Information obtained from the examination of deserters from the enemy.
JANUARY 8, 1864.
Examination of George L. Shipp, who deserted from the rebels two days since, and was sent to me by General Terry:
Obstructions.—Saw the obstructions between Sumter and Moultrie about a month ago.
They began about 400 yards from Fort Sumter. Thinks they were about 75 yards long. Went along the obstructions to the end of them near Moultrie. Does not think there are any others nearer Moultrie. Thinks there were several lines of them about 10 feet apart. Has never been near the line of piles opposite Johnson, excepting to pass them but once, then the boat passed between two of them, trailing oars to do so. Think they are 10 feet apart generally, and no connection between them.
Never heard of any torpedoes or obstructions in Cooper River, as far down as Castle Pinckney. Has not heard of any in the main channel as far as Fort Johnson; vessels run up and down freely as if there was nothing there. Has been in the habit of pulling up and down there in the picket boat. Has seen sloops and wood boats beating up the main channel to the city. Has no personal knowledge of any torpedoes at all, but has heard from some of his shipmates that there are some and that they helped to put them down. Believes that they are near the obstructions between Sumter and Moultrie; thinks none have been put down since September.
At the wharves there are also three or four rafts with inclined surfaces and six torpedoes at the upper end of each raft, which are to be taken somewhere. These torpedoes are shaped like a bottle, and have but one nipple; don’t look to be as large as the torpedoes attached to the rams. These rafts are intended for use in some parts of the harbor, but don’t know where. They are six stout timbers framed, and the end of them is seen about 3 feet above the water, and the torpedoes are attached to the end of each timber. They are anchored near the wharf; knows there are three, and think four. The floating battery that was used in the attack on Fort Sumter April, 1861, is a wreck near Fort Johnson. Does not know anything about the obstructions that floated down the harbor; never saw or heard of them.
Ironclads.—Was in the habit of going aboard the Charleston before going on picket. She has a bow gun; was told that it was a 9-inch rifle; has one gun aft and one on each side—all VIII-inch smoothbore, four guns in all. Bow and stern gun pivot on either side, which makes three guns in a side to fight. The Charleston is fully manned; crew not over 150 men; Commodore Tucker has his flag on her. Captain Hunter commands the vessel. Does not think the Charleston is very fast, rather slow. Has a torpedo at her bow, generally triced up in daytime. The pole is of iron about as thick as his wrist. The joint of the pole is at the bow; thinks the length of the pole to the torpedo is 16 or 18 feet. Was told that the torpedo contained 70 pounds of powder. Has five knobs at the end for nipples. The torpedo is flat at the base, corners rounded at the upper end.
Has been on board the Chicora once in the daytime. She is built like the Charleston, but has only three guns—one forward and one aft, and one on the port side; none on the starboard side. Does not know the caliber of these guns; they may not be as large as those on the Charleston. Port on the starboard side, but no gun. Has a torpedo like the Charleston. Thinks she is unequal to the Charleston. She was alongside the dock when he left; wants a new boiler and is said to leak.
Was aboard the Palmetto State once. The battery looked to him the same as the Chicora. Has four guns, one at each end and one on each side. Does not know any more about either of these vessels. Palmetto State sometimes comes down on picket instead of the Charleston.
Has only seen one of the new ironclads building; the sides of casemates are up, but top is not up; no iron plating on yet. Saw it a week ago. Has not been near the other ironclads, but has seen them at a distance; knows there is no plating on them yet. There is another little steamer called the Torch lying at the wharves. She is built like the other ironclads, with a casemate, but is very small. Has no guns mounted, but has a pole projecting from her bow, with three branches at the end, with a torpedo on each. The pole is about 12 feet long. Each torpedo is about the size of the one on the Charleston, and contains about 70 pounds of powder. (This is supposed to be the boat that came down and crossed the bows of the Ironsides August 21, at night, and when hailed, answered, that she was “the Live Yankee, from Port Royal;” she escaped without damage.)
Torpedo vessels—. Has seen the “David,” the torpedo boat that attacked the Ironsides October 5. Saw her at the Charleston wharf five or six days ago. She was lying alongside the wharf and he looked directly down upon her. There were only two men in her at the time. She had been at Mount Pleasant and had come back the day before. He saw her steaming back to Charleston from Mount Pleasant. She went fast and looked to him to be about 25 feet long; merely guesses at the length, as he has no information of it. She had her torpedo raised out of water at the end of her pole; thinks the pole was 9 or 10 feet long. Thinks the torpedo was about the size of the one on the Charleston; has heard that it contains 70 pounds of powder. Common talk is that they expect to make another attack some dark night, but has heard no officer say so. Does not know why she has not been out before, but knows that they have been covering her with thin iron. It was said that she was not hurt when she came down on the Ironsides, but hears that she was hit with some musket balls. Heard the engineer of the “David” say that the water thrown up by the torpedo put all her fire out but a little; that there was enough steam left to back her off; then he made up the fire and got away. He knows that there are two other “Davids” building next to the lower ironclad; saw them about 200 yards off as he passed down the river; one has its screw in place, the other has not. Does not know whether their engines are in or not. Has heard of others building, but does not believe it. The new ones are wood, not having been lined with iron yet.
