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 Posted: Thu Jun 6th, 2013 03:45 am
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Hellcat
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Ok, with the recent talk on Butler, particularly on
his performance as a field commander vs as an administrator, I hit one of my favorite sites and perused their collection of Harper's Weekly. Given the most recent discussion between myself and TD, here's the September 14, 1861 article on the Battle of Forts Hatteras and Clark (aka Battle of Hatteras Inlet)
THE CAPTURE OF HATTERAS
FORTS.

WE illustrate on pages 584 and 585 the DEPARTURE OF GENERAL BUTLER'S EXPEDITION AGAINST HATTERAS, and on the preceding page we give a View of the BOMBARDMENT, and Portraits of GENERAL BUTLER AND COMMODORE STRINGHAM.

The following account of this brilliant affair is from the report of the special reporter of the Herald :

Minnesota, Commodore Stringham; Wabash, Captain Mercer; the gun-boats Pawnee, Captain Rowan; Monticello, Commander Gillis, and the Harriet Lane, Captain Faunce, with the transports Adelaide and George Peabody, conveying troops to the number of about a thousand, left Fortress Monroe last Monday, and reached the rendezvous off Hatteras Inlet, fifteen miles below Cape Hatteras, on Tuesday morning, the Minnesota and Wabash coming in in the afternoon, and the Cumberland joined the fleet the same day.

Preparations were immediately made to land the troops the following morning, at which time the transports ran near the beach, two miles north of the Inlet, and, covered by the Monticello, Harriet Lane, and Pawnee, about three hundred men were landed through a heavy surf, the force consisting of Captain Larned's company of regular artillery, Captain Jardine's company Ninth New York, two companies of the Twentieth New York, with Colonel Weber and Lieutenant-Colonel Heiss; a detachment of marines from the frigates, under command of Majors Doughty and Shuttleworth, and a detachment of sailors from the Pawnee, under Lieutenants Crosby and Blue, with Drs. King and Jones.

The gun-boats swept the beach and neighboring copse of scrub oaks. All the boats being swamped and bilged in the surf, no more men could be thrown ashore. Meanwhile, the Minnesota and Wabash—the latter with the Cumberland in tow—steamed up to the front of one of the rebel batteries and took their position at long range.

At ten o'clock the Wabash fired the first gun, the eleven-inch shell striking near the battery and bursting with tremendous force. The battery, which was of sand, covered with turf and mounting five long thirty-twos, instantly returned the fire, the shot falling short. The Minnesota and Cumberland immediately opened fire and rained nine and eleven inch shells into and about it. The fire was terrific, and soon the battery's responses were few and far between, save when the frigates suspended fire for a while to get a new position, when the enemy's fire was most spirited.

No damage was sustained by our ships, and when they again took their position the cannonading was intensely hot, the shells dropping in the enemy's works or falling on the ramparts, exploding in death-dealing fragments, and carrying death and destruction with them. The small wooden structures about the fort were torn and perforated with flying shells. At eleven o'clock the immense flag-staff was shot away and the rebel flag came down, but the fire was still continued by them. At twelve o'clock the Susquehanna steamed in, and, dropping her boats astern, opened an effective fire. The cannonading on our part was incessant, and the air was alive with the hum and explosion of flying shells; but the enemy did not return the fire with any regularity, the battery being too hot for them, from the explosion of shells that dropped in at the rate of about half a dozen a minute.

The enemy ceased firing a little before two, and after a few more shells had been thrown in the Commodore signalized to cease firing.

The troops had meantime advanced to within a short distance of the fort, and before we ceased firing some of our men got in and raised the Stars and Stripes. The place was too hot for the men, but the flag was left waving. Coxswain Benjamin Sweares, of the Pawnee's first cutter, stood for some time on the ramparts waving the flaw amidst a flight of shells.

When the firing ceased the fort was occupied in force, and held afterward.

The Monticello had proceeded ahead of the land force to protect them, and had reached the Inlet when a large fort of an octagon shape, to the rear and right of the small battery, mounting ten thirty-twos and four eight-inch guns, which had till then been silent, opened on her with eight guns, at short range. At the same instant she got aground, and stuck fast, the enemy pouring in a fire hot and heavy, which the Monticello replied to with shell sharply. For fifty minutes she held her own, and finally getting off the ground she came out, having been shot through and through by seven eight-inch shell, one going below the water-line. She fired fifty-five shell in fifty minutes, and partially silenced the battery. She withdrew at dusk for repairs, with one or two men slightly bruised, but none killed or wounded.

The escape of the vessel and crew was miraculous. Until this time we supposed the day was ours; but the unexpected opening of the large battery rather changed the aspect of affairs. Things did not look cheerful at dark. We had men ashore who were probably in need of provisions, and in case of a night attack no assistance could be sent them from the Harriet Lane.

As we lay close in shore we saw the bright bivouac fires on the beach with groups of men about them. The night passed without an alarm, the enemy, as we have since learned, lying on their arms all night, expecting an attack.

At early daybreak on Thursday the men went to quarters in the fleet, and at a quarter past eight, the vessels having borne down nearer than the previous day's position, the action began, the Susquehanna opening the day's work by a shell from one of the eleven-inch guns. The Minnesota and Wabash joined in immediately, and again the hum of shell and their explosion were heard. They fired nearly half an hour before the battery responded, when it answered briskly. Our fire was more correct than on the previous day. The range had been obtained, and nearly every shot went into the battery, throwing up clouds of sand and exploding with terrific effect.

At twenty-five minutes past ten the Harriet Lane opened fire, and soon after the Cumberland came in from the offing and joined in the attack. The Harriet Lane, with her rifled guns, did good execution, several projectiles from the eight-inch shell going into the battery, and one going directly through the ramparts. The fire was so hot that all of the enemy that could do so got into a bomb-proof in the middle of the battery.

Finally, at five minutes past eleven A.M., an eleven-inch shell having pierced the bomb-proof through a ventilator and exploded inside, near the magazine, the enemy gave up the fight and raised over the ramparts a white flag.

General Butler went into the Inlet, and landed at the fort, and demanded an unconditional surrender.

Commodore Barron, Assistant Secretary of the Confederate Navy, asked that the officers be allowed to march out with side-arms, and the men be permitted to return to their homes after surrendering their arms. These terms were pronounced inadmissible by General Butler, and finally the force was surrendered without condition.


Check here for the September 14, 1861 issue to see the images mentioned above: http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/civil-war-fort-hatteras-battle.htm

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