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CONQUEST ON THE GEORGIA COAST.
deliverer, expressing a desire to go on board the ships, evidently fearing that their masters would return.' The latter had used great exertions, by persuasion, threats, and violence, to induce their slaves to accompany them in their flight to the interior, but with very little success.
With equal ease Dupont took possession of Big Tybee Island, at the mouth of the Savannah River, from which Fort Pulaski, which was within easy mortar distance, might be assailed, and the harbor of Savannah perfectly sealed against blockade runners. On the
approach of the National gunboats, the de
a Nov., 1861.
Before the close of the year the National authority was supreme from Wassaw Sound, below the mouth of the Savannah, to the North Edisto River. Every fort on the - islands in that region had been abandoned, and there was nothing to make serious opposition to National authority. But at the close of November, and in the month of December, over the curious net-work of creeks and rivers on that coast hung the black clouds of extensive conflagrations, evincing intense hostility to that authority by the South Carolinians. Vast quantities of cotton were on the islands when the National forces came; and, when the first panic had
MARTELLO TOWER ON TYBEE ISLAND. 3
1 Nowhere in the South were the negroes so shut out from all knowledge of the world as among these coast islands. Their masters assured them that the Yankees" were coming to steal them and sell them into bondage in Cuba; and some described the "Northerners" as monsters who would devour them, or kill and bury them in the sand. But most of these simple people did not believe a word of these tales; on the contrary, they believed the Lord had sent the "Yankees" to take them out of bondage. This faith and hope was most remarkable.
2 When the National forces reached Beaufort, the negroes, finding themselves sole occupants of the place and property, had begun to pillage. They reported that their masters, before their departure, had tried to drive them back into the woods, in the direction of the main, and numbers of them had been shot and killed. Commander Rogers, in a letter to a friend (Nov. 9th), said: "A boat which came off to the Seneca said one man (giving his name) shot six of the negroes."
3 This was the appearance of the tower when I sketched it, in April, 1866. Its height had been somewhat diminished by demolishing a portion of its upper part, on which rested a roof. Such towers had been erected early in the present century along the British coasts, as a defense against an expected invasion by Bonaparte. The lower story was used for stores, and the upper, being bomb-proof, as secure quarters for the men. The walls terminated in a parapet, behind which cannon were placed. The tower at Tybee was built of solid masonry, like the best of those on the British coast.
4 Besides those on Hilton Head, and at Bay Point on Phillip's Island, there were five other fortifications on
THE COAST ISLANDS AND COTTON.
passed by, planters returned stealthily and 'applied the torch to that which was gathered and ungathered, that it should not fall into the hands of the invaders.'
In this connection it is proper to say, that so soon as the report of the existence of a vast quantity of abandoned cotton on these coast islands-cotton of the most valuable kind'-reached Washington, an order went forth
for its secure preservation and preparation for market. Agents were appointed for the purpose, and the military and naval authorities in that region were directed to give them all necessary aid. Measures were taken to organize the negro population on the islands, and to carry forward all necessary work on the abandoned plantations. This business was left in the control of the Treasury Department, and was efficiently and wisely managed by Secretary Chase, who appointed Edwin L. Pierce as a special agent for the purpose. At the beginning of February following," Mr. Pierce reported that about two hundred plantations on fifteen of the South Carolina coast islands were occupied, or under the control of the
1 The Charleston Mercury of Nov. 30th, 1861, said: "The heavens to the southwest were brilliantly illu minated with the patriotic flames ascending from burning cotton. As the spectators witnessed it, they involuntarily burst forth with cheer after cheer, and each heart was warmed as with a new pulse. Such a people can never be subjugated. Let the holy flames continue to ascend, and let the demons of hell who come here on their diabolical errand learn a lesson and tremble. Let the torch be applied wherever the invader pollutes our soil, and let him find, as is meet, that our people will welcome him only with devastation and ruin. Our people are in earnest, men, women, and children, and their sacrifice will ascend as a sacred holocaust to God, crying aloud for vengeance against the fiends in human shape who are disgracing humanity, trampling down civilization, and would blot out Christianity. Patriotic planters on the seaboard are hourly applying the torch to their crops of cotton and rice. Some are authorized by military authorities to destroy their crops, to prevent ravages by the enemy. Plantations on North Edisto and in the neighborhood, and elsewhere on the coast of South Carolina, are one sheet of flames and smoke. The commanding officers of all the exposed points on our coast have received positive instructions to burn or destroy all property which cannot be conveniently taken away and is likely to be seized by the enemy."
