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Stephen Elliott.

by Major John A. Hamilton.
Again (for he had often been before) Captain Elliott and his picked crew were seen preparing for a night visit to the islands adjacent to Port Poyal, now in possession of the Federals. He had learned what he wanted, and was returning. The midnight moon shone grandly on the shimmering river while his fleet boat, with muffled oars, shot against the stream, under the shade of the fringing trees and marsh. “Hush! lay in your oars; jump ashore; drag her well in.” The boat had been hardly hidden in the marsh when the regular thump of heavy oars was heard coming from the opposite course. “Lay low; every man to his gun; make it hot, if we must!” and the crash of oars came nearer. It was a moment of awful suspense. The approaching craft was a heavy guard-boat, carrying in her bow a brass carronade and a detachment of infantry. She was skirting the shore; her rowers were [477] plantation negroes. Slowly the oars fell to the row-locks, but each pull sent the boat swiftly ahead. She was soon upon the little crew lying in the marsh. Every finger of the hidden men touched the trigger of double-barrel guns, well loaded with buck. Again the heavy oars dipped the water, and with a grand sweep were raised; when they fell again it was just beyond Elliott's boat. “They can't keep up!” said the officer in command to the oarsmen. “No, sar; dem bucra ain't usen to rowing wid we.” “Another boat coming,” said Ellliott. The silence was broken now by the receding oars of one and the approaching oars of another boat. Again the firm forefingers touch the triggers, but fortunately to no purpose; the second boat was well out in stream, and passed by. “A close rub!” said one of the men, brushing off the water that fell from the sweeps of the first boat on his face, and the crew shoved out for another time.

Off again. This was at night, too. “He loves night work, and I don't,” said a stout young fellow sitting on the thwart. The boat headed for Port Royal Ferry. It was the Federal picket, and had annoyed Elliott very much. “Halt! What boat is that?” came from the Ferry. Elliot, in perfect imitation of the negro idiom, replied: “'Tis me, massa; heap oa man and oman run way to come to you, sar.” A laugh was sent back. Contrabands were coming; they'd bring news, &c. “Saxton,” was whispered by the daring leader to his crew. “Saxton” was sent from oar to oar. “Haul in closer,” came from a second voice at the Ferry, as a lot of soldiers gathered about. Slowly the boat approached. Gradually she exposed her length to the wondering Federals. “We yeddy so much ‘bout Gen'l Saxton.” A crash, lit with the flame of a dozen flashes, followed; a hail of buckshot scattered the Federal picket. Running and falling, they took away the dead and wounded. Elliott leapt ashore, rifled the picket-house, and returned for another time.

The picket at Pinckney Island was caught and put under guard. Elliott and Mickler, with detachments, started for the house. Night found them about its enclosure. A dread silence reigned as the two leaders posted their men and prepared for the assault. “Surrender!” rang through the old halls. The enemy, completely surprised, attempted to escape from windows and piazzas. Every avenue was cut off; they fell right and left as the terrible summons “surrender” was unheeded. Down the front steps, hand to hand, pistol to knife, came Mickler and a Federal officer. On the ground the brave struggle was ended by the interference of one of the Confederates. [478] Mickler was wounded; the Federal escaped. Half the garrison were killed, the other half were captured.

Night again — midnight — the Elliott battery. was masked on the Chisolm Island strand; Lambkin's Virginia battery was posted a little lower down, and a few larger pieces were at Port Royal Ferry. The cavalry (all we had) were in the woods waiting orders. Why? Well, a large steamer, the “George Washington,” had approached too near, and grounded the afternoon before. She had a sixty-four brass gun and swivel, some lighter arms, and a large, armed crew. Elliott got the news about 5 P. M. The writer was mounted, but the B. V. A., like winged demons (they wore red shirts), put me in a run to clear their swift gallop. Elliott swept by. “Gather all the moss you can and follow.” I started pulling moss, and followed with a large armful. At the bridges of Chisolm's Island I found the Captain. He was carpeting the bridge with moss, that the gun-wheels would pass over noiselessly. His prescience was wonderful. At midnight he was within three hundred yards of the steamer. His six-pounders were covered, as he waited, watching the huge craft. Just as day began to break was heard the loud breathing steam. She was trying to back clear. A few minutes elapsed, and her stern swung to the tide. “To your guns.” Elliott sprang to take a last look. “Aim; fire.” The first shot struck and richochetted over the deck. “Cut her rudder!” called out the soldier. It was done; a well-aimed shot struck the post. “Lace her waist; there's where the fire is.” Shot after shot tore through her planking and struck the furnace. The George Washington returned probably two shots, not more; it was too hot for her crew. The found their ship in flames. She burned to the water's edge, and her crew attempting to escape were destroyed, excepting about three. Later in the day a large gunboat approached and shelled the wreck. Elliott was then getting some of the plunder ashore. He waited and saw a flag of truce displayed. Answering it, he went to the gunboat in his canoe. Imagine the fearless Elliott, begrimed with powder, smeared with mud, and utterly unrecognizable, except in his erect, handsome figure, chatting with the Federal officer. “Am sorry I was not on hand when you sunk the George Washington; should like to have taken a part.” “Am sorry, indeed, that you were not,” returned Elliott. “It might have been otherwise,” replied the Federal officer. “No objection to have you try your hand,” returned Elliott. “You must let the wreck alone,” said the Federal. Elliott laughed. He left, and hung about the wreck day after day. Took out the brass gun, a lot of muskets, uniforms, nails, &c., and unshipped her bell, [479] which rang, until he broke camp for another field, all guard mountings. The steam whistle of the steamer was cut into buckles for one of his officer's headstalls.

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