Battle of Fort Darling


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, May 31, 1862

This page is part of our online version of all the Harper's Weekly newspapers published during the Civil War. This archive contains a wealth of incredible eye-witness illustrations of the War, as well as in depth analyses of the key battles and events of the day.

(Scroll Down to See Entire Page, or Newspaper Thumbnails below will take you to a specific page of interest)


Fort Darling

Fort Darling

Lincoln Slavery

Lincoln Orders, "Do Not Free Slaves"

General Hunter Frees Slaves

General Hunter Orders Slaves Freed

British Iron-Clads

British Iron-Clads

Fort Darling

Battle of Fort Darling

Hamburg Landing

Hamburg Landing

Jefferson Davis Cartoon

Jefferson Davis Cartoon



Mobile, Alabama

Naval Battle

Naval Battle

Pea Ridge

The Battle of Pea Ridge, Tennessee


Richmond, Virginia



MAY 31, 1862.]




EVENING shades are falling, dearest! Night is coming on;

And the sweet stars look out shyly, Slowly, one by one;

And I count them with my forehead Pressed against the pane,

And thinking of the time, dearest,

When we shall meet again!

When I fold my hands, dearest,

To breathe a good-night prayer,

Whose name is it that lingers longest

Upon the evening air?

Yours! And then I slumber sweetly,

For I know our Lord

Through the night's long hours of darkness Hath you in his ward.


How much I think of you, dearest!

I know that very oft

My features rise before you,

And then your voice grows soft: They do not know the reason

It thrills and trembles so;

'Tis the beautiful heart music

That makes it sweet and low.


God bless you, my own darling!

And keep you pure and fair;

May the calm glory of your eyes

Be darkened by no care.

Your love—the dearest, next to God's!

Your worth—my highest pride!

Good angels guard your homeward steps,

And haste you to my side!


But if—Ah, God! the bitter thought—

You should not come again;

If you should lie out in the night Among the battle's slain!

I could not bear such anguish, love,

For all that I could do;

I know my widowed heart would break,

And I should perish too!


THE exploits of the Monitor and the Merrimac have roused the British to the necessity of bringing up their navy to the modern standard, and accordingly we find that iron-clad vessels are being rapidly constructed at all the British dock-yards. We give, on page 342, several illustrations of the new iron-clad ships which are being constructed. The ship which the English seem to consider the most formidable of their new fleet is the Defence—an iron-clad steam ram, carrying guns. We condense the following account of the Defence from the British papers:

She was built for the Government by Messrs. Palmer, of Jarrow, on the Tyne, and is of the following dimensions: Length between perpendiculars, 280 feet; breadth, 54 feet; depth of hold, 18 feet 3 inches; burden in tons, 3668; with engines of 600-horse power.

The Defence recently returned to Spithead after a trial-trip of nineteen days; a week of that time she lay in Plymouth Sound, so that but twelve days were spent in ascertaining her qualities at sea. Thanks to the proverbially changeable nature of the weather at this season of the year, the time, brief as it was, afforded many good opportunities of testing her. The wind, though never violent, was at times sufficiently strong to designate it a gale, and to cause a rather heavy sea. Her conduct under these circumstances was excellent evidence as to her capability to encounter worse or even the worst of weather. It is stated that her good qualities as a ship of war exceeded the expectations of all who had to do with her.

Her steering qualities, without being so bad as has been represented, are doubtless inferior; her symptoms are precisely those of a ship too much immersed, being sluggish in answering her helm, and apt to take broad shears when her head once makes a start.

The quantity of canvas she spreads is very small in proportion to her tonnage; nevertheless she is perfectly manageable under sail, and attains a speed of about two-thirds the usual rate of sailing of an ordinary frigate. Under steam her greatest speed is about eleven knots.

She is described as being remarkably easy in a seaway. No wooden ship would have the smallest chance against the Defence if the latter could use her guns or her prow. The projectiles thrown by the Defence would speedily fire a timber-built ship, and her formidable stem would certainly crush in the side of any such vessel.

