Defending & Attacking
(published in the Fall ’03 Ramparts)
It is often helpful when describing historical events to present analyses and interpretations of those events in order to facilitate understanding. But there is no substitute for reading the words of those who were actually present at the events to get the real feel of history. Following are three reports from persons who were present at Fort Macon before or during the battle for the fort.
August 20, 1861
Sir: I have the honor to report that I visited Fort Macon, Beaufort Harbor, on Sunday, August 18, and made a thorough inspection of the fortification and its ordnance and ordnance stores. The fort itself is in good repair and in condition to resist with effect any attack that may be made upon it seaward or landward, within the range of its armament. There are well mounted here, ready for service, twenty-one guns, viz: one 10-inch and two 8-inch Columbiads; nine 32-pounder, and nine 24-pounder guns. Preparations are in progress for mounting other 32’s and 24’s, which will be speedily accomplished. As this work was all important, and as materials for the traverse foundations were on hand, I directed that it should not cease on August 20 but that it should be carried on to completion as rapidly as possible. When all the guns contemplated to be presently mounted are in position the Fort will possess the formidable armament of forty-two heavy guns of all calibres — none less than a 24-pounder.
On the exterior of the land side of the Fort, at the foot of the glacis — near the entrance of the coverway leading to the gateway, a small battery has been constructed with the view to sweep the road in front of it. As an assaulting enemy may run over the glacis into the ditch without carrying this battery, I was unable clearly to perceive its necessity in this position. It mounts two siege guns which may be more available elsewhere on the lines of defense should the commander of the post hereafter deem it advisable to remove them to a more efficient position.
I found the ordnance stores in very fair condition though not in full supply. The most important deficiency was of fuses, but as a package of these are in transit to Mr. John D. Whitford, Ordnance Agent at this place, a supply will be sent to the Fort as soon as they reach him. The ordnance stores are neatly arranged and well stacked for ready access and for ventilation. Many shells and shots have been shipped, ready for use, and a number of canister shot fixed for field guns. The magazines were in good order, and the powder in bulk carefully filed for the greatest possible ventilation they would allow. Although a good supply of powder is on hand, it does not reach the quantity required by the Fort on the war footing. It would be advisable to add to this supply, from time to time, when possible. A large extent of flannel has recently been furnished for cartridge bags.
I deem it indispensable that this and all the batteries on the coast should be furnished with a long rifled 32-pounder, the range of which would enable them to compete with ships having similar guns These guns could be procured from the Gosport Navy Yard, where they are being constantly prepared.
With much respect, I am, Sir, your obedient servant.
JAMES A. J. BRADFORD,
Colonel, Artillery, Engineers and Ordnance
Honorable Warren Winslow,
Military Secretary, etc., Raleigh
Hdqrs. Fourth Regiment Rhode Island Vols.,
Department of North Carolina,
Beaufort, N.C., May 1, 1862.
Sir: I have the honor to report the action of the Fourth Rhode Island in the reduction of Fort Macon, which surrendered to our forces on the 26th ultimo:
After a march, which was necessarily a forced one, theThird Brigade of this department, or a portion of it, arrived and invested Fort Macon on March 26. The Fourth Rhode Island had two companies in Beaufort, one in Carolina City, and seven on the Banks. The labor of those on the Banks was very arduous, as much so as we could well endure, which was cheerfully performed without flinching, Five companies of the Fourth alternately relieved the Eighth Connecticut and Fifth Rhode Island Battalion in the trenches for fifteen days, exposed through the day to the fire of the enemy, during which time our siege batteries were planted. Not a day passed that the enemy did not open on us, firing from 30 to 50 shells, none of which, I am happy to say, injured any of my regiment.
The exposure and fatigue incident to our duty has largely increased our sick list, and we have lost 6 men to death since we arrived. Their names will appear in the adjutant’s report to General Mauran, which we have at last completed.
Our batteries opened on the morning of the 25th, and in two or three hours told with fearful effect on the enemy’s works. They held out for about ten hours, when by a flag of truce they requested a cessation of hostilities preparatory to a surrender. General Burnside granted this, and on the morning of the 26th Fort Macon was ours. The Fifth Rhode Island Battalion, being on duty in the trenches, received their arms, and five companies of my regiment relieved Major Wright, guarding the prisoners until they were shipped off. The fort is much damaged by our fire and twenty six guns were reduced unfit for service, The flag that was flying on the fort General Parke has requested General Burnside to send to you
Nine companies of the Fourth are now quartered here, and we have a fine building for a hospital, where, I do not doubt, our men will rapidly improve, Dr. Miller assures me that they are better already. I hope soon to have the most of them able for duty.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
I have the honor to remain, your obedient servant,
I. P. RODMAN,
Colonel Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers.
