Doc. 55.-destruction of Ashepoo, S. C.
Beaufort, June 5, 1863.With but two hundred and fifty negro soldiers, on board the gunboat John Adams, and the transports  Harriet A. Weed and Sentinel, Colonel Montgomery left Beaufort on the evening of the first instant, and at half-past 2 on the following morning anchored his little fleet in the Combahee River, thirty miles distant from the point of his departure, twenty miles from Charleston, and fifteen from the village of Ashepoo, on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. The Sentinel unfortunately got aground at the mouth of the Coosaw River, and was of no service to the expedition ; the troops on board of her were transferred to the John Adams and the Harriet A. Weed. The village of Ashepoo is approached from the Combahee by three different roads, one from Field's Point, where the rebels had constructed a battery, but had deserted it--one from Tar Bluff, two miles above Field's Point, and one from Combahee Ferry, six miles further up the river. In accordance with the plan fully determined upon before his departure, Colonel Montgomery, almost at the same instant, took possession of the three approaches to Ashepoo, placing Captain T. N. Thompson, with one company in the earthworks at Field's Point; Captain Carver with company E in the rifle-pits at Tar Bluff, and then with the balance of his force proceeded to Combahee Ferry, and with the guns of the John Adams and two howitzers, under command of Captain Brayton, completely covered the road and the approaches to the bridge. These points were all occupied without opposition. To deceive the enemy, and lead him to suppose that his force was much larger than it really was, he instructed the officer in command at this difficult point to retain but a few men in reserve and throw out nearly their entire strength as skirmishers. At Ashepoo the rebels had three regiments of infantry, one battalion of cavalry, and a full battery of artillery. As Captain Thompson advanced up the road leading from Field's Point, cavalry came in sight, but a few well-directed volleys soon sent them galloping back in confusion to their stronghold at Ashepoo. At half-past 3 P. M, a battery of six pieces arrived and opened a brisk fire. Not a man flinched, but, from such hiding-places as they could find, poured volley after volley upon the gunners, killing and wounding a number. In the midst of this little engagement, the Harriet A. Weed came up, and a well-directed shell from her guns, under the direction of Captain Holden, caused a retreat of the rebel artillery. The raid upon this road then commenced in earnest. The soldiers scattered in every direction, and burned and destroyed every thing of value they came across. Thirty-four large mansions known to belong to notorious rebels, with all their rich furniture and rare works of art, were burned to the ground. Nothing but smouldering ruins and parched and crisped skeletons of once magnificent old oak and palmetto groves now remain of these delightful country-seats. After scattering the rebel artillery, the Harriet A. Weed tied up opposite a large plantation, own. ed by Nicholas & Kirkland. Major Corwin, in command of companies B and C, soon effected a landing, without opposition. The white inhabitants, terrified at the sight of negro soldiers with loaded muskets in their hands, ran in every direction, while the slave population rushed to the boats with every demonstration of joy and gratitude. Three rice-houses, well filled with rice, a large amount in ricks in the yard, and four large mills of different kinds, were destroyed. Mansions, negro-quarters, and every thing inflammable, were consigned to the flames. Sluices were opened, plantations flooded, and broad ponds and lakes made where, but a few hours before, luxuriant crops of rice and corn were putting forth their leaves. Captain Carver, with company C, landed at Tar Bluff. After a skilful disposition of his pickets, the enemy's cavalry appeared in sight, and threatened to overwhelm his little party, but upon throwing out his whole force he succeeded in repulsing every charge, and finally drove them entirely out of sight. Upon this road several large steam rice-mills, three cotton-gins, and a fine saw-mill were destroyed, together with an immense amount of other property. Captain Hoyt, company A, landed at Combahee Ferry, at half-past 7 A. M.--encountered cavalry pickets the moment he began to advance, but after a short engagement drove them back in disorder. The fine bridge across the Combahee River was then destroyed, together with all the adjacent property. Captain Brayton, of the Third Rhode Island artillery, who was present with a section of his battery, took part in this engagement from the John Adams. Having brought within his lines nearly eight hundred valuable slaves; having destroyed property to the amount of two millions, most of which belonged to notorious leaders in this rebellion; having demonstrated that negro soldiers will follow and fight wherever a brave and bold man dares to lead them, and that the slave population of South-Carolina are eager to embrace the opportunity to escape, Colonel Montgomery returned to Beaufort early on the morning of the third instant, without the loss of a man.