Believes that the “American Diver” is at Mount Pleasant; saw her when they were getting the drowned men out of her. She was pulled upon the wharf at the time. He was about 30 yards from her. There were seven men drowned in her. Was looking at her when she went down 60 yards from the receiving ship. She went down several times but came up again. She would stay under water ten minutes each time, and would come up 75 to 80 yards from where she went down. At last she went down and would not come up again. She remained down nine days before she was raised. This was about two months ago. She was then taken to the wharf and hauled up. They launched her again in about a week, but nothing was done with her until lately, when they fitted her up again and sent her down to Mount Pleasant, where she now is. Does not know that she has dived since. It was promised to the men that went in her that she would not dive again. When she does not dive, she only shows two heads above the water about the size of a man’s head. He thinks she is about 20 feet long and the manholes are about 8 feet apart. She is made of iron.
Fortifications in Charleston Harbor.—Has been in Fort Johnson. Was there last about two weeks ago. Has seen the guns—only six— and knows that one of them is rifled; has felt the rifling. It is on the extreme right. The other five are smoothbores (has been told so). Is certain that the rifle gun is 10-inch bore. Of the others has no positive knowledge. Thinks two are VIII-inch and the others X-inch. Has never been inside the work. Has seen the guns from the outside. The guns are considerably above the level of the water.
There is a battery about three-fourths of a mile west of Johnson; does not know its name. Was in a boat and landed some officers at the battery on Christmas day. Walked along by the battery outside. Saw one gun in it. Thinks it is a IX-inch; is not positive. Saw that it was a smoothbore. The shore is pretty bluff, at least 10 feet higher than the water, it being then high tide. The crest of the work is chin high and the gun looks right over it.
Has been within 400 yards of Ripley. It is oblong in the direction of the channel. The end toward the sea is said to be plated with iron. Does not know how many guns are on Ripley; hears there are three.
Has not been in Castle Pinckney. Knows nothing about it, neither from hearsay nor in any other way.
The work at the garden of White Point is of sand. Was there once about five weeks ago. Did not go inside; was not permitted. Walked outside along the work. The work was finished then, and there were three guns in it, all alike, which he believed to be 8-inch guns, but did not ask. The large English gun which split at the breech in firing was not mounted, but was lying on the ground. Did not hear that anything had been done with it since. Two of the guns looked toward Ripley and the other more to the southward.
Has seen the battery where the other large English gun is mounted, but has never landed there. Work is still being done there. It is on a wharf near the water; saw it last Wednesday.
Above that is another battery near a wharf; was there a week ago. The landing from the receiving ship is at wharves near this battery; has never been inside the battery. There is one gun in this battery; feels pretty sure that it is a smooth-bore IX-inch. Is aware of the peculiar shape of a IX-inch gun and describes some of its principles—large breech and smooth, without bands.
There is another battery somewhere above the landing, at the corner of a wharf; was at it a month ago, but not inside. Has one gun in it similar to the one in the battery at the landing, IX-inch. These are all the batteries he knows of along the Charleston wharves on Cooper River.
Mode of escape.—Was quartered on board the receiving ship Indian Chief, which lies in Town Creek, opposite railroad wharf—400 yards from it.
Left the Indian Chief in No. 7 at 4 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, as usual. Pulled down toward the ram Charleston, not quite so far down as Fort Ripley, lying off the battery with one gun. When they left the vessel the boat had five men, coxswain, and officer, as usual. Had six rifles and six cutlasses. Stayed a few minutes alongside the Charleston, then pulled for Fort Johnson, where they arrived about dark. As the weather was bad, the boat did not go out on picket. The officer and two men went up on the fort; two went up on the wharf. Shipp and another man remained at the end of the wharf; this was about dark. At about 8 o’clock got into the boat and left the wharf. They pulled about for Cumming’s Point, crossed the shoal, got aground once and got clear. Arrived at the point before midnight. Name of other man was Carmine. Thinks the men in the Indian Chief are generally dissatisfied and would leave if they got a chance.
General remarks.-—Thinks the people expect an attack from the Navy. They think the batteries on Sullivan’s Island and Fort Johnson will hurt us a good deal, but don’t depend much on their ironclads. They don’t think their batteries will stop us, but think that the torpedoes and obstructions will. Thinks there is a disposition amongst the citizens to give the city up rather than have the monitors destroy it.
Observed the firing of the monitors at Sumter from the receiving ship. Thinks their firing did it more damage in proportion to the number of shots fired than the land batteries. They have no knowledge of the monitors being injured by their own fire. Seems to think that the Ironsides is more formidable than the monitors.
Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion; Series I - Volume 15: South Atlantic Blockading Squadron (October 1, 1863 - September 30, 1864), 1902, U.S. Government Printing Office
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