mazes of a palace designed by maniacs for a maniac king.

time:2023-12-02 22:28:17 source:Thick-looking and affectionate network author:bird

The tall ships were in fighting trim, with spars housed, and canvas furled. The decks were strewn with sawdust; every man was in his place; the guns were ready, and except for the song of the sounding-lead there was silence in the ships as they moved forward through the glorious morning. It was seven o'clock when the battle began, as the Tecumseh, the leading monitor, fired two shots at the fort. In a few minutes Fort Morgan was ablaze with the flash of her guns, and the leading wooden vessels were sending back broadside after broadside. Farragut stood in the port main-rigging, and as the smoke increased he gradually climbed higher, until he was close by the maintop, where the pilot was stationed for the sake of clearer vision. The captain, fearing lest by one of the accidents of battle the great admiral should lose his footing, sent aloft a man with a lasher, and had a turn or two taken around his body in the shrouds, so that he. might not fall if wounded; for the shots were flying thick.

mazes of a palace designed by maniacs for a maniac king.

At first the ships used only their bow guns, and the Confederate ram, with her great steel rifles, and her three consorts, taking station where they could rake the advancing fleet, caused much loss. In twenty minutes after the opening of the fight the ships of the van were fairly abreast of the fort, their guns leaping and thundering; and under the weight of their terrific fire that of the fort visibly slackened. All was now uproar and slaughter, the smoke drifting off in clouds. The decks were reddened and ghastly with blood, and the wreck of flying splinters drove across them at each discharge. The monitor Tecumseh alone was silent. After firing the first two shots, her commander, Captain Craven, had loaded his two big guns with steel shot, and, thus prepared, reserved himself for the Confederate ironclad, which he had set his heart upon taking or destroying single-handed. The two columns of monitors and the wooden ships lashed in pairs were now approaching the narrowest part of the channel, where the torpedoes lay thickest; and the guns of the vessels fairly overbore and quelled the fire from the fort. All was well, provided only the two columns could push straight on without hesitation; but just at this moment a terrible calamity befell the leader of the monitors. The Tecumseh, standing straight for the Tennessee, was within two hundred yards of her foe, when a torpedo suddenly exploded beneath her. The monitor was about five hundred yards from the Hartford, and from the maintop Farragut, looking at her, saw her reel violently from side to side, lurch heavily over, and go down headforemost, her screw revolving wildly in the air as she disappeared. Captain Craven, one of the gentlest and bravest of men, was in the pilot-house with the pilot at the time. As she sank, both rushed to the narrow door, but there was time for only one to get out. Craven was ahead, but drew to one side, saying, "After you, pilot." As the pilot leaped through, the water rushed in, and Craven and all his crew, save two men, settled to the bottom in their iron coffin.

mazes of a palace designed by maniacs for a maniac king.

None of the monitors were awed or daunted by the fate of their consort, but drew steadily onward. In the bigger monitors the captains, like the crews, had remained within the iron walls; but on the two light crafts the commanders had found themselves so harassed by their cramped quarters, that they both stayed outside on the deck. As these two steamed steadily ahead, the men on the flagship saw Captain Stevens, of the Winnebago, pacing calmly, from turret to turret, on his unwieldy iron craft, under the full fire of the fort. The captain of the Chickasaw, Perkins, was the youngest commander in the fleet, and as he passed the Hartford, he stood on top of the turret, waving his hat and dancing about in wildest excitement and delight.

mazes of a palace designed by maniacs for a maniac king.

But, for a moment, the nerve of the commander of the Brooklyn failed him. The awful fate of the Tecumseh and the sight of a number of objects in the channel ahead, which seemed to be torpedoes, caused him to hesitate. He stopped his ship, and then backed water, making sternway to the Hartford, so as to stop her also. It was the crisis of the fight and the crisis of Farragut's career. The column was halted in a narrow channel, right under the fire of the forts. A few moments' delay and confusion, and the golden chance would have been past, and the only question remaining would have been as to the magnitude of the disaster. Ahead lay terrible danger, but ahead lay also triumph. It might be that the first ship to go through would be sacrificed to the torpedoes; it might be that others would be sacrificed; but go through the fleet must. Farragut signaled to the Brooklyn to go ahead, but she still hesitated. Immediately, the admiral himself resolved to take the lead. Backing hard he got clear of the Brooklyn, twisted his ship's prow short round, and then, going ahead fast, he dashed close under the Brooklyn's stern, straight at the line of buoys in the channel. As he thus went by the Brooklyn, a warning cry came from her that there were torpedoes ahead. "Damn the torpedoes!" shouted the admiral; "go ahead, full speed; and the Hartford and her consort steamed forward. As they passed between the buoys, the cases of the torpedoes were heard knocking against the bottom of the ship; but for some reason they failed to explode, and the Hartford went safely through the gates of Mobile Bay, passing the forts. Farragut's last and hardest battle was virtually won. After a delay which allowed the flagship to lead nearly a mile, the Brooklyn got her head round, and came in, closely followed by all the other ships. The Tennessee strove to interfere with the wooden craft as they went in, but they passed, exchanging shots, and one of them striving to ram her, but inflicting only a glancing blow. The ship on the fighting side of the rear couple had been completely disabled by a shot through her boiler.

As Farragut got into the bay he gave orders to slip the gunboats, which were lashed to each of the Union ships of war, against the Confederate gunboats, one of which he had already disabled by his fire, so that she was run ashore and burnt. Jouett, the captain of the Metacomet, had been eagerly waiting this order, and had his men already standing at the hawsers, hatchet in hand. When the signal for the gunboats to chase was hoisted, the order to Jouett was given by word of mouth, and as his hearty "Aye, aye, sir," came in answer, the hatchets fell, the hawsers parted, and the Metacomet leaped forward in pursuit. A thick rainsquall came up, and rendered it impossible for the rear gunboats to know whither the Confederate flotilla had fled. When it cleared away, the watchers on the fleet saw that one of the two which were uninjured had slipped off to Fort Morgan, while the other, the Selma, was under the guns of the Metacomet, and was promptly carried by the latter.

Meanwhile the ships anchored in the bay, about four miles from Fort Morgan, and the crews were piped to breakfast; but almost as soon as it was begun, the lookouts reported that the great Confederate ironclad was steaming down, to do battle, single-handed, with the Union fleet. She was commanded by Buchanan, a very gallant and able officer, who had been on the Merrimac, and who trusted implicitly in his invulnerable sides, his heavy rifle guns, and his formidable iron beak. As the ram came on, with splendid courage, the ships got under way, while Farragut sent word to the monitors to attack the Tennessee at once. The fleet surgeon, Palmer, delivered these orders. In his diary he writes:

"I came to the Chickasaw; happy as my friend Perkins habitually is, I thought he would turn a somerset with joy, when I told him, 'The admiral wants you to go at once and fight the Tennessee.'"

At the same time, the admiral directed the wooden vessels to charge the ram, bow on, at full speed, as well as to attack her with their guns. The monitors were very slow, and the wooden vessels began the attack. The first to reach the hostile ironclad was the Monongahela, which struck her square amidships; and five minutes later the Lackawanna, going at full speed, delivered another heavy blow. Both the Union vessels fired such guns as would bear as they swung round, but the shots glanced harmlessly from the armor, and the blows of the ship produced no serious injury to the ram, although their own stems were crushed in several feet above and below the water line. The Hartford then struck the Tennessee, which met her bows on. The two antagonists scraped by, their port sides touching. As they rasped past, the Hartford's guns were discharged against the ram, their muzzles only half a dozen feet distant from her iron-clad sides; but the shot made no impression. While the three ships were circling to repeat the charge, the Lackawanna ran square into the flagship, cutting the vessel down to within two feet of the water. For a moment the ship's company thought the vessel sinking, and almost as one man they cried: "Save the admiral! get the admiral on board the Lackawanna." But Farragut, leaping actively into the chains, saw that the ship was in no present danger, and ordered her again to be headed for the Tennessee. Meanwhile, the monitors had come up, and the battle raged between them and the great ram, Like the rest of the Union fleet, they carried smooth-bores, and their shot could not break through her iron plates; but by sustained and continuous hammering, her frame could be jarred and her timbers displaced. Two of the monitors had been more or less disabled already, but the third, the Chickasaw, was in fine trim, and Perkins got her into position under the stern of the Tennessee, just after the latter was struck by the Hartford; and there he stuck to the end, never over fifty yards distant, and keeping up a steady rapping of 11-inch shot upon the iron walls, which they could not penetrate, but which they racked and shattered. The Chickasaw fired fifty-two times at her antagonist, shooting away the exposed rudder-chains and the smokestack, while the commander of the ram, Buchanan, was wounded by an iron splinter which broke his leg. Under the hammering, the Tennessee became helpless. She could not be steered, and was unable to bring a gun to bear, while many of the shutters of the ports were jammed. For twenty minutes she had not fired a shot. The wooden vessels were again bearing down to ram her; and she hoisted the white flag.


recommended content