The Search for Battery Halleck: Primary Dcoument Page 2
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SEAC: The Search for Battery Halleck


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Extracts from journal of Brigadier-General Gillmore, 
Chief Engineer Expeditionary Corps.

February 1, 2, 3, and 4.-The two engineer companies on Daufuskie Island, commanded by Captain Sears, were employed in cutting poles for a causeway on Jones Island from Mud River to Venus Point, and for the engineer wharf on Daufuskie Island, New River. 

On the 4th, the wharf, with 8 feet of water at low tide, was completed. Ten thousand poles, 5 to 6 inches in diameter and 9 feet long, had been cut on Daufuskie Island, and 1,900 of them deposited at the wharf. The men of the Forty-eighth New York and Seventh Connecticut Volunteers transported the poles on their shoulders, the average distance carried being 1 mile. At the suggestion of Captain Sears I had a swath cut and cleared of reeds and grass across the upper end of Jones Island, to prevent the enemy burning the island over.... 

February 5 and 6.-Nothing specially new. Engineer force engaged in cutting poles, filling sand bags on Daufuskie Island, building a temporary wharf of poles and sand bags on Mud River, and constructing a wheelbarrow track of planks laid end to end from Venus Point to Mud River Wharf. The Forty-eighth New York, Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, and a portion of the engineer forces engaged in transporting poles and planks and carrying filled sand bags from Daufuskie Island to Jones Island (a distance of about 4 miles) in row-boats.... 

February 10.-...During the night of the 10th, Lieutenant O'Rorke, of the Engineers, with a party of volunteer engineers, commenced the magazine and gun platforms at Venus Point. [These procedures are likely those also used to establish the gun platforms on Big Tybee Island, including Battery Halleck.] The party concealed their work at daybreak (11th) and withdrew. The platforms were made by raising the surface 5 or 6 inches with sand, carried over in bags. On this sand foundation thick planks at right angles to the line of the battery were laid, nearly, but not quite, in contact with each other. At right angles to these, deck-planks were laid, giving a platform 9 by 17 feet. The floor of the magazine was 20 inches above the natural surface, and rested on sand bags. 

February 11.-Continued getting battery and road materials to Jones Island during the day. Early in the evening I went to Jones Island with fresh men, to finish the labor of getting the guns over. Lieutenants Wilson and Porter and Major Beard took charge of the fatigue parties as before. The work was done in the following manner: The pieces, mounted on their carriages and limbered up, were moved forward on shifting runways of planks about 15 feet long, 1 foot wide, and 3 inches thick, laid end to end. Lieutenant Wilson, with a party of 35 men, took charge of the two pieces in advance, one 8-inch siege howitzer and a 30-pounder Parrott, and major Beard and Lieutenant Porter, with a somewhat larger force, of the four pieces in the rear, two 20 and two 30 pounder Parrotts. Each party had one pair of planks in excess of the number required for the guns and limbers to rest upon when closed together. This extra pair of planks being placed in front, in prolongation of those already under the carriages, the pieces were then drawn forward with drag-ropes one after the other the length of a plank, thus freeing the two planks in the rear, which in their turn were carried to the front. This labor is of the most fatiguing kind. In most places the men sank to their knees in the mud, in some places much deeper. This mud being of the most slippery and slimy kind and perfectly free from grit and sand, the planks soon became entirely smeared over with it. Many delays and much exhausting labor were occasioned by the gun- carriages slipping off the planks. When this occurred the wheels would suddenly sink to the hubs, and powerful levers had to be devised to raise them up again. I authorized the men to encase their feet in sand bags to keep the mud out of their shoes. Many did this, tying the strings just below the knees. The magazines and platforms were ready for service at daybreak. Lieutenant Wilson got his two pieces into position at 2:30 a.m. and Major Beard and Lieutenant Porter their four pieces at 8:30 a.m. on the 12th. At 3 a.m. Lieutenant Wilson started back to General Viele, on Daufuskie, to report the success.... 

