Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/17
Letters from Fort Sumter.
was made the other day, and for this reason also that our Generals are so determined to hold it. The enemy's gun-boats can come up within shelling distance of it, and to hold their place our troops were obliged to remain there under fire. We have about 8,000, or perhaps as many as 10,000, men on the island, and all, I believe in good condition. The enemy's force is estimated at 9,000, under General Stephens. If this is the true estimate it certainly would seem as if we could hold them in check for any length of time. Fort Sumter is about three miles distant from Secessionville, but it seems to me impossible for the enemy's gunboats ever to come from that quarter to attack us, as the stream is only navigable to very small boats, and that, too, only at very high tides'. Their object is to take James's Island and plant mortar batteries.
While on the island we visited our outposts, and I had the pleasure of seeing, from the top of a tree, the Yankee pickets, about six hundred yards distant. It seems strange, but is true, that the pickets of the two armies sit down at this distance apart and look at each other all day. After amusing ourselves looking at Yankees, we went to the breastworks and camps, after which we returned to Colonel Lamar's headquarters, expecting to return to the fort, but on learning that our battery was to commence replying to the enemy's battery, which, together with the gun-boats, had been shelling Secessionville and our battery all the morning, we concluded to walk down and see the duel. We stopped at Secessionville a few moments, and then, led on by curiosity, rather than by wisdom, we went across an open field under fire, to our battery, eight hundred yards distant, and remained there an hour, looking at the mortar practice. The enemy fired very rapidly and with great precision, striking the battery or grazing the top nearly every time. Their shells bursted mostly in rear of us, and only once directly overhead, which wounded two men. There were five of us along together, composing our party. It was very unwise of us to have exposed ourselves thus recklessly, and the more so that we should have done so merely out of curiosity. Your affectionate son,