Chapter 3: strategic Reconnoissances.
On January 26, 1862, Fleet-Captain Charles H. Davis
and Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
, with the Ottawa
, Potomska, Ellen, and Western World, and the armed launches of the Wabash
, accompanied by the army transports Cosmopolitan
, and Boston
, having on board the Sixth Connecticut, Fourth New Hampshire, and Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania regiments, a total of 2,400 men, commanded by Brigadier-General H. G. Wright
, entered Warsaw Sound
The following morning General Wright
and Major Speidel
went on board of the Ottawa
, upon which vessel Captain Davis
was. Two companies of the Sixth Connecticut having been sent on board of the Ottawa
, the vessels got under way, and proceeded into Tybee River
Owing to shoal water on the bar it was 8.30 A. M. before the vessels got in, and 1.30 P. M. before they reached the point nearest to Pulaski
on its land side.
It was amusing to note the bustle.
No shots were fired at the vessels, because no rifled or heavy guns were mounted on the side which was supposed unapproachable by vessels of war. Great preparations were made in shifting guns for use when the vessels returned, but as it was simply a matter of choice with the vessels as to when they would return, they preferred doing so under the cover of the night.
The gunboats passed on, and reaching the part of the river
nearest to the highest land on Wilmington Island
, their farther progress was at least temporarily prevented by a double row of heavy piles driven across the channel.
They anchored and despatched boats from the different vessels to examine numerous creeks and the upper part of the river.
At 5 P. M. five Confederate steamers, one bearing the flag of Commodore Tatnall
, came to anchor at the upper end of St. Augustine's Creek.
The telegraph wire was seen on the marsh between Savannah
and Fort Pulaski
, and was cut. General Wright
and others made careful examination as to the advantage of a military occupation of Wilmington Island
, to which General Sherman
had directed his attention.
At 11.15 A. M. of the following day (28th), five Confederate vessels attempted to pass down the Savannah River
to Fort Pulaski
, with scows in tow. A force of gunboats under Commander John Rodgers
, then in Wright River
, on the opposite side of the Savannah
, and the force under Captain Davis
opened fire on the enemy, which was returned with spirit.
The flag-ship and another steamer of the enemy were sufficiently affected by the fire to put about; the other steamers reached Pulaski
The object, without doubt, was to carry necessary stores to the fort should the vessels intercept further communication.
The distance apart of the two forces between which the Confederate steamers passed measures, on a good chart, three statute miles.
On their return from Pulaski
they chose low tide, and were thus protected from a ricochet fire, as the gunboats lying in the narrow creeks found the marshy banks quite near and high above them.
On the morning of the 29th, at 4 A. M., the Union vessels passed down and out, having accomplished fully the intended object, which was to frighten the enemy as to an impending attack on the city of Savannah
by a sufficient force, this being merely a reconnoissance,
and perhaps a blind.
reported: ‘As a demonstration, the appearance of the naval and military force in Wilmington and Warsaw Sounds
has had complete success.
was thrown into a state of great alarm, and all the energies of the place have been exerted to the utmost to increase its military defences, for which purpose troops have been withdrawn from other places.’
On February 18th, Captain John Rodgers
had carried out the objects for which he had been sent into Mud
and Wright Rivers
, and after mooring the small steamer Hale
to protect an army battery planted at Venus Point
, on the Savannah River
, he returned to Port Royal
with the force under his command.
In relation to this the flag-officer informed the Department that Captain John Rodgers
had a force of four gunboats and two purchased steamers, and had rendered the most efficient support and protection to the military parties in the planting of this battery.1
For some time the flag-officer
had been making arrangements for an attack on Fernandina
, by collecting or getting ready the vessels doing duty on blockade that would best serve the purpose.
At length, on the last day of February, he left Port Royal
in the Wabash
On the 2d of March the Wabash
and other large vessels anchored off St: Andrew's Inlet, twenty miles north of the sea entrance to Fernandina
The flag was temporarily hoisted on board of the Mohican
, Captain S. W. Godon
, and the force intended for that inlet formed by signal and entered in the following order: Ottawa
, Ellen, Seminole
, Flag, Pembina
, Isaac Smith
, Potomska, armed cutter Henrietta, and armed transport McClellan
, the latter having on board the battalion of marines under the command of Major Reynolds
The army transports followed, the Empire City
, Marion, Star of the. South, Belvidere
, and George's Creek
, carrying a brigade under the command of Brigadier-General H. G. Wright
A black man who had been picked up in a small boat informed the flag-officer
that the Confederates
had hastily abandoned all of the defences of Fernandina
, and were at that moment retreating from Amelia Island
, carrying with them such munitions as their precipitate flight would allow.
The enemy had seen this formidable force enter St. Andrew's and, aware that it would proceed by way of Cumberland Sound
, knew he had not a moment to lose.
He had spent four weary days and nights in the effort to get his heavy rifles out of the strong and isolated sand batteries that guarded the sea approach to Fernandina
, endeavoring to save as much of his heavy ordnance as possible.
He had been aware, too, for some time, that in failing to guard the approach to St. Andrew's he might as well have left St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands
unfortified, and had even then begun the removal of the heavy guns from them, but the attacking force had no further knowledge than the black man gave as to the situation.
