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of August. There were batteries ashore, torpedoes across the channel, the Tennessee ram and other Confederate vessels waiting on the flank: three kinds of danger to the Union fleet if one false movement had been made. But Farragut's touch was sure. He sent his ironclads through next to the batteries, which were only really dangerous on one side. This protected the wooden ships against the batteries and the ironclads against the torpedoes; for the Confederates had to leave part of the fairway clear in order to use it themselves. Through this narrow channel the four strongly armored monitors led the desperate way, a little ahead and to starboard of the wooden vessels, which followed in pairs, each pair lashed together, with the stronger on the starboard side, next to Fort Morgan.
The Confederates in Fort Morgan, and in the small and distant Fort Powell on the other side, hardly reached a thousand men. Their force afloat was also comparatively small: the ironclad ram Tennessee and three side-wheeler gunboats. But the great strength of their position and the many dangers to a hostile fleet combined to make Farragut's attack a very serious operation, even with his four monitors, eight screw sloops, and four smaller vessels. The Union army, which took no part in this great attack, was over five thousand strong, and lost only seven men in the land bombardment later on.
Farragut crossed the bar in the Hartford at ten past six in the morning with the young flood tide and a westerly breeze to blow the smoke against Fort Morgan. All his ships ran up the Stars and Stripes not only at the peak, as usual, but at each mast-head as well. Farragut himself at first took post in the port main rigging. But as the smoke of battle rose around him he climbed higher and higher till he got close under the maintop, where a seaman, sent up by Captain Drayton, lashed him on securely.
All went well amid the furious cannonade till the monitor Tecumseh, taking the wrong side of the channel buoy in her anxiety to ram the Tennessee, ran over the torpedoes, was horribly holed by the explosion, and plunged head-foremost to the bottom, her screw madly whirling in the air. Nor was this the worst; for the Tecumseh's mistake had thrown the other monitors out of their proper line-ahead, athwart the wooden ships, which began to slow and swing about in some confusion. The Confederates redoubled their fire. Ahead lay the fatal torpedoes. For a moment Farragut could not decide whether to risk an advance at all costs or to turn back beaten. He was a very devout as well as a most determined man; and his simple prayer, "O God, shall I go on?” seemed answered by the echo of his soul, “Go on!” So on he went, not in unreflecting exaltation, but in exaltation based on knowledge and on skill. Like Cromwell, he might well have said, “Trust in the Lord and keep your powder dry!” For he had done all that naval foresight could have done to ensure success. And now, in one lightning flash of genius, he reviewed the situation. He knew the torpedoes of his day were often unreliable, that they exploded only on a special kind of shock, that those which did explode could not be replaced in action, that they were all fixed to their own spots, and that if one ship was blown up her next-astern would get through safely.
The Brooklyn, his next-ahead, was in his way. So he ordered the flagship Hartford and her lashedtogether consort, the double-ender Metacomet, to use, the one her screw, the other her paddles, in opposite directions, till he had cleared the Brooklyn's stern. As he drew clear and headed for the danger-channel a shout went up from the Brooklyn's deck "'ware torpedoes!” But Farragut, his mind made up, instantly roared back — “Damn the torpedoes!” Then, turning to the Hartford's and Metacomet's decks, he called his orders down: “Four bells! Captain Drayton, go ahead! Captain Jouett, full speed!” In answer to the order of “four bells" the engines worked their very utmost and the two vessels dashed ahead. Torpedoes knocked against the bottom and some of the primers actually snapped. But nothing exploded; and Farragut won through.
Inside the harbor the Tennessee fought hard against the overwhelming Union fleet. But her lowpowered engines gave her no chance at quick ma
Three vessels rammed her in succession; and she was forced to surrender.
After this purely naval victory on the fifth of August, General Granger's troops invested Fort Morgan, which, becoming the target of an irresistible converging fire from both land and sea on the twenty-second, surrendered on the twenty-third.
The next objective of a joint expedition was Fort Fisher, which stood at the end of a long, low tongue of land between the sea and Cape Fear River. Fort Fisher guarded the entrance to Wilmington in North Carolina, the port, above all others, from which the Confederate armies drew their oversea
supplies. Lee wrote to Colonel Lamb, its commandant, saying that he could not subsist if it was taken. Lamb had less than two thousand men in the fort; but there were six thousand more forming an army of support outside. The Confederates, however, had no naval force to speak of, while the Union fleet, commanded by Admiral Porter, was the largest that had ever yet assembled under the Stars and Stripes. There were nearly sixty fighting vessels of all kinds, including five new ironclads and the three finest new frigates. The guns that were carried exceeded six hundred.
There was also a mine ship, the old Louisiana, stuffed chock-a-block with powder to blow in the side of the fort. The Washington wiseacres set great store on this new mine of theirs. It was, of course, to end the war. But naval and military experts on the spot were more than doubtful. On the night of the twenty-third of December the Louisiana was safely worked in near the fort by brave Commander Rhind, who fired the slow match and escaped unhurt with his devoted crew of volunteers. A tremendous explosion followed. But, as there was nothing to drive the force of it against the walls, it simply resulted in an enormous flurry of water, mud, sand, earth, and bits of flaming wreckage.