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[270]

Confederate flotilla commanded by Flag-Officer William F. Lynch and the much heavier naval division under Commander S. C. Rowan, that resulted in the destruction or capture of all but three of the Confederate vessels.

After the expedition to Hatteras Inlet, the most important movement against the coast was set on foot when Flag-Officer Samuel F. Du Pont hoisted his broad pennant on board the Wabash, commanded by Lieutenant C. R. P. Rodgers. This magnificent frigate was to lead the fleet of fighting ships and the transports that were to carry twelve thousand troops, under command of General Thomas W. Sherman, the whole expedition being destined for Port Royal, South Carolina, the entrance to which was guarded by Fort Walker, on Hilton Head, and Fort Beauregard, on Bay Point. Driven in all directions by a violent gale, the fleet reassembled off the bar with the loss of but two vessels, the transports Governor and Peerless. The crew of the first had been saved through the exertions of the crews of the frigate Sabine and the steamer Isaac Smith, and only seven men had been lost. This was out of a human cargo of over six hundred and fifty souls. Everyone on the Peerless was saved by the crew of the Mohican. On the first high tide, all of the vessels were gotten over the bar. At daybreak, on the 7th of November, 1861, the war-ships weighed anchor and started in to attack Fort Walker. The fleet was divided into two columns, the Wabash leading.

Lying back of the forts was Flag-Officer Tattnall's little flotilla of Confederate river steamers, but as it would have been madness to have opposed the Federal vessels with such make-shifts, Tattnall withdrew into Skull Creek and took no part in the action. The Confederate forces on shore were commanded by General Thomas F. Drayton. The circling tactics used by Flag-Officer Du Pont and the tremendous and concentrated fire of his heavy guns quickly bore results, and the lighter-draft vessels, which had taken up an enfilading position to the north of Fort Walker, soon had the latter at their mercy. At twenty

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