Doc. 123.-skirmish at Pocataligo, S. C.
A National account.
Beaufort, S. C., June 1, 1862.On Thursday morning last, May twenty-ninth, a skirmish occurred at Pocataligo, a point near the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, between Salcahatchie and Coosahatchie, in which our forces, under command of Col. B. C. Christ, of the Fiftieth Pennsylvania volunteers, routed about eight hundred of the rebels. The engagement was conducted entirely with infantry on our side, and was prolonged for about two hours before the enemy were finally dislodged. The details of the affair, which was, in military parlance, a reconnoissance, are as follows: On the evening of the twenty-eighth ultimo the Fiftieth Pennsylvania regiment, together with one company of the Eighth Michigan volunteers, Capt. Doyle, and one company of the Seventy-ninth Highlanders, left Beaufort, arriving at Port Royal Ferry, and crossing over to the main land at day-light. Thence the line of march for Pocatallgo, via Garden's Corners, was instantly taken up, Col. Christ driving in the enemy's pickets three times before the latter point was reached. At Garden's Corners company E, under the command of Lieut. Lantz, was left, and Major Higginson, of the First Massachusetts cavalry, came up with a force of eighty men and horses. After a brief halt at this point, we again started for Pocotaligo, via the Sheldon road, and with the exception of occasionally driving in the enemy's pickets, which delayed our march to a considerable degree, we reached our destination without interruption. Here we were met by the enemy, about eight hundred strong, his force consisting, as near as we could judge, of six companies of mounted riflemen and four companies of infantry. Among the latter was a considerable number of colored men, who fought apparently with all the zeal of their masters. The enemy's position was exceedingly well chosen, and was a most formidable one, but he was dislodged and compelled to retreat. Pocotaligo, from our point of attack, is reached by a causeway about one fourth of a mile in length, flanked on either side by a marsh, through which a sluggish stream winds its way. Over this stream, and not more than eighty or a hundred yards from the end of the causeway, was a bridge, some fifteen feet in width, which the rebels had so far destroyed as to make it impassable, save by crossing on the string-pieces. On the opposite side of the marsh is a narrow strip of woods, through which we skirmished, some smart firing ensuing on both sides, with, however, but little effect. At this juncture it became evident that the enemy was posted under cover of the trees and ditches, within good rifle range, on either side of the causeway, and that in order to dislodge them we must have a nearer range for our arms. Capt. Charles Parker, of company H, accordingly volunteered to take his men over the narrow string-pieces, and let them drop into a ditch on our right, when they would be able to operate under partial cover and at shorter range. The movement was successful, and about three hundred of the troops were got over. Under command of Lieut.-Col. Burnholts, they gradually approached the opposite side of the marsh, and drove back the enemy on our right, when a charge was made on our left, and the enemy commenced a rapid retreat to the woods. As soon as it could be done, the bridge was replanked, and the cavalry were ordered in pursuit; but the enemy took refuge in a wood, where cavalry could not operate with advantage, and recourse was again had to the infantry. The long march of twenty-four miles, however, together with the fight, had so jaded and fatigued them that they were unable to pursue the traitors as fast as they retreated. At this moment Lieut. Cannon, in charge of a section of the First Connecticut battery, reported himself. The action had lasted nearly two hours, and by the time Col. Christ could recall the companies in pursuit and again get ready to move, more than three hours had elapsed. Negroes escaping to our lines brought us information that the enemy were being reenforced from McPhersonville and Grahamville, and in view of this fact, as well as the scarcity of ammunition, it was deemed prudent to retire, and we accordingly returned to Port Royal Ferry, where we arrived at eleven P. M. Small detachments of cavalry followed us as far as Garden's Corners, where they were repulsed and driven back by the pickets of company E, who unhorsed one of their number. Our loss during the engagement was two killed and nine wounded. The rebel loss it is impossible for me exactly to state, but it must have been severe, as seven dead bodies of their men were found upon the field. We also captured two prisoners, one of whom has been sent to headquarters, and the other, who was wounded, was taken to the hospital. The following are the casualties on our side, all of the killed and wounded belonging to the Fiftieth Pennsylvania regiment: