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artillery was unable to silence this fire, the fog being so dense as to make accurate firing impossible. Frequent attempts were made to continue the work, but to no purpose.
About noon the fog cleared away, and we were able, with our artillery, to check the fire of the enemy. . I decided to resume the work on the bridges, and gave directions . . . to send men over in pontoons to the other shore as rapidly as possible, to drive the enemy from his position on the opposite bank. This work was most gallantly performed by Colonel Hall's brigade — the Seventh Michigan and Nineteenth and Twentieth Massachusetts- at the upper bridges, and by the Eightyninth New York at the middle bridge, and the enemy were soon driven from their position. The throwing of the bridges was resumed, and they were soon afterward finished.
No more difficult feat has been performed during the war than the throwing of these bridges in the face of the enemy by these brave men. . . .
It was now near night-fall. One brigade of Franklin's division crossed over to the south side; drove the enemy's pickets from the houses near the bridge head, and Howard's division, together with a brigade from the Ninth Corps, both of General Sumner's command, crossed over on the upper and middle bridges, and, after some sharp skirmishing, occupied the town before daylight on the morning of the 12th.
During this day, the 12th, Sumner's and Franklin's commands crossed over and took position on the south bank, and General Hooker's grand division was held in readiness to support either the right or left, or to press the enemy in case the other command succeeded in moving him. . . .
The old Richmond road. . . runs from the town in a line nearly parallel with the river, to a point near the Massaponax, where it turns to the south, and passes near the right of the crest, or ridge, which runs in rear of the town, and was then occupied by the enemy in force. In order to pass down this road it was necessary to occupy the extreme right of this crest, which was designated on the map then in use by the army as "Hamilton's.” . . .
It was my intention, in case this point had been gained, to push Generals Sumner and Hooker against the left of the crest, and prevent at least the removal of the artillery of the enemy, in case they attempted a
General Franklin was directed to seize, if possible, the heights near Captain Hamilton's, and to send at once a column of attack for
that purpose, composed of a division at least, in the lead, well supported, and to keep his whole command in readiness to move down the old Richmond road. The object of this order is clear. It was necessary to seize this height in order to enable the remainder of his forces to move down the old Richmond road, with a view of getting in rear of the enemy's line on the crest. He was ordered to seize these heights, if possible, and to do it at once. I sent him a copy of the order to General Sumner, in which . . . I directed General Sumner's column not to move until he received orders from me, while he (General Franklin) was ordered to move at once. The movements were not intended to be simultaneous; in fact, I did not intend to move General Sumner until I learned that Franklin was about to gain the heights near Hamilton's, which I then supposed he was entirely able to do.
. . one of the smallest divisions of the command (General Meade's) led the attack. . . .
From General Meade's report it seems that he had great difficulty in getting his command into position to assault the hill. The time occupied for that purpose was from 9 a. m. till 1.15 p. m. . . . but, once in position, his division moved forward with the utmost gallantry. He broke the enemy's line; captured many prisoners and colors; crossed the road that ran in the rear of the crest, and established himself at the desired point on the crest; and, had he been able to hold it, our forces would have had free passage to the rear of the enemy's line along the crest. The supports which the order contemplated were not with him, and he found himself across the enemy's line, with both flanks unprotected. He dispatched staff officers to Generals Gibbon and Birney, urging them to advance to his right and left, in support of his flanks; but before the arrival of these divisions he was forced to withdraw from his advanced position, with his lines broken. These two divisions met his division as it was retreating, and by their gallant fighting aided materially in its safe withdrawal. An unsuccessful effort was made to reform the division, after which it was marched to the rear and held in
reserve. . . .
No further attempt was made to carry this point on the crest. . . . General Sumner's corps was held in position until after 11 o'clock, in the hope that Franklin would make such an impression upon the enemy as would enable him (Sumner) to carry the enemy's line near the Telegraph and Plank roads. Feeling the importance of haste, I now directed General Sumner to commence his attack. . . .
The enemy was strongly posted along the crest in his front, covered by rifle-pits and batteries, which gave him a commanding sweep of the ground over which our troops had to pass. I supposed when I ordered General Sumner to attack that General Franklin's attack on the left would have been made before General Sumner's men would be engaged, and would have caused the enemy to weaken his forces in front of Sumner, and I therefore hoped to break through their lines at this point. It subsequently appeared that this attack had not been made at the time General Sumner moved, and, when it was finally made, proved to be in such small force as to have had no permanent effect upon the enemy's line.
.. Never did men fight more persistently than this brave grand division of General Sumner. The officers and men seemed to be inspired with the lofty courage and determined spirit of their noble commander, but the position was too strong for them. . . .
At 1.30 p. m. I ordered General Hooker to support General Sumner with his command. Soon after receiving this order, he (General Hooker) sent an aide-de-camp to me with the statement that he did not think the attack would be successful. I directed him to make the assault. Some time afterward General Hooker came to me in person with the same statement. I reiterated my order, which he then proceeded to obey. The afternoon was now well advanced. General Franklin before this had been positively ordered to attack with his whole force, and I hoped before sundown to have broken through the enemy's line. This order was not carried out.