2 The "Sea Island Cotton" of commerce is the product of a narrow belt of coast islands along the shores of South Carolina, and in the vicinity of the mouth of the Savannah River. The seed was obtained from the Bahama Islands, and the first successful crop raised in South Carolina was on Hilton Head Island, in 1790. It is of the arborescent kind, and noted for its long fiber, adapted to the manufacture of the finest fabrics and the best thread. It always brought a very high price. Just before the war, when the common cotton brought an average of ten or twelve cents a pound, a bale sent from South Edisto Island brought, in Liverpool, one dollar and thirty-five cents a pound.
MOVEMENT AGAINST PORT ROYAL FERRY.
Union forces, and that upon them there was an aggregate negro population of about eight thousand, exclusive of several thousand colored refugees at and around Hilton Head. The industrial operations in this region under the control of the Government will be further considered hereafter.
The only stand made by the Confederate forces in defense of the South Carolina coast islands, after the battle of the 7th of November, was at Port Royal Ferry, on the Coosaw, at the close of the year. They had a fortified position there, and a force estimated at eight thousand strong, under Generals Gregg and Pope, from which it was determined to expel them. A joint land and naval expedition against this post was undertaken, the former commanded by Brigadier-General
Stevens, and the latter by Commander C. R. P. Rogers. The troops employed by Stevens were Colonel Frazier's Forty-seventh and Colonel Perry's Forty-eighth New York regiments, and the Seventy-ninth New York Highlanders, Major Morrison; Fif tieth Pennsylvania, Colonel Crist; Eighth Michigan, Colonel Fenton; and the One Hundredth Pennsylvania ("Round Heads"), Colonel Leasure, of Stevens's brigade; in all about four thousand five hundred men. The naval force assembled at Beaufort for the purpose was composed of the gun-boats Ottawa, Pembina, Hale, and Seneca, ferry-boat Ellen, and four large boats belonging to the Wabash, each of them carrying a 12-pounder howitzer, under the respective commands of Lieutenants Upshur, Luce, and Irwin, and Acting Master Kempf
The expedition moved in the evening of the 31st of December." A large portion of the vessels went up the Broad River, on the westerly side of Port Royal Island, to approach the Ferry by Whale
Creek; and at the same time General
& Jan. 1, 1862.
Hale soon afterward entered the Coosaw, and at Adams's plantation, about three miles below the Ferry, the land and naval forces pressed forward to the attack, two of the howitzers of the Wabash accompanying the former, under Lieutenant Irwin.
Stevens threw out the Eighth Michigan as skirmishers, and the gun-boats
-BATTLE OF PORT ROYAL FERRY.
opened a brisk fire into the woods in their front. The Seventy-ninth New York led. Very soon a concealed battery near the Ferry was encountered. It opened upon them with grape and canister, but was soon silenced by a close encounter, in which the Eighth Michigan bore the brunt. The Fiftieth Pennsylvania pressed forward to the support of these and the Highlanders, but very little fighting occurred after the first onset. The Confederates, seeing the gun-boats Seneca, Ellen, Pembina, and Ottawa coming forward, abandoned their works and fled, and the Pennsylvania "Round Heads" passed over the Ferry and occupied them. At four o'clock in the afternoon, General Stevens joined them. The works were demolished, and the houses in the vicinity were burned. General Stevens's loss was nine wounded, one of them (Major Watson, of the Eighth Michigan) mortally.
While the National forces were thus gaining absolute control of the South Carolina coast islands, and the blockading ships, continually multiplying on the Atlantic and on the Gulf, were watching every avenue of ingress or egress for
violators of the law, the Government, profiting by the hint given by the insurgents themselves, several months before, in sinking obstructions in the channel leading up to Norfolk,' proceeded to close, in like manner, the main entrances to the harbors of Charleston and Savannah. For that purpose a number of condemned merchant vessels, chiefly whalers, were found in New England harbors, and purchased by order of the Secretary of the Navy. Twenty-five of them, each of three or four hundred tons burden, were stripped of their copper bottoms, and were as heavily laden as their strength would permit, with blocks of granite, for the purpose of closing up Charleston harbor. In their sides, below water-mark, holes. were bored, in which movable plugs were inserted, so that when these vessels reached their destination these might be drawn, and the water allowed to pour in.