February 13, 14, 15.-Various causes, particularly the weather, delayed the establishment of the battery on Long Island. On the morning of the 13th the rebel steamer Ida passed down by Venus Point under full steam. Nine shots were fired at her, striking her astern, all but one. Elevation good, but not enough allowance made for speed of vessel. I was not in the battery at the time. All the pieces, except one 30-pounder, recoiled off the platforms. These were at once enlarged to 18 by 17½ feet. On the afternoon of the 14th three rebel gunboats came down the river and opened fire on the battery, taking a position about 1 mile distant. Battery fired about 30 shots. One of the vessels was struck. The boats then withdrew.... 

The foregoing extracts from my journal are all that bear directly upon the operations on the Savannah above Fort Pulaski.... 

On the 19th of February I was ordered by Brig. Gen. T.W. Sherman to Big Tybee Island, to place it "in a thorough state of defense against approach from Wilmington Narrows and Lazaretto Creek, to prevent all approach by water, and blockade the channel," thereby completing the investment, and also to "commence operations for the bombardment of Fort Pulaski." 

The absolute blockade of Pulaski dates from the 22d of February, at which time I stationed two companies of the Forty-sixth New York Volunteers, with a battery of two field pieces, on Decent Island, Lazaretto Creek.... 

On the 21st of February the first vessel with ordnance and ordnance stores for the siege arrived in Tybee Roads. From that time until the 9th of April all the troops on Tybee Island, consisting of the Seventh Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, the Forty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteers, two companies of the Volunteer Engineers, and, for the most of the time, two companies of the third Rhode Island Volunteer Artillery, were constantly engaged in landing and transporting ordnance, ordnance stores, and battery materials, making fascines and roads, constructing gun and mortar batteries, service and depot magazines, splinter and bomb proof shelters for the relief of cannoneers off duty, and drilling at the several pieces. 

The armament comprised 36 pieces, distributed in eleven batteries, at various distances from the fort, as shown in the following table [see below]:

  1. Battery Stanton, three heavy 13-inch mortars, at 3,400 yards.
  2. Battery Grant, three heavy 13-inch mortars, at 3,200 yards.
  3. Battery Lyon, three heavy 10-inch columbiads, at 3,100 yards.
  4. Battery Lincoln, three heavy 8-inch columbiads, at 3,045 yards.
  5. Battery Burnside, one heavy 13-inch mortar, at 2,750 yards.
  6. Battery Sherman, three heavy 13-inch mortars, at 2,650 yards.
  7. Battery Halleck, two heavy 13-inch mortars, at 2,400 yards.
  8. Battery Scott, three 10-inch and one 8-inch columbiad, at 1,740 yards.
  9. Battery Sigel, five 30-pounder Parrotts and one 48-pounder James (old 24-pounder), at 1,670 yards.
  10. Battery McClellan, two 84-pounder James (old 42-pounder) and two 64-pounder James (old 32-pounder), at 1,650 yards.
  11. Battery Totten, four 10-inch siege mortars, at 1,650 yards.

Each battery had a service magazine capable of containing a supply of powder for about two days' firing. A depot powder magazine of 3,600 barrels' capacity was constructed near the Martello Tower, which was the landing place for all the supplies. Serious difficulties were encountered in making a road sufficiently firm to serve for this heavy transportation. 

Tybee Island is mostly a mud marsh, like other marsh islands on this coast. Several ridges and hummocks of firm ground, however, exist upon, and the shore of Tybee Roads, where the batteries were located, is partially skirted by low sand banks, formed by the gradual and protracted action of the wind and tides. The distance along this shore from the landing place to the advanced batteries is about 2½ miles. The last mile of this route, on which the seven most advanced batteries were placed [including Battery Halleck], is low and marshy, lies in full view of Fort Pulaski, and is within effective range of its guns. The construction of a causeway resting on fascines and brush-wood over this swampy portion of the line; the erection of the several batteries, with the magazines, gun platforms, and splinter-proof shelters; the transportation of the heaviest ordnance in our service by the labor of men alone; the hauling of ordnance stores and engineer supplies, and the mounting of the guns and mortars on their carriages and beds had to be done almost exclusively at night, alike regardless of the inclemency of the weather and of the miasma from the swamps. 

No one except an eye-witness can form any but a faint conception of the herculean labor by which mortars of 8½ tons' weight and columbiads but a trifle lighter were moved in the dead of night over a narrow causeway, bordered by swamps on either side, and liable at any moment to be overturned and buried in the mud beyond reach. The stratum of mud is about 12 feet deep, and on several occasions the heaviest pieces, particularly the mortars, became detached from the sling-carts, and were with great difficulty, by the use of planks and skids, kept from sinking to the bottom. Two hundred and fifty men were barely sufficient to move a single piece on sling-carts. The men were not allowed to speak above a whisper, and were guided by the notes of a whistle. 

The positions selected for the five most advanced batteries [this would include Battery Halleck and the four batteries on Goat Point] were artificially screened from view from the fort by a gradual and almost imperceptible change, made little by little every night, in the condition and appearance of the brush-wood and bushes in front of them. No sudden alteration of the outline of the landscape was permitted. After the concealment was once perfected to such a degree as to afford a good and safe parapet behind it less care was taken, and some of the work in the batteries requiring mechanical skill was done in the daytime, the fatigue parties going to their labor before break of day and returning in the evening after dark. In all the batteries traverses were placed between the pieces. With two exceptions (Batteries Lincoln and Totten) the magazines were placed in or near the center of the battery, against the epaulement, with the opening to the rear. An ante-room for filling cartridge bags was attached to each. The magazines for the Batteries Lincoln and Totten were located in the rear of the platforms. 

For revetting the sides of the traverses and epaulements fascines, hurdles, brush, and marsh sods were used. Marsh sods form the best revetment for sandy soil. All the others allow the sand to sift through them to such an extent as to become a serious annoyance to the men serving the pieces. 

In order to diminish as much as possible the labor of forming the parapets in front of the pieces the foundation timbers of all the gun and mortar platforms were sunk to high-water mark. This brought them in many cases to within 6 or 8 inches of the substratum of soft clay. To secure them against settlement the lateral as well as vertical dimensions usually adopted for platforms were considerably enlarged.... 

On the afternoon of April 9 everything was in readiness to open fire. Generals Hunter and Benham had arrived the evening before with their respective staffs. 

The following general orders, regulating the rapidity and direction of the firing and the charges and elevation of the pieces of each battery, were issued. As the instructions then given were, with one or two trifling exceptions, adhered to with remarkable fidelity throughout the action, they are inserted here... 

General Orders No. 17 

Headquarters U.S. Forces 

Tybee Island, Ga., April 9, 1862

The batteries established against Fort Pulaski will be manned and ready for service at break of day to-morrow. The signal to begin the action will be one gun from the right mortar of Battery Halleck (2,400 yards from the work), fired under the direction of Lieut. Horace Porter, chief of ordnance. Charge of mortar, 11 pounds; charge of shell, 11 pounds; elevation, 55 degrees; length of fuse, 24 seconds. This battery (two 13-inch mortars) will continue firing at the rate of fifteen minutes to each mortar alternately, varying the charge of mortars and the length of fuse so that the shells will drop over the arches of the north and northeast faces of the work and explode immediately after striking, and not before.... 

By order of Brig. Gen. Q.A. Gillmore: 

W. L. M. Burger
First Lieutenant, Volunteer Engineers, and Actg. Asst. Adjt. Gen. 

Just after sunrise, on the morning of the 10th, Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commanding the department, dispatched Lieut. J. H. Wilson, of the Topographical Engineers, to Fort Pulaski, bearing a flag of truce and a summons to surrender. To this demand a negative answer was received. 

The order was given to open fire, commencing with the mortar batteries, agreeably to the foregoing instructions. 

