especially gunshot wounds, and which usually keeps the patient stiller at first than at any later time.
     " 'A company from my regiment waited on the wharf, in their accustomed dusky silence, and I longed to ask them what they thought of our Florida disappointment now?  In view of what they saw, did they still wish we had been there?  I confess that in presence of all that human suffering, I could not wish it. But I would not have suggested any such thought to them.
     " 'I found our kind-hearted ladies, Mrs. Chamberlin and Mrs. Dewhurst, on board the steamer, but there was nothing for them to do, and we walked back to camp in the radiant moonlight; Mrs. Chamberlin more than ever strengthened in her blushing woman's philosophy, 'I don't care who wins the laurels, provided we don't!'

                                                              " 'FEBRUARY 29TH.
     "'But for a few trivial cases of varioloid, we should certainly have been in that disastrous fight.  We were confidently expected for several days at Jacksonville, and the commanding general told Hallowell that we, being the oldest colored regiment, would have the right of the line.  This was certainly to miss danger and glory very closely.' "

     At daybreak on the 8th of March, 1864, the 7th Regiment, having left Camp Stanton, Maryland, on the 4th and proceeded to Portsmouth, Va., embarked on board the steamer "Webster" for the Department of the South.  Arriving at Hilton Head, the regiment went into camp for a few days, then it embarked for Jacksonville, Fla., at which place it remained for some time, taking part in several movements into the surrounding country and participating in a number of quite lively skirmishes.  On the 27th of June a considerable portion of the Regiment was ordered to Hilton Head, where it arrived on July 1st; it went from there to James Island, where with other troops a short engagement with the confederates was had.  Afterwards the regiment returned to Jacksonville, Fla., remaining in that vicinity engaged in raiding the adjacent territory until the 4th of August, when the regiment was

[Pg. 278]
ordered to Virginia, to report to the Army of the Potomoc, where it arrived on Aug. 8th.  The 55th Massachusetts Regiment was also ordered to the Department of the South.  It left Boston July 21st, 1863, on the steamer "Cahawba," and arrived at Newbern on the 25th.  After a few days of rest, to recover from the effects of the voyage, the regiment was put into active service, and performed a large amount of marching and of the arduous duties required of a soldier.  Many skirmishes and actions of more or less importance were participated in. February 13th, 1864, the regiment took a steamer for Jacksonville, Fla, and spent considerable time in that section and at various points on the St. Johns river.  In June the regiment was ordered to the vicinity of Charleston, and took part in several of the engagements which occurred in that neighborhood, always sustaining and adding to the reputation they were acquiring for bravery and good soldierly conduct.  The regiment passed its entire time of active service in the department to which it was first sent, and returned to Boston, Mass., where it was mustered out, amid great rejoicing, on the 23rd of September, 1865.  The battles in which the 54th Regiment were engaged were some of the most sanguinary of the war.  The last fight of the regiment, which, like the battle of New Orleans, took place after peace was declared, is thus described by the Drummer Boy of Company C, Henry A. Monroe, of New Bedford, Mass.:

BOYKIN'S MILL.

"One wailing bugle note, -
Then at the break of day,
With Martial step and gay,
The army takes its way
From Camden town.

There lay along the path,
Defending native land;
A daring, desperate band
Entrenched on either hand
In ambuscade.

A low and dark ravine
Beneath a rugged hill,
Where stood the Boykin Mill
Spanning the creek, whose rill
Flows dark and deep.

Only a narrow bank
Where one can scarcely tread;
Thick branches meet o'erhead;
Across the mill-pond's bed
A bridge up-torn

-----
     * NOTE. Boykin's Mill, a few miles from Camden, S. C., was the scene of one of the bloodiest skirmishes that the 54th Regt. ever participated in.  We had literally fought every step of the way from Georgetown to Camden, and the enemy made a last desperate stand at this place.  No better position could be found for a defense, as the only approach to it, was by a narrow embankment about 200 yards long, where only one could walk at a time.  The planks of the bridge over the mill-race were torn up, compelling the troops to cross on the timbers and cross-ties, under a galling fire which swept the bridge and embankment, rendering it a fearful 'way of death.'  The heroes of Wagner and Olustee did not shrink from the trial, but actually charged in single file.  The first to step upon the fatal path, went down like grass before the scythe, but over their prostrate bodies came their comrades, until the enemy, panic-stricken by such determined daring, abandoned their position and fled.

