Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/16
Southern Historical Society Papers.
sweep the enemy from the sides of the breastwork. All praise is due to the Charleston battalion and Lamar's two companies of artillery, as well as Smith's battalion, and had it not been for the desperate fighting of these commands, while reinforcements were being sent for, the important point at Secessionville would have been lost. But while we give all credit to our own troops, let us never again disparage our enemy and call them cowards, for nothing was ever more glorious than their three charges in the face of a raking fire of grape and canister, and then at last, as if to do or die, they broke into two columns and rushed against our right and left flanks, which movement would have gained the day, had not our reinforcements arrived. We were emphatically surprised, but it could not have been otherwise expected, when we recollect that the three commands before mentioned, which were at Secessionville, had been under fire of the enemy' s battery for the past two weeks, being shelled day and night, and thereby almost exhausted from want of sleep. The lamented Captain Reed had been manning our battery for ten days with his company. Many of our finest men were killed, and all the friends or relations of some of the officers in the Fort, and a general gloom is spread over the countenances of all here now.
And now I will try and tell you something about our situation on James Island, as I have had the chance of learning, having in company with some other officers in the Fort visited the Island, on Sunday last, the day before the battle, and having seen all our outposts, breastworks, batteries, &c., as well as a large portion of the troops. A dense woods separates our army from the enemy, and all along for from 3,000 to 4,000 yards in rear of these woods, i. e., towards our side, is a level, open space, and in most places can only be passed over by the army, on account of marshlands, by roads. Now, cutting across the island to the rear of this level space, stretch our breastworks, in which we have a few guns mounted at considerable intervals apart, and behind which infantry and field-batteries will be protected. You see at once the strength of our position. The roads will be thoroughly guarded, and if a column advances across one of these fields, it will be exposed to the fire of artillery as soon as it makes its appearance. It can then be raked when nearer by grape and canister, and as soon as it comes within range nothing protects it from the volleys of our infantry. Secessionville is a very important point on the creek that divides Morris's from James's Island and constitutes our extreme left flank, and if taken the enemy could turn our left. It was for this reason, no doubt, that the attack