War of the Rebellion: Serial 087 Page 0990 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter LIV.

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The third device consisted of a box similar to that on which the candles were placed, its two ends, however, having been removed. In this wooden tube, and attached to one of its sides, was a spiral coil of wire, not exactly horizontal, within which a piece of slow match was fastened. To one end of this slow match, one of the fuses was attached. There were three sets of clock-work and percussion arrangements for firing the fuses, one candle box and one slow-match box. The three clocks were placed as follows: One on the starboard side of the vessel, near the waist, and beneath the hurricane deck, communicating fire to two fuses, one of them leading into the forward-hatch, and the other into the after-hatch. The second clock on the port side, in a similar position and communicating fire to two fuses which led in a similar manner. The other clock, and the candle and slow-match boxes, were placed in the small room on the starboard side of the engine room, and each communicated with but one fuse leading through the bulkhead into the mass of powder, just forward. The arrangement of the vessel, storage of the powder, and firing arrangements, are shown on sheet Numbers 1* accompanying this report.

Fort Fisher, the work against which this powder vessel was conducted, is an earthen fort, of an irregular, quadrilateral trace, with bastions at the four angles. The exterior sides will average about 250 yards. Its northeastern salient approaches the high-water mark within about 100 yards. From this salient, across the beach, a stockade is erected, leading quite down to the water's edge. The land faces of this work exposed to an enfilading fire from the water are very heavily traversed. The tops of these traverses are quite six feet above the general line of the interior crests, and from their size, may have also afforded bomb-proof shelters for the garrison. The exterior and superior slopes of the parapets and the surfaces of the traverses are well sodded. The quarters of the men (wooden shanties) were situated just outside of the work, and to the south of it. One small wooden building stood nearly upon the north glaces, and but a short distance from the north-west bastion. Strewn along, just outside the beach and nearly in front of this fort, are several wrecks of blockade-runners, one in particular, which has three smoke funnels, that at high water extend some distance above its surface. In a southerly direction from the fort, the bar and shallow water extends off from the shore; but in a northeasterly direction, deep water, say to three fathoms, can be carried well in toward the northeast salient. This was the direction in which the powder ship was carried toward the fort, or, more correctly, the bearing of the fort from the powder vessel when finally exploded was west southwest by one-half west. The vessel was taken to its position on the night of December 23 under the command of Commander A. C. Rhind, U. S. Navy, and was placed by him, as he informed me, within 300 yards of the north-east salient of the fort, and that, too, without being discovered by the enemy. A blockade-runner going in just ahead of the vessel acted as a guide in its navigation, and at the same time threw the garrison off its guard. After starting the various appliances for firing the fuses, the time of their running having been fixed at an hour and a half, and also setting fire to the combustibles collected in the after-hold, the crew escaped in a swift steamer held in waiting for them. The explosion took place in one hour and fifty-two minutes from the time of first setting the fire, and at about 2 o'clock on the morning of December 24.


* To appear in the Atlas.