Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/135

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General Trapier's Report of Battle of April 7th, 1863.

Report of Brigadier-General J. H. Trapier of the Fight of 7th of April, 1863, in Charleston Harbor.

[From original MS. never before published.]

Sullivan's Island, April 8th, 1863.

Captain W. F. Nance, A. A. G., Charleston, S. C.:

Dear Sir—I have the honor to submit the following report, of the action of the 7th instant, between the enemy's fleet of ironclad war vessels and the fort and batteries on this island.

At about two o'clock P. M. on that day, it was reported to me that the movements of the fleet which had been for some hours anchored within the "bar" were suspicious, and that some of the vessels appeared to be advancing. So stealthily did they approach, however, that not until two and a half o'clock did I become convinced that the intentions of the enemy were serious, and that the long threatened attack was about to begin. I immediately repaired to Fort Moultrie, where I had previously determined to make my headquarters during the action. Slowly but steadily the ironclads approached, coming by the Middle or Swash channel in single file—the Passaic (it is believed) in the van, followed by the rest (eight in number) at equal distances—the flagship New Ironsides occupying the centre.

At three o'clock, Colonel William Butler, commanding the fort, reported to me that the leading vessel was in range. I ordered him immediately to open his batteries upon her, which was done, promptly, and the action began.

Fearing that the range was rather long for effective work, the firing, after a few rounds, was suspended for a short time; but finding that the enemy refused closer quarters, there was no alternative, but to engage him at long range or not at all. We decided upon the former, and Fort Moultrie again opened her batteries. Batteries Bee and Beauregard had also by this time opened fire, and the action had become general. It soon became obvious that the enemy's intention was to fight and not to run by, and orders were given to "train" on vessels nearest in, and to fire by battery. Volley after volley was delivered in this way, but although it was plain that our shot repeatedly took effect—the impact against the iron casings of the enemy been distinctly heard—yet we could not discover but that the foe was indeed invulnerable.