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BATTLE OF PORT ROYAL ENTRANCE.
its weakest flank, and enfilade its two water faces.' The vessels were to pass abreast of the fort very slowly, in the order of battle, and each avoid becoming a fixed mark for the Confederate guns. On reaching the shoal ground making off from the extremity of Hilton Head, the line was to turn to the north by the east, and, passing to the northward, to engage Fort Walker with the port battery nearer than when first on the same course. These evolutions were to be repeated. The captains of the vessels were called on board the Wabash, and fully instructed in the manner of proceeding; and this plan of pursuing a series of elliptical movements was strictly followed in the engagement that ensued.
• Nov. 7, 1861.
The signal to get under way was given at eight o'clock in the morning, and the action commenced at about half-past nine, by a gun at Fort Walker, which was instantly followed by one at Fort Beauregard. The Wabash immediately responded, and was followed by the Susquehanna. After the first prescribed turn, the signal for closer action was given, at a quarter past ten, the Wabash passing Fort Walker at a distance, when abreast, of eight hundred yards. In the designated order the fight went on. At half-past eleven the flag of Fort Walker was shot away, and the heavy guns of the Wabash and Susquehanna had
discomforted the enemy," as Dupont reported, and the shells from the smaller vessels were falling so thickly upon them at the enfilading point, that their fire became sensibly weaker and weaker, until their guns ceased altogether to reply. At a quarter past one P. M., the Ottawa signalled that the fort was abandoned.
Fort Beauregard was also silent and abandoned. The garrisons of both had fled for their lives. According to the official and unofficial reports of the Confederate officers and correspondents, Fort Walker had become the scene of utter desolation, at noon. Dismounted cannon lay in all directions, and the dead and dying were seen on every
side. The place had become utterly untenable, yet it was a perilous thing
1 Dupont's Report.
2 Commander John Rogers, in a letter to a friend, said:
"During the action I looked carefully at the fort with a powerful spy-glass. Shell fell in it, not twenty-eight" in a minute, but as fast as a horse's feet beat the ground in a gallop. The resistance was heroic; but what could flesh and blood do against such a fire?
"The Wabash was a destroying angel, hugging the shore, calling the soundings with cold indifference, slowing the engine so as only to give steerage-way, signalling to the vessels their various evolutions, and at the same time raining shells, as with target practice, too fast to count,"
RETREAT FROM BAY POINT.
to leave it. An open space of a mile, directly in range of the National guns, lay between the fort and a thick wood to which they must go for shelter. Across this they ran, each man for himself, divested of every thing that might make him a laggard. Each of the wounded was placed in a blanket and borne away by four men, but the dead were left. The garrison, with their commander, ran six miles across the island, to Seabrook, where they embarked for Savannah.
So too at Fort Beauregard the retreat had been hasty. General Drayton had vainly endeavored to send over re-enforcements to the little garrison there, that fought bravely
and well. Seeing danger of being cut off from retreat, Colonel Dunovant ordered them to flee while there was a chance for safety. Leaving an infernal machine in Fort Beauregard for a murderous purpose,' and a note for Commodore Dupont, Captain Elliott and his command retreated with the rest of the troops, first to St. Helen's, then to Port Royal Island, and then to the
PLAN OF FORT BEAUREGARD.
main, with all possible haste, for the Charleston and Savannah Railway. The loss on board the fleet during the action was very slight. Dupont reported it at thirty-one, of whom eight were killed. The Confederate officers reported their loss in both forts at fifty, of whom ten were killed in Fort Walker, but none in Fort Beauregard. On the evening succeeding the battle, a procession of seventeen boats, from the Wabash, conducted the remains of the dead to their burial-place on Hilton Head, near Pope's man
1 The fair fame of Captain (afterwards General) Elliott as a humane man and honorable soldier received an anerasable blemish by an act at this time perfectly consistent with the fiendish spirit of the conspirators, but not at all so with what common report says was his own. He left the Confederate flag flying, and its halliards so connected with a percussion-cap apparatus, that when the victors should enter the fort and attempt to pull down the ensign of treason, a mine of gunpowder beneath would be exploded. Fortunately, the arrangement was so defective that no life was lost by a partial explosion that occurred.
2 The following is a copy of Elliott's note to Dupont :
"Bay Point, Nov. 7th, 1861.
"We are compelled to leave two wounded men. Treat them kindly, according to the poet's saying-Haud ignara mali miseris succurrere disco. We abandon our untenable position that we may do the cause of the Confederate States better service elsewhere.
"STEPHEN ELLIOTT, JR."
