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STORY XXIV.

CAPTURE OF PORT ROYAL, SOUTH CAROLINA.

On Tuesday, October 29th, 1861, the fleet, under command of Flag-Officer S. F. Dupont, sailed from Hampton Roads, numbering, with the army transports, fifty vessels. It was, in consequence of the delay in the arrival of some of the transports intended for conveying the troops of General T. W. Sherman's command, which constituted a principal feature of the expedition, that its departure was not effected sooner.

It was calculated that the passage to Port Royal would be effected in five days, at most; but, in consequence of adverse winds, and a perilous storm on the day and night of the 1st of November, in which the fleet was almost entirely dispersed, and two or three of the transports lost, (the men, however, all being saved, excepting seven,) the fleet did not arrive at Port Royal until the 4th of November, and then in straggling order.

Commodore Dupont says: “The fleet was utterly dispersed, and, on Saturday morning, one sail only was in sight from the deck of the Wabash. On the following day the weather moderated, and the steamers and ships began to re-appear. As the vessels re-joined, reports came in of disasters. I expected to hear of many; but, when the severity of the gale and the character of the vessels are considered, we have only cause for great thankfulness.”

It was on Monday, at eight o'clock in the morning, that the Wabash (the flag-ship) anchored off the bar, with some twenty-five vessels in company and many more heaving in sight.

All the buoys and aids to navigation had been removed by the enemy, but the esficiency and skill of Commander Davis, the fleet captain, and Mr. Boutelle, assistant of the Coast Survey, with the steamer Vixen, soon found and buoyed out the channel, so that by three o'clock, P. M., the lighter transports and the gunboats commenced passing the bar, and before dark, were securely anchored in the roadstead of Port Royal.

On Tuesday morning, a reconnoissance in force was made by the gunboats Octavia and Seneca and the steamship Flag, which drew the fire of the batteries on Hilton Head and Bay Point, sufficiently to show that the fortifications were works of strength and scientifically constructed.

Captain Davis and Mr. Boutelle having reported water enough for the Wabash to enter, she crossed the bar in safety, closely followed by the frigate Susquehanna, the Atlantic, Vanderbilt, and other transports of deep draft, running through that portion of the fleet already in.

The safe passage of the Wabash over the bar was hailed with gratifying cheers from the crowded vessels. She anchored, and immediately commenced preparing for action. But the delay occasioned by the planting of buoys, to designate shoals to be avoided, rendered it too late, in the judgment of Commodore Dupont, before it was possible to leave anchorage with the attacking squadron. The next day the wind blew a gale from the southward and westward, and the attack was unavoidably postponed.

At nine o'clock, A. M., November 7th, the flag-ship made the signal to fall in and form in order of battle, the Wabash leading the main column, composed of the following vessels: Wabash, Susquehanna, Mohicon, Seminole, Pawnee, Unadilla, Ottawa, Pembina and Vandalia. The starboard column was composed of the following vessels: Bienville, Seneca, Curlew, Penguin and Augusta.

At ten o'clock, A. M., the batteries on each side of the river opened fire on the head of the column, from long range heavy guns, which the flag-ship promptly replied to, and soon the action became general along the whole line, as the ships came within range.

At 10:30 the flag-ship winded the line, turning to the southward, when she engaged, for a few minutes, three Rebel stcamers, within long range, up the river, which were soon put to flight, when she again proceeded in the order of battle down within close range of Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, when the firing became very spirited on both sides. After passing the batteries, the line was again winded in a circle, during which time our men kept up a steady fire.

“I kept under way," says the Commodore," and made three turns, though I passed five times between the forts. I had a flanking division of five ships to watch, and old Tatnall too, who had eight small, swift steamers ready to pounce in upon any of ours, should they be disabled. I could get none of my big frigates up."

The previous reconnoissance had satisfied all with the superiority of Fort Walker, and to that the Commodore directed his special efforts, engaging it at 800 yards, and afterward at 600. But the plan of attack brought the squadron near enough to Fort Beauregard to re

ceive its fire, and the ships were frequently fighting the batteries on both sides at the same time.

A well directed fire from the heavy guns of our gun boats and small steamers, soon drove the enemy from his defences, and so concluded a well contested fight, by a glorious victory. The defeat of the enemy ter minated in utter rout and confusion. Their quarters and encampments were abandoned, without an attempt to carry away either private or public property.

At half past two o'clock the American ensign was hoisted on the flag staff of Fort Walker, and on the next morning at sunrise, on that of Fort Beauregard. The ground over which the Rebels had fled was found strewn with the arms of private soldiers, and even the officers had retired in too much haste to be impeded with the incumbrance of their swords.

Landing the marines and a company of seamen, the commodore took possession of the abandoned ground, and held the forts on Hilton Head, till the arrival of General Sherman, to whom he transferred their command.

With these forts were captured 43 pieces of cannon, most of them being of very heavy calibre, and the most improved design. Their sights were found graduated at 600 yards. Their rifled guns never missed. An 80-pounder rifle ball went through the mainmast of the Wabash, in the very centre, making an awful hole. They fought bravely, and their confidence was extreme that they could drive away their assailants.

When the Rebels once broke, the stampede was intense; and not a gun was spiked. In truth, says the Commodore, I never conceived of such a fire as that of this ship, on her second turn, and I am told that its

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effect upon the spectators outside of her was intense. I learn that when they saw our flag on shore the troops were powerless to cheer, but wept. General Sherman was deeply affected, and the soldiers were loud and unstinting in their expressions of admiration and gratitude.

General Sherman says, I consider the performance a masterly one, and it ought to have been seen, to be fully appreciated.

After the works were reduced, I took possession of them with the land forces. The beautifully constructed work on Hilton Head was severely crippled, and many of the guns dismounted. Much slaughter had evidently been made there, many bodies having been buried in the fort, and some twenty or thirty were found a half mile distant.

The island, for many miles, was found strewed with the arms, and accoutrements, and baggage of the Rebels, which they threw away in their retreat. We also came into possession of about forty pieces of ordnance, and a large quantity of ammunition and camp equipage.

Our loss was reported by the Commodore, officially, at eight killed, and twenty-three wounded.

The moment General Drayton, the Rebel commander, took to his horse, in the panic of the 7th, his 200 servants went directly to the Wabash. This was worthy of notice as putting down the nonsense that the slaves were ready to fight for their masters.—DUPONT, et al.

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