[Page 279]

One single sharp report!
A hundred muskets peal, -
A wild triumphant yell,
As back the army fell
Stunned, bleeding, faint.

As when some mighty rock
Obstructs the torrent's course,
After the moment's pause
Twill rush with greater force
Resistless on.

A moment's pause and then,
Our leader from  his post,
Viewing the stricken host,
Cried 'Comrades, all is lost
If we now fall!'

Forming in single file,
They gaze with bated breath,
Around - before - beneath -
On every hand, stern Death
His visage showed.

'Forward!' They quickly spring
With leveled bayonet;
Each eye is firmly set
Upon that pathway wet
With crimson gore.

That 'Balaklava' dash!
Right through the leaden hail,
O'er dyke and timbers frail,
With hearts that never fail
They boldly charge.

Facing the scathing fire
Without a halt or break;
Save when the moan or shriek,
In the blood-mingled creek
The wounded fall.

What could resist that charge?
Above the battle's roar.
There swells a deafening cheer
Telling to far and near,
The Mill is won!

     The slaughter was terrible, and among the killed was young Lieutenant Stevenson, a graduate of Harvard.  The affair was an unnecessary sacrifice of human life, for the war was over, peace had been declared, and President Lincoln had been assassinated; but in the interior of the Carolinas, the news did not reach until it was too late to prevent this final bloodshed of the war.  Perhaps it may be regarded as a fitting seal of the negro to his new covenant with freedom and his country.
     The very large number of negro groups which General Gillmore had under his command in the Department of the South, afforded him a better opportunity to test their fitness for and quality as soldiers, than any other commander had.  In fact the artillery operations in Charleston harbor, conducted throughout with remarkable engineering skill, perseverance and bravery, won for General Gillmmore and his troops the attention and admiration of the civilized world, and an exceptional place in the annals of military siege.  Such fame is sufficient to prompt an inquiry into the capacity of the men who performed the labor of planting the "Swamp Angel," which threw three hundred pound shot into the heart of Charleston, more than four miles away, and also mounted the six 200-pound cannons which demolished the forts in the harbor two miles distant.  The work of mounting these immense guns in swamp and mud could only be done by men who feared neither fatigue, suffering nor death.  After the accomplishment of these worlds, wonders, and the subjugation of

[Pg. 280]
"arrogant" Wagner, the following circular was addressed to the subordinate engineers for information regarding the negro troops, which drew forth explicit and interesting
answers:

"COLORED TROOPS FOR WORK. - CIRCULAR.

                                                                                   "HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
                                                                      "ENGINEER'S OFFICE, MORRIS' ISLAND, S. C., Sept. 10th, 1863.

     "As the important experiment which will test the fitness of the American negro for the duties of a soldier is now being tried, it is desirable that facts bearing on the question be carefully observed and recorded.
     "It is probable that in no military operations of the war have negro troops done so large a proportion, and so important and hazardous, fatigue duty, as in the siege operations on this island.
     "As you have directed the operations of working parties of both white and black prepared answer to the following inquiries, together with such statements as you choose to make bearing on this question:
     "I.  Courage as indicated by their behavior under fire.
     "II.  Skill and appreciateion of their duties, referring to the quality of the work performed.
     "III.  Industry and perseverance, with reference, to the quantity of the work performed.
     "IV.  If a certain work were to be accomplished in the least possible time, i. e., when enthusiasm and direct personal interest is necessary to attain the end, would whites or blacks answer best?
     "V.  What is the difference, considering the above points between colored troops recruited form the free States and those from the slave States?
                                                                                Very respectfully your obedient servant,
                                                                                                           "T. B. BROOKS,
                                                                                              Major, Aide-de-Camp and Ass't Engineer."

