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The Coming Struggle at Charleston

The Illustrated London News, vol. 42, no. 1198, p. 414.

April 11, 1863

The Coming Struggle At Charleston.--The Charleston correspondent of the Mobile Register writes as follows:--"The struggle, when it comes, will certainly be of a fearful character. It will be the shock of tremendous forces, the relative powers of which are yet untried. The long-mooted question of the fighting value of the ships against batteries will be brought to a test more conclusive than any to which human warfare has yet subjected it. In other words, the Monitor ironclads which the Yankees claim to be the most impenetrable vessels ever constructed will necessarily come within point-blank range of the most numerous and powerful batteries that have ever yet been used in a single engagement. We have good reason, too, to believe that our guns will be managed with admirable tact and precision. The more important batteries are manned by the South Carolina regulars, for whom the credit is claimed, and I think justly, of being the most expert and practical heavy artillerists in the Confederate army. The forts are well officered, and General Ripley, who has made the study of heavy ordnance a specialty for years, and whose excellence in that particular branch of military knowledge is an admitted fact, will himself take command at Fort Sumter as soon as the enemy makes his appearance. It is scarcely possible that any floating thing can breast unharmed the concentrated storm of heavy metal from the guns of Sumter, Moultrie, and Battery Bee, the three principal works commanding the throat of the harbour. Nor can the peril of running this terrible gauntlet be diminished by an attempt to pass under cover of the darkness, as has been the case at Vicksburg and New Orleans. So tortuous and intricate is the channel leading to the forts that the most experienced pilots of the harbour would not venture to bring in a vessel by night, under the conditions which the enemy cannot escape, viz.--without light or landmark to guide the way. Even when the blockade-running vessels leave the harbour it is always necessary to aid their exit by previously-arranged lights (shaded) and signals; so that it is reasonably certain that the attacking ironclads must either enter in open day or incur the imminent hazard of getting aground upon one of the most treacherous bars on the Southern coast, which seldom yields a vessel when once it has grasped the keel. But if, perchance, despite of mazy channel, multiplied torpedoes, and the combined batteries of the forts, some of the nine Monitors should chance to get into port, they would still have to encounter a concentrated fire of other batteries, which, as the Yankee papers have learned from contrabands, 'line the shores of the interior of the harbour.' And then will come the 'tug of war' which will determine the possession of the honoured old city."

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