The most popular class of vessels in England at present, however, are imitations of Captain Ericsson's Monitor, adapted by a Captain Coles, who modestly claims the invention as his own. We give a picture of a "CUPOLA SHIELD FRIGATE FOR FOREIGN SERVICE," from Captain Coles's models. This vessel is to be 260 feet long, 45 feet beam, 21 feet draught, and 1000-horse power. She is to carry four 150-pounder Armstrongs, or eight 110-pounders, and her bow is to be heavily armed with iron, so as to enable her to be used as a ram at close quarters. The first of these cupola-shield frigates is to be launched in February, 1863.

Captain Coles not only proposes to build new cupola-shield frigates, but professes his capacity to cut down line-of-battle ships into Monitors. We publish an illustration of one of the great BRITISH LINE-OF-BATTLE SHIPS CUT DOWN according to his plans, and likewise a sectional view of the same. The vessel, as razeed, will be 250 feet long, 58 feet beam, 23 feet draught, and 1000-horse power. She will carry five 150-pounders, or ten 110-pounders, Armstrongs.

A small diagram, on the same page, shows the effects of gun-practice against one of Captain Cowper Coles's cupolas. It does not seem to have been much injured; but perhaps the guns were small of their kind.

The first of Captain Coles's ships will be launched

in February, 1863. By that time the United States will have 35 iron-clads afloat, including at least twelve Monitors.


WE illustrate on page 337 the unequal conflict between our gun-boats Galena and Monitor and a powerful rebel fort called Fort Darling, on the banks of the James River, some seven miles from Richmond. It seems that our gun-boats Galena, Monitor, Aroostook, Port Royal, and Naugatuck advanced up the James River to within seven miles of Richmond, passing or silencing the batteries as they advanced. At Fort Darling they found the river obstructed with sunken vessels and stones, and were exposed to a heavy plunging fire from a fort situate on a bluff 200 feet high. The Naugatuck burst her gun—a 100-pounder Parrott—at the 7th fire. The wooden vessels sheered off, being incapable of standing the fire from the fort and the rifle-pits with which the river shores were lined. For four hours the Galena and Monitor fought the forts at great disadvantage. They were exposed to a plunging fire which they were not built to withstand; the deck of the Galena was perforated by almost every shot, and her loss in killed and wounded was heavy. Neither vessel could elevate her guns sufficiently to silence the batteries of Fort Darling. After four hours' fighting the squadron therefore withdrew.

Commodore Goldsborough has since gone up the the river with his squadron and some mortar-boats, with which it is believed he will soon be able to take Fort Darling and clear the way to Richmond.


WE publish in this week's paper views of three rebel cities, all of which we hope to be able to report have fallen into the hands of our brave troops by the time our next paper is published.


On pages 344 and 345 we give RICHMOND, VIRGINIA, THE REBEL CAPITAL, together with Vignettes of the various PRISONS in which so many of our poor brothers have languished during the past year. The following account will be read with interest:

Richmond is situated on the James River, 23 miles north of Petersburg, 113 south by west of Washington, and about 150 miles from the mouth of the river. Its population in 1854 was 30,000; its exports about $3,000,000, chiefly wheat and tobacco.

The principal feature that strikes every one who sees Richmond for the first time is its curious topography. From the James River, which, tumbling over its rocky bed, makes a wide bend here, with its convex face to the city, rise, without any regard to uniformity of direction, some half dozen hills of gravel formation and of pretty considerable elevation. There has never been any attempt to grade them into level streets, but the city is scattered promiscuously up and on and over them, just as fashion, taste, or business may have happened to dictate. The principal part of the city, however, occupies actually only one of those elevations, and the garden spot of that one is the Capitol Square, where stands the building of which Jefferson procured the design in France, but which, however magnificent it may have been deemed in the simple, unostentatious days in which it was built, is certainly not to be lauded now either for its beauty or for its adaptation to the wants of a State Legislature, much less to those of a Congress of Confederate States. In the centre of the Square is the beautiful equestrian statue of Washington, looking as calm and serene and commanding as if the city which he overlooks was not the centre and hot-bed of the foulest treason that ever showed itself in the light of day. The pedestal is designed for eight other statues of distinguished Virginians, but three of which have yet been put in their places. These are Jefferson, Henry, and Mason—not the arrogant, self-conceited blockhead who recently represented the State in the Senate at Washington, and has now gone seeking recognition at London as the diplomatic representative of secessiondom, but a far purer, wiser, and more patriotic namesake of his. Here also is a small statue of Henry Clay.

