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[34] which case the orders were to get out of the range of them and acquaint the flag-officer, that a proper force might be sent for their reduction. On reaching a marshy island half a mile below Beaufort there was a great commotion; a crowd of persons and several men on horseback left hastily; crowds of negroes were in the streets, others plundering the houses, and loading every scow and boat that they could lay their hands on. They were wild with joy, and had, in their belief, wealth that should satiate desire. Only one white man was found, a Mr. Allen, who was brought on board. He appeared to be suffering from some strong excitement or the effects of liquor. After giving to him assurances of protection to life and property, which the flag-officer had directed to be given to peaceable inhabitants, he was sent on shore.

On the return of the vessels to Port Royal they were boarded by boat crews of negroes, who stated that many of the slaves had been shot by their masters in endeavoring to escape being driven off the island. They were informed that they were free to go to Beaufort or to Hilton Head; they said they would first go to Beaufort and afterward would come to Hilton Head, as would all of the blacks, to escape being murdered by their masters. The mail taken from the post office was delivered to the fleet captain, who found curiously vindictive letters; earnest hopes that the feet had gone down in the heavy gale that had swept the coasts, or if any survived and entered the port that none were to be left afloat, and thus they would wipe out the disgrace of Hatteras Inlet!

At the headquarters of General Drayton a chart of the coast was found on which were marked in red, points in different harbors which were conjectured, rightly, to indicate the positions of batteries; this information proved of great value to the flag-officer in directing operations along the coast.

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