     Six replies to these enquiries were received from engineer officers who had been engaged in the siege, the substance of which is embraced in the following summary, following which two replies are given in full,

     "1. To the first question all answer that the black is more timorous than the white, but is in a corresponding degree more docile and obedient, hence more completely under the control of his commander, and much more influenced by his example.
     "2. All agree that the black is less skillful than the white soldier, but still enough so for most kinds of siege work.
     "3. The statements unanimously agree that the black will do a greater amount of work than the white soldier because he labors more constantly.
     "4. The whites are decidedly superior in enthusiasm.  The blacks cannot be easily hurried in their work, no matter what the emergency."
     "5. All agree that the colored troops recruited from free States are superior to those recruited from slave States.
     "It may with propriety be repeated here, that the average percentage of sick among the negro troops during the siege was 13.9, while that of the white infantry was 20.1 per cent.
     "The percentage of tours of duty performed by the blacks as compared with the white infantry, was as 56 to 41.  But the grand guard duty, which was considered much more wearing than fatigue, was all done by the whites."

[Pg. 281]

     "The efficiency and health of a battalion depends so much upon its officers, that, in order to institute a fair comparison, when so small a number of troops are considered, this element should be eliminated.  This has not, however, been attempted in this paper."

                                               [Reply in Full No. I.]
                                                     "MORRIS ISLAND, S. C., Sept. 11th, 1863.
     "MAJOR: In answer to your several queries as per circular of September 10, 1863, requesting my opinion as to the relative merits of white and black troops, for work in the trenches, I have the honor to make the the following replies:
     "I. 'Their courage as indicated by their behavior under fire.'  I will say, in my opinion, their courage is rather of the passive than the active kind.  They will stay, endure, resist, and follow, (but they have not the restless, aggressive spirit. I do not believe they will desert their officers in trying moments, in so great numbers as the whites; they have not the will, audacity or fertility of excuse of the straggling white, and at the same time they have not the heroic, nervous energy, or vivid perception of the white, who stands firm or presses forward.
     "I do not remember a single instance, in my labors in the trenches, where the black man has skulked away from his duty, and I know that instances of that kind have occurred among the whites; still I think that the superior energy and intelligence of those remaining, considering that the whites were the lesser number by the greater desertion, would more than compensate.
     "II. 'Skill and appreciation of their duties referring to the quality of the work.'
     "They have a fair share of both ; enough to make them very useful and efficient, but they have not apparently that superior intelligence and skill that may be found largely among the non-commissioned officers and privates of the white regiments.
     "III. 'Industry and perseverence with reference to the quantity of the work done.'
     "I think they will do more than the whites; they do not have so many complaints and excuses, but stick to their work patiently, doggedly, obediently, and accomplish a great deal, though I have never known them to work with any marked spirit or energy.  I should liken the white man to the horse (often untractable and balky), the black man to the ox.
     "IV.  'If a certain work were to be accomplished in the least possible time, i. e., when enthusiasm and direct personal interest is necessary to attain the end, would whites or blacks answer best?'
     "I cannot make up my mind that it is impossible to arouse the enthusiasm of the blacks, for I have seen enough of them to know that they are very emotional creatures ; still though they might have more dash than I have seen and think possible, it is unquestionable to my mind that were the enthusiasm and personal interest of both aroused, the white would far surpass the black.

[Pg. 282]

     "It seems to me that there is a hard nervous organization at the bottom of the character of the white, and a soft susceptible one at the bottom of the character of the black.
     "V. 'What is the difference, considering the above points, between colored troops recruited from the free States and those from the slave States?'
     "I should say that the free State men were the best; they have more of the self-reliance, and approximate nearer to the qualities of the white man in respect to dash and energy, than those from the slave States.
     "Summary. To me they compare favorably with the whites; they are easily handled, true and obedient; there is less viciousness among them; they are more patient; they have great constancy.  The character of the white, as you know, runs to extremes; one has bull-dog courage, another is a pitiful cur; one is excessively vicious, another pure and noble.  The phases of the character of the white touches the stars and descends to the lowest depths.  The blacks character occupies the inner circle.  Their status is mediocrity, and this mediocrity and uniformity, for military fatigue duty, I think, answers best.
                                                                       "I am respectfully your obedient servant,
                                                                                                        "JOSEPH WALKER.
                                                                "Captain New York Volunteer Engineers.
"Major T. B. BROOKS,
                    "Aide-de-Camp and Ass't. Eng. Dept. of the South."

