At each fort and battery officers and men made preparation for immediate action, while the enemy came slowly and steadily on. At 3 o'clock Fort Moultrie opened fire. At five minutes past 3 the leading vessel, having arrived at 1,400 yards of Fort Sumter, opened upon it with two guns. The eastern battery of Fort Sumter replied. Batteries Bee, Beauregard, Wagner, and Cummings Point opened about this time and the action became general, the four leading monitors closing up on the Weehawken, and taking position at an average distance from the first and batteries of about 1,500 yards.
In accordance with instructions, the fire from the different points away concentrated upon the leading vessels, and the effect was soon apparent from the withdrawal of the leading monitor from action, her false prow having been detached and she otherwise apparently injured. The remaining monitors in advance of the flag ship held their position, directing their fire principally at Fort Sumter, but giving occasional shots at Fort Moultire (of which the flag-staff was shot away), Batteries Beauregard and Bee.
The Ironside meantime opened fire, and drew the attention of Forts Moultire and Sumter and the Comings Point Battery. A few heavy and concentrated discharges caused her to withdraw out of range, where she was soon followed by two other monitors.
At five minutes past 4 the Keokuk left here consorts and came to the front, approaching to within 900 yards of Fort Sumter, 1,200 from Battery Bee, and 1,000 of Fort Moultrie. Her advance was characterized by more boldness than had hitherto been shown by any of the enemy's fleet, but receiving full attention from the powerful batteries opposed to her to effect was soon apparent. The 10-inch shot and 7-inch rifle bolts crashed through her armor; her hull and turrets were riddled and stove in, her boats were shot away, and in less than forty minutes she retired with such speed as her disabled condition would permit.
The remaining monitors kept their positions for a time, but soon one by one dropped down the channel and came to anchor out of range, after an action of two hours and twenty-five minutes, at ranges varying from 900 to 1,500 yards.
The full effect of our batteries upon the enemy could not be precisely ascertained, and as our strength had not been entirely put froth it was believed that led into the action, however, proceeded south inside of the bar on the same evening.
Before the commencement of the affair I was proceeding in a boat to Battery Bee, and watched the progress of the cannonade from that point. The guns were worked with as much precision as the range Moultrie, the damage flag-staff was being replaced and everything prepared for the renewal of the fire should the enemy approach again. One man had been mortally wounded by the falling of the staff. Crossing the channel to Fort Sumter, the effect of impact of the heavy shot sent by the enemy against the fort which they are so anxious to repossess, grater in caliber and supposed distinctive force than any hitherto used in war, was found to have been much less than had been anticipated. Five men had been injured by splinters from the traverse, one 8-inch columbiad had exploded, one 10-inch carriage had its rear transom shot away, and one rifled 42-pounder had been temporarily disabled from the effect of recoil on defective carriages.
The garrison was immediately set to work to repair damages, and