Richmond has really but one business thoroughfare. That is Main Street. Most of the hotels, banks, newspaper offices, and stores are located on it. It extends northward into the open country, and southeastward to a suburb called Rocketts. In this latter section of it are situated some of the tobacco warehouses where our Union prisoners are now confined. These are large old brick edifices, of mouldy, dilapidated appearance. They stand three together on one side of the street—which here is of a most dingy character—and two nearly opposite. Those on the north side are overlooked by the bluffs in which Church Hill here terminates, and which supply gravel for the city, while those on the south side of the street have the James River and Kanawha Canal, and the river itself immediately in their rear.

Near the summit of the elevation known as Church Hill is a large, old-fashioned brick building known as the alms-house. It has been converted from its original purpose, and now serves as a hospital for our sick and wounded. Sisters of Charity come and go, untiring angels of consolation, and the hearse is kept in constant requisition, so great is the mortality that prevails here. Many of the private houses in the vicinity are also converted into temporary hospitals. As a general thing, the former residents of this part of the city have gone elsewhere since the location of the hospitals here; and now on every tenth house or more you see waving a little dirty, whitish-yellow flag, denoting a lazaretto. The Odd Fellows' Hall, on Broad Street, is also used as a general hospital. On the most commanding part of Church Hill still stands, in good preservation too, the church in which Patrick Henry made the famous speech at the commencement of the Revolutionary struggle, where he used that memorable and oft-quoted phrase, "Give me liberty, or give me death:" Around the church are the graves of the last generation of the people of Richmond, and I was no little disgusted to observe that few of the head-stones had escaped the profane Vandalism of some scoundrels, who, as a proof of their wit, cut the figure "1" before the figures recording the ages of the deceased, making it appear that those who rested here from their labors had enjoyed incredibly patriarchal length of years.

Between this hill and the rickety suburb known as Rocketts there is a large encampment, and I believe there are also batteries here, for the defense of the river. I know that there certainly are batteries on the bluffs, above and beyond Rocketts. Near here the few steamers and sailing craft that used to trade to Richmond had their mooring-places, and here also the James River and Kanawha Canal has its southern outlet into the river. This is a great work of internal improvement, so far as the design is concerned; but, unfortunately for Virginia, her execution does not keep pace with her plans, and the canal, though open for many years, does not come within a long distance of the Kanawha River, which it was intended to tap. If it ever will do so, it must be after secession is crushed and the Union restored.


Mobile, Alabama, of which we give several views on page 340, is one of the largest cities on the Gulf.

It is on the junction of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, at the head of Mobile Bay.

The city is an old one, having been held successively by the British and Spaniards before it came into our possession.

The city is built upon a plateau elevated some fifteen feet above high-water-mark, thirty miles from the mouth of Mobile. Bay, the entrance to this bay being protected by Forts Morgan and Gaines.

Fort Morgan was known as Fort Boyer during the war of 1812, when the gallant Major Lawrence defended it successfully against repeated attacks both by land and sea. The fort since then has been rebuilt and strengthened, and was but a short time since one of the most picturesque and interesting of our sea-coast defenses. In shape it is a pentagon trace, built upon regular angles, protected on the sea front by a strong water-battery of masonry and turf. The greater number of the guns of the fort are Columbiads of heavy calibre, with an occasional rifle upon a salient. A bomb-proof citadel in the centre of the fort, pierced for musketry, affords a secure retreat during a bombardment, as well as a dernier resort from a successful storming party. The fort and water-battery, with their full armament, mount forty-five guns.

Fort Gaines, the other fort which protects Mobile, is situated on Dauphin's Island Point, three miles and one-fourth from and nearly opposite Fort Morgan. This fort was under construction at the outbreak of the rebellion, and, if finished, would have mounted eighty-nine guns.