At 4 p. m. General Humphreys was directed to attack, General Sykes' division moving in support of Humphreys' right. All these men fought with determined courage, but without success.
Our forces had been repulsed at all points, and it was necessary to look upon the day's work as a failure. . . .
From the night of the 13th until the night of the 15th, our men held their positions. Something was done in the way of intrenching, and some angry skirmishing and annoying artillery firing was indulged in in the mean time. . . .
On the night of the 15th, I decided to remove the army to the north side of the river, and the work was accomplished without loss of men or matériel...
The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, First Series (Washington, 1888), XXI, 84-95 passim.
116. Experience of a Blockade-Runner (1862)
BY CAPTAIN JOHN WILKINSON (1877)
Wilkinson was an officer in the navy when his state, Virginia, seceded. He resigned and offered his services to the Confederacy. He was captured by Farragut at New Orleans, and on being exchanged performed various services for the Confederacy afloat and ashore: he engaged in blockade-running, had charge of various naval affairs at Wilmington, and commanded a cruiser. This piece is inserted as evidence of the importance and general efficiency of the blockading service. - Bibliography: J. R. Soley, The Blockade and the Cruisers, passim; Channing and Hart, Guide, $$ 209, 210.
HE natural advantages of Wilmington for blockade-running were very great, chiefly owing to the fact, that there are two separate and distinct approaches to Cape Fear River, i.e., either by "New Inlet" to the north of Smith's Island, or by the "western bar" to the south of it. This island is ten or eleven miles in length; but the Frying Pan Shoals extend ten or twelve miles further south, making the distance by sea between the two bars thirty miles or more, although the direct distance between them is only six or seven miles. From Smithville, a little village nearly equi-distant from either bar, both blockading fleets could be distinctly seen, and the outward bound blockade-runners could take their choice through which of them to run the gauntlet. The inward bound blockade-runners, too, were guided by circumstances of wind and weather; selecting that bar over which they would cross, after they had passed the Gulf Stream; and shaping their course accordingly. The approaches to both bars were clear of danger, with the single exception of the "Lump". . . and so regular are the soundings that the shore can be coasted for miles within a stone's throw of the breakers.
These facts explain why the United States fleet were unable wholly to stop blockade-running. It was, indeed, impossible to do so; the result to the very close of the war proves this assertion; for in spite of the vigilance of the fleet, many blockade-runners were afloat when Fort Fisher was captured. In truth the passage through the fleet was little dreaded; for although the blockade-runner might receive a shot or two, she was rarely disabled; and in proportion to the increase of the fleet, the greater would be the danger (we knew,) of their firing into each
As the boys before the deluge used to say, they would be very > miss the cow and kill the calf." The chief danger was upon
the open sea; many of the light cruisers having great speed. As soon as one of them discovered a blockade-runner during daylight she would attract other cruisers in the vicinity by sending up a dense column of smoke, visible for many miles in clear weather. A "cordon" of fast steamers stationed ten or fifteen miles apart inside the Gulf Stream, and in the course from Nassau and Bermuda to Wilmington and Charleston, would have been more effectual in stopping blockade-running than the whole United States Navy concentrated off those ports; and it was unaccountable to us why such a plan did not occur to good Mr. Welles; but it was not our place to suggest it. I have no doubt, however, that the fraternity to which I then belonged would have unanimously voted thanks and a service of plate to the Hon. Secretary of the United States Navy for this oversight. I say inside the Gulf Stream, because every experienced captain of a blockade-runner made a point to cross "the stream" early enough in the afternoon, if possible, to establish the ship's position by chronometer so as to escape the influence of that current upon his dead reckoning. The lead always gave indication of our distance from the land, but not, of course, of our position; and the numerous salt works along the coast, where evaporation was produced by fire, and which were at work night and day were visible long before the low coast could be seen. Occasionally the whole inward voyage would be made under adverse conditions. Cloudy, thick weather and heavy gales would prevail so as to prevent any solar or lunar observations, and reduce the dead reckoning to mere guess work. In these cases the nautical knowledge and judgment of the captain would be taxed to the utmost. The current of the Gulf Stream varies in velocity and (within certain limits) in direction; and the stream, itself almost as well defined as a river within its banks under ordinary circumstances, is impelled by a strong gale toward the direction in which the wind is blowing, overflowing its banks as it were. The counter current, too, inside of the Gulf Stream is much influenced by the prevailing winds. Upon one occasion, while in command of the R. E. Lee, we had experienced very heavy and thick weather; and had crossed the Stream and struck soundings about midday. The weather then clearing so that we could obtain an altitude near meridian we found ourselves at least forty miles north of our supposed position and near the shoals which extend in a southerly direction off Cape Lookout. It would be more perilous to run out to sea than to continue on our course, for we had passed through the off shore line of blockaders, and the sky had become