| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
ATTACK ON CHARLESTON
From the very beginning everyone knew that if Richmond
and Charleston could be taken, and the Mississippi be
freed from the control of the Confederates, the war would
be at an end. The Mississippi was already free, and it
seemed high time that something be done towards taking
Richmond and Charleston.
Charleston is a sea-port on the coast of South Carolina.
It has a fine harbor, just outside of which are many small
islands. The Confederates knew this was one of their
 strong-holds, and they had taken great pains, therefore, to
guard it. On each of these little islands was a fort;
and right in the middle of the entrance to the harbor stood
old Fort Sumter, its Confederate flag flying, as proud and
grand as you please. This fort, you remember, had been
taken by the Confederates at the very beginning of the
You can see how impossible it would be to enter that
harbor, with all its forts ready to aim their guns upon any
vessel that should dare attempt it. Indeed, one might
as well have tried to enter a hornet's nest as to enter this
harbor with any common kind of vessels.
It has always been a wonder to me that after that little
Yankee cheese-box did such wonderful work, there weren't
twenty more of them built and sent straight down to this
harbor. But all this time nothing of very much importance
had been done, and Charleston had good reason to suppose
that it would not be taken.
Early in this year of 1863, an attempt was made to enter
this harbor. Commodore Dupont, with five gun-boats and
nine "Monitors," steamed in between two of these islands,
and began pouring their fire upon Fort Sumter. But with
all these forts filled with soldiers and guns as they were
now, it is hardly to be wondered at that the attack was a
failure. Even the nine little Monitors steamed back out of
the harbor as fast as ever they could, while the Charleston
 people from the tops of their houses looked on with delight
at the whole proceeding. They were sure their harbor
could not be taken now!
Later, another attack upon the city was made. This
time with double forces. While a fleet was to attack them
from the waterside, land forces were to attack them from
the rear. On Morris Island was Fort Wagner, one of the
strongest of the Charleston forts. Here a force of two
thousand landed, and quietly creeping toward the fort, made
an attack upon it. They were driven back; and, hiding in
the swamps, waited for more troops to come. A few days
later, another attack was made. This time, six regiments
went against the fort—among them this first colored
regiment, with brave Robert Shaw as its leader.
"Now, my good men," said he to his colored soldiers,
"now has come a time for you to prove that freedom is
worth the price we pay for it."
On the half-run these regiments advanced. Out came
a volume of deadly fire upon them from the fort. On they
pressed, leaping the ditches, until at last, scaling the walls,
the "Stars and Stripes" were placed upon the ramparts. But
only for a second did they stand; the storming column of
men fell back, dead; and into the ditch below, fell, too, the
Colonel Shaw had fallen close under the walls; and, when
the Union soldiers had all been driven back, and the
Con-  federates came out to bury the dead, they found his body
covered over by the dead bodies of his brave colored
soldiers whom he had loved so well.
The Confederates boasted that they had "buried him in a
ditch under his own niggers;" but no ditch was deep enough
to bury the memory of this brave young hero.
This unfortunate attack had proved that Fort Wagner
was not to be taken in this manner. The only way now was
to try to bombard the fort. But where should they set their
cannon, you will ask? Surely not in the water, in front of
the fort; and it seemed almost impossible to think of
setting up cannon in such a swamp as that in the rear. In a
swamp, where, before their eyes, many a workman had
sunk out of sight in the slimy mud, seemed hardly a place
to plant a cannon.
Still, this they tried to do. Night after night they
worked, digging here, and piling up there, until at last
they had advanced close upon the fort. Here they drove
piles one on top of the other, until a place was made so firm
and strong, that a cannon could stand with safety. Upon
this firm floor, they built ramparts, and set up their cannon.
The soldiers called this their "swamp angel."
Bombardment began, and on the 8th of September this plucky little
band of workers marched into the fort and set up the Union
flag. One fort in Charleston harbor was ours; one step
had been taken towards entering the city.
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