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Fort Pickens is a bastioned work of the first class, built of New York granite; its walls forty-five feet in height and twelve in thickness. It is embrasured for two tiers of guns, placed under bomb-proof casemates, besides having one tier en barbette. The work was commenced in 1848 and finished in 1853, at a cost of nearly one million dollars. Its^war complement of soldiers is 1,260. Its full armament consists of 210 guns, howitzers, and mortars, of all calibres.
^Simultaneous with the determination to reinforce Fort Sumter, the government resolved to send relief to Fort Pickens, whuih was then threatened by a force of 7,000 men under General Bragg, strongly entrenched, and occupying the other forts in the harbor.
A fleet of six United States vessels lay in the harbor, and they had been notified by General Bragg that he would immediately open fire . upon them and Fort Pickens also, should they attempt to reinforce the garrison.
Previous to the 10th of April, the stearrt-frigate Powhatan and the transports Atlantic and Illinois had sailed from New York with troops, ordnance and provisions, for Fort Pickens; but before their arrival at that place, a bearer of dispatches from Washington reached the commander of the naval forces in the bay, with instructions to feinforce the . fort. Between the hours of 11 and 12 o'clock on Friday night, April 12th, this was accomplished without bloodshed. "As soon as it became dark," said an officer on board the sloop-of-war Brooklyn, one of the blockading fleet, "we began work with good will and in earnest. At first the marines from the frigate Sabine and the sloop St. Louis, came on board our vessel, and immediately after the accomplishment of this, the anchor was hoisted by the jolly old salts, with the merry chant of—
'General Jaclcson won the day,
We ran as close to the shore as possible, came to anchor, and without a moment's delay, lowered the boats and filled them with troops.
"At 11 o'clock, Lieutenant Albert N. Smith, of Massachusetts, being in command, they started on their mission, uncertain if they would live to see the light of another day. As they left the side of the vessel, many a 'God cause you to succeed,' came from the lips of the loyal men at my side. If I live a thousand years I shall never forget the feelings I experienced when, I saw those brave fellows shake hands with their old comrades. A tear would now and then glisten in the gloom, but be instantly wiped away with a clenched hand. These men knew their danger, and with the knowledge, dared to face it with a courage eminently worthy of praise—and may they receive it I
"The party were instructed to send up signals should they be attacked, and I do assure you never were keener eyes than ours on that eventful night, as we pierced into the darkness, momentarily expecting to see a rocket light up the midnight gloom; but none appeared. While we were thus anxiously awaiting some evidence of the success or non-success of their mission, a boat was hailed. A faint answer comes back: 'Lieutenant Smith and the boat's crew!' and in whispers we hear the news, 'they have been successful!' Brother officers shake hands, and give Lieutenant Smith that praise justly deserved by him. They went around inside of the harbor, passed under the guns of Forts McRae" and Barrancas without being heard, and safely landed all the troops without molestation.
"'This being successfully accomplished, it was almost instantly concluded to make a new attempt, and orders were given that all the marines in the squadron should take to their boats, preparatory to their ,being put in the fort. This being done, the steamer Wyandotte took them in charge, and towed them as far as she could go, when they left her and pulled into the harbor, taking the same course the first party had, and in good time reached the fort, and safely landed all who were in the boats. Just as the day Was breaking, we saw from our deck the boats shoving off from the beach; and when they returned to us, our anchor wag instantly 'up,' and we steaming to our old anchorage with very different sensations from those we had when we started for the work. Thus the Brooklyn accomplished what she was sent here for,— the reinforcement of Fort Pickens in spite of General Bragg."
A few days after this fort had been so nobly reinforced, the splendid steamer Atlantic sailed into the Union fleet, laden with troops Tor the fort. The next day she was joined by the frigate Powhatan, and again by the Illinois, all laden with troops and military stores. Thus a thousand more troops were thrown into the stronghold, which, with the fleet outside, made it impregnable.
. There is no doubt that an attack upon Fort Pickens was contemplated the very night these reinforcements arrived. The assaulting party was composed of five hundred picked men, two hundred and fifty of whom were from the Mississippi Ninth, to be led by C. H. Harris of the Home Guard; fifty from the Tenth Mississippi, and the others from other troops at Pensacola. All necessary preparations were made for moving about 11 o'clock at night. The storming party were led down to the Navy Yard, from whence it would probably have embarked in boats.
It.is surmised that Colonel Forney would have been the leader. There was no doubt entertained of his success. Before the force arrived it was evident the fort had been reinforced, and all thought of the meditated assault was abandoned. The men picked for this special service lay on their arms all night in the Navy Yard.
BUENING OP HAEPER'S PEEEY AESENAL
April 18, 1861.
The ordinance of secession of the State of Virginia was adopted in secret session on the 17th of April, and the Governor of the State, John Letcher, immediately issued orders for the seizure of the Federal posts and property by the military of the State. A most important post to be first secured comprised the extensive and valuable arsenal, with all its workshops and machinery for the manufacture of arms, at Harper's Ferry, a place which had been rendered familiar as a household word, from its seizure by John Brown and his party, in the autumn of 1859.
