that Wilmington Island is abandoned, not only by the enemy's troops, but even by its inhabitants; that this cut or narrows can be navigated by gunboats without difficulty; but, on account of the width of the marsh opposite to the highland on Wilmington Island, that the channels of Savannah River cannot be advantageously commanded from this point at any time, and especially at low water; that gunboats could not lie in safety in any part of the narrows, unless Wilmington Island were occupied in force, on account of the advantages it possesses for constructing masked batteries, and the protection it affords to riflemen and skirmishers. In the event of my arriving at an unfavorable conclusion in respect to the naval occupation of this passage, you directed me to consider the propriety of placing in it some obstructions which would render it useless to the enemy. In this respect he has anticipated our wishes; but the obstructions can be removed hereafter, if desirable. During the engagement of Tuesday, Col. Rosa, commanding at Tybee, sent an aid to me with an offer of additional troops. I beg to call your particular attention to this act of courtesy and display of public spirit. While all communication between Capt. John Rodgers in Wright River, and myself in Wilmington Narrows, by means of navy signals, was very difficult, or wholly impossible, the communication with army signals was easy and perfect. I recommend, therefore, their use in the naval service. The conduct of the officers and men has been, as always, entirely satisfactory; my special acknowledgments are due to Gen. Wright for prompt and efficient service, voluntarily given, and to Commander C. R. P. Rogers, whose zeal in the public service and superior ability render his aid, wherever directed, a most valuable accession. I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
New-York express narrative.
Hilton head, Feb. 6, 1862.It is now about six weeks since the first reconnoissance was made by officers of Gen. Sherman's staff in the direction of Savannah. Previous to that, indeed, Tybee Island had been occupied, and the creeks and sounds that encircle Hilton Head explored; Warsaw and Ossabaw inlets had been entered by gunboats, and several batteries discovered, some of which had been abandoned, and others were still maintained; but until Lieut. Wilson, Chief of Topographical Engineers, was despatched on the reconnoitring party, which left Hilton Head on or about the twenty-fourth of December, no effort had been made to ascertain the feasibility of entering the Savannah River on the northern side higher up than at its mouth. The history of the operations preliminary to the absolute accomplishment of such an entrance has not been recently obtained. I was aware of the operations during their progress, and cognizant of the plans of the officers most concerned at the time, both of their inception and fulfilment. This is mentioned that the correctness and authenticity of the narrative may be better established than if the details were supposed to have been gathered from hearsay or at second-hand. In order to understand the nature of the reconnoissance, it will be necessary to have a clear apprehension of the geography of the country. An ordinary map of the Savannah River will probably indicate but little more than the general course of the stream, and the situation of the principal city of Georgia. Savannah is about fifteen miles from the mouth of the river, and on the right or southern bank. Approach to it by water is defended by Fort Pulaski, a casemated fort on Cockspur Island, at the mouth of the river, and Fort Jackson, a barbette fort on the mainland, only four miles below the city. The left bank is formed by a succession of islands, and the channel also is interrupted by large and numerous islands, the most important of which is Elba, whose upper extremity is immediately opposite Fort Jackson. Lower down in the stream is Long Island. The network of creeks and bays that surrounds Hilton Head terminates southward in Calibogue Sound, which is divided from the Savannah River at its mouth by Turtle and Jones Islands; the waters that form two sides of Jones Island, which is triangular in shape, are called Mud and Wright Rivers; the latter is the southernmost, and separates Jones from Turtle Island, which lies next to Dawfuskie Island, the western shore of Calibogue Sound. This description is doubtless complicated, and close attention will be necessary to comprehend it; there are, however, none but military maps sufficiently minute to set forth these little creeks and inlets. The islands on the Savannah are all very low and marshy, overgrown by high grass, and frequently without a solitary shrub or tree; they are all liable to be submerged by a very high tide. Jones Island is not more than five miles long, by two or three broad. About half way between its upper and lower angles, and fronting on the Savannah, is Venus Point. Lieut. J. H. Wilson, in the discharge of his duties as a topographical engineer, had occasion, almost immediately after the landing at Hilton Head, to make numerous reconnoissances toward the interior of the country, to draw military maps for the use of General Sherman, and to examine all the ordinary rivers, in any way accessible; in the course of his explorations, he came in contact with numerous negroes familiar with the country, who were used as pilots, others as oarsmen, and many of whom volunteered information relative to the means of passing through the various inland waters; information which was doubtless frequently superior to what their masters had possessed. From the conversations with these negroes, and from his own observations, this officer became convinced that an interior passage existed, connecting Calibogue Sound with the Savannah