It will be noted in this connection that early in March, General Lee
was called to Richmond
and placed in command of the armies of the Confederacy
, and General Pemberton
, promoted to major-general, was assigned to the department of South Carolina and Georgia. Major-General Hunter
, of the Federal
army, had assumed command instead of General Sherman
, the last of March, and reported to his government, ‘about 17,000 troops scattered along the coast from St. Augustine, Fla.
, to North Edisto inlet.’
Of these troops, 12,230 were on the South Carolina
coast—4,500 on Hilton Head island
; 3,600 at Beaufort
; 1,400 on Edisto
, and the rest at other points.
The force on Edisto
was advanced to the northern part of the island, with a strong guard on Little Edisto, which touches the mainland and is cut off from the large island by Watts
' cut and a creek running across its northern neck.
Communication with the large island from Little Edisto is by a bridge and causeway, about the middle of the creek's course.
This being the situation, General Evans
, commanding the Third district, with headquarters at Adams
' run, determined to capture the guard on Little Edisto and make an armed reconnoissance on the main island.
The project was intrusted to Col. P. F. Stevens
, commanding the Holcombe legion, and was quite successfully executed.
On the morning of March 29th, before day, Colonel Stevens
, with his legion, Nelson
's battalion, and a company of cavalry, attacked and dispersed the picket at Watts cut, crossed and landed on the main island west of the bridge, which communicated with Little Edisto.
Moving south into the island, he detached Maj. F. G. Palmer
, with seven companies, 260 men, to attack the picket at the bridge, cross over to Little Edisto, burn the bridge behind him, and capture the force thus cut off on Little Edisto, which was believed to be at least two companies.
carried the bridge by a charge, and crossing over, left two of his staff, Rev. John D. McCullough