Illustrations of the War in AmericaThe Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1197, p. 372.
April 4, 1863
However difficult the North has found it to make any decided impression upon the territory or spirit of the seceded States of America, it has succeeded, with its great resources, in isolating the South from all but the sympathy of Europe. From this we, in common with many others, have suffered not a little. The gentleman who has for some time past acted as our Special Artist and Correspondent in the Southern States of America finds the greatest difficulty in sending us the results of his labours. Our readers will no doubt remember that a short while back an English officer was arrested while running the blockade, and that the possession of correspondence addressed to us was held, amongst other causes, sufficient to warrant his detention and imprisonment. Upon that occasion the sketches found in his possession were forwarded not to us, but to the managers of Harper's Weekly, in New York, in the columns of which paper they in due time appeared, with a naïve acknowledgment that they were from the pencil of Mr. Vizetelly.
But the large proportion of the Sketches intercepted on their way from the South are doomed never to see the light of day. "What," asks our Correspondent, in the last letter received from him, "has become of Jackson's head-quarters, Lee's head-quarters, Stuart's head-quarters, encampment of the Confederates on the Shenandoah, view of Winchester, and many others? Where are all my letters from the Rappahannock and Richmond, one only of which is inserted, and which has been quoted in all the Southern papers?" Our readers may learn from the above that the long intervals which frequently elapse between our news and engravings of the progress of the war in the Southern States of America arise from no lack of spirit or industry on the part of our Special Artist, but from the impenetrability of the cordon which the North has succeeded in drawing around the seceded provinces. In reference to this subject--the difficulty, namely, of holding postal communication with England--Mr.
Page 373Vizetelly mentions the fact that the Times' correspondent is said to pay 100 dols. in gold to every messenger who attempts to run the blockade with his letters from the Southern camp to Baltimore, and that they are frequently lost by his emissaries being captured on the Potomac.
At the date of our Correspondent's letter (Feb. 2), Charleston was preparing itself for greater efforts on the part of its enemy than have yet been made against it. "This morning," he writes, "the Ironsides, the largest of the Yankee armour-vessels, has appeared off here; others are reported on their way; and we hear that a last effort is to be made to capture Charleston, the head and front of Secession. All the women and children are preparing to move, and, should the attack be made, I am convinced that the Federals will be beaten off."
Two of our Engravings illustrate the threatened fortifications, harbour, and town of Charleston. Both are taken from the same spot--viz., from Fort Johnson, but one is taken from a point looking seaward, the other up the harbour. When the Confederates bombarded Fort Sumter at the commencement of the war, Forts Johnson and Moultrie were the points from which they made the attack. "Now all these batteries combined, and many others that have been added have been improved and strengthened to such an extent that it seems," writes Mr. Vizetelly, "impossible that anything can enter the harbour." "I have not," he adds, "drawn all the defences, because I am bound in honour not to divulge them. They will, however, be discovered by the Federal ships whenever they attempt to force a passage."
Our third Engraving illustrates one of the most gallant and courageous deeds of the Southern navy. "For months," writes Mr. Vizetelly, "the people of Charleston have been busily engaged constructing two iron-clad gun-boats on the same plan as the old Merrimac, and within the last few weeks they were completed, and only waited an opportunity to measure their strength with the enemy's fleet blockading the port. This opportunity was given them on tho 30th of January.
Page 374It was a still, calm night; there was not even a ground-swell on the bar, and everything appeared favourable for the daring attempt. Hearing it was Commodore Ingraham's intention to move out, I made arrangements to accompany this squadron of two vessels that was going to engage the fleet of thirteen ships of war, that was reported to he off Fort Sumter at sundown. The tide did not serve to cross the bar until four a.m. on the 31st, and from eleven o'clock at night when they got under way till half-past three the ironclads cruised solemnly about in the misty moonlight, waiting that hour which was fated to be the last of many of the foe. At length the lead gave water enough to cross the bar, and grandly and silently the Palmetto State and the Chicora advanced into the gloom beyond. In thirty minutes from the time of crossing the bar the Palmetto State came open the first of the blockaders, the Mercedita, of 11 guns, looming large and undefined upon the unruffled sea. Painted a lead colour, the Confederate could hardly be seen at a greater distance than a hundred yards; and it was not till they were close upon each other that the watch on board the Federal ship hailed the stranger. In another minute the prow of the Palmetto State was buried deep in the Mercedita's timbers, and at the same moment the heavy, rifled gun mounted forward on the former was fired right into the shattered ship, and ere the smoke had blown away she careened over and commenced settling. A Lieutenant and boat's crew put off in confusion from the sinking vessel, and begged of Commodore Ingraham to cease firing, telling him that the water was already up to the berth-deck, and that they surrendered. The Commodore then hauled off, unable to take any of the Federals on his own ship, there only being room for his crew to fight the guns; so, paroling those alongside him, he desired them to make every exertion to save the ship's company in the boats. It is feared, however, they all perished, as the Mercedita suddenly disappeared. In the meantime, the Chicora stood well out and encountered three of the blockaders together. She engaged the one nearest to her and set her on fire. She also disappeared suddenly in the gloom, and, it is believed, went down. Another then attracted her attention, and after a half-dozen shots from a heavy rifled gun at close quarters, a large escapement of steam was perceived, the fire-bell rung on board of her, and she hauled down her colours, though, in the most cowardly manner, she afterwards escaped in the confusion with one wheel alone turning, and almost on her beam-ends. All the blockaders had by this time got a full head of steam on them, and they made off at speed to the south-east, leaving the two little iron-clads masters of the field, the latter sending shot and shell after them so long as they were within range. At daylight not a Federal vessel was in sight, and five only of them appeared in the evening after the Palmetto State and Chicora had recrossed the bar. The armament of both these gun-boats is two broadside, 8-in. smoothbores, one on each side, and a pivot, 7-in. rifle at the bow and stern, made to work also out of the starboard and port ports fore and aft."
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