« PreviousContinue »
MILITARY AND NAVAL OPERATIONS ON THE COAST OF SOUTH CABOLINA.-MILITARY
OPERATIONS ON THE LINE OF THE POTOMAC RIVER.
AMPTON ROADS presented a spectacle, in October, similar to that, late in August, of the Hatteras expedition; but more imposing. It was a land and naval armament, fitted out for a descent upon the borders of lower South Carolina, among the coast islands between Charleston harbor and the Savannah River.
The want of some harbors under the control of the
Government in that region, as stations, and as places of refuge of the blockading vessels during the storms of autumn and winter, had caused the Government to take action on the subject even before the meeting of Congress in July. So early as June, a Board of army and navy officers was convened at Washington City. The Board, after careful investigations, made elaborate reports, and, in accordance with their recommendations, expeditions were planned. The Secretary of the Navy, with the help of his energetic assistant, Mr. Fox, had so far matured an expedition for the Southern coast, that, early in October, rumors of it began to attract public attention. It became tangible when in Hampton Roads a large squadron was seen gathering, and at Annapolis a considerable land force was collecting, which, it was said, was to form a part of the expedition. Whither it was to go was a mystery to the public, and its destination was so uncertain to the popular mind, that it was placed by conjecture at almost every point of interest between Cape Hatteras and Galveston, in Texas. Even in official circles its destination was generally unknown when it sailed, 80 well had the secret been kept.
The land forces of the expedition, which assembled at Annapolis, in Maryland, about fifteen thousand in number, were placed in charge of Brigadier-General T. W. Sherman, acting as major-general. The naval portion of the expedition was placed under the command of Captain S. F. Dupont, who had served as chairman of the Board of Inquiry just mentioned. The fleet was composed of fifty war vessels and transports, with twenty-five coal vessels under convoy of the Vandalia. These, with the troops, left Hampton Roads and proceeded to sea on a most lovely October morning, having been summoned to the movement at dawn by
a Oct. 29, the booming of a gun on the Wabash, the Commodore's flag-ship. The destination of the expedition was not generally known by the partici
1 This Board was composed of Major John G. Barnard, of the Engineer Corps of the army, Professor Alexander Bache, of the Coast Survey, and Captains Samuel F. Dupont and Charles H. Davis, of the Navy,
AN EXPEDITION IN MOTION.
8. F. DUPONT.
pants in it until it was well out to sea, when, under peculiar circumstances, as we shall observe, it was announced to be Port Royal entrance and
harbor, and the coast islands of South Carolina.
The army under Sherman was divided into three brigades, commanded respectively by BrigadierGenerals Egbert S. Viele, Isaac J. Stevens, and Horatio G. Wright; all of them, including the chief, being graduates of the West Point Military Academy. The transports which bore these troops were about thirtyfive in number, and included some powerful steamships.'
The Wabash led the way out to sea, and its followers, moving in
three parallel lines, and occupying a space of about twelve miles each way, made a most imposing appearance. The war-vessels and transports were judiciously intermingled, so that the latter might be safely convoyed. During a greater portion of the day of departure, they moved down the coast toward stormy Cape Hatteras, most of the vessels in sight of the shore of North Carolina, and all hearts cheered with promises of fine weather. That night was glorious. The next day was fair.
The second night was calm and beautiful. There was no moon visible; but the stars were brilliant. The dreaded Cape Hatteras was passed in the dimness with such calmness of sea, that on the following morning a passenger on the Atlantic counted no less than thirty-eight of the fifty vessels in sight from her deck. But, on that evening, the aspect of the heavens changed, and the terrible storm, already mentioned, which swept over Hatteras so fearfully at the beginning of November, was soon encountered, and the expedition was really “scattered to the winds." So complete was the dispersion, that, on the morning of the 2d of November, only a single vessel might be seen from the deck of the Wabash. Fortunately, there were sealed orders on board of each vessel. These were opened, and the
1 The Atlantic and Baltic, each carrying a full regiment of men and a vast amount of provisions and stores, were of the larger class. Among the other more notable vessels may be named the Vanderbilt, Ocean Queen, Ericsson, Empire City, Daniel Webster, and Great Republic, the latter having been employed in the British service for the same purpose during a part of the Crimean war. Among the lesser vessels were five or six ferry-boats, calculated, on account of their capacity and light draught, for landing troops in shallow and still waters. The entire tonnage of the transports was estimated at about 40,000 tons.
? The vessels moved in the following order and connection: The Wabash was flanked by the gunboats Pawnee, Ottarca, Curlew, Isaac P. Smith, Seneca, Pombina, Unadilla, Penguin, and R. B. Forbes. Tho Baltic, towing the Ocean Express, led the column on the left, and was supported by the Pocahontas. Tho Minois towed the Golden Eagle, and was followed by the Locust Point, Star of the South, Parkersburg, Belvidere, Alabama, Coatzacoalcas, Jarion, Governor, and Mohican.
The Atlantic led the central line, and was followed by the Vanderbilt, towing the Great Republic; the Ocean Queen, towing the Zenas Coffin; and these were followed by the Winfield Scott, Potomac, Cahawba, Oriental Union, R. B. Forbes, Viren, and 0. M. Petit.
The Empire City led the right, followed by the Ericason, Philadelphia, Ben De Ford, Florida, Roanoke, Matanzas, Daniol Webster, Augustı, Mayflower, Peerless, Ariel, Merc Osceola, and two ferry-boats. The twenty-five coal-barges, convoyed by the Vandalia, had been sent out the day before, with instructions to rendezvous off the Savannah River, so as to mislead as to the real destination of the expedition.
TERRIBLE STORM AT SEA.
place of rendezvous, off Port Royal, was made known. In that fearful storm four transport vessels were lost,' but not a dozen persons perished. most remarkable how small was the aggregate amount of disaster suffered by so large a number of vessels in company, by a storm so severe that at times it was a hurricane. Some were compelled to part with freight, in order to insure salvation. The gunboat Mercury lost one of her two rifled guns, thrown overboard to lighten her; and the Isaac P. Smith was saved by parting with eight 8-inch guns in the same way.
The side-wheel steamer Florida, carrying nine guns, was disabled, and put back in distress; and the Belvidere and two New York ferry-boats (Ethan Allen and Commodore Perry) were compelled to go back to Fortress Monroe, where they gave the first public notice of the storm and the dispersion of the fleet.
The sad news disturbed the loyal people with alarm and distress until the small amount of disaster was known, while the Confederate newspapers were jubilant with the expressed idea that the elements were in league with them in destroying their enemies. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera,” one of them quoted, and added, “So the winds of heaven fight for the good cause of Southern independence. Let the Deborahs of the South sing a song of deliverance.” That joyous song was very brief, for, whilst it was swelling in full chorus, a voice of wailing went over the Southern land, such as had not been heard since its wicked betrayers had raised their arms for the destruction of the Republic and the liberties of the people.
On Sunday morning the storm began to abate, and the vessels of the expedition to reassemble around the flag-ship. When passing Charleston harbor, Commodore Dupont sent in Captain Lardner with the Seneca to direct the Susquehanna, on blockading duty there, to proceed to Port Royal; and on the following morning, at eight o'clock, the Wabash anchored off Port Royal Bar in company with twentyfive vessels, whilst many others were continually heaving in sight in the dim offing.
The expedition was now on the threshold of a theater of great and important events, with many difficulties and dangers still before it. The awful perils of the sea had been passed, but there were others, no less fearful, to be encountered in the works of man before it. There were also grave dangers beneath the waters on which that armada floated, for the insurgents had, as we have observed,' removed lighthouses, beacons, buoys, and every help to navigation all along the Southern coasts. Yet a remedy for this evil was found in the person of Commander Charles H. Davis (the fleet captain, and chief of Dupont's staff), and Mr. Boutelle, of the Coast Survey, a man of
a Nov. 3,
1 The lost vessels were the Governor, Peerless, Osceola, and Union. The Governor, Captain Litchfield, was a steam transport. It foundered on Sunday (Nov. 3), having on board a battalion of marines, numbering 850. All were saved by the frigate Sabine (see page 866, volume I.), Captain Ringold, excepting a corporal and six men, who were drowned, or crushed between the vessels; nearly all the arms and half of the accouterinents of the mirines were saved, and about 10,000 rounds of cartridges. The Peerless was a small Lake Ontario steamer, loaded with beef cattle. Its officers and crew were saved by the gunboat Mohican, Captain Gordon. The propeller Osceola, Captain Morrell, also loaded with beef cattle, was wrecked on North Island, near Georgetown, S. C., and its people, 20 in number, were made prisoners. The Union, Captain Sawin, was a new and stanch steamer, and went ashore off Beaufort, N. C., with a large quantity of stores, which were lost. Its crew and passengers, and a few soldiers, in all 73 persons, were captured and taken into the interior. The stanch steamer Winfield Scott, with 500 men of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania regiment, barely escaped destruction.
See page 453, volume I.
CONFEDERATES AT PORT ROYAL ENTRANCE.
great scientific skill, who had recently been engaged in making a minute examination of this coast. By these well-informed men the channel entrance to Port Royal Sound was found, and so well buoyed in the course of a few hours that the fleet might enter with perfect safety. At three o'clock in the afternoon Commodore Dupont was informed that all of his gun-boats and transports drawing less than eighteen feet water might go forward without danger. The movement commenced at once, and at twilight these vessels were all anchored in the roadstead of Port Royal.
To oppose the further progress of the expedition, the Confederates had earthworks on each side of Port Royal entrance. The one on the northern side, at Bay Point, Phillip's Island, was named Fort Beauregard, and that on the southern side, near Hilton Head, Hilton Ilead Island, was called Fort Walker. The latter was a strong regular work, with twenty-four guns; and the former, though inferior to it in every respect, was formidable, being armed with twenty guns.