The first shell was fired at a quarter past 8 o'clock a.m. from Battery Halleck. The other mortar batteries opened one after the other, as rapidly in succession as it was found practicable to determine the approximate ranges by the use of signals. The guns and columbiads soon followed, so that before half past 9 a.m. all the batteries were in operation, it having been deemed expedient not to wait for the barbette fire of the work to be silenced before opening with Breaching Batteries Scott and McClellan.... 

As the several batteries along our line, which was 2,550 yards in length, opened fire one after another, the enemy followed them up successively with a vigorous though not at first very accurate fire from his barbette and casemate guns. Subsequent inquiry showed that he knew the exact position of only two of our batteries-Sherman and Burnside. These were established just above high-water mark, on low ground, void of bushes or undergrowth of any kind. During their construction no special attempt at concealment had been made after once securing good parapet cover by night work. 

Great surprise and disappointment were expressed by all experienced officers present at the unsatisfactory results obtained with the 13-inch mortars. Although the platforms were excellent and remained for all useful purposes intact, and although the pieces were served with a fair degree of care and skill, not one-tenth of the shells thrown appeared to fall within the work-an estimate that was afterwards found to be rather over than under the correct proportion. Whether this inaccuracy is due to the fact that no cartridge-bags were furnished for the mortars, to inequalities in the strength of the powder, to defects inherent in the piece itself, or to these several causes combined, remains yet to be ascertained. It is suggested that the earnest attention of the proper department be directed to this subject. 

By 1 o'clock in the afternoon (April 10) it became evident that the work would be breached, provided our breaching batteries did not become seriously disabled by the enemy's fire. By the aid of a powerful telescope it could be observed that the rifled projectiles were doing excellent service, that their penetration was deep and effective, and that the portion of the wall where the breach had been ordered was becoming rapidly honey-combed. 

It also became evident before night, on account of the inefficiency of the mortar firing, that upon breaching alone ending perhaps in an assault, we must depend for the reduction of the work.... 

As evening closed in, rendering objects indistinct, all the pieces ceased firing with the exception of two 13-inch mortars, one 10-inch mortar, and one 30-pounder Parrott, which were served throughout the night at intervals of fifteen or twenty minutes for each piece. The object of this was to prevent repairs of the breach or the filling of the casements in rear of it with sandbags or other material.... 

On the morning of the 11th, a little after sunrise, our batteries again opened fire with decided effect, the fort returning a heavy and well-directed fire from its casemates and barbette guns. The breach was rapidly enlarged. After the expiration of three hours the entire casemate next the pan-coupé had been opened, and by 12 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. 

During the 11th about one-tenth of the projectiles from the three breaching batteries were directed against the barbette guns of the fort. Eleven of its guns were dismounted, or otherwise rendered temporarily unserviceable. 

The garrison of the fort was found to consist of 385 men, including a full complement of officers. Several of them were severely, and one fatally, wounded. 

Our total loss was 1 man killed. None of our pieces were struck. 

I take pleasure in recording my acknowledgment of the hearty, zealous, and persevering co-operation afforded me by the officers and men under my command, not only during the 10th and 11th, when all more or less forgot their fatigue in the excitement and danger of the engagement, but throughout the exhausting and unwholesome labors of preparation, occupying day and night a period of nearly eight weeks.... 

There is one circumstance connected with this siege which appears to deserve special mention, and that is, that with the exception of a detachment of sailors from the frigate Wabash, who served four of the light siege pieces in Battery Sigel on the 11th, we had no artillerists of any experience whatever. Four of the batteries were manned by the Third Rhode Island Volunteer Artillery, who were conversant with the manual of the pieces, but had never been practiced at firing. All of the other pieces were served by infantry troops, who had been on constant fatigue duty, and who received all their instructions in gunnery at such odd times as they could be spared from other duties during the week or ten days preceding the action.... 

Appendix 1 (Page 3).

Appendix 1: Primary Documents (Page 3)

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