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This Day in Georgia Civil War History

February 02, 1863

Official Report on Fort McAllister Assault

An officer from Fort McAllister reported on an attack by Northern forces.

Fort McAllister, Ga., February 2, 1863. CAPTAIN: I have the honor very respectfully to submit to the brigadier-general commanding the following report of the engagement of this battery with the Abolition fleet, which took place yesterday, the 1st instant: At 7.45 a. m. the battery was attacked by one iron-clad of the monitor order, whose armament was one 15-inch and one 11-inch gun, three gunboats (wooden), and one mortar boat. Before the enemy’s boats came within range I ordered Captain Arthur Shaaff, commanding the First Battalion Georgia Sharpshooters, to line the river bank with his riflemen. His right rested about a quarter of a mile in rear of and west of the battery. As soon as I was satisfied that there was no intention on the part of the enemy to land at Kilkenny on my right flank, and that his intention was restricted to passing the obstructions, I ordered him to deploy his battalion on his right file at ten paces intervals, which enabled him to cover the bank of the river for over a mile with his sharpshooters, who had excellent cover, and would have annoyed the enemy terribly had he succeed in passing the obstructions. Martin’s light battery I held in reserve at Hardwick, which is about 1 1/2 miles in rear of the battery. Captain McAllister’s troop I also held in readiness about a mile in rear of the battery. The two rifle guns of the Chatham Artillery, under Lieutenant Whitehead, I had placed in pits on a commanding bluff on the river, about a mile in rear of the battery; the two guns of the Confederate States steamer Rattlesnake, under the command of Captain Baker, I also ordered placed on Richmond Bluff, about 7 miles in rear of the battery. The steamer Rattlesnake according to your direction, was moved at a suitable point in the river and in readiness to be sunk had necessity required it. At 7.45 a. m. the bombardment commenced; our battery opened fire first, but not until the iron-clad had approached and taken a position north of and within 800 or 1,000 yards of the battery; their wooden boats lay about 2 miles from and to the east of the fort. The enemy fired steadily and with remarkable precision; at times their fire was terrible. Their mortar firing was unusually fine, a large number of their shells bursting directly over the battery. The iron-clad’s fire was principally directed at the 8-inch columbiad, and at about 8.15 o’clock the parapet in front of this gun was so badly breached as to leave the gun entirely exposed. The detachment did not leave the gun or evince the slightest fear, but in a most gallant and determined manner fought their gun to the close of the action, refusing to be relieved. The name of the brave officer who commanded this gun is First Lieutenant W. D. Dixon, of the Republican Blues, Company C, First Georgia Volunteer Regiment. At 8.30 a. m. one of the 32-pounders was disabled, one of the trunnions being knocked off. The same shot also killed Major John B. Gallie [Twenty-second Battalion Georgia Artillery], the gallant commander of the battery. Prior to this he had been wounded in the face by a fragment of shell, but refused to be relieved, and continued, notwithstanding his suffering, inspiring the men with his own gallant and unconquerable spirit up to the time he was killed. Thus perished nobly a brave, good, and gallant soldier. Captain G. W. Anderson, jr., upon Major Gallie’s death, succeeded to the command of the battery, and displayed during the whole action the utmost coolness and gallantry,as did Captain [Robert] Martin, commanding the 10-inch mortar, Captain G. A. Nicoll [Company F, Twenty-second Battalion Georgia Artillery], and each and every officer of the battery. At 12.15 p. m. she ceased firing and dropped down the stream out of reach of our guns. I think she was damaged, for the reason that just before backing down the stream we could hear them hammering on the turret, which ceased to revolve; neither did she again returned our fire, which at this juncture was very severe. I have entered into particulars, for the reason that this attack was one of no ordinary character, as will be readily admitted, when the class of the enemy’s vessels and their superior armament is taken into consideration, as well as the close proximity of the iron-clad to the battery. I think that the brave and heroic garrison of Fort McAllister have, after a most severe and trying fight, demonstrated to the world that victory does not as a matter of course always perch itself on the flag by stout and gallant hearts. In commemoration of this gallant action I respectfully recommend that the garrison be allowed to have “Fort McAllister” inscribed on their standard. I beg leave to call the attention of the brigadier-general commanding particularly to my adjutant, First Lieutenant Robert Wayne, who in the most gallant and heroic manner bore all of my orders in the battery during the whole action. He was as much, if not more, exposed than any one during the action, and his conduct won the admiration of all. I would also express my indebtedness to Captain McAllister, who by his gallantry, energy, and soldier-like appreciation of what I required of him, did much to facilitate my arrangements for the defense of the river. Our total list of casualties are 8-Major Gallie killed, and 7 privates wounded, none of them severely. The damage to the work has been already repaired; all that remains to be done is to mount another gun in the place of the 32-pounder disabled. This we will done as soon as the one you have ordered to be brought here from Savannah arrives. Enclosed you will please find the report of Captain G. W. Anderson, jr., the immediate commander of the battery, as well as that of Captain Robert Martin, commanding the 10-inch mortar. I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant, R. H. ANDERSON, Colonel, Commanding.