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THE PORT ROYAL EXPEDITION.
point to point. Their task would be rendered less onerous by the establishment of a central dépôt. The seizure of Hatteras, which, as we shall presently see, had been made, did not meet these requisitions. It merely shut a gate to exclude the blockade adventurer, but was not the acquisition of a commodious harbor.
It was therefore determined, in the autumn of 1861, to occupy Port Royal, in South Carolina-a harbor situated between Charleston and Savannah, and the best upon the Southern Atlantic coast. The fleet assigned for this purpose was the most powerful that had yet been fitted out in America; it consisted of the frigate Wabash, 14 gun-boats, 34 steamers, and 26 sailing vessels. It was under the command of Commodore Dupont, and carried more than 15,000 troops, under Major General Thomas W. Sherman. Soon after leaving Hampton Roads it encountered a violent storm, by which the ships were dispersed and several of the transports lost. On the morning of November 4th, however, Dupont reached his destination, with difficulty getting his flag-ship, the Wabash, over the bar; but he was soon after joined by his fleet. On Hilton Head there was a strong earthwork, Fort Walker, mounting 23 guns, with an outwork on the sea-front having a rifled gun. The plan of Fort Walker was such that its principal guns were mounted on two water-faces so nearly in line as to admit of an enfilading fire from a certain point; the flanks were much weaker. On the opposite side of the channel, on Phillip's Island, at a distance of 21 miles, was another earthwork, Fort Beauregard, mounting 20 guns, several of them heavy rifles. It had an outwork mounting five. Two miles above, at the junction of Beaufort and Broad Rivers, the Confederate Commodore Tatt nall had a fleet of five or six gun-boats. The works were manned by about 1700 South Carolina troops.
CHAP. LIX.] DUPONT'S ATTACK AT PORT ROYAL.
Dupont's attack on the forts.
"It was determined to direct the weight of the attack first upon Fort Walker, and then turn to Fort Beauregard. The plan was for the fleet to pass up midway between the forts and engage both at long range, and, when the line reached a point 21 miles north of the forts, to turn to the south round by the west, and come into close action with Fort Walker, attacking on the weakest flank, while at the same time the shot would enfilade the two water-faces." The ships were to pass the forts at a distance of 800 yards when moving southward; but, when they made the second circuit, they were to come nearer, sighting their guns for 550 yards, so that the gunners in the fort had not only to fire at a moving object, but the ships were some 300 yards nearer than when they passed at first. Of course the range would be lost, and but little damage inflicted. Each vessel, as it came down, was to send enfi lading shot from its pivot-guns, and then give the whole
CAPTURE OF PORT ROYAL.
starboard broadside. On its return upward it was to give its port broadside.
The necessary preparations having been made, the flagship Wabash, followed by the other war
It is successful.
ships, passed up the midst of the channel. Sailing in the designated elliptical track, they delivered their fire as they neared the forts. They made the cir cuit three times. Meanwhile some of the smaller vessels had taken stations where they could not only prevent the Confederate fleet from giving any assistance, but also maintain a fire upon the left flank of Fort Walker. the course of three hours the fort was disabled, and its garrison had taken to flight, leaving even watches and other valuables behind. Simultaneously Fort Beauregard was abandoned. The loss on the national side was, in killed and wounded, 31; the Confederate loss was probably much more. In the forts were found 49 cannon and large quantities of ammunition. The town of Beaufort and the adjoining islands were soon afterward taken possession of, and troops were landed on Hilton Head, which was strongly fortified.
Port Royal, thus secured, was made a base of operations against South Carolina and Georgia. It became a great dépôt for munitions and stores of every kind.
Expedition for the blockade of Savannah.
Savannah, which is situated about fifteen miles from the mouth of the Savannah River and on its southern bank, is mainly defended by a strong casemated brick work, Fort Pulaski, on Cockspur Island. There is also a smaller work, Fort Jackson, nearer to the city.
Between Fort Pulaski and Fort Jackson is Jones's Island. It is of a triangular shape, being bounded by Wright River on the east, by Mud River on the north, and by the Savannah itself on the southwest. It is
THE BLOCKADE OF SAVANNAH.
about five miles long, and two or three broad. Point Venus is on the face of it, fronting the Savannah River. Jones's Island is separated from Turtle Island by Wright River. The mouth of this river is about two miles above Fort Pulaski.
Information had been given by some negroes that there exists a passage connecting Calibogue Sound explored. with the Savannah River, through which gun-boats might pass out of reach of Fort Pulaski, and cut off communication between that work and Savannah. A reconnoissance of boats with muffled oars successfully eluded the Confederate pickets, the exploring party hiding themselves in the reeds during the day and continuing their work in the night. They found that through an artificial passage, about 200 yards in length, known as Wall's Cut, access might readily be had to Wright River. This passage or channel was obstructed by three rows of piles, and by a sunken brig. At high water, however, they were able to get over these obstacles. They ascertained that gun-boats of ten feet draught could make their way without difficulty. Jones's Island. The reconnoitring party passed within hearing of the sentinels on Pulaski, and proceeded beyond Point Venus up to the mouth of Mud River. Through that river there was no available passage, the water being too shallow.
An expedition was therefore sent out to remove the obstructions in Wall's Cut. The piles were sawn off, the brig turned lengthwise so as to open the passage. The work lasted for three weeks, and was brought to its conclusion without detection. A few runaway negroes, who were hiding in the marsh, and sportsmen shooting wild ducks, were seized.
Information was in like manner obtained from some negroes of a similar neglected passage, known as Wil
mington Narrows, on the opposite side of the Savannah. Reconnoissances along it were accordingly made, and it was determined that operations should be commenced here simultaneously with those at Wall's Cut.
Access round Fort Pulaski having thus been obtained, a road was made from Wall's Cut over the marshes of Jones's Island to Point Venus,
Isolation of Fort
where a battery was constructed. Another battery was placed on the extremity of Long Island, and a third on floats at the mouth of Mud River. These cut off communication between Savannah and the fort, and kept the Confederate gun-boats at a distance.
For the reduction of Fort Pulaski, eleven batteries were established on the northwest face of Tybee Island, confronting the fort. Every thing being in readiness (April 10th, 1862), the fort was summoned to surrender. Its commandant refused. Fire was therefore opened upon it; in fifteen hours it was so much injured, and its magazine in so much danger of being reached by the shells, that it surrendered. The possession of this fort completed the blockade of Savannah.
There were some interesting incidents connected with the reduction of Fort Pulaski. Jones's Island is a mere