SEAC: The Search for Battery Halleck
Report of Maj. Gen. David Hunter, U.S. Army.
Headquarters Department of the South
Fort Pulaski, Cockspur Island, Georgia
April 13, 1862
To Hon. E. M. Stanton,
Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.
Sir: The flag of our country waves over Fort Pulaski. I summoned the garrison to surrender at sunrise on the morning of the 10th instant. Immediately on receiving their refusal, at 8 a.m., we opened fire, the bombardment continuing without intermission for thirty hours. At the end of eighteen hours' firing the fort was breached in the southeast angle, and at the moment of surrender, 2 p.m. on the 11th instant, we had commenced preparations for storming.
The whole armament of the fort-47 guns, a great supply of fixed ammunition, 40,000 pounds of powder, and large quantities of commissary stores, have fallen into our hands; also 360 prisoners, of whom the officers will be sent North by the first opportunity that offers.
The result of this bombardment must cause, I am convinced, a change in the construction of fortifications as radical as that forshadowed in naval architecture by the conflict between the Monitor and Merrimac. No works of stone or brick can resist the impact of rifled artillery of heavy caliber.
Too much praise cannot be given Capt. Q.A. Gillmore, U.S. Engineers (acting brigadier-general), the officer immediately in charge of our works on Tybee Island, for his industry, skill, and patriotic zeal, Great credit is also due to his assistants, Lieut. J.H. Wilson, U.S. Topographical Engineers, and Lieut. Horace Porter, of the Ordinance Department. I have also to gratefully acknowledge the services of Capt. C.R.P. Rodgers, U.S. Navy, who, with 100 of his men from the Wabash, under command of Lieutenant Irwin, did nobly at the guns.
Our gallant volunteers, under the scientific direction of Captain Gillmore, displayed admirable energy and perseverance in the construction of the earthworks on Tybee Island, and nothing could be finer or more impressive than the steadiness, activity, skill, and courage with which they worked their guns in battery. When I receive the reports of the officers now immediately in command-Brig. Gen. H.W. Benham and Acting Brigadier-General Gillmore-a statement more in detail will be immediately forwarded; but I cannot close without expressing my thanks to both these officers, and the hope that Acting Brigadier-General Gillmore may be confirmed in the position of brigadier-general, to which in this bombardment he has established such deserving claims.
I am happy to state that our loss was but one man killed, the earthworks of our batteries affording secure protection against the heaviest fire of the enemy. The loss of the enemy has been stated as three severely wounded.
I have the honor to be, sir, most respectfully, your very obedient servant,
Report of Brig. Gen. Henry W. Benham, U.S. Army
Hdqrs., First Div., North'n Dist., Dept. of the South
Fort Pulaski, Cockspur Island, Ga.
April 12, 1862
To Maj. Charles G. Halpine
Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of the South
Sir: I have the honor to report the conclusion of the operations of the siege of Fort Pulaski, in Savannah River, Georgia, which have resulted in the capture of that fort and its armament and the unconditional surrender of the effective force of the garrison, amounting to 361, of whom 24 were officers, besides about 18 who were sick and wounded. This siege is, as I would remark, the first trial, at least on our side of the Atlantic, of the modern heavy and rifled projectiles against forts erected and supposed to be sufficiently strong prior to these inventions, almost equaling, as it would appear, the revolution accomplished in naval warfare by the iron-clad vessels recently constructed....
The main attack upon the work, as you are aware, commenced upon the morning of the 10th instant, at about 7:30 o'clock, and immediately after the refusal of its commander to surrender according to your summons previously sent....
At evening, as it was necessary to guard against the possibility of attack from the Wilmington marshes, a force of some two regiments was stationed upon the ridges of land adjacent-one immediately in rear of the upper batteries and one on a ridge running towards Tybee River....
At about 7 on the morning of the 11th the fire opened on both sides with great vigor and accuracy....
In this state of things I felt sure that we would soon be able to peel off the whole scarp wall from the front of the casemates of the southeast front, making a breach greatly larger than the small garrison could defend, with probably another smaller breach upon the opposite side, and I at once determined that if the resistance was continued it would be best and entirely practicable to storm the fort successfully within thirty to forty hours, and I had given directions to General Gillmore to have suitable scaling-ladders prepared for the purpose, and was arranging for the proper forces, boats, &c., when, at about 2 p.m., we discovered a white flag thrown up, and the rebel flag, after filling out to the wind for a few minutes at half-mast, came slowly to the ground....
I would respectfully recommend, in relation to the commander of the garrison of the fort, Col. Charles H. Olmstead, whose gallant conduct as an enemy and whose courtesy as a gentleman are entitled to all consideration, that, should you deem it proper, the courtesy of the return of his own sword should be extended to him. His defense, I would remark, was continued until almost the latest limit possible, for a few hours more of our fire would, to all appearance, have sufficed for the destruction of the magazine and a larger portion of the fort, while another day would, in any event, have unavoidably placed the garrison at the mercy of a storming column from our command.