Fort Walker was manned, when the expedition arrived, by six hundred and twenty men,' under General T. F. Drayton, a wealthy land-owner, whose
mansion was not more than 2 mile distant from it, standing a few yards from the beach, and overlooking a beautiful expanse of land and water. He was a brother of Captain Percival Drayton, commander of the Pocahontas, of this expedition. On the beach at Camp Lookout, six miles from Fort Walker, were sixty-five men of Scriven's guerrillas, who acted as scouts and couriers for the commander. These forces were increased, before the battle commenced, to one thousand eight hundred and thirty-seven men.” The force on Bay Point was six hun
dred and forty men, commanded by Colonel R. G. M. Dunovant. Of these, one hundred and forty-nine, consisting of the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery, garrisoned Fort Beauregard, under the immediate command of Captain Stephen Elliott, Jr., of Beaufort. Dunovant's infantry force was stationed so as to protect the eastern portion of Phillip's Island, and the entrance to Trenchard's Inlet.
In addition to these land forces, there was a little squadron called the “Musquito Fleet,” under Commodore Josiah Tatnall, a brave old veteran of the National navy, who served with distinction in the war of 1812, but who had been seduced from his allegiance and his flag by the siren song of supreme State sovereignty. He had followed the politicians of his native
1 Two companies of Wagner's South Carolina First Regiment of Artillery, three companies of Hayward's Ninth South Carolina Volunteers, and four companies of Dunovant's Twelfth South Carolina Volunteers, under Major Jones.
2 The re-enforcements were composed of 450 infantry from Georgia, under command of Captain Berry ; Captain Reed's battery of two 10-pounder howitzers and 50 men, and Colonel De Saussure’s Fifteenth South Carolina Volunteers, numbering 650 men,
3 See page 133, volume I.
PREPARATIONS FOR BATTLE.
Georgia in the wicked ways of treason, and in the course of a few months he had fallen from his high position of an honored commander, kindly placed by his Government in a retreat of ease and comfort, at the naval station at Sackett's Harbor, on Lake Ontario, in New York, to be the chief manager of a little flotilla of eight small armed steamers that had been employed in navigating the shallow waters among the Coast Islands, and losing, by lack of success, even the respect of those whose bad cause he had consented to serve. His achievements on the occasion we are now considering consisted of a harmless show of opposition to the fleet when it anchored in Port Royal roadstead; a successful retreat from danger when a few shots were hurled at his vessels; assisting in the flight of the Confederate land forces
Hilton Head Island, and in the destruction of his own flotilla to prevent its capture by his late brothers in the National navy. On Tuesday, the 5th,“ Commander John Rogers, a passenger
Nov., 1861. with Dupont, on his way to his own ship, the Flag, accompanied by General Wright, made a reconnoissance in force of the Confederate works in the Ottawa, supported by the Curler, Seneca, and Smith. The forts on both shores opened upon them, as they desired they should, and an engagement of about three-quarters of an hour ensued, by which the strength and character of those works were fairly tested. In the mean time, the great Wabash had passed safely over the bar, and every thing was now ready for an attack. It was delayed by an ugly wind off shore, and meanwhile the Confederates were re-enforced and their works were strengthened.
Thursday, the 7th, dawned gloriously. The transports were all in sight, and in the light of the morning sun a grand spectacle was speedily presented. It had been ascertained by Rogers and Wright that Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, was by far the most powerful of the defenses, and upon it the bolts of the fleet were chiefly hurled. The order of battle “comprised a main squadron ranged, in a line ahead, and a flanking squadron, which was to be thrown off on the northern section of the harbor, to engage the enemy's flotilla (Tatnall's), and prevent them taking the rear ships of the main line when it turned to the southward, or cutting off a disabled vessel.” That flotilla was then lying at a safe distance between Hilton Head and Paris Islands.
The plan of attack was to pass up midway between Forts Walker and Beauregard (which were about two miles apart), receiving and returning the fire of both; and at the distance of two and a half miles northward of the latter, round by the west, and closing in with the former, attack it on
YORT WALKER, HILTON HEAD.
1 Report of Commodore Dupont to the Secretary of the Navy, November 11th, 1561. The main squadron «consisted of the Wabash, Commander C. R. P. Rogers, leading; frigate Susquehanna, Captain J. L. Lardner; sloop Mohican, Commander L W. Gordon; sloop Seminole, Commander J. P. Gillis; sloop Pawnee, Lieutenant commanding T. II, Stevens; gunboat Pembina, Lieutenant commanding J. P. Bankhead; sailing sloop Van. dalia, towed by the Isaac P. Smith, Lieutenant commanding J. W. A. Nicholson. The flanking squadron con. sisted of the gun boats Bienville, Commander Charles Sreedunan, leading; Seneca, Lieutenant commanding Daniel Ammen; Curlero, Lieutenant commanding P. G. Watmough; Penguin, Lieutenant commanding F. d. Budd; and Augusta, Commander E. G. Parrott.