To the enemy it seemed, doubtless, a mean proceeding to enter by a back door when so much careful preparation had been made to receive a force at the sea entrance of the port, but at the last moment he had abandoned everything, and practically it made no difference to him where the vessels entered.
at once detached a force of light-draught
vessels, under Commander Drayton
in the Pawnee
, from those that entered the Sound
in line the previous day ‘to push through the Sound
with the utmost speed to save public and private property from destruction.’
This force despatched, at daylight the flag-officer crossed the bar in the Mohican
and proceeded to the sea entrance of Fernandina
, but rough weather prevented the vessel from entering the harbor until the 4th.
In the meantime Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
with three armed launches of the Wabash
had gone on board of the Pawnee
, which vessel was diligently threading her way through the narrow and tortuous channels in the marshes of Cumberland Sound
, followed by the Ottawa
, Isaac Smith
, Potomska, Ellen, and armed cutter Henrietta.
, and Huron
were the only vessels that succeeded in crossing ‘the flats’ at the dividing point of the tides.
The vessels left behind had no pilots, but at high water they got over and groped their way as they best could, as also the transports Boston
, the first with the Ninety-seventh Pennsylvania regiment, Colonel Guss
, the second with the marine battalion, Major Reynolds
proceeded with the vessels that had succeeded in crossing ‘the flats,’ until 3 P. M., and when only three miles from Fort Clinch
, the Pawnee
grounded with a falling tide.
He therefore went on board the Ottawa
, to which vessel Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
also proceeded with his three armed launches.
On arriving near Fort Clinch
it was found deserted, and an officer with an armed boat's crew was despatched to hoist the American
flag over it, in order to apprise the flag-officer
off the harbor of the condition of affairs.
The Ottawa continued on. At Old Fernandina a white flag was hoisted.
Passing on, at New Fernandina rifle-shots were fired at the
vessel from the bushes.
A railroad train with two locomotives was on the point of starting.
The track passed for some distance along the water, offering an opportunity for shell practice, but it was without further result than the killing of two soldiers on the train.
A small steamer, known afterward as the Darlington
, was seen endeavoring to escape up the river through a drawbridge; the armed launches captured her. Besides women and children on board, the steamer was loaded with mules and army wagons; a Confederate surgeon was also found on board.
It was now 8 P. M.; an armed launch was left to guard the drawbridge, and Captain Drayton
returned to the Pawnee
, which had been left aground.
with two armed launches went on board of the Ottawa
, and left for the town of St. Mary's
, ten miles up the river, for the purpose of securing the guns that had been hastily removed from Fort Clinch
, and were supposed to be at that place.
At daylight of the 4th the Pawnee
were anchored off the town of Fernandina
Confederate soldiers in the early morning fired on the crew of the launch guarding the drawbridge, and set fire to the end of the trestle-work leading to the bridge.
was sent up; the Confederate
soldiers vanished, and the fire was put out. Captain Drayton
reported: ‘The batteries on and near Fort Clinch
on the southern part of Cumberland Island
and at New Fernandina, although many guns had been removed, might have offered very serious obstacles to our approach.’
As stated before, the enemy had been busy for several days in removing heavy guns, for the purpose of transporting them beyond the reach of gunboats.
At 8 P. M. of the 2d a telegram to Fernandina
stated that twenty-four armed vessels were in Cumberland Sound
a panic, and by noon of the 3d the garrison, which consisted of 1,500 men, and most of the inhabitants had left.
The long line of vessels entering St. Andrew's was really a beautiful and impressive sight; to the naval eye, however, there was not much that was really formidable in it. A punster might be pardoned in calling it an imposing force.
was garrisoned on the morning of the 4th by the marines of the Pawnee
and a company from the Wabash
At 9 A. M. the Isaac Smith
arrived, and later in the day the other gunboats that had passed through the Sound
In the afternoon the Mohican
came in by the sea entrance with the flag-officer
We will now note the earlier movements of the enemy.
reports that on February 23d he received General R. E. Lee
's order to withdraw from the islands, securing the artillery, etc. This order was sent by special messenger to the officer commanding the post at Amelia
and Talbot Islands
, and to Colonel McBlair
, commanding the batteries, ‘to dismantle the batteries with all possible expedition and caution, and then to withdraw the troops and abandon the post.’
‘The fourth day after the receipt of this order the enemy made his appearance simultaneously in Cumberland Sound
, having entered by St. Andrew's, and off the town of Fernandina
At that time the greater number of the guns had been dismounted and removed, and all of the guns that protected the direct entrance to Fernandina
A defence was therefore deemed impracticable, and the order was given to retire from the island.
Thirty-three pieces of heavy ordnance were upon these islands, of which eighteen were carried off, as also all of the ammunition.
When it is remembered that this was accomplished in four days, no other conclusion can
be formed than that the utmost energy, industry, and vigor were exhibited by both officers and men.’
‘Five of the guns were subsequently lost, having been put on St. John's Bluff, for the defence of St. John's River
The enemy's prompt movements in that direction rendered it impossible to remove them, as was directed by an order of March 1st.’
The Ottawa, previously mentioned as leaving for the town of St. Mary's
at midnight, soon reached that place and landed a force without delay.
A cavalry force of the enemy left without their horses and equipments.
The greater number of the inhabitants had already deserted the town.
The Ottawa and an armed launch remained, and Commander Rogers
returned to Fernandina
in the other launch.
In the defences surrounding Fernandina
only thirteen guns were found, one 120-pounder and one 80-pounder, both rifled.
The flag-officer reported that ‘it is impossible to look at the earthworks on the sea face and the other defences without being surprised that they should have been abandoned.
The batteries on the north and northeast shores are as complete as art could make them.
Six are well concealed and protected by ranges of sand hills in front, perfect shelter provided for the men, thoroughly covered by the natural growth and by land contours, that striking them from a vessel would be the merest chance.
A battery of six guns is equally well sheltered and masked.
These batteries and the heavy guns on Fort Clinch
commanded the sea entrance completely; another battery of four guns on the south end of Cumberland Island
commands the channel after crossing the bar. Within the harbor was found another wellcon-structed battery.’
Our ‘forces had captured Port Royal
, but the enemy had given as Fernandina
Brigadier-General H. G. Wright
came into the harbor on the 5th with his brigade, and the forts and public property were at once turned over to him. The flag-officer reports: ‘I desire to speak here of the harmonious councils and cordial co-operation which have marked throughout my intercourse with this able officer.
Our plans of action have been matured by mutual consultation and have been carried into execution by mutual help.’
Of the many National defences that had fallen into the hands of the Confederates
upon the secession of the Southern States
, the National
flag was first hoisted over Fort Clinch
; it was soon flying over all the others, save Jackson
, and Gaines
The Ottawa, Lieutenant-commanding Stevens
, made a reconnoissance up the St. Mary
's, as far as navigable for vessels of ten feet draught, fifty miles to Woodstock
, and placed notices at various points that all peaceable citizens would be protected in their persons and property.
While returning, at a narrow stretch known as the Brick-yards, he was fired on with field artillery and small arms.
Of this intended attack he had been given warning, and replied with grape, canister, and small arms, with supposed effect.
Nothing more was seen of the enemy until just above the plantation of a Mrs. Campbell
, when a large body of cavalry appeared near the river bank, some twelve hundred yards distant. A few Xi-inch shells thrown among them caused great haste and confusion.
Three miles below, where the river leaves the high land and enters the marshes, the enemy was discovered in ambush, but before he had an opportunity of firing, the Ottawa
opened with Xi-canister and from three howitzers, it was supposed with great effect.
acknowledged the good conduct of those under his
command, and the efficient services of Midshipman Pearson
of the Wabash
One master's mate was seriously wounded, and three of the crew less so.
The army was now in occupancy of Fernandina
,, and vessels despatched in the performance of duties as above shown, when the Wabash
, now the flag-ship, left her anchorage off Fernandina
, accompanied by a bevy of gunboats, and anchored off St. Augustine
on the evening of March 8th.
The fact was ascertained that no armed resistance was practicable or intended at that point, and the gunboats were ordered to the mouth of St. John's River
, some forty miles north, to buoy out the entrance and to cross when the tides and state of the sea permitted.
remained off St. Augustine
, and sent a boat on shore as soon as the state of the sea permitted.
Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
went in with a flag of truce.
As the boat approached a white flag was hoisted on Fort Marion
The boat landed at the wharf, and Commander Rodgers
was there received by the Mayor
, who conducted him to the town-hall, where the municipal authorities were assembled.
He stated that a vessel of war had arrived off the bar for the purpose of restoring the authority of the United States
; it was deemed more kind to send an unarmed boat to inform them of the fact than to occupy the town by force of arms.
He wished to calm any apprehensions of harsh treatment, and would carefully respect the persons and property of all citizens who submitted to the lawful authority of the United States
; so long as they respected this authority and acted in good faith, municipal affairs would be left in the hands of the citizens.
informed Commander Rodgers
that the place had been garrisoned by two companies of Florida
troops who had left the previous night; that the Mayor
and council gladly received the assurances given, and placed the town
in the hands of Captain Rodgers
, who then recommended them to hoist the National
flag over Fort Marion
, which was at once done by order of the Mayor
Of a population of two thousand, about one-fifth had left.
‘The men acquiesce in the condition of affairs we are now establishing.
There .is much violent and pestilent feeling among the women.
They seem to mistake treason for courage, and have a desire to figure as heroines.’2
Three heavy 32-pounders and two Viii-inch howitzers, with some shot and powder, were found in the fort.
, in the Mohican
, with the Pocahontas
, had been sent to St. Simon's Inlet, which they entered on the 8th, and anchored within two miles of the forts.
The following morning they proceeded in, and finding the forts apparently abandoned, three armed boats were sent to St. Simon
's, and a suitable force to Jekyl Islands
Two strong earthworks of twelve embrasures and several well-constructed magazines were found on St. Simon
's, which commanded the entrance and the Sound
; the guns had been removed; a few X-inch shot remained, which showed the calibre of the former batteries.
The two batteries on Jekyl Island
were of greater strength.
The outer one commanding the main channel had a bomb-proof constructed of palmetto logs, sand-bags, and railroad iron
, well supported and braced within.
Three casemated guns, carriages, and ammunition had been removed.
The other battery, five hundred yards landward, consisted of two casemates, and arrangements for four barbette guns, magazine, and hot-shot furnace.
On February 16th, General Mercer
, in command at Brunswick, Ga.
, informed General R. E. Lee
that all of the guns
had been removed from St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands
, and solicited instructions as follows: ‘Before finally evacuating this position, I beg to bring to the consideration of the General
the question of burning the town of Brunswick
, for the moral effect it would produce upon the enemy.’. . .
No orders appear.
The General may not have appreciated the ‘moral effect’ of burning the property of their own people, which, if left undisturbed, could have been of little advantage to their enemy, even though he had thought fit to occupy the place.
The abandonment of the St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands batteries had awakened the fears of General Trapier
, who informed General Lee
that the defence of Fernandina
depended upon them, to which General Lee
on February 24th replied as follows: ‘The withdrawal of the troops from St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands
can only affect the inland communication between Brunswick
and Cumberland Sound
, rendering it less secure and certain.
The batteries commanding the principal entrance into Cumberland Sound
can be as easily turned through St. Andrew's Sound
as St. Simon
's, which is nearer and as accessible as the latter.
I had hoped that guns could be obtained in time to defend those rear approaches, but as I now see no possibility of doing so, and as the means are incompetent in your opinion for its defence, you are authorized to retire both from Cumberland
and Amelia Islands
to the main land.’
The question here presents itself with singular force: Had the National
troops held Norfolk Navy Yard only long enough to destroy the three thousand cannon stored there, what would have been the ability of the Confederacy
to establish defences against a respectable naval force?
On February 10th General Lee
wrote from Savannah
to Governor Brown
as follows: ‘I have the honor
to receive your letter of the 8th in reference to the withdrawal of the batteries from St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands
. . . .I find it impossible to obtain guns to secure it as I desire, and now everything is requisite to fortify this city.’
After an examination of the St. Simon's
and Jekyl Islands
earthworks, Commander Godon
went in the Potomska
to the town of Brunswick
and found the railroad depot and wharf had been set on fire and a train of cars on the point of leaving.
were then brought up and anchored off the town and a large party of armed men were sent on shore; the town was entirely deserted and house furniture generally removed.
Proclamations were posted, ‘urging the inhabitants to return to their homes and promising protection to the property of all good citizens.’
The landing parties returned to their vessels; no houses that were not open were entered, and no property of any kind was taken.
The Pocahontas and Potomska were then sent up Turtle River
as far as navigable for vessels of their draught.
On their return the Pocahontas
on the 11th sent a boat on shore in the vicinity of Brunswick
to procure fresh beef for the crew.
Returning, the boat had scarcely left the beach when she was fired into by a party of 40 Confederate soldiers; two in the boat were killed, two seriously and four others slightly wounded.
, in charge of the boat, was then called upon to surrender, which he refused to do, and aided by Paymaster Kitchen
and the uninjured portion of the crew, pulled as well as they could for the vessel.
and the Potomska
, observing the attack, opened fire with shells on the enemy, who had been joined by a considerable force.
The brave conduct of Surgeon Rhoades
received high commendation.
Leaving the Mohican
in these waters, Commander Godon
proceeded on the 13th in the Potomska
, accompanied by the Pocahontas
, to open the inland route to the Altamahaz in doing this he had to remove two double rows of piles several miles apart.
They had been sawed off at low water mark to make them more difficult to remove.
Their removal took so much time that he did not arrive near Darien
until late; he there found two steamers leaving under a heavy head of steam.
The brass sleeves of the propeller shaft of the Potomska
had given out, which induced him to return to Doboy Island
, as well as Brunswick
, had been deserted.
The operations against Fernandina
led to the abandonment of the entire coast line defence by batteries, and to points sufficiently high up on the rivers to embarrass an attack by gunboats, except the defences of Charleston
, and of Pulaski
, the outer defence of Savannah
, which was soon to fall.
and Green Island batteries were reported abandoned, and the guns taken for the defence of the immediate vicinity of Savannah
After establishing the lawful authority of the National
flag at St. Augustine
, the Wabash
proceeded to the entrance of the St. John's River
, where the admiral had the day before sent several gunboats.
The bar had been sounded and buoyed, but in the rough state of the sea only the Ellen
, having a lighter draught, could enter, which she did, with two armed launches of the flag-ship.
The earthworks in face were found deserted, and the American
ensign was hoisted on the lighthouse as a sign of quiet possession.
At high water on the afternoon of the 10th, the gunboats Ottawa
, and Pembina
crossed the bar and at sunset anchored near Mayport Mills, three miles up the river.
Every vessel had on board a company of troops of the Fourth New Hampshire.
then left the anchorage for Mosquito Inlet,
fifty-one miles south of St. Augustine
It had been used to some extent by small vessels transporting arms from Nassau
and the Henry Andrew
had been sent some days before, the first-named to remain off the inlet and the second to pass within and protect from destruction a large amount of Government live-oak ready for shipment.
The commanding officers
of those vessels, with 43 armed men, had gone some fifteen or eighteen miles up the river, and having returned within sight of the Henry Andrew
, the line of order was no longer observed.
The two commanding officers
, quite in advance of the other boats, landed at an abandoned earthwork, near a dense growth of live-oak with underbrush, and were fired upon from the thicket.
and Acting Master Mather
with three of the boat's crew were killed, and the two other men in the boat were wounded and taken prisoners.
As the other boats came up they were fired into and retreated up the stream.
Under cover of the night they passed out to the vessels with one man killed.
was then lying off the inlet.
In his report he says: ‘The loss of gallant lives has expiated the error of judgment which enthusiastic zeal had induced.’
The officers and crews of the gunboats that the flag-officer
had seen safely cross the difficult bar of St. John's River
before leaving for Mosquito Inlet, saw the western sky illuminated throughout the night, and conjectured rightly that the Confederates
were burning saw-mills and other buildings at Jacksonville
At daylight they were under way and at noon at anchor off Jacksonville
The troops were landed without delay and the outskirts of the town picketed.
Two pieces of heavy ordnance, that the enemy had in transit, were found on the wharf, but time had failed him to carry them farther.
The Ottawa proceeded eighty miles up the St. John
, as far as the draught of the former would permit, and the Ellen
passed some miles beyond; they then returned to Jacksonville
In a few days the Darlington
, the small steamer captured at Fernandina
, was repaired, put in service, and on the 17th was off Jacksonville
employed her in the recovery of the famous yacht America
, that had been used in blockaderun-ning and on the arrival of the National
forces had been sunk in a creek.
The gunboats thereafter patrolled the navigable waters of the St. John
's, to the entire subversion of the Confederates
getting arms through the small inlets of Florida
, to which they had been compelled to resort through a vigorous blockade of all of the harbors for vessels of even ten feet draught.
The Confederates were not content, however, with having the gunboats in the upper waters of that river, and again endeavored to exclude them, but the effort proved wholly fruitless, and cost them nine more rifled guns in the earthwork on St. John's Bluff, the September following.
After the operations on the coast of Florida
were fully completed, the flag-officer returned to Port Royal
During his absence the army had planted batteries of rifled guns and heavy columbiads on the sand-hills of Tybee Island
, for the purpose of reducing Fort Pulaski
, which the flag-officer described as a ‘purely military operation, the result of laborious and scientific preparation, and of consummate skill and bravery in execution. . . . General Hunter
, with a generous spirit long to be remembered, permitted the navy to be represented on this interesting occasion by allowing a detachment of seamen and officers from this ship to serve one of the breaching batteries.’
Commander C. R. P. Rodgers
with a detachment of men reached Tybee
on the morning of the 10th of April, just before
the firing commenced, and too late to participate that day. As many of the artillerists were quite untrained, until ranges were obtained the practice was inaccurate.
On the following day, although there was a high wind, the firing from both the rifled guns and columbiads was excellent, ‘the former boring like augurs into the brick face of the wall, the latter striking like trip-hammers and breaking off great masses of masonry that had been cut loose by the rifles.’
The four nearest batteries were more than sixteen hundred yards from the fort; four rifled guns in battery Sigel, one of those nearest the fort, had been assigned to the men from the Wabash
The batteries were occupied at daylight, and ‘kept up a steady and well-directed fire until the flag of the fort was hauled down at 2 P. M.’ Commander Rodgers
commended the conduct of Lieutenant Irwin
, Master Robertson, and Midshipmen M. L. Johnson
and F. H. Pearson
, and also of petty officers Lewis Boun
and George H. Wood
‘Before the fort surrendered the barbette guns had been silenced and many of them dismounted.
The breach was practicable for storming in two places, and the projectiles were passing through and knocking down the opposite wall, which protected the magazine, so that the garrison was convinced that in an hour or so the magazine must be blown up.’3
The heavy Xiii-inch mortars inflicted little injury; the shells falling upon the casemates did not seem to shake them at all, and those that fell within the fort rolled into the deep furrows that had been made to receive them, where they burst without doing injury.
Less than one year had passed since the seizure by the Confederates
of all of the forts within their power, and again the National
floated over three of them.
The blockading duties did not prevent the officers commanding vessels from more pronounced action when circumstances appeared to favor it. Lieutenant-Commanding
A. C. Behind, in the Crusader
, at North Edisto
, had sent a boat's crew to assist a Government agent.
In performing this duty Master Urann
was severely wounded by the enemy.
, Fifty-fifth regiment of Pennsylvania
, kindly detailed a force under Lieutenant Bedell
to accompany Captain Rhind
A force of 60 men with a light field howitzer reached the vicinity of the enemy at 3 A. M. of the 19th of April, but not without discovery and the precipitate flight of the enemy.
Shortly after daylight a considerable force of mounted riflemen were seen advancing rapidly.
They opened fire, but after a skirmish of half an hour retired as hastily as they had advanced.
In this affair three of the sailors were wounded, and the force returned unmolested at leisure to the vessel.
On the 29th, the same officer on board of the Hale
, Lieutenant-Commanding Gillis
, with Assistant-Surgeon Brintnall
, Mate Henry Parsons
, 22 men, and a boat armed with a howitzer, proceeded to destroy a battery of the enemy near the junction of the Dawho
, and South Edisto Rivers
When the Hale
was within eighteen hundred yards, the battery opened fire and continued as the bends of the river favored.
One long reach had to be made under a raking fire, but the shells from the Hale
had been so effective that when the vessel was making a direct course for the battery the enemy abandoned it in haste.
The wood in the rear was shelled; 20 men were landed and reached the work by passing over some three hundred yards of marshy ground.
Two fine 24-pounder field pieces were found, one of them loaded and primed.
This piece was discharged against the other one to destroy it, and the second was destroyed by other
All of the woodwork was piled under the carriages and set on fire.
This was accomplished by 11 A. M., and the Hale
then attempted to ascend the Paw Paw
to a rice-mill for the purpose of destroying a vessel lying there, but owing to the ignorance of the pilot, when a mile within the river, the Hale
grounded and remained fast until 5 P. M. It was too late to accomplish the object, and the ignorance of the pilot made it necessary to return by the Dawho and run the gauntlet of an ambuscade that they well knew would be prepared at a favorable point near Slamm's Bluff.
That locality was reached at 8 P. M., and of course proper disposition made to receive the close fire of the enemy.
As anticipated, the enemy opened a heavy fire upon the Hale
with field pieces and small arms.
The men then jumped to their guns and replied with grape, canister, and shells.
No one was injured on the vessel.
A 32-pounder was rendered useless by a shot knocking out a piece of the muzzle.
The blockaders in Doboy Sound
enlivened the dull routine by ascending the Riceborough River with the object of destroying a brig supposed to have entered through Sapelo Sound
. Lieutenant-Commanding A. A. Semmes
in the Wamsutta
, accompanied by the Potomska
, on the 26th of April started up this narrow and tortuous stream.
The following morning they had reached within a mile of Dorchester
, and were informed that the smoke seen the previous day was from the burning brig.
The object of their visit having been accomplished, the vessels began a difficult return.
At Woodville Island
they received the fire of the enemy from small arms at close range.
Two men were killed on the first fire.
In transit the vessels were of mutual assistance, the one with grape and canister enfilading, as it were, the sharpshooters that attacked the other.
The vessels got out of their difficult position without further loss of life,
and it was supposed had inflicted much greater loss on the assailants.
The records of our former enemy, so far as published, give no details of these minor affairs.
A very interesting episode of the war was that of Robert Small, a slave and the pilot of the Planter
, carrying that vessel to the blockading force off Charleston
The account given is substantially the report of the flag-officer
to the Department.
The vessel was engaged in the transportation of ordnance and army stores.
On the morning of the 13th of May, the Planter
was lying at the wharf close to army headquarters, with steam up and the captain on shore.
Small had the fasts cast off, and with a Confederate flag flying passed the forts, saluting them as usual by blowing the whistle, and passing beyond their line of fire, hauled down his flag and hoisted a white one just in time to avoid the fire from a blockading vessel.
The Planter was armed with a 32-pounder pivot gun, a 24-pounder howitzer, and had on board four heavy guns, one of which was a Vii-inch rifle, intended for a new fort on the middle ground in Charleston Harbor
. Eight men, five women, and three children were on board of the vessel.
The flag-officer remarked: ‘Robert Small is superior to any who have come within our lines, intelligent as many of them have been.
His information has been most interesting, and portions of it of the utmost importance.’
Small afterward served most usefully and with great intelligence on the Southern
coast as pilot throughout the civil war, and later, for several sessions as a member of Congress from South Carolina
Acting under definite but not compulsory instructions, the officers commanding blockading vessels were vigilant in following up by reconnoissance the changed lines of defence which had been established in such manner as not to allow an attack by any considerable number of gunboats.
Commander G. A. Prentiss
in the Albatross
passed into Wiuylaw Bay, the entrance to Georgetown, S. C.
, on May 21st, accompanied by the Norwich
A redoubt near the lighthouse was found deserted.
Within, on South Island
, an extensive work was seen, with apparently several large barbette guns.
On a nearer approach, they were found to be what are known as ‘Quakers.’
From this view Cat Island
was visible, and on it a well-built fort, with cavalry in the skirts of the woodland, who were scattered by shells.
The vessels found these works deserted also and in like manner armed with ‘Quaker
The work was quadrangular, fitted with platforms for mounting ten guns, with bomb-proofs, magazines, and furnace for hot shot.
The woodwork was collected and set on fire, as also a large quantity of timber intended for obstructing the channel.
The following day the vessels passed up the river to Georgetown
and steamed slowly along the wharves, the muzzles of the guns within thirty yards of the houses.
A brig loaded with turpentine was set on fire to prevent the approach of the vessels, but they continued on, passed the vessel on fire and turned with some difficulty in the narrow channel to retrace their route, ‘tarrying to see if the town authorities were disposed to communicate.’
had judiciously ‘sent word to the Union
men to make no demonstration whatever, as he was not prepared to hold the place permanently.
A few, however, appeared on the wharves, and indicated by gestures or words their joy at seeing us, while the masses of citizens kept aloof.
While passing up, a woman appeared in the belfry of a church or city hall, and spread a rebel flag over the bell.
I was greatly tempted to send on shore and seize it, but refrained, from the consideration that a contest in the streets
would have compelled me to destroy the city, involving the ruin of the innocent with the guilty.’4
From information derived from Robert Small, a reconnoissance of Stono Inlet
was made, and on the next day the gunboats Unadilla
, and Ottawa
crossed the bar under Commander Marchand
, and proceeded up the river to the old fort opposite Legareville
The enemy fired the barracks on the approach of the vessels.
A picket guard of six at the magazine of the fort were taken prisoners.
On the 29th of May the Pawnee
crossed the bar, the Huron
having entered the day before; the inlet was entered at extreme high water, nevertheless the Pawnee
struck heavily twenty times.
Nothing was more trying on officers commanding vessels than thumping them over bars, often with great risk of leaving them there.
ascended to Legareville
; from thence Captain Drayton
in the Ottawa
, a smaller vessel than his own command, accompanied by the Huron
, reached the last bend of the river below Wappoo Cut, when the enemy opened fire from a very heavy rifled gun, some of the shot falling only a little short of the vessels.
The Pembina and Huron
were left for the night a little above Newtown Creek
The removal of a few piles from an obstruction enabled Captain Drayton
to bring the Pawnee
up the river, which he did, with the Ellen
accompanying, as far as Newtown Creek
From that point Captain Drayton
continued on in the Ellen
, and rounding a point they were in sight of the fortification from which they had been fired upon the previous day. From Parrott
rifled guns, shells fired on board of the Ellen
, with 16° elevation and 20″ fuzes, just reached the enemy.
He replied with accuracy from the heavy rifle before mentioned.
After a dozen shots on each side, the Ellen
returned with such information as was thus obtainable.
Contrabands informed Captain Drayton
that torpedoes had been laid in the river above.
He adds in his report, that ‘even were this not the case, I do not think the gunboats could go beyond where I had been, and not stick in the mud. To sum up, we are in as complete possession of the river as of Port Royal
, and can land and protect the army whenever it wishes.
Beyond the reach of our guns I cannot, of course, be responsible, for it must, to a certain extent, then look out for itself.’
With a good map, the military student will note an opening here for successful operations through information which the admiral justly styled of ‘the utmost importance.’
The battery of the enemy was near Wappoo Cut, and consisted of a heavy rifled gun and seven heavy columbiads.
The vessels above mentioned remained for some time in the river.
The Upper St. John's River
, running nearly north and south, important for the transportation of small arms, that for some time had been obtained through some of the many insignificant inlets of the peninsula, was patrolled by several gunboats.
There were many men in that region who had been actually driven into the Confederate
ranks, and who had escaped into the wilds of Florida
To hound them, a set of men known as ‘Regulators’ were permitted to remain at home.
One of these, known as George Huston
, commanded a squad and resided near Black Creek
He boasted of having hung the negro pilot when Captain Budd
was shot near New Smyrna.
It was supposed that ‘his capture would secure the general tranquillity of persons along the river, most of whom would gladly acknowledge the authority of the Government
of the United States
were they not in fear of violence from men of this character.’
To capture him 40
men were detailed from the Seneca
, and a reserve of 30 men from the Patroon
, under the command of Lieutenant John G. Sproston
of the Seneca
The party landed at early daylight and proceeded rapidly to Huston's house.
A negro woman saw the party and gave the alarm.
appeared at the door armed with a double-barrelled gun, two pistols and a bowie knife; to a demand to surrender he fired a pistol at Sproston
within a few feet, killing him instantly.
He fired the other pistol and the gun, wounding a sailor slightly, and was shot and bayonetted at the same time; he was brought on board and died within a day or two, his wounds being necessarily fatal.
The party not having been thrown around the house, several persons escaped who had fired from it without effect.
The death of this officer was a loss to the navy, and was deeply regretted by his many friends in and out of the service.
He was a gallant officer of great professional merit, and had with others, on the 13th of September, 1861, distinguished himself in the destruction of the privateer Judah
at the Pensacola Navy Yard
; and afterward as executive officer of the Seneca
in the battle of Port Royal
, and on other occasions.
While in those waters the Seneca
recovered two fieldpieces and carriages at a creek below Yellow Bluffs.
It was known that a certain Neils Johnson
had been present in throwing them into the water, and he was sent for. He acted the simpleton, but he was informed that his feigned stupidity would not answer, and that he would be held as a prisoner until he aided in the recovery of the guns.
He no longer feigned, but wept earnestly and said he could not do so, as the ‘Regulators’ would kill him. A compromise was effected, resulting in the recovery of the guns, upon his being given a paper stating that he aided under penalty of otherwise being shot.
At Yellow Bluffs, before this occurrence,
was fired on at a distance of sixty to one hundred yards by a company of ‘Regulators,’ and two of the crew dangerously wounded.
Although the attack was wholly unexpected, and the commanding officer
, and others were grouped, and the mass of fire was directed at them, none of the group were struck, although many bullets hit the hammock netting and the bulwark opposite.
As stated before, the enemy were most desirous of closing the upper part of the St. John
's, to permit the transportation of small arms through the inlets of the peninsula, and for that purpose had erected a battery of seven Viii-inch and two IV 1/2-inch rifled guns on St. John's Bluff, some seven miles from the mouth of the river.
in the Port Royal
suggested that a co-operating land force should be sent to secure the guns when silenced by the vessels under his command.
, then in command at Port Royal
, promptly sent a force under General Brannan
, which was landed at a favorable point.
The gunboats attacked the battery on the 5th of October, which led to the hasty abandonment of the works and the seizure of them by our troops.
The armed steamer Darlington
, captured, as the reader will remember, by Commander Rodgers
, Lieutenant-Commander Williams
, with Company E Forty-seventh Pennsylvania regiment on board, and the Hale
, Lieutenant-Commander Snell
, ascended the river to Lake Beresford
, two hundred and thirty miles, and captured the steamer Morton
, one of the best on the river and engaged in the transportation of arms and munitions.
wrote to the flag-officer
: ‘Commander Steedman
exhibited a zeal and perseverance in every instance, whether in aiding my forces to effect a landing, the ascent of St. John's river
two hundred and thirty miles, or the assistance to one of my transports,
unfortunately injured in crossing the bar, that is deserving of all praise.’
An expedition designed to destroy the Pocotaligo bridge
was less fortunate in its results from a series of miscarriages.
The naval force, as before, was under Commander Steedman
in the Port Royal
, and the troops again under the command of General Brannan
Officers commanding naval vessels were assembled on board the Vermont
and received instructions as to order of sailing, etc. In aid of the transports, every naval vessel carried an assigned quota of troops.
At sunset the vessels proceeded some miles and anchored in the mouth of Broad River
. Four armed launches in tow of a small tug carrying one hundred troops were sent in advance to a point some two miles below Mackey's Point
, from whence half the force was to proceed to Mackey
's, and the other part to Cuthbert's Landing to capture the pickets.
The guide to Mackey
's was incompetent and the picket was not captured; the other force was successful in that object.
Soon after midnight the signal was made for the vessels to get under way; the Paul Jones
with transport De Ford
proceeded up the river, apparently without observing the fact that they were unaccompanied.
These vessels anchored above Mackey
's at 4.30 A. M. The failure of the naval vessels was due to the fact that the Conemaugh
, the third vessel in line, did not see the signal to get under way, and when she moved, passed on the wrong side of the lights placed to carry them over shoal ground.
She then grounded and disarranged the line, and the Marblehead
and Water Witch
As a result of these mishaps the vessels did not leave Broad River
until daylight; however, they reached Machey's and landed the troops on board by 10 A. M., those on board of the De Ford
and the Paul Jones
having landed on arrival.
At the request of General Brannan
up the Pocotaligo River
and the Patroon
and the Vixen
up the Coosawhatchie
, the last-named to cover the landing of Colonel Barton
's forces from the Planter
The services of these vessels are officially commended.
Also at the request of the general, the three howitzers of the Wabash
, in charge of Lieutenant Phenix
and Ensigns Wallace
, and Adams
, were landed and sent to the front; the conduct of these officers and the men under their command was highly commended by the general commanding the troops.
A message from the general that he was falling back was received at 5 P. M. The next day (23d) the troops re-embarked and the whole force returned to Port Royal
The escape of the picket was in itself sufficient to make the move abortive, and the failure of the vessels to arrive for five hours after those leading, was also enough, as the troops of the enemy in half that time could be sent to the line of railroad from Savannah
and from Charleston
While the intended results of the expedition, to make a lodgment on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad, were not attained, the services of the naval co-operating force were duly acknowledged by the military commander
in his official report.
On the afternoon of January 30, 1863, the gunboats Commodore McDonough
, Lieutenant-Commander George Bacon
, and the Isaac Smith
, Acting Lieutenant F. S. Conover
, were lying in Stono Inlet
At 4.40 P. M. the Isaac Smith
got under way and proceeded up the river above Legareville
, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance, and being fired upon from concealed and unsuspected heavy field batteries, hotly engaged them.
proceeded to her relief, but before getting within supporting distance a white flag was seen flying over the Isaac Smith
A nearer approach showed that the vessel was apparently aground5
and two of her
boats were taking the officers and men on shore.
Three field batteries then opened on the McDonough
, one of six guns, on John's Island
; the fire from the enemy was at once returned, the engines reversed and the vessel dropped down the stream.
The report of the officer commanding the Smith
states that he anchored opposite Grimball
's plantation, four and a half miles from the inlet; an excellent lookout was at the mast-head and nothing suspicious was seen.
A few minutes later a battery of three rifled guns on James Island
six hundred yards distant, and concealed by trees, opened fire; the vessel at once was got under way and engaged the battery.
At the same time two other batteries lower down, on John's Island
, also opened fire on the vessel.
An endeavor was made to pass down, but for a mile or more the vessel was exposed to a raking fire and unable to reply, except occasionally from a pivot gun. Passing by the two batteries, at an estimated distance of from two to four hundred yards, a broadside of shell and grape was delivered, but the vessel received a shot in her steam-chimney which at once disabled her, and there was nothing left to do but surrender.
Eight men had been killed and 17 wounded, some of them mortally.
The batteries were properly supposed to be composed of siege and field guns, and their fire was supplemented by a number of riflemen on or near the banks of the river.6
The Isaac Smith
was a vessel of four hundred and fifty-three tons, purchased in 1861, and was armed with one 30-pounder Parrott
and eight Viii-inch columbiads.