Engineer's Report -- Fort Adams, Newport, RI, May 18-19, 1863
Lt. General U. S. Grant
All Federal Armies
I beg your indulgence to my report of the above titled event. In attendance to the event at Fort Adams, were the following:
--Ian McKay, BG. CE,
--Greg Webster, Capt. / Field Superintendent
--Lady Mathews, Purser;
--Lady Webster, Sketch Artist /Historian.
Others in the Unit as indicated in the Morning Reports were on sick leave, on personal leave or dispatched to other duties and commands.
Lady Mathews and I, with the Webster's took the dispatch schooner from Fort Trumbull to Newport Harbor because of the heavy load of material that we were bringing for the Engineer's Display that was requested by the Fort Commander. We arrived at Fort Adams in the afternoon of May 17, and were immediately escorted to the North Casemates where we were to set up the display. The fort very generously loaned the engineers four tables for our display. With our own seven tables , the display was laid out by early evening. Lady Mathews and I departed the fort to stay with friends in Newport and the Websters stayed at the fort for the night.
Early the next morning, we were at the fort before reveille, to find that Capt . Webster and his wife had set up the flag set which consisted of the four engineering flags that I brought together with the Webster's flag set and Lady Webster's signal flags. It was a very nice outdoor display, and pointed out very nicely the Engineering Display inside. In the morning, the Fort Commander Staff Officer asked me to give a presentation to spectators about the fort and the engineering display on both Saturday and Sunday, which I was most pleased to be able to do. The rest of the morning was taken up with explaining the engineering display to our visitors and drawing a plan of a loading crane for canal boats. My study of canal construction and usage is proceeding well. Later the Brigade Commander was nice enough to call and he and I had a short discussion. Captain Webster took part in the Brigade discussions about the event activities and then relayed them to me. Captain Webster indicated that he had been asked by the Brigade Command Staff to provide the Brigade Staff with copies of the Hill Redoubt drawings and sketches which Captain Webster diligently worked on throughout the day on Saturday.
I must point out the extra work that Captain Webster has put in to this unit and this event. It was he who drew a set of drawings of Fort Adams for this event. He also attended most of the Brigade Meetings in order to be aware of what was planned, and he attended the Redoubt tour and came away with some nice sketches and a series of pictures. He also arranged for the Fort Staff to send a set of pictures as well. His work i constructing some very nice models for the Engineering display reveals a very detailed and careful talent in that area. I find him to be very efficient and careful in his actions while maintaining a quiet and likable character. I am not at all bashful in recommending him for Command School prior to his possible ranking to Major.
In the early afternoon the Union and Confederate troops marched out and took up their positions for a Confederate attack on the fort. One Union six-pounder was firing from inside the fort through an embrasure . The cannon was posted in one of the North Casemates . Union marksmen were posted along the upper level of the fort , and Union skirmishers met the Confederate force in the North glacis leading down to the water. The skirmish was quickly over and the Union and Confederates reached a compromise and the Union held the fort. I was honored to be able to narrate the skirmish to the spectators in company with a Confederate Major.
The afternoon well very well with the presentation. There were about 10 people at the presentation and apparently they enjoyed the half hour with me, in covering the original purpose of the fortification, the problems with the fort and the advance of technology, and the use of the fart as it changed during the years following the Civil War. There are two fort mysteries, and these were discussed as well.
On Saturday evening, Lady Mathews and I again enjoyed the hospitality of our friends in Newport and arrived back at the fort early on Sunday morning. For most of the morning we entertained visitors to the display and just prior to the planned skirmish, I again gave my presentation to about 8-10 people and then moved outside to narrate for the Sunday skirmish. This skirmish was a little longer and the Confederates captured the Union field gun, and then under heavy rifle fire they rushed the North postern gate , and gained access to the fort. This ended the skirmish, and the troops marched back to camp forming a short parade in front of the spectators. I stayed for several minutes talking with some of the spectators and answering questions. I got a ride back in to the fort with a mule cart and one of the fort -keepers.
Then came the task of packing up the displays and loading them in the wagons to take down to the pier and put on board the dispatch schooner. Lady Mathews and I bid farewell to the Websters and took a coach from Newport back to New London, stopping on the way, at an old-fashioned Spanish roadhouse for a fine lobster dinner!
As all of our events have been at Fort Adams, this one was most enjoyable. The Fort Staff were accommodating in every way, which added much to the enjoyment of the event. Captain and Lady Webster took part in a visit to the small redoubt on top of the hill to the South of the fort proper. I had asked the fort staff if they could do that and that agreed, and then I saw that the visit had been expanded to include anyone who was interested. An earlier visit with the engineers about four years ago had revealed a really nice redoubt that had been virtually hidden from view by undergrowth and fencing. The Webster's descriptions and the pictures provided by the Fort Staff revealed that a great deal of clearing work had been done since that time. Captain Webster was able to get some nice sketches of the redoubt as well as some nice pictures. Combined with the photo sets sent by the Fort staff, they will be very valuable in creating a set of drawings for the redoubt.
We had a very enjoyable event, and the Fort Staff met our every need with dispatch. If we are invited again we shall be honored and eager to attend.
Your Very Diligent and Admiring Servant;
Ian McKay, BG. CE
Commander, Northeast Topographical Engineers
Coastal / River Detachment