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[55] River, and which, if found passable by gunboats, might lead to the cutting off of Fort Pulaski, and, perhaps, to still more important results. He communicated these ideas to General Sherman, and was immediately despatched on a reconnoissance.

Taking with him two row-boats and about seventy men of the Rhode Island regiment, he left Calibogue Sound with his negro crew and pilots, and ventured by night through the intricate passages, which I have been able only partially to describe. Their intricacy is far greater than ever these confused sentences would indicate. They wind and turn in all conceivable directions; they narrow and widen and then narrow again; the channel, at times, is difficult to find or keep when found; they pass over shoals and between morasses, but finally do conduct into the Savannah River. At this time our troops had not advanced beyond Dawfuskie Island, and on some of these rivers rebel pickets were still stationed. The oars of our reconnoitring party, however, were muffled, and they passed by the pickets without discovery, under cover of the darkness, penetrating several miles up one of these streams, and leaving the picket in their rear. Had they been detected, retreat or escape would have been impossible, as there was no opportunity of returning except on the same route by which they had come. This piece of daring, however, had no result, for the river that they were exploring led into no other channel, but wastes away in a marsh; they therefore got back into another stream. Finally the creeks became so shallow that they were obviously unnavigable for any but the smallest craft, and at one point an artificial channel had been constructed about two hundred yards long, called Wall's Cut; this leads to the rear of Jones Island, and into both the Mud and the Wright Rivers, both of which, it will be recollected, empty into the Savannah, the former about six miles above Fort Pulaski, and the latter at a point about two miles from that important work. Wall's Cut had, however, been obstructed by three rows of piles, driven across its entire width by the rebels, and by a large bark sunk in the same direction across the channel. But at high tide the party were able to get over the piles and past the ship, for though the bark was anchored at one end, it swayed and careened with the motion of the waters sufficiently to enable small boats to pass. The grass on both banks was very high, and the Cut altogether invisible from the Savannah, while the marshy and miserable nature of the country prevented any approach to it by land. There was danger, it is true, of meeting pickets, or possibly stray parties of sportsmen, shooting the wild-duck, which cover these waters by the million, but such dangers must be incurred by those who go on reconnoissances. The party remained concealed by the grass during the day, and at night pursued its explorations; they found the channel of Mud River impassable for large vessels by reason of its shallowness, but got easily through the Wright River, and, rounding the point of Jones Island, entered the Savannah. There they remained nearly all night, moving at times under the guns of Pulaski, near enough to hear the challenge of the lonely sentinels, or the conversation of the gunners on the parapets before tattoo; they sounded the channel in every direction, found out its bearings, went up the river beyond Venus Point, and even passed the entrance of Mud River, and then returned into the Wright, establishing, quite to the satisfaction of the reconnoitring officer, the practicability for gunboats of ten feet draught of passing by this route into the Savannah, without incurring any material risk from the guns of Fort Pulaski, which were at the nearest point a mile and three quarters off. If the passage were made at night there would hardly be a possibility of danger, it seemed to him, from this source.

When his report of this discovery was made to General Sherman, steps were instantly taken to render it available. Other and fuller reconnoissances Were ordered, to make assurances doubly sure, and they resulted as favorably as before. Major Beard of the Forty-eighth New-York, the Provost Marshal, was sent to remove the piles and swing away the bark moored in Wall's Cut. Another adventurous excursion under command of Major Beard then occurred. A party of volunteer engineers and a company of the Connecticut Seventh accompanied that officer, and while some of the troops kept careful watch against discovery, others were occupied on the mechanical portion of the task. This was effected in two or three days and nights; all the piles were sawn off a foot below the bottom of the Cut, the bark was turned lengthwise so that a passage was left wide enough for the gunboats, and a large guard was stationed in the surrounding marsh. All this was accomplished without awakening the suspicions of the enemy. The height of the reeds had proved favorable, and the original panic of the rebels had from some cause or another, apparently increased, as their pickets were withdrawn. All stragglers, white or black, who approached, were seized; four or five whites seemed to have been gunning, for they were in boats laden with game; the others were slaves, who had escaped from Savannah; all manifested great surprise at discovering the Yankees. No scouts were ever detected; no boats on the river, except the steamers plying to Pulaski. It was rather a romantic operation, this working by night as silently as possible, to remove obstructions from the rebel stream, quite within sight of the Savannah, and almost within hearing from the vessels on its waters. On some nights the rain fell furiously, but the work proceeded. After the obstructions had been removed a violent storm, that lasted for several days, rendered any further operations impracticable; the pickets then were obliged to keep their dismal walk away off on this exposed outpost, trampling in mud that came near to their middles, and through the soaking grass higher than their heads, a task solitary and cheerless enough, but not surpassed in importance by any in the command. It was


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