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[474]

He found our forces in quiet possession of nearly or quite all the Sea islands west of the Stono, with Seabrook and Folly islands, east of that inlet. Our pickets still — as on the day of Dupont's attack — confronted those of the enemy across Lighthouse inlet, which separates these from Morris island.

Gillmore's plan of operations — carefully matured before he entered upon his command — contemplated a descent by surprise on the south end of Morris island — well known to be strongly fortified and held-which, being taken, was to be firmly held as a base for operations against Fort Wagner, a strong and heavily armed earthwork at the north end of that island, 2,600 yards from Fort Sumter, held by a strong garrison under Col. Lawrence M. Keitt. This carried, the less formidable earthwork at Cumming's Point, on the extreme north, must fall, enabling us to plant batteries within a mile of Sumter, and within extreme shelling distance of Charleston itself. Thus, even prior to the reduction of Sumter, it was calculated that our iron-clads might pass that fortress, remove the channel obstructions, run the batteries on James and Sullivan's islands, and go up to the city. To distract the enemy's attention and prevent a concentration of forces from a distance to resist our establishment on Morris island — which Gillmore regarded as the most critical point in his programme--Gen. A. H. Terry was sent up the Stono to make a demonstration on James island; while Col. Higginson, steaming up the Edisto, was to make a fresh attempt to cut the railroad, so as to prevent the reception of reenforcements from Savannah.

Save as a distraction of the enemy, this latter movement proved a failure. Col. Higginson, with 300 men and 3 guns, on the gunboat John Adams and two transports, pushed1 up the Edisto, making an opening through a row of piles at Wiltown, to within two miles of the railroad bridge; but he was so long detained here as to lose the tide; so that the two transports, going farther up, repeatedly grounded, and found the bridge defended by a 6-gun battery, whereby Higginson was worsted and beaten off; being compelled to burn the tug Gov. Milton, as she could not be floated. lie balanced the account by bringing off 200 negroes.

Terry's movement was successful, not only in calling off the enemy's attention from the real point of danger, but in drawing away a portion of their forces from Morris island, where they were needed, to James island, where they were not.

Folly island — a long, narrow beach or sand-spit, skirting the Atlantic ocean south of the entrance to Charleston inner harbor — is, like most of the adjacent islands, barely elevated above the sea-level, and in part flooded by the highest tides. Though naked for half a mile toward the north end, it is, for the most part, densely wooded; and ridges of sand, covered by a thick screen of forest and underbrush along Light-house inlet, effectually shield it from observation from Morris island. Here Saxton found Gen. Vogdes firmly posted, alert and vigilant, and gradually, circumspectly strengthened him without attracting hostile observation

1 July 10.

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Thomas W. Higginson (3)
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