The first turret opened fire at five minutes past 3, and moved backward, thus developing their maneuver of attack. At this moment the engagement became general. The second turret passed the first, fired, moved backward; the first moved forward, passed the second, fired and backed, then retired from action; the other turrets maneuvering in the same relative manner, each time nearing or receding a little from the fort in order not to present a permanent target.
The Ironsides, when at 1,700 yards from Moultrie and 2,000 yards from Sumter, stopped, discharged a battery at the former, when Sumter concentrated a heavy fire upon her. Numbers of shot were seen to strike her and several to penetrate, three at least, in her wooden stern. Deeming 2,00 yards too close quarters she retired out of range, supposed injured, in favor of less prominent and more formidable imps, after an engagement of forty-five minutes. The Keokuk, at five minutes past 4, defiantly turning her prow directly toward Sumter, firing from her forward turret gun, the batteries of Sumter, Moultrie, Bee, and Cummings Point were concentrated upon her, her turrets receiving numbers of well-directed shots, several apparently penetrating, showed evidence of considerable damage. When within 900 yards she was struck, supposed by a wrought-iron bolt, 117 pounds, from a 7-inch Brooke rifle en barbette, near her bow, penetrating and ripping up a plating about 6 feet long and 2 1/2 wide, which ended her career. She stopped, seemed disabled for a few minutes, then turned to the channel, and proceeded toward the bar at forty-five minutes to 4. She sank off the south end of Morris Island at halt-past 8 o'clock the following morning. Her smoke-stack and turrets are now visible at low water. From her wreck floated ashore a book, a spy-glass, and pieces of furniture, bespattered with blood, and small fragments of iron sticking in them.
The firing of the turrets was timed. They discharged generally at intervals of ten minutes. The engagement lasted two hours and twenty-five minutes. Allowing six of them constantly engaged, they delivered 87 shots; one fired twice and retired; the Keokuk fired three or four times and the Ironsides about 17, making the total number fired by the enemy about 110, which were principally directed at Sumter. Her walls show the effect of 55 missiles-shot, shell, and fragments. The carriage of a 10-inch columbiad on western face was completely demolished by a shot coming over the parapet; a 42-pounder rifle on northeast face dismounted by breaking a traverse-wheel; both soon remounted in position; four small holes knocked in the roof of the eastern quarters by grazing cassias and half the reinforce over the parapet, the other half over the quarters in the parade, demolished the carriage, but did no other damage; nearly all the window-panes and some of the sashes in the fort were broken by concussion.
The accompanying table of effects of shot and sketches of the elevations of the faces show the points of impact, the kind of projectile used, so far as could be ascertained by inspection and found; they were principally 15-inch shells and 11-inch shot. the nature of the material against which they were projected crumbling generally without retaining an impression precludes any positive information as to their exact kind or caliber; only a few were evident. To the best of my judgment, according to the effect, eight 15-inch shells struck the faces; two or these penetrated the wall of the eastern face just below the embrasures in the second tier next to the east pan coupe, not seriously damaging the masonry, one exploding in the casemate set fire to some bedding; the other passed through a window and burst in the center of the fort