the strange “chuckwill's-widow” droning his ominous note above my head, the mocking-bird dreaming in music, the great Southern fireflies rising to the tree-tops, or hovering close to the ground like glow-worms, till the horse raised his hoops to avoid them; through pine woods and cypress swamps, or past sullen brooks, or white tents, or the dimly seen huts of sleeping negroes; down to the glimmering shore, where black statues leaned against trees or stood alert in the pathways;--never, in all the :days of my life, shall I forget the magic of those haunted nights.
We had nocturnal boat service, too, for it was a part of our instructions to obtain all possible information about the enemy's position; and we accordingly, as usual in such cases, incurred a great many risks that harmed nobody, and picked up much information which did nobody any good.
The centre of these nightly reconnoissances, for a long time, was the wreck of the George Washington
, the story of whose disaster is perhaps worth telling.
Till about the time when we went on picket, it had been the occasional habit of the smaller gunboats to make the circuit of Port Royal Island
,--a practice which was deemed very essential to the safety of our position, but which the Rebels
effectually stopped, a few days after our arrival, by destroying the army gunboat George Washington
with a single shot from a-light battery.
I was roused soon after daybreak by the firing, and a courier soon came dashing in with the particulars.
Forwarding these hastily to Beaufort
(for we had then no telegraph), I was soon at the scene of action, five miles away.
Approaching, I met on the picket paths man after man who had escaped from the wreck across a half-mile of almost