The Latin quotation in the above is a line from Virgil's Enead, in which Dido, remembering her own misfortunes, pities the errors of Æneas. It says, "Not unacquainted with misfortune, I have learned to succor the distresses of others." I am indebted to the Rev. John Woart (who was chaplain at the U. S. General Hospital at Hilton Head when I visited that post in April, 1866) for a copy of Elliott's note, taken from the original by Captain Law, of the New Hampshire, then in that harbor. The humane injunction of Elliott was in a spirit directly opposed to his act in the matter of the infernal machine. He doubtless acted under the orders of his superiors. Captain Elliott became a brigadier-general, and commanded Fort Sumter during a greater portion of the siege of that fortress. He was blown up by the explosion of the mine at Petersburg, when one of his arms was broken. He died at Aiken, South Carolina, in March, 1866.
The vessels engaged were all more or less injured by the Confederate cannon. The Wabash was struck thirty-four times. Its mainmast was injured beyond hope of repair, its rigging was cut, and it was made to leak badly.
a Nov. 8, 1861.
LANDING OF NATIONAL TROOPS.
sion, in a grove of palm and orange trees, not far from the fort; and on the following day, Dupont issued a stirring general order, in which, after speaking in praise of his officers and men, he said: "The flag-officer fully sympathizes with the officers and men of the squadron, in the satisfaction they must feel at seeing the ensign of the Union once more in the State of South Carolina, which has been the chief promoter of the wicked and unprovoked rebellion they have been called upon to suppress." The flags captured at the forts were sent to the Navy Department, where they were put to a better use as curtains for a window.
Up to the time when the forts were silenced, the land forces were only spectators of the conflict; then it was their turn to act, and promptly they performed their duty. The transports containing them at once moved forward, the launches were prepared, and a flag of truce was sent ashore to ask whether the garrison had surrendered. There was no one there to respond. The Union flag was hoisted by Commander Rogers,' amid the greetings of cheers from the fleet and transports; and very soon the surface of the water was dark with a swarm of troops in boats made specially for such occasions. Early in the evening, the brigades of Generals Wright and Stevens had landed on the beach, which was so flat that the water is always shallow a long distance out. Wright's men landed first, close by Fort Walker; and so eager were they to tread the soil of South Carolina, that many of them leaped from the boats and waded ashore. Fort Walker was formally taken possession of, and General Wright. made his head-quarters near it, at the abandoned mansion of William Pope, and the only dwelling-house at that point. It had beer the headquarters of General Drayton.
General Stevens's brigade,
consisting of the Seventy
ninth New York and Eighth Michigan, crossed over to Bay Point the next morning, and took possession of Fort Beauregard. The victory was now complete, and the universal joy which it created in the Free-labor States found public expression in many places; for it seemed as if the hand of
1 "Commodore Dupont," Rogers wrote to a friend, "had kindly made me his aid. I stood by him, and I did little things which I suppose gained me credit. So, when a boat was sent on shore to ask whether they had surrendered, I was sent. I carried the Stars and Stripes. I found the ramparts utterly desolate, and I planted the American flag upon those ramparts with my own hands-first to take Dossession, in the majesty of the United States, of the rebel soil of South Carolina."
retributive justice, so long withheld, was about to be laid heavily upon the chief offender, South Carolina.'
"A thrill pervaded the loyal land
When the gladdening tidings came to hand;
The clouds of gloom and doubt dispersed,
The joy of the Loyalists was equaled in intensity by the sadness of the Secessionists everywhere. The latter perceived that an irreparable blow had been dealt against their cause, and throughout the Confederacy there was much wailing, lamentation, and bitter recriminations. It was believed that Charleston and Savannah would soon be in possession of the National forces, and that Forts Sumter and Pulaski would be "repossessed" by the Gov
General R. S. Ripley, an old army officer who had abandoned his flag, was the Confederate commander of that sea-coast district, having his headquarters at Charleston. He had arrived
on Hilton Head just before the action commenced, but retired to Coosawhatchie, on the main, satisfied that no glory was to be achieved in a fight so hopeless on the part of his friends. It was under his advice that the Confederate troops abandoned that region to the occupation of the National forces. The latter fact was officially announced by General Sherman, in a proclamation to the people of South Carolina on the day after the battle. Unfortunately, a portion of that proclamation was couched in such terms, that neither the personal pride nor the political pretensions of the rebellious leaders.
R. 8. RIPLEY.
was offended. It was so lacking in positiveness that they regarded it with perfect indifference. Indeed, it was difficult to get them to notice it at all.