-----
[Reply in Full No. 2.]

                                                "MORRIS ISLAND, Sept. 16th, 1863.
"Major T. B. BROOKS, Ass't. Engineer Dept. of the South."
     SIR: I have the honor to state that I received from you a circular of inquiry respecting the comparative merits of white and black soldiers for fatigue duty, requesting my opinion as derived from observation and actual intercourse with them, on several specified points, which I subjoin with the respective answers.
     "I. 'Courage as indicated by conduct under fire.'
     "I have found that the black troops manifest more timidity under fire than the white troops, but they are at the same time more obedient to orders, and more under control of their officers, in dangerous situations, than white soldiers.
     "II. 'Skill and appreciation of their duties with reference to the quality of the work performed.'
     "White soldiers are more intelligent and experienced and of course more skillful than the black ones, but they have not generally a corresponding appreciation of their duties. As a consequence I have found in most cases the work as well done by black as by white soldiers.
     "III. 'Industry and perseverence with reference to the amount of work performed.'
     "White soldiers work with more energy while they do work than the

[Pg. 283]
black ones, but do not work as constantly.  Black soldiers seldom intermit their labors except by orders or permission.  The result, as far as my observations extends, is that a greater amount of work is usually accomplished with black than with white soldiers.
     "IV. 'If a certain work were to be accomplished in the least possible time, when enthusiasm and direct personal interest is necessary to the attainment of the end, would whites or blacks answer best?'
     "Whites. Because though requiring more effort to control, they possess a greater energy of character and susceptibility of enthusiasm than the black race, which can be called into action lay an emergency or by a sufficient effort on the part of their officers.
     "V. 'What is the difference, considering the above points, between colored troops recruited from the free States and those from the slave States?'
     "I have observed a decided difference in favor of those recruited from the free States.
     "The problem involved in the foregoing investigation is more difficult of a solution than appears at first sight, owing to the fact that the degree of efficiency peculiar to any company of troops depends so much on the character of their officers, an element that must eliminate from the question in order to ascertain the quality of the material of which the troops are composed.
     "I have the honor to be your obedient servant,

                                                                                                 "H. FARRAND,
                                                                               "1st Lieut. New York Volunteer Engineers"

     In this Report to Major-General Gillmore, dated "Morris Island, Sept. 27th, 1863," Major Brooks his Assistant Enginieer, says:  "Of the numerous infantry regiments which furnished fatigue details, the Fourth New Hampshire Volunteers did the most and bst work.  Next follow the blacks, the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers, and Third United States Colored Troops."
     Annexed to these reports is also a statement of the labor days of the troops.

"WORKED PARTIES AND HEALTH OF TROOPS.

     'The total number of days' work, of six hours each, expended in Major Brooks' operations was, by engineers, 4.500, and by infantry 19,000, total 23,500; of the 19,000 days' work by infantry, one-half was performed by colored troops.  In addition to the above, 9,500 days' work was expended in preparing siege materials for Major Brooks' operations.  The infantry soldiers' days' work is about one-fifth what a citizen laborer would do on civil works.  Of my work, over eight-twentieths was against Wagner, about seven-twentieths on the defensive lines,, and nearly five-twentieths on the batteries against Sumter.