Gov. William Sprague, Providence, R.I.
Journal of James Monroe Hollowell, Acting Sergeant-Major, on the siege of Fort Macon, North Carolina, April 25, 1862
April 25, 1862.
April 25, Friday, 5.30 a.m. – Roll call as usual. No appearance of anything unusual.
6.00 a.m. – Yankees commenced firing on the Fort from their batteries on the beach, throwing shells and rifle shot. We immediately returned the fire from the mortars on the lower parapet by Captain Pool and from the siege pieces by Captain Manney, and from Captain Blount’s batteries on upper parapet and from 10-inch Columbiads on Captain Guion’s Battery. Shell bursting and shot falling in and around the Fort in great numbers.
7.00 a.m. – Firing still going on at the Yankee Battery (appears to be three batteries up the beach), we still returning the fire from Captain Blount’s Battery and the 10-inch Columbiads on upper parapet and from the siege pieces and mortars on lower parapet by Captains Pool and Manney; a great many shot and shell falling; the first Federal guns disabled.
8.00 a.m. – Still firing on us from the batteries up the beach. Four steamers have just run up near the bar and are now firing on us. Captain Pool has just left the mortars on lower parapet and is now firing on the steamers with the 10- and 8-inch Columbiads. On lower parapet, Captain Guion had turned the 10-inch Columbiads and rifled cannon on his battery to bear up on the steamers and he and Captain Pool are pouring it to them warmly while Captain Blount’s Battery and the siege pieces by Captain Manney are keeping those at the batteries up the beach sufficiently amused. Captain Blount’s men have just been relieved by a detachment from Company F, Lieutenant Cogdell. The firing is almost incessant, being one continual roar of artillery shells bursting in and over the Fort, almost covering up some of the men at their guns with dirt.
9.00 a.m. – Firing still continues very fast on both sides; most of the shots from the steamer pass over the Fort, our greatest danger being from the batteries up the beach. It is thought we have dismounted one of the Yankee’s guns on their batteries up the beach. Captain Pool and Captain Guion’s Batteries are still shooting the steamers and Captain Blount’s Battery and Captain Manney’s siege pieces are shooting the batteries up the beach despite shell bursting over and in the Fort.
10.00 a.m. – Firing still going on, on both sides, but not so briskly. About 10.30 the steamer draws off. It is thought we have damaged them. Firing going on up the beach. Captain Pool’s and Captain Guion’s Batteries have ceased firing since the steamers hauled off. A great many shells burst in the Fort, some pieces going through the windows of the rooms among the men, wounding several. One siege piece disabled.
11.00 a.m. – Both sides firing still, the Yankees firing only from up the beach, we firing on them from Blount’s Battery and Manney’s siege pieces.
12 noon – Both sides still firing. Yankees firing only from up the beach. Captain Guion has brought his 10-inch Columbiad to bear upon them up the beach. This, together with Captain Blount’s Battery and Captain Manney’s siege pieces, seem to be giving them rather warm times up the beach. Steamers still laying off.
1.00 p.m. – Firing very rapid on both sides. The Yankees firing from up the beach only. The steamers don’t seem inclined to come close again. Firing from Guion’s 10-inch Columbiad, Blount’s Battery and Manney’s siege pieces. Several of the room’s doors broken open by shells and the walls battered down considerably in several places.
2.00 p.m. – Firing from the batteries up the beach still going on, Manney’s siege pieces and Blount’s Battery returning the fire.
3.00 p.m. – Firing from the batteries up the beach very brisk. Our guns returning the fire, the shot and shells of the enemy are doing considerable damage to the walls.
4.00 p.m. – Firing on both sides, though slowly. The Yankees firing from up the beach and Captain Manney firing from siege pieces. Most of the shells bursting in and over the Fort. About 4.30 Captain Guion and Captain Pool were dispatched up the beach with flag of truce. Firing then ceased on both sides.
5.00 p.m. – All is quiet now. No firing going on, on either side. Captain Guion and Captain Pool have not returned from up the beach yet. Two boats with flag of truce came over from Beaufort and was just mid-channel with similar flag by Lieutenant R. E. Walker, Adjutant.
6.00 p.m. – All is quiet. Captains Guion and Pool have not returned from up the beach. Four man on horseback have just come down to the Eliason house where Captains Guion and Pool are.
6.15 p.m. – Captains Guion and Pool have just returned from up the beach. Cessation of hostility for the present. April 26, Saturday – All quiet this morning.
JAMES MONROE HOLLOWELL.
Note: The “mortars” to which Hollowell refers were six 32-pounder carronades, hauled from the fort’s counterfire galleries to the NW face of the covertway. They were jacked up to an elevation of 40 degrees to simulate mortars.