Lieutenant Samuel Nicoll Benjamin, who commanded Fort Sanders while its nominal commander, a New York political general, was drunk in his bombproof, arranged several surprises for the attacking Rebels.
One was a Napoleon 12-pounder that could be run up a clay ramp at the Northwest bastion’s apex angle to fire over the parapet, en barbette as it was called.
First Rhode Island Light Artillery Lieutenant Ezra Parker reported in 1913 that Sergeant Charles C. Gray commanded the hidden gun which fired two quick rounds of canister into the attackers. Parker explains what happened next:
“On the morning of the great assault upon our lines, Sergeant Charles C. Gray was in charge of the fourth piece of our battery. He often loaded his piece with double canister and fired with terrible effect, for the range was only from fifteen yards to fifty yards. He moved his piece from its first position en barbette on the right of the fort, to an embrasure that more effectually commanded the rebel advance.
“Here he fired with great rapidity, until the enemy appeared to recoil. He had his gun loaded with double canister and ceased firing. At this time a rebel officer climbed out of the ditch, and standing at the muzzle of the cannon placed his sword upon it and said: ‘Surrender this gun.’ The man who held the lanyard was ready to fire, and asked for the order. Sergeant Gray replied: ‘Don’t waste double canister on one man.’ At this juncture, three other rebels came into the embrasure at the muzzle of the gun, and then the order was given to ‘fire.’ Of these four men, nothing was left but atoms.”
From Lieutenant Ezra Parker’s 1913 memoir in the 50th anniversary year of the Battle of Fort Sanders.