[Pg. 284] -

     "The approximate amount of labor actually expended on the more important works is as follows: One emplacement for a siege piece, 40 days; one emplacement for a heavy breaching gun, 100 days; one bomb-proof magazine, 250 days; construction and repairs of each yard of approach having splinter-proof parapet, 2 days; a lineal yard of narrow splinter-proof shelter, 4 days; a lineal yard of wide splinter-proof shelter, 8 days; to make and set one yard of inclined palisading, 2 days.
     "At least three-fourths of the manual labor was simply shoveling sand; one-half of the remainder was carrying engineer material.  The balance was employed in various kinds of work.
     "About three-fourths of this work was executed in the night-time, and at least nine-tenths of it under a fire of artillery or sharpshooters, or both. The sharp-shooters seldom fired during the night. The artillery fire was most severe during the day.  Thirty-five projectiles fired by the enemy at our works per hour was called "heavy firing," although sometimes more than double that number were thrown.
     "In the order of their number the projectiles were from smooth-bore guns, mortars, and rifled guns.
     "The James Island batteries were from two thousand to four thousand yards from our works; Fort Sumter and Battery Gregg were respectively about three thousand five hundred and two thousand one hundred; Fort Wagner was from thirteen hundred to one hundred yards.
     "The total number of casualties in the working parties and the guard of the advanced trenches, (not including the main guard of the trenches), during the siege, was about one hundred and fifty.  When it is considered that on an average over two hundred men were constantly engaged in these duties, being under fire for fifty days, the number of casualties is astonishingly small.
     "The camp at which the fatigue parties were quartered and fed were, in order to be beyond the reach of the enemy's fires, two miles from the centre of the works; hence the distance of four miles had to be marched each tour of duty, which required nearly two hours, and added greatly to the labor of the siege.
     "This siege has been conducted through the hottest part of the season, July, August and September, yet the troops have suffered but little from excess in heat, on account of the large proportion of night work, and the almost continual sea-breeze, which was always cool and refreshing.
     "The amount of sickness was great, the large amount of duty being the probable cause.  On the 7th of August the percentage was the smallest observed during the siege, being 18.6.  At this date the aggregate garrison of Morris Island was 9,353, of which 1,741 were sick.  On the 17th of August 22.9 per cent, of the whole garrison were on the sick list.  This was the most unhealthy period of the siege.
     "The average strength of the command on Morris Island during the siege was, of all arms, 10,678 men, of which the average percentage sick was 19.88.  The number of black troops varied from 1,127 to 1947.

[Pg. 285] -

     "Average percentage of sick in Artillery, 6.2; ditto, in Engineers, 11.9; ditto, in Black Infantry, 13.9; ditto, in White Infantry, (excluding one brigade), 20.1.
     "This brigade consisted of the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania, Twenty-fourth Massachusetts and Tenth Connecticut Volunteers.  It averaged thirty per cent sick.  This was due to the fact that these three regiments had been stationed, before moving to Morris Island, on Seabrook Island, which proved very unhealthy.  The engineers and black infantry were employed exclusively on fatigue duty.  The white infantry served as guard of the trenches, as well as for work in the same.
     "Details from the troops on Folly Island took part in the operations on Morris Island.
     "It was found by experience that men under these circumstances could not work more than one-fourth the time.  A greater amount at once increased the sick list.  Eight hours in thirty-two, or eight hours on and twenty-four off, was found to be the best arrangement, as it made a daily change in the hours of duty for those regiments permanently detailed for work.
     "The organization found most advantageous in working a command permanently detailed for fatigue duty, was to divide its effective force into four equal detachments, on duty eight hours each, relieving each other at 4 A. M., 12 M. and 8 P. M.  The large number of extra troops employed in the trenches each night were usually changed daily.
     "The engineer officers in charge of the works were divided into cor. responding groups, four in each, relieving each other at 8 A. M., 4  P. M., and 12 midnight, four hours different from the time of relieving the troops.  This difference enabled the engineer officers to carry the work through the period of relieving the fatigue details.
     "One engineer officer, having from two to four different kinds or jobs of work to superintend, was found to work advantageously in the night, with the help of non-commissioned officers of engineers, from one hundred to two hundred men.
     "The working parties of engineers and black infantry seldom carried their arms into the trenches, while the white infantry fatigue parties usually did."

[Pg. 286] - CHAPTER VIII. - THE ARMY OF THE CUMBERLAND
 

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