I have the honor to be, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
H. W. Benham
Brigadier-General, Comdg. N. Dist.
Dept. of the South
Report of Brig. Gen. Quincy A. Gillmore
U.S. Army of Operations against Fort Pulaski
Headquarters, Fort Pulaski, Ga.
April 12, 1862.
To Lieut. A. B. Ely,
A.A.A.G., N.D., Dept. of the South, Hilton Head, S.C.
Sir: I have the honor to report that the several batteries established on Tybee Island, to operate against Fort Pulaski, opened fire on the morning of the 10th instant, at 8:15 o'clock, commencing with the 13-inch mortars. When the range of these pieces had been approximately obtained by the use of signals, the other batteries opened in the order previously prescribed in General Orders, No. 17, from these headquarters, hereunto appended as part of this report, so that by 9:30 o'clock all our batteries, eleven in number, had commenced their work....With the exception of four ten-inch columbiads, dismounted at the outset by their own recoil in consequence of their having been supplied with unsuitable pintles, and from very serious defects in the wrought-iron chassis, which will be noticed more fully in my detailed report, all the pieces were served through the day.
With few exceptions, strict regard was paid to the instructions laid down in orders for regulating the rapidity and direction of the fire. At dark all the pieces ceased firing except two 13-inch mortars, one 10-inch mortar, and one 30-pounder Parrott, which were served through the night at intervals of twenty minutes for each piece. The only plainly perceptible result of this cannonade of ten and a half hours' duration (the breaching batteries having been served but nine and a half hours) was the commencement of a breach in the easterly half of the pan-coupé connecting the south and southeast faces, and in that portion of the southeast face spanned by the two casemates adjacent to the pan-coupé. The breach had been ordered in this portion of the scarp so as to take in reverse through the opening the magazine located in the angle formed by the gorge and north face. Two of the barbette guns of the fort had been disabled and three casemate guns silenced. The enemy served both tiers of guns briskly throughout the day, but without injury to the matériel or personnel of our batteries. The result from the mortar batteries was not at all satisfactory, notwithstanding the care and skill with which the pieces were served.
On the morning of the 11th our batteries again opened a little after sunrise with decided effect, the fort returning a heavy and well- directed fire from its barbette and casemate guns. The breach was rapidly enlarged. At the expiration of three hours the entire casemate next to the pan-coupé had been opened, and by 11 o'clock the one adjacent to it was in a similar condition. Directions were then given to train the guns upon the third embrasure, upon which the breaching batteries were operating with effect, when the fort hoisted the white flag. This occurred at 2 o'clock. The formalities of visiting the fort, receiving its surrender, and occupying it with our troops consumed the balance of the afternoon and evening.
I cannot indulge in details, however interesting and instructive, in this hasty and preliminary report, but the pleasing duty of acknowledging the valuable services of the officers and men under my command during the laborious and fatiguing preliminaries for opening fire, as well as during the action, I do not feel at liberty to defer.
The labor of landing the heaviest ordnance, with large supplies of ordnance stores, without a wharf, upon an open and exposed beach remarkable for its heavy surf, taking advantage of the tide night and day; the transportation of those articles to the advance batteries under cover of night; the erection of seven of the eleven batteries in plain view of Fort Pulaski and under its fire; the construction over marshy ground in the night-time exclusively of nearly 1 mile of causeway resting on fascines and brush-wood; the difficult task of hauling the guns, carriages, and chassis to their positions in the dark over a narrow road bordered by marsh by the labor of the men alone (the advance batteries being 2½ miles from the landing); the indomitable perseverance and cheerful deportment of the officers and men under the frequent and discouraging incidents of breaking down, miring in the swamp, &c., are services to the cause and country which I do not feel at liberty to leave unrecorded. An idea of the immense labor expended in transporting the ordnance can be gained from the fact that 250 men could hardly move a 13-inch mortar loaded on a sling-cart.
Another circumstance deserving especial mention is that twenty-two of the thirty-six pieces comprised in the batteries were served during the action by the troops who had performed the fatiguing labors to which I have referred above. They received all their instruction in gunnery at such odd times as they could be spared from other duty during the week preceding the action....
I will close this preliminary report with some general deductions from absolute results, without going into details or reasons.
1. Mortars (even the 13-inch sea-coast) are unreliable for the reduction of works of small area, like Fort Pulaski. They cannot be fired with sufficient accuracy to crush the casemate arches. They might after a long time tire out any ordinary garrison.I append to this report a map, giving the positions of our several batteries and the orders issued, assigning the detachments to the batteries, and regulating the direction and rapidity of the firing.
2. Good rifled guns, properly served, can breach rapidly at 1,650 yards' distance. A few heavy round shot, to bring down the masses loosened by the rifled projectiles, are of good service. I would not hesitate to attempt a practicable breach in a brick scarp at 2,000 yards' distance with ten guns of my own selection.