THE CHANNELS OF CHARLESTON HARBOR.
This "stone flect," as it was called, reached the blockading squadron off Charleston at the middle of December, and on the 20th, sixteen of the vessels, from New Bedford and New London, were sunk on the bar at the entrance of the Main Ship channel,3 six miles in a direct southern line from Fort Sumter. This was done under the superintendence of Fleet-captain Charles H. Davis. They were placed at intervals, checkerwise, so as to form
1 See page 898, volume I.
2 One of these vessels was named Ceres. It had been an armed store-ship of the British navy, and as such was in Long Island Sound during the old war for Independence, when it was captured by the Americans.
3 There are four channels leading out from Charleston harbor. The Main Ship channel runs southward along Morris Island. Maffitt's channel, on the northern side of the entrance, is along the south side of Sullivan's Island. Between these are the North channel and the Swash channel, the former having eight, and the latter nine feet of water on the bar. The Main Ship channel had fifteen feet, and Maffitt's channel eleven.
FAILURE OF THE STONE FLEET.
disturbing currents that would perplex but not destroy the navigation. Indeed, the affair was intended by the Government, and expected by those acquainted with the nature of the coast, the currents, and the harbor, to be only a temporary interference with navigation, as a war measure, and these experts laughed at the folly of those who asserted, as did a writer who accompanied the fleet, that "Charleston Bar is paved with granite, and the harbor is a thing of the past.' The idea that such was the case was fostered by the Confederates, in order to "fire the Southern heart;" and their newspapers teemed with denunciations of the "barbarous act," and frantic calls upon commercial nations to protest by cannon, if necessary, against this "violation of the rights of the civilized world." The British press and British statesmen sympathizing with the insurgents joined in the outcry, and the British Minister at Washington (Lord Lyons) made it the subject of diplomatic remonstrance. He was assured that the obstructions would be temporary, and he was referred to the fact that, since they had been placed there, a British ship, in violation of the blockade, had run into Charleston harbor with safety, carrying supplies for the enemies of the Government.
The work of the "stone fleet" was a failure, and the expected disaster to Charleston, from its operations, did not occur. But a fearful one did fall upon that city at the very time when this "stone fleet" was approaching. A conflagration commenced on the night of the 14th of December, and continued the following day, devouring churches and public buildings, with several hundred stores, dwellings, manufactories, and warehouses, valued, with their contents, at millions of dollars.
Let us now turn from the sea-coast, and observe events at the National capital and in its vicinity, especially along the line of the Potomac River.
We left the Confederate army, after the Battle of Bull's Run, lying in comparative inactivity in the vicinity of its victory, with General Joseph E. Johnston as its chief commander, having his head-quarters at Centreville.* We left the Army of the Potomac in a formative state, under General McClellan, whose head-quarters were in Washington City, on Pennsylvania Avenue, opposite the southeast corner of President Square. He was busily engaged, not only in perfecting its physical organization, but in making a solid improvement in its moral character. He issued orders that commended themselves to all good citizens, among the most notable of which was one which enjoined "more perfect respect for the Sabbath." He won "golden opinions" continually, and with the return of every morning he found himself more and more securely intrenched in the faith and affections of the people, who were lavish of both.
a Sept. 6,
General McClellan's moral strength at this time was prodigious. The soldiers and the people believed in him with the most earnest faith. His short campaign in Western Virginia had been successful. He had promised, on taking command of the Army of the Potomac, that the war should be "short, sharp, and decisive;" and he said to some of his followers, while the President and Secretary of War were standing by,
1 Special correspondence of the New York Tribune, Dec. 26th, 1861.
2 A similar attempt had been made to close Ocracoke Inlet, in September, but with the same lack of success, the old hulks being either carried to sea by the strong currents, or so deeply imbedded in the sand as to be harmless.