to the Sheephead Shoals, opposite the mound. The line was something over two miles long; the monitors on their extreme right, heavy vessels and light draught to the left, the position being taken to concentrate a heavy fire on the main work, which commands the bar, and to enfilade as well as possible the land front and the batteries covering the channel.
The fire from the whole line was kept up with great fury, but little effect, until 5.30 p. m., when the fleet withdrew, no attempt, as far as known, having been made to land above the forts nor to pass the bar. The rapidity and weight of fire was extraordinary. From observations made repeatedly during the day it was maintained at the rate of forty to fifty shots per minute. Probably 10,000 projectiles were thrown on the point during this day's work.
The garrison served their guns with great deliberation and coolness, and as the fleet in general were at a distance of one and one-third to two miles, used only the longest range guns. They were so well covered that our loss was small, the casualties on the 24th being none killed, 1 mortally, 3 seriously, and 19 slightly wounded. Beyond the defacing the slope the damage to the works was nothing. The flag-staves were shot away and the quarters almost entirely destroyed. In the armament 4 carriages were disabled and 2 columbiads dismounted by recoil.
After the enemy withdrew dispositions were made to repel any attempt during the night. By morning I succeeded in throwing 133 Regulars and 300 Junior Reserves into the garrison.
At 10 a. m. on Christmas day the fleet advanced as before, the Iron-sides leading. The day was very fine, a westerly wind making a smooth sea. The monitors appeared to be somewhat nearer than the day before, but very little - in no case within one mile. The bombardment opened and was continued with as great rapidity and fury as before. The garrison were instructed to fire very slowly - not oftener than once in fifteen minutes - from long-range guns. The land and many of the channel batteries were ordered to be held ready to open - the first on any land approach, the second on any attempt to pass the bar.
At 2 p. m. it appeared as if they were about to try the entrance. The flag-ship approached and sent out small boats on the bar, while the lighter draught vessels were observed closing up. A few well-directed shots from the Brooke guns drove the boats off, however, and the flag-ship withdrew - it is supposed from the shot of the Armstrong gun. Several ships were apparently driven out of action by concentrating fire upon them, but we could not ascertain the effect of our guns.
At 3.30 p. m. the steamers on the Sheephead Shoals sent nine boats over the reef. At the same time they extended much farther on the shoal than I supposed they could go - perhaps to try and enfilade Battery Buchanan at very long range. The object of the small boats does not appear. They might have been reconnoitering or looking for torpedoes. They were soon driven back, three well-directed shots from Lieutenant Chapman's naval battery cutting one of them in two and forcing the rest off.
At 4 p. m. my aide, in charge of the telegraph, reported all communication gone; whether from effect of fire or a landing is not known - probably both, as the approach of the enemy on land was shortly reported, and the following is the last dispatch sent to General Bragg:
A large body of the enemy have landed near the fort, deploying as skirmishers. May be able to carry me by storm. Do the best I can. All behaving well. Order supports to attack.