top of page
Siege of Fort Macon
Harper's Weekly Articles

Top Picture: Bombardment of Fort Macon

Left Bottom: Fort Macon from Upper Parapet

Right Bottom: The Fifth Rhode Island entering Fort Macon

Sketched by Mr. A. Wiser

The following articles was transcribed from Harper's Weekly Journal of Civilization, dated May 17, 1862:

Fort Macon Repossessed.

          Above is illustrated the Bombardment and Recapture of Fort Macon, at Beaufort, by the United States troops under the command of General Burnside. Our pictures are from sketches by our special artist, Mr. Angelo Wiser. The fort was taken on Friday, April 25. The following account of the bombardment is from the correspondence of the Times:

          Friday morning - a day whose evil augury has been so signally reversed in the history of this campaign - dawned pleasantly, but a fresh breeze sprang up from the south at daybreak. At precisely 5:40 o'clock a Parrott gun from Captain Morris's Battery startled the town from its slumbers. Its thunder shook the houses in Beaufort to their foundations, and while the echoes of its shrill, bursting gazers, with half-finished toilets, filled the windows, or stood awe-struck upon the streets and balconies. Another and another followed in quick succession, and then came an earthquake shock from Flagler's 10-inch mortars, which made the windows rattle and weak-kneed mortals stand aghast! Before the smoke had cleared sufficiently to mark the spot from which this belching volcano had issued, puffs of white smoke rose from the right, and in advance of the rest. It was Lieutenant Prouty putting in the exclamation points to this new oration from his 8-inch mortar battery. Thus opened the bombardment of Fort Macon. For twenty minutes not a sign of life was seen upon the fort. The sentinel, suspended in his usual eyrie upon the flag-staff, had dropped from the cross-trees as if the halyards that held him up had been shot away, and he disappeared no more to return. Still the firing continued. At last heads of moving objects were seen cautiously stealing in the direction of the barbette guns on the lower parapet, and in another moment the fort gave out it first answering shot. Taking courage from this infantile effort, and finding they still lived, others crawled out from their coverts, and another gun was manned. They had already guessed at the location of the Parrot battery, and directed their fire upon it, but their practice at first was unsteady and faltering. Their solid 32-pound shot generally stuck short, throwing up clouds of sand, while an occasional shot passed over their head, and went bowling in among the sand-hills half a mile beyond our lines. A three weeks practice had taught our boys to dodge these missiles with comparative ease.

          Many of the shells from the heavy mortar battery, during the first part of the firing, went over the fort exploding on the beach aat the eastward or in the water - the same was true of the 8-inch shells - but it was not long before they obtained the range, when their firing was made with greater precision. Lieutenant Flagler stood at the right of his battery, in a position so as to enable him to see the effect of each shell, and directed the adjustment of every fuse and the training of the guns. At eight o'clock the firing from the fort became very sharp and well sustained, one gun after another being manned, until apparently half a dozen were at work at once. The Parrot battery kept up a continuous discharge, their shells exploding over the parapets, and their solid bolts plowing up the works in all directions. When one of these shots struck the parapets, the fort, for an instant, would be enveloped in heavy clouds of black mould, which were thrown almost to the top of the flagstaff, while fragments of brick,stone, and lumber, from the wooden covering of the the ramparts, filled the air, hiding the enemy's gunners from view.

          It was now apparent that the rebels were doing their utmost to dismount Captain Morris's battery, whose open embrasures afforded the only visible point of attack. Lieutenant Flagler's battery being nearly in a direct line with the Parrot guns, the shots which were aimed at it would generally ricochet and expend their force near that beyond. Lieutenant Prouty, whose position was at the extreme right, near the south beach, continued his fire for a considerable time before attracting much attention from the enemy's guns. Later in the action he received a good share of the rebel shot in return for his well-directed fire.

          Up to 9 o'clock a.m. the fire from our batteries and from the fort was kept up with nearly equal spirit and determination, the advantages, if any, being on the side of the fort, which outnumbered us in guns. The rebel gunners won much admiration from many sympathizing spectators in Beaufort and Morehead for their daring and bravery.

          About 9 o'clock a.m. the United States gun-boats came into position, one after the other, and opened fire, their shots enfilading those from our batteries on the beach. Their long-range guns sent their shot and shell in some cases clear over the fort, which burst withing half a mile of the town. The majority of them, however, raked the east and west parapets with effect, and did great execution upon the south face of the fort. Added to the continuous fire from the mortar and Parrot batteries, they sent a perfect storm of exploding projectiles into the fort, and for a time the rebel gunners stood appalled. They fled from the lower parapets and most exposed positions, taking shelter behind the breast-works or in the casemates. While this timely contribution was being added to the common stock of Union arguments, our land batteries took a moment's breathing spell, and prepared to renew the firing with vigor. the rough sea which prevailed outside, however, rendered all attempt at accurate range impossible, and after firing for about two hours they hauled off. During this time a large number of good shots were thrown at the ships. One of these, a 32-pounder, struck the United States gun-boat Daylight near the gangway, passing through the engine-room, the Captain's room, and lodging in the ceilng on the port side. It carried away a portion Eugene J. Wade, breaking his left arm. Another hot shot passed through the ensign of the State of Georgia, but did no other damage. The Albatross and Chippewa had some of their rigging carried away.

          The bark Gemsbok also did some effective firing, and all demonstrated what they would have done had the weather been smooth. In the afternoon our batteries obtained the exact range, and poured a continuous hail-storm of bursting shell into the fort. The rebel guns were gradually deserted, and at 2 o'clock only tow or three guns were fired at intervals of five minutes. On our side the fire continued with little abatement, every shell telling with terrible effect.

          At 3 o'clock the gun in the water-battery, which had kept up a constant discharge, was silenced by the bursting shells, and only an occasional discharge was made from the 10-inch Columbiad on the south parapet.

          Shortly after 4 o'clock the firing, which had been constantly growing weaker, ceased, and a white flag was displayed on the west front of the fort. Our batteries immediately ceased firing, and the fact was announced to General Parke, and was also signaled to General Burnside.

          The effects of the bombardment are thus described by the same correspondent:

          The inner walls and parade-ground of the fort bore witness to the terrific force of the shells which had exploded within. Deep holes indented in the brick-work; the stone steps torn from their foundation; the water-tank stove in, and rendered useless; casemate window shattered to fragments; and even the ends of the upright bars of railroad iron, set up to protect the entrance to the casemates, broken off, and the solid shot buried to their heel in the brick walls -- were some of the visible effects of the iron storm. Thousands of fragments of shells lay scattered over the ground. The ramparts were breached and plowed up on all sides; the wooden coping scattered in fragments along the parapets; chimneys knocked flat, and gun-carriages split and broken to pieces. Fifteen out of Eighteen guns pointing up the Spit were disabled, and several dismounted. Over 400 shot and shell fell in the fort, and about 100 shells burst in the inner fort.

          Seven persons were killed at the guns and in the fort, and eighteen wounded, one mortally. One man had his leg cut off by the fragment of a shell while sitting on his bunk in the casemate. Another had his knee badly crushed. Two of the killed, viz., J. P. Willis and James Stanton, belong in Beaufort.

          The dead were carried out in rough boxes as the Union troops entered the fort.

          The garrison consisted of 450 men, 250 being effective.

          So our troops are repossessing, one by one, the forts belonging to the United States.

bottom of page