The rebels, making a virtue of necessity, have now deferred its completion, and are making use of those portions nearly finished, which, with the sand-batteries that have been erected, make them exceedingly confident of their ability to sustain and withstand any attack that may be made upon them.

Grant's Pass is the one through which the New Orleans steamers used to puff their way before the regularity of their trips were interfered with by a healthy fear for their safety; for truth to say, the probability is that a steamer would make but a small portion of her journey now ere she fell into the safe keeping of one of the many gun-boats that compose our Gulf squadron. This pass has been fortified and protected in the best manner possible under the circumstances, sand-batteries having been erected upon either side of the little island upon which the keeper of the pass and light used to live.


Memphis, Tennessee, of which we give a view on page 348, is probably by this time in possession of our forces. The following description of the place is accurate:

Memphis, previous to the rebellion, was a flourishing city and port of entry of Shelby County, Tennessee, and is beautifully situated on the Mississippi River, just below the mouth of the Wolf River. It is located on what is known as the fourth Chickasaw Bluff, which is about forty feet high nearest the shore. It is distant from St. Louis about four hundred and twenty miles by water, and from Nashville about two hundred and nine miles, in a west-southwesterly direction. It was at one time considered the most populous and important town on the river between St. Louis and New Orleans, and occupies the only eligible site for a commercial depot from the mouth of the Ohio to Vicksburg—a distance of at least six hundred and fifty miles. The bluff on which the city stands, and before alluded to, is elevated about thirty feet above the highest floods, and its base is washed by the river for a distance of three miles; a bed of sandstone projects into the stream and forms a complete, convenient, and natural steamboat landing. The appearance of Memphis from the river is exceedingly fine. An esplanade, several hundred feet wide, extends along the bluff in front of the town, and is bordered with blocks of large warehouses. The population, since 1854, has doubled itself, and was still rapidly increasing when the troubles commenced. It contains several churches, an academy, a medical college, two banks, and a telegraph office. A naval depot was established there by the United States Government, but proved a failure. The river is, however, deep enough to float a very large ship-of-war, and the rebels have taken advantage of the money expended by the United States Government to use the Navy-yard for the purpose of building vessels to oppose their navy. The means of communication to and from the city are good, and the trade of the place has been excellent. In 1840, the population was 3300: in 1850 it had increased to 8841, and in 1853 it was estimated at 12,000. What it now is can not be definitely stated.


Wit illustrate on page 348 a remarkable incident of the Battle of Pea Ridge, Tennessee, when the Eighth Missouri Regiment charged over the Eighteenth Regulars—the latter being composed of raw recruits, and showing an unwillingness to charge. The artist thus describes his picture:


To the Editor of Harper's Weekly:

Inclosed herewith please find sketches of a sharp little action which took place yesterday, some seven miles from here. A reconnoitring force, consisting of two regiments from each division, was sent out early yesterday morning to ascertain where the main body of the enemy lay. Some seven miles from camp the advance-guard of the Eighth Missouri Volunteers discovered the videttes and pickets of the enemy directly in front and posted in the edge of the woods, and advancing drove them in. Our forces coming up discovered three regiments of rebels drawn up in line of battle in the edge of the woods on the other side of a large open field, and protected by a strong fence. At this juncture the Eighteenth United States Regulars, having the advance, refused to go forward (this is a new regiment), the enemy having opened a heavy fire upon them. Colonel Morgan L. Smith, commanding the Eighth Missouri, seeing this, gave his famous regiment the word, and off they went, double-quick time, over the regulars and after the rebels, firing as they ran. In the mean time, however, one of our batteries had been pouring shot and shell into the enemy's ranks and had broken them. The Seventy-sixth Ohio and Captain Powell's cavalry made their appearance, coining up from woods in the rear. This was the signal for flight upon the part of the enemy, and they obeyed it. Our forces then burned their camp—large amounts of clothing, stores, officers' trunks, etc.—besides capturing quantities of ammunition and arms. Nine prisoners were taken, and the estimate of the rebels killed, made by one of the artillery officers, is thirty. Not a man was lost by our forces.—In haste, yours,

         J. F. GOOKINS

P.S.—I find I have made one mistake. The Eighth Missouri was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel James Peckham; Colonel M. L. Smith, of the Eighth, leading the brigade.