1 In all the cities and towns in the Free Labor States flags were flung out, and in many places salvos of cannon were fired. The chimes of Trinity church, in the city of New York, beneath its great flag that floated from its spire, rang out two changes on eight bells, and twelve airs, under the direction of Mr. Ayliffe, the celebrated chimist. The airs were as follows: Hail Columbia; Yankee Doodle; Air from "Child of the Regiment;" Home, Sweet Home; Last Rose of Summer; Evening Bells; Star Spangled Banner Airs by De Beriot; Airs from Fra Diavolo;" Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean; Hail Columbia; and Yankee Doodle.
The Secretaries of War and of the Navy publicly tendered to the commanders of the expedition and to their men thanks, and the latter issued a General Order on the 16th of November, in which it was directed that a national salute should be fired from each navy-yard at meridian on the day after the reception, to commemorate the signal victory.
See page 811, volume I.
He acknowledged their pretensions to State sovereignty by speaking of the dictates of a duty" which he owed to a great sovereign State;" and he flattered them by speaking of them as "a proud and hospitable people, among whom he had passed some of the pleasantest days of his life." Then he assured them that they were in a state of active rebellion against the laws of their own country, and that the civilized world stood amazed at their course, and appalled by the crime they were committing against their "own mother." He narrated some
FLIGHT FROM THE COAST ISLANDS.
Messengers were sent with it, under a flag of truce, first to Port Royal Island, and thence to the main. The Confederate officers they met told them there were no "loyal" citizens in South Carolina, and that no others wanted it, and advised them to turn back with their bundle of proclamations. They acted upon this recommendation, and so ended the attempt to conciliate the South Carolinians.
General Sherman set vigorously to work to strengthen his position on Hilton Head, for it was to be made a depot of supplies. Mechanics and lumber had been brought out in the transports. Buildings were speedily erected; also an immense wharf; and in a short time the place assumed the outward appearance of a mart of commerce. Meanwhile, Dupont sent his armed vessels in various directions among the islands and up the rivers of the coast of South Carolina, in the direction of Charleston; and before the close of November, every soldier occupying earthworks found here and there, and nearly every white inhabitant, had abandoned those islands and fled to the main, leaving the negroes, who refused to accompany them, to occupy their plantations and houses. Everywhere, evidences of panic and hasty departure were seen; and it is now believed that, had the victory at Port Royal been immediately followed up, by attacks on Charleston and Savannah, both cities might have been an easy prey to the National forces. Beaufort, a delightful city on Port Royal Island, where the most aristocratic portion of South Carolina society had summer residences, was entered," and its arms and munitions of war seized, without the least resistance,' there being, it was reported, only one white man there, named Allen (who was of Northern birth), and who was too much overcome with fear or strong drink to give any intelligible account of affairs there." The negroes everywhere evinced the greatest delight at the advent of the "Yankees," about whom their masters had told them fearful tales; and it was a most touching sight to see them-men, women, and children-flocking to the island shores when the vessels appeared, carrying little bundles containing all their worldly goods, and with perfect faith that the invader was their
a Nov. 9, 1861.
of their crimes, implored them to pause, and warned them that they would bring great evils upon their State. He assured them that he and his troops would respect any constitutional obligations to them, and begged them to believe that if, in the performance of their duty in enforcing the National authority, some of those obligations should be neglected, such neglect came only because of the "necessities of the case." The general had been specially instructed by the War Department to treat all slaves as General Butler had been authorized to treat them at Fortress Monroe, and to assure all loyal masters that Congress would provide just compensation to them for the loss of the labor of their slaves taken into the public service.
Among the trophies secured at Beaufort, and now (1867) preserved at the Washington Navy Yard, was a 6-pounder brass cannon, which had been captured from the British while marauding on the coast of South Carolina during the war of 1812. It was deposited in the trophy room of the National Arsenal, at Charleston, and there it remained until the conspirators in that city seized it, with the other public property, and appropriated it to their use. According to their code of ethics, the act of seizure conferred the right of ownership, and so they had the name of "South Carolina" engraved upon the cannon. It also bore the date of its construction, "1803." Its carriage was modern, having been made after its
CANNON CAPTURED AT BEAUFORT,
capture from the British. It, too, was of brass, and was decorated with stars.
2 Report of Lieutenant Sproston, of the Seneca, who was the first to land at Beaufort. He says that while he was talking with Mr. Allen, at his store in Beaufort, an intelligent mulatto boy dismounted from a horse, and said, “The whole country have left, sir, and all the soldiers gone to Port Royal Ferry. They did not think that you could do it, sir." He informed him that there were then about 1,000 soldiers at the ferry, a portion of whom were the Beaufort Artillery, under Captain Elliott.