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James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

April 7

The Battle of Charleston Harbor

By Paul Hamilton Hayne (1830–1886)

  • Fort Sumter, then in possession of the Confederates, was attacked by a fleet of Federal ironclads under Admiral Du Pont on April 7, 1863, but after a terrific bombardment of two hours they withdrew.

  • TWO hours, or more, beyond the prime of a blithe April day,

    The Northmen’s mailed “Invicibles” steamed up fair Charleston Bay;

    They came in sullen file, and slow, low-breasted on the wave,

    Black as a midnight front of storm, and silent as the grave.

    A thousand warrior-hearts beat high as these dread monsters drew

    More closely to the game of death across the breezeless blue,

    And twice ten thousand hearts of those who watch the scene afar,

    Thrill in the awful hush that bides the battle’s broadening star.

    Each gunner, moveless by his gun, with rigid aspect stands,

    The reedy linstocks firmly grasped in bold, untrembling hands,

    So moveless in their marble calm, their stern, heroic guise,

    They look like forms of statued stone with burning human eyes!

    Our banners on the outmost walls, with stately rustling fold,

    Flash back from arch and parapet the sunlight’s ruddy gold—

    They mount to the deep roll of drums, and widely echoing cheers,

    And then once more, dark, breathless, hushed, wait the grim cannoneers.

    Onward, in sullen file, and slow, low-glooming on the wave,

    Near, nearer still, the haughty fleet glides silent as the grave,

    When shivering the portentous calm, o’er startled flood and shore,

    Broke from the sacred Island Fort the thunder wrath of yore!

    The storm has burst! and while we speak, more furious, wilder, higher,

    Dart from the circling batteries a hundred tongues of fire;

    The waves gleam red, the lurid vault of heaven seems rent above—

    Fight on, oh knightly gentlemen! for faith, and home, and love!

    There’s not, in all that line of flame, one soul that would not rise,

    To seize the victor’s wreath of blood, though death must give the prize;

    There’s not, in all this anxious crowd that throngs the ancient town,

    A maid who does not yearn for power to strike one foeman down!

    The conflict deepens! ship by ship the proud Armada sweeps,

    Where fierce from Sumter’s raging breast the volleyed lightning leaps,

    And ship by ship, raked, overborne, ere burned the sunset light,

    Crawls in the gloom of baffled hate beyond the field of fight!