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 to he held up or countermanded at an hour's notice. By this time, however, of the eight ocean steamers that we had had, and could have relied upon, up to the tenth of May, the six largest (one only being wrecked) had been discharged or detained by the Quartermaster's Department at the North; and but two or three of the smallest, one only of them efficiently managed, remained to transport the one thousand horses--seventy to eighty at a time only--the ten guns, and the six to seven thousand men, to the Edisto and the Stono River. These boats were, however, pushed to the uttermost; one of them making daily trips for several days to the Edisto, unloading at night upon a muffled wharf, for secrecy from the pickets of the enemy within rifle range opposite; precautions ordered by General Benham, and which effectually concealed the massing of these troops, horses, and guns, at the Edisto, up to the latest moment, as was eventually shown. This force which General Wright had stated he expected to be able to ferry across the Edisto in twenty-four hours, was intended to move thence by one night's march, (some twelve to fifteen miles,) on the east side of Bohickee Creek, across John's Island to Legareville, and there meet the balance of the available force, (all that there were vessels to move at once,) which was to arrive at the Stono by starting some twenty-four hours after the orders to move had been sent to General Wright. It being a part of General Benham's plan to divert the attention of the enemy, and obstruct the railroad between Savannah and Charleston, he had previously arranged with General Stevens for this. Stevens stated that it could be done at any time when ordered. This was ordered on the twenty-ninth, and although General Stevens sent out about eight hundred infantry, a squadron of cavalry, and two pieces of artillery, to cut the railroad about fifteen miles above Beaufort, from the Salkehatchie to the Coosahatchie Rivers, the whole movement proved a miserable failure, without cooperation of the different arms; and after being kept at bay for two or three hours, as the rebel accounts state, (and we have no knowledge to the contrary,) by ninety cavalry only, the expedition returned to Beaufort without having effected any thing, though it approached, as was stated, within one fourth of a mile of the railroad. At length, on May thirty-first, General Hunter authorized the starting of the expedition with the object of entering the Stono, and then acting as might seem best under the circumstances ; either by moving toward Fort Johnson, attempting to seize Morris Island, or simply holding the firm landing on James Island for future use against Charleston. The rear column of the expedition with one field-battery and over three thousand men, except some thirteen companies in the present sent by mistake to Edisto, left Hilton Head on the morning of the second of June, General Wright's orders having been duly despatched to him the previous day. As the flag-boat, with Generals Hunter and Benham on board, was passing the Edisto, about noon of the second, a steamer came out with a letter from General Wright, saying that he expected to be coming in to Legareville, on the Stono, soon after light on the following morning. The troops on the transports continued on to the Stono, and entering that river, the greater portion landed that afternoon, Monday, June second, at the lower old battery landing, and in placing their pickets about one mile in advance, were at once engaged with the enemy in a smart skirmish, where some six or eight men were killed and wounded. During this skirmish General Benham placed some two hundred and fifty men at Legareville to protect the buildings for Wright's column from their destruction, as feared by the rebels; instructing the officers in person, in order to avoid collision with Wright's forces, expected to arrive early next morning. The rear of the transport ships from Hilton Head arrived, and the troops were discharged on James Island on Tuesday, and another skirmish occurred in which we lost twenty-two prisoners, and two or three more severely wounded; capturing, however, a battery of three or four navy guns, taking one wounded lieutenant as prisoner. Yet although we learned on the next day that three thousand men could have swept James Island to Fort Johnson, still the column of General Wright, nearly six thousand strong, did not make its appearance, and only began to come slowly into Legareville on the afternoon of Thursday, the fifth, delayed by broken bridges and other impediments, and so worn out by marches in a violent rain for the greater part of the previous thirty-six hours, that it had not finally crossed over the Stono to Grimball's till Monday evening, the ninth of June. On the tenth, immediately after the establishment of Wright's camp at the best landing at Grimball's, two miles above Stevens, at the old battery, the enemy commenced a fire of shot and shell into, around, and over the camp and hospitals, and among our gunboats in the Stono. This at once showed that the main camp and landing would be untenable; and as there was not dry land enough on James Island for the encampment of our troops, out of the range of this battery, it was evident that we should be driven from this island, the key to Charleston, unless this battery was silenced or taken. In consequence, after a consultation with General Hunter, a strong reconnoitring or attacking force was arranged, to consist altogether of five regiments and four pieces of artillery, to start in the night or early morning of June eleventh. The rough draft of the order was read to and approved by General Hunter before it was copied for the other generals. It states explicitly that, “It being deemed important that the batteries of the enemy which have borne upon our camp at Thomas Grimball's to-day should be closely reconnoitred or broken up if possible at the earliest possible moment,” “a rush will be made upon and toward it between half-past 3 o'clock and the earliest daylight.” And General Hunter, who had ordered the steamer to leave at
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