The first assault column was ready to go by 12:50 p.m., but did not receive the order to attack until 1:25. Ten minutes later, 1,400 men of Brig. Gen. Robert S. Foster’s Second Division moved forward. The line of advance would take them into the sights of Confederate gunners before they moved across three separate ravines that threw off their alignment and caused great confusion among the ranks. After the third ravine was crossed, they emerged into an open field that was directly in front of the fort. If they could make it across that field, they would encounter one line of fraise (sharpened stakes sticking chest high out of the ground) and one line of abatis (sharpened branches of tree tops interlocked together to form a sort of early barbed wire) and then a ditch, or moat, that was ten feet deep. If by some miracle they could surmount these obstacles, they would then have to climb up the wall of the fort and fight their way in. Needless to say, Foster’s men – who would wind up attacking the fort twice – failed to take the fort.
An interesting counterpoint to Sherman’s narrative is the account left to us by Brig. Gen. Edward Porter Alexander, who gives a no-holds-barred description of what happened from the Confederate perspective:
|The Interior of Fort Gilmer Today|