Harper's Ferry is situated in Jefferson county, Virginia, at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers, and is 173 miles distant from Richmond, 57 from Washington, and 80 from Baltimore. The population was about 5,000. The arsenal at this place contained 15,000 stand of arms, in addition to other military stores, then in charge of Lieutenant R. Jones, with a detachment of U. S. Rifles, numbering 43 men. Lieutenant Jones had received advice from Washington that his post was in imminent danger. He was directed to be prepared for any emergency that might arise. On the l^th he received information from various sources that an attack would be made on the night of the 18th. Early in the evening of that day, the little garrison commenced preparations to destroy the arsenal and its contents by fire. The windows and doors of the buildings were then thrown open, that the flames might have a full current of air. At nine o'clock authentic information reached Lieutenant Jones that 2000 men were close at hand.
The men worked bravely, cutting up planks and splitting timbers into kindling-wood, which were heaped ready for the flames. They emptied their mattresses, filled them with powder, and carried them thus into the buildings, that no suspicion might be excited among the people. The amis were then placed in the best position to be destroyed by the explosion, and the combustibles deposited in different places in the shops, that all might be ready.
When all was completed, the fires were started in the combustibles heaped in the carpenters' shop. The trains leading to the powder were ignited, and the men were led forth.
All at once a cry of fire rang through the town. The frightened inhabitants rushed from the houses, and as Lieutenant Jones and his men entered the gateway of the bridge, an excited crowd pursued him with menaces and threats of vengeance. He wheeled his men into line, and announced his determination to fire upon the pursuers if they molested him. The people then fell back, and he escaped by the canal and took refuge in the woods.
A quarter of an hour after, when this band of valiant men were grouped in the darkness of the woods, the first thunders of the explosion echoed through the hills, and flames leaped forth from the burning buildings, illuminating the grand scenery of the place into wonderful beauty. The water, the village, and those glorious mountain passes that surround Harper's Ferry with a grandeur which the whole world recognizes, were illuminated into all their green and crystal depths. After pausing a moment to witness the result of their own noble work, this gallant officer and his brave men turned their faces northward, and left Harper's Ferry, saluted by fresh bursts of explosion, and lighted onward by jets of flame that leaped up from the surging clouds in which the arsenal was enveloped, till the sky glowed above them like a golden canopy.
Leaving the scene of conflagration behind, Lieutenant Jones made a hurried march toward Hagerstown, Maryland, wading through streams and swamps, and reached that place at seven o'clock on the morning of the 19th. There he immediately procured means of conveyance, and started for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, which he reached in the afternoon in an exhausted condition. The men were covered with mud and dirt, and were overcome with fatigue and hunger, having eaten nothing since leaving Harper's Ferry. They were hospitably entertained by the inhabitants, and departed in the afternoon train for Carlisle barracks. Lieutenant Jones and his men received the approbation and thanks of the Government for their judicious conduct on this occasion, and he waa commissioned Assistant Quartermaster-General, U. S. A., with the rank of Captain.
The arsenal buildings were immediately taken possession of by the rebel authorities, and used for the purpose of making and repairing arms, until they again came into possession of the Federal authorities.
A. terrible civil war, destined to be without parallel for bitter intenseness, was now fully revealed. The curtain that had so long screen ed the enemies of the Union in their machinations against the Government, had been raised at Fort Sumter; and in the sefeure of Harper's Ferry arsenal, although its usefulness to them had been seriously impaired by the true hearts and hands that applied the torch, and rendered the darkness of night lurid with its conflagration, desolation and ruin had already began their march, leaving their footprints in ashes among the lovely scenes of civilized life, and rioting amid the legendary grandeur and time-honored places of the Old Dominion.
It needed but one act more to encircle us with the thunders of war —to plunge the nation into an almost fathomless ocean of civil hatred and revenge, and leave upon the pages of history the-.unhappy record of many an ensanguined field. The green sward of a happy, prosperous and free land only remained to be crimsoned with blood! The heart of some martyr freemen needed only to be drained of its life-blood, and the stripes of our old flag dyed a deeper crimson in the precious flood. Soon, too soon, alas! this last fatal act was accomplished. The day after the burning of Harper's Ferry saw the streets of Baltimore red with sacred blood, and a nation shuddered as the lightning spread the fatal news from State to State.
For months threats had been whispered that Washington should be seized; that an armed mob should revel in the capital and drive Lincoln from the White House. These threats were not idle boastings, as the confidence, celerity, and preparation of the insurgents proved. While the country north of the Potomac was solacing itself with dreams of peace—wbile plenty was filling every coffer to overflowing, great preparations had been making, and that for a very long time, to secure the end they now had in' view. Sudden, unexpected, like the deep tolling of a midnight alarm-bell, the news fell upon the country. Fear, amounting almost to panic, seized upon the people, and when the orders were issued for the instant assembling of troops, the rush to arms was proof positive of this deep alarm.
As in the olden days, the sons of Massachusetts—brave, hardy, fearless as their own sea-washed rock—rushed first to arms and responded to the call. In less than twenty-four hours, seventeen hundred men were waiting in Boston—armed, ready and anxious to march. The order came, and early in the morning of the nineteenth of April—a day memorable in the history of the country, as the anniversary of the battle of Lexington—the Sixth Regiment of Massachusetts militia, commanded by Col. H. P. Jones, of Pepperell, and accompanied by three companies from another regiment, attached temporarily to his command (comprising, in all, about one thousand men), left Philadelphia for Washington, arriving in Baltimore at ten o'clock, A.m. The same train also contained about twelve hundred men from Philadelphia, under the command of General Small. These were unarmed, provision