ON page 341 we illustrate the combat which took place on the Mississippi River, off Fort Wright, on 8th May. The correspondent of the Herald thus describes the scene:

The morning was one of the finest of the season, though, as is very common in this region, before sunrise a dull haze spread over the water, making it difficult to see at any great distance away. Just at daylight the mortar-boats were towed down to their positions, ready for their day's work. This morning the gun-boat Cincinnati was sent down with them as a precautionary measure. The latter dropped anchor just abreast of the mortars, and but a short distance out in the stream. Scarcely had she

swung around and become settled in her position when the look-out gave the signal, "Steamer astern!" Sure enough, by peering through the masts, a low, dark object was discovered, bearing a strong resemblance to a steam craft of some kind. It was subsequently ascertained to be the rebel ram Louisiana. All hands were beat to quarters, and the gun-boat was cleared for action immediately. The promptness of the response of the men in putting the boat in fighting shape was most remarkable. The anchor was up almost simultaneously with the issue of the order, the decks were cleared of all rubbish and every thing in the shape of obstruction, and every man was standing at his gun. By this time the rebel craft had approached near enough to be readily recognized, and just as the early sun was dispelling the haze the Cincinnati swung around and welcomed the visitor with a full broadside. As the sound of the report and its tremendous reverberations ran along the shore and reached the ears of those manning the other boats of our fleet, there was one general shout of gladness as every officer and man sprang to his feet and prepared for duty. With the report came also reinforcements to the rebel boat. Three in number, they came quickly around the point, and prepared to grapple with the spunky Yankee. The Louisiana ram carried two heavy rifled pieces, both of which, together with the guns of her consorts, were soon bearing upon the Cincinnati, and throwing in shot after shot in rapid succession. But against them all the Cincinnati boldly held her position, her sloping iron sides repelling their heaviest missiles as though they were but paper balls. This unequal contest lasted for full twenty minutes, during all of which time the rebel gun-boats were kept in check by the Cincinnati alone. The ram, however, ran up close to the Union boat, and manifested a disposition to run her down.

Just at this juncture the other iron-clad boats of our fleet came to the rescue—the Benton (flag-ship), Carondolet, Pittsburg, Cairo, and St. Louis—and relieved the Cincinnati of the necessity of giving any further immediate attention to the rebel gun-boats, thus enabling her to close in with the ram alone.

The Louisiana came along up, under full steam, until nearly upon the Cincinnati, when the latter put her head about and avoided the well-intended blow. Her crew were on deck, armed with cutlasses, boarding pikes, and carbines, fully prepared for a close hand to hand encounter. The ram, foiled in her first attempt, withdrew a short distance, and again turned upon the Union boat. This time she got her sharp bow full in upon the heavy iron sides of the Cincinnati; but her headway was not sufficient to cause any very serious damage. Before she could get away, however, Captain Stembel, commanding the Cincinnati, rushed upon the hurricane deck, and, seizing a pistol, shot the rebel pilot, killing him instantly. 'rhe rebel crew retaliated, when a musket-ball entered the gallant Captain's right shoulder, high up, nearly to the neck, and passed quite through. The wound was a troublesome and painful one, but not sufficiently serious to detain the Captain from his post longer than to have it dressed. In the mean time the ram had prepared for another assault, and this time evidently with the intention of boarding her antagonist. She came up under full headway, and with her steam batteries ready for immediate us. Just as she struck the Cincinnati, however, her steam apparatus collapsed, scalding a large number of her crew. Captain Stembel was also prepared with his steam battery to add to their discomfiture, and almost simultaneously with the explosion a dense volume of scalding water and steam came pouring upon the rebel crew front the deck of the gun-boat. This was too much for them to withstand, and those who were left uninjured and alive managed to get their craft away beyond the reach of further injury.