3. No better piece for breaching can be desired than the 42-pounder James. The grooves, however, must be kept clean. Parrott guns throwing as much metal as the James would be equally good, supposing them to fire as accurately as the 30-pounder Parrott.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Q. A. Gillmore
Comdg. U.S. Forces
Tybee and Cockspur Islands, Ga.
Report of Major-General Quincy A. Gillmore
Headquarters Department of South Carolina
Hilton Head, S.C.
October 20, 1865
To Adjutant-General U.S. Army, Washington, D. C.
Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report, compiled from my original report to the Chief Engineer, of operations against Fort Pulaski, Ga., resulting in its capitulation to the United States forces under my immediate command on the 11th day of April, 1862:
...This success so fully demonstrated the power and effectiveness of rifled cannon for breaching at long distances-at distances, indeed, hitherto untried and considered altogether impracticable, thus opening a new era in the use of this most valuable and comparatively unknown arm of service-was obtained with such singularly strict adherence to the details of the project as originally submitted by me in the previous December, and has withal in its developed results such an important bearing upon the character of our harbor and frontier defenses, that I feel called upon to enter into some details....
Fort Pulaski.-Fort Pulaski is situated on Cockspur Island, Georgia, latitude 32o2' north and longitude 3o51' west from Washington, at the head of Tybee Roads, commanding both channels of the Savannah River. The position is a very strong one. Cockspur Island is wholly a marsh, and is about one mile long and half a mile wide.
Fort Pulaski is a brick work of five sides or faces, including the gorge, casemated on all sides, walls 7½ feet thick and 25 feet high above high water, mounting one tier of guns in embrasures and one en barbette. The gorge is covered by an earthen outwork (demi-lune) of bold relief.
The main work and demi-lune are both surrounded and separated by a wet ditch. Around the main work the ditch is 48 feet wide; around the demi-lune, 32 feet.
The communication with the exterior is through the gorge into the demi-lune over a draw-bridge, and then through one face of the demi-lune over the demi-lune ditch by another draw-bridge. The scarp of the demi-lune and the entire counterscarp of main work and demi- lune are revetted with good brick masonry.
At the time of the siege it contained 48 guns, of which 20 bore upon the batteries on Tybee, viz, five 10-inch columbiads, five 8- inch columbiads, four 32-pounders, one 24-pounder Blakely rifle, two 12-inch and three 10-inch sea coast mortars. A full armament for the work would be 140 guns.
On the 29th of November  I was directed by General Sherman to make an examination of Tybee Island and Fort Pulaski, and to report upon the propriety of occupying and holding that island and upon the practicability (and, if deemed practicable, the best method) of reducing Fort Pulaski....
The project set forth in the foregoing communications [Gillmore's reports to Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Sherman dated December 1 and December 5, 1861 (OR 1882:149-150)] received General Sherman's sanction at once, with some slight modifications as to the number and caliber of the mortars to be used, and was forwarded to Washington and approved there. Information was in due time received that orders to prepare and forward the ordnance and ordnance stores had been issued. For months, therefore, preceding the fall of Pulaski, its reduction from Big Tybee, favored by a thorough investment, formed one of General Sherman's approved plans, awaiting only the action of others in sending the necessary supplies for its completion. The Forty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, Col. R. Rosa, was sent to occupy Big Tybee Island early in December.
Operations for investing the place by the erection of batteries on the Savannah River above the work were set on foot about the middle of January, 1862....
On the afternoon of January 28 a reconnaissance was made by me of Mud River and the Savannah River shore of Jones Island. Venus Point, on the margin of the Savannah, was selected as the position for one of the investing batteries. The line for a road or causeway over the marsh between Venus Point and Mud River was also located. Its length was nearly 1,300 yards. This causeway or corduroy was never completed.
Jones Island is nothing but a mud marsh, covered with reeds and tall grass. The general surface is about on the level of ordinary high tide. There are a few spots of limited area, Venus Point being one of them, that are submerged only by spring tides or by ordinary high tides favored by the wind, but the character of the soil is the same over the whole island. It is a soft unctuous mud, free of grit or sand, and is incapable of supporting a heavy weight. Even in the most elevated places the partially dry crust is but 3 or 4 inches in depth, the substratum being a semi-fluid mud, which is agitated like jelly by the falling of even small bodies upon it, like the jumping of men or ramming of earth. A pole or an oar can be forced into it with ease to the depth of 12 or 15 feet. In most places the resistance diminishes with increase of penetration. Men walking over it are partially sustained by the roots of reeds and grass, and sink in only 5 or 6 inches. When this top support gives way they go down from 2 to 2½ feet, and in some places much farther. A road or causeway of some kind across Jones Island from Mud River to Venus Point was deemed necessary and determined upon at the outset, even if the guns should not have to be carried over it, as the means of getting speedy succor to the Venus Point battery in case of attack; Daufuskie Island, 4 miles distant, being the nearest point where troops could be kept for that purpose....
The following extracts from my journal furnish a portion of the history
of the operations on Jones Island and the Savannah River for the investment
of Fort Pulaski, and may be properly introduced into this report: