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Fort Pulaski Harper's Weekly Articles

The following article is transcribed from Harper's Weekly Journal of Civilization, dated May 3, 1862:

Capture of Fort Pulaski

           Shortly after the Occupation of Tybee Island by our troops, Captain (now General) Gilmore commenced the erection of a number of batteries for the reduction of Fort Pulaski. The majority of these batteries were for heavy mortars of thirteen inches calibre. Most of these were to be erected within easy range and sight of the fort. How to do this unseen was a matter of serious consideration, as the smallest party of men seen during the daytime at these places provoked the fire from he guns of Pulaski. This made it necessary that all work should be done at night. There being few natural advantages the slightest objects were made, by the ingenuity of General Gilmore, to serve as the basis of a fortification; during each night fences and bushes were carefully raised a foot or so at a time, and while no change in their appearance was observed from Fort Pulaski, a battery was in course of construction within from 1500 to 5000 yards. Whenever the transportation of one of the heavy mortars was interrupted by the approach of daylight it was carelessly covered up with bushes, and it remained undisturbed during the day. Some of these mortars weighed 17,000 pounds each; and the roads were so bad at first that the wheels of the trucks sunk into the mud up to the hubs. A corduroy road was afterward constructed, however, with fagots bound together, the interstices being filled with earth. Some of the guns were casemated, and all batteries were carefully concealed from view. Not a loud word was spoken during their construction. Orders were given in an under-tone, and during the transportation of the artillery orders were transmitted by whistle. It is supposed that the enemy were in total ignorance of the operations going on so near them until our guns opened on the fort.

          The bombardment is thus described in the correspondence of the Herald:

          On Thursday morning, at twenty-three minutes of eight, the fire was opened by a discharge of a 13-inch mortar from Battery Halleck, fired by Lieutenant Horace Porter, of the Ordnance Department, the shell exploding in the air; and this was succeeded by a 13-inch shell from Battery Stanton, which exploded short. In a moment or two several of the mortars were discharged from the other batteries; but none of the shells were effective, the firing being wild and the fuses too short. Three minutes after the first fire Fort Pulaski responded from a 10-inch barbette gun, the shell exploding harmlessly over Tybee Island. The firing soon became general on both sides, little damage being done by either for some time, as we had not attained the correct range, and the enemy were not quite sure of the of the position of our battery. Soon, however, we observed the dust begin to fly from the pancope, between the south and southeast faces, and we were satisfied that the breaching batteries (Halleck, Scott, Siegel, McClelland and Totten) on Goat Point were in full play, sending their rifled balls, solid 10-inch shot and heavy shell, with terrible effect against the brick walls.


          The bombardment went on all day, the fire from our batteries being more effective every minute. The enemy, finding that our 13-inch shells were not so destructive as they expected, began to work their barbette guns with great energy and give us some trouble. Our Parrott guns were brought to bear upon them, and a hot fire was poured upon their guns, and one or two of them dismounted. The fire from the breaching batteries became more and more disastrous to the enemy as the day advanced. The pancope began to assume a mottled aspect. It appeared to have the small-pox, blotches appearing all over it. These after a while ran together, and deep holes in the face of the wall of the pancope were discovered, which became deeper and deeper, and finally assumed the form of a breach. The breach at dusk, at which time the fire was temporarily suspended on both sides, was not entirely through the wall except at one small point, through which a gleam of sunlight was caught about sunset. During the night an occasional shell was thrown from batteries  Burnside and Halleck, and from the rifled guns of Batteries Siegel. The enemy made no reply, but seemed to engaged in repairing damages. We had lost not a man during the day and sustained no damage of consequence to our batteries.


          Such as were injured were repaired by the engineers during the night, and all was made ready by daylight for another day's operations. At daylight on Friday fire was opened by our batteries, and responded to by the enemy.


          The James shells, which had well bored and homey-combed the pancope of the fort, had prepared it well for the operations of the solid 10-inch shot, and when the Columbiads from Goat Point opened the pancope began to crumble. The breach of the day previous enlarged, two others were effected, and by two o'clock, when the rebel flag was hauled down the white flag raised, a practicable breach, large enough to drive a four-horse wagon through, had been formed, and our James shells were passing through it, across the terra plain, and breaching the magazine itself. This brought the rebels to terms. They unconditionally surrendered.


          The fort was much cut up by our firing. The breach was immense, and rifle-balls passed completely through it. No fort was ever breached before at so great a distance.


          The breaching batteries were as follows:


No.                          Battery.                                                                                              Lbs.

1.                             Stanton       3 13-in.              Mortars            pattern 1861            17,120

2.                            Grant            3 13-in.              Mortars            pattern 1861           17,120

3.                             Lyon             3 10-in.             Columbiads     pattern 1861           15,059

4.                             Lincoln         3 8-in.               Columbiads     Pattern 1844             9,240

5.                             Burnside      1 13-in.             Mortar               pattern 1861          17,120

6.                             Sherman      3 13-in.             Mortars             pattern 1861          17,120

7.                             Halleck         2 13-in.            Mortars              pattern 1861          17,120

8.                             Scott             3 10-in.

                                                      1 8-in.              Columbiads  

9.                             Siegel           1 24-pr.           James                 Siege Carriage

                                                       5 3-pr.            Parrot


10.                           McClellan     2 42-pr.          Sea Coast


                                                       2 32-pr.


11.                           Totten           4 10-in.          Mortars                 pattern 1841,

                                                                                                            pattern 1852. 

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