The casualties on the Cincinnati were very slight. Her gallant commander was wounded, as mentioned above. Her first master received a flesh wound in his thigh, and two seamen were slightly wounded.

As the ram drew away the iron-clad gun-boat Mallory appeared as a new antagonist. This is one of the new boats of which so much boast has been made by the rebels. She had just been completed at Memphis, and on this occasion made her first public appearance. She was a powerful craft carrying ten or twelve guns, and sheathed with heavy boiler iron over heavy timber bulkheads stuffed with cotton.

Her first manoeuvre was an attempt to run the Cincinnati down by butting against her. This was baffled by the dextrous handling of the latter boat, though several times attempted. Then she hauled alongside and opened a close fire, but received rather more than she gave. The heavy Dahlgrens of the Union craft were too much for her, and again she resorted to the battering process. Just as she was preparing to strike, with all the power of momentum acquired by a quarter of a mile's running, the St. Louis—Union iron-clad boat—bore down upon her, and, striking her fairly amidships, nearly cut her in two. She sank almost immediately, and within two hundred feet of the vessel she was attempting herself to run down. The most of her crew must have perished, though a number were picked up by our boats. She is a total loss, having sunk in deep water.

Comparatively few of our shots were wasted. They were all admirably directed and did wonderful execution, as the condition of the rebel boats fully shows. But their execution was better apparent in the explosion and total destruction of two of the most powerful of the rebel gun-boats. The names of these I have not yet been able to ascertain.

Their destruction occurred nearly at the same time and when the engagement was at its height. Above the loud din of the cannon could occasionally be heard the shouts and cheers of the loyal crews as they discerned one and another evidence of their sure approaching final triumph. The whole scene was shut out from view by the dense volumes of smoke that settled over the fleet, the result of the heavy firing. There was something grand and inspiring in all this, even to one outside, who could only hear the din and see the smoke. But suddenly there came a report louder than, and distinguishable above, all the others; and accompanying it could be seen a volume of white smoke rolling and surging above the other smoke, and bearing on its rolling waves black masses and fragments, which again quickly disappeared. What was it? The smoke lifted and revealed the cause. A well-directed shell had struck in the magazine of a rebel boat, causing an instantaneous explosion of the shell, magazine, and boilers. The boat was blown to atoms, and her crew perished with her. It was a fearful casualty, and one that is well calculated to awaken the deepest sympathy and pity for the poor unfortunates thus suddenly sent into eternity; but "it is the fortune of war," and the din goes on, and more destruction is attempted.

During the heat of the engagement one of the rebel rams—supposed to be the Manassas—singled out the Benton as its prey. The latter at first scarcely deigned to notice so insignificant an adversary, but continued to devote her time to the heavier gun-boats. Her powerful guns were all at work. She was kept in constant motion, first discharging her four bow guns, then hauling about and letting go her broadside of five pieces, and again bringing her stern pieces in range, and so on until the round was completed. All this time the ram danced about, endeavoring to get a chance to give her is good butt. At last the opportunity arrived, and with a powerful head of steam on the ram flew to her work. She struck the flag-ship fairly, right amidships, but was doubtless much amazed, on withdrawing, to find that she had suffered more damage herself than she had inflicted. Her nose was badly jammed, while the solid iron sides of the Benton showed no signs whatever of the assault. It was a signal discomfiture, rendered doubly annoying by the reception of a round of grape-shot from her antagonist that compelled her to get out of the way with the least possible delay.

By this time it was apparent that the enemy must withdraw quickly or be wholly destroyed. They had entered the contest with five gun-boats and three rams—eight in all. Three of their gun-boats were totally destroyed. The remaining two, as also the rams, were riddled through and through, and all appeared to be leaking badly. On the contrary, our boats, excepting the Cincinnati, appeared wholly uninjured, and were in condition to continue the action all day if necessary. Under these circumstances the rebels had no alternative, and at twenty minutes past seven—just one hour and twenty minutes after the commencement of the battle—the last of them disappeared around Craighead Point, the heavy cannonading ceased, the smoke cleared away, our boats returned to their moorings, and the battle was ended.




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