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[234]

The Federal fleet of eighteen ships, carrying 200 guns, sailed around an eliptical course, between the shore batteries, delivering their broadsides with terrible effect against the Bay Point and Hilton Head forts. It was a day of disaster to the Confederate arms; a most unequal combat, but the Beaufort and German artillerists stood at their posts of duty through the battle. The Wabash, the flag ship, it is now known, was struck thirty times and set on fire once; other ships bore the evidence of resistance to the invasion of our State. It was a grand fight between war vessels and land batteries, and yet I have never read any proper Confederate narrative of it.

The late Hon. William Henry Trescot, in his eloquent eulogy on General Stephen Elliott, thus alludes to it: ‘Early in November, 1861, the greatest naval armament the United States had ever put to sea was collected in the waters of Port Royal. It is strange now to think that with a year's warning, with full knowledge of the danger, the only resistance to this tremendous power was left to two earthworks, two miles apart, hastily erected by such civil skill as could be found, and with the aid of native labor from the adjoining plantations, and garrisoned by a few hundred citizens—militia, who had never known a harder service than the weariness of a Governor's review. And still stranger that the neighboring population went on quietly with their accustomed life—not a household disturbed, not a piece of property removed—and all waited with undisturbed confidence the result of this desperate contest; but so it was. The attack opened soon after sunrise on November 7th, and for many hours the forts were exposed to a fire which, even in the annals of this war, was almost unparalleled. It was soon evident that all the soldiers could do was to show their powers of endurance; for by midday the forts were demolished, the guns dismounted, and the fleet safe within the lines of defence.’

Soon after the abandonment of Bay Point, the Beaufort Artillery was thoroughly equipped as a light battery, and did most effective service on the coast line or defence, being engaged in a number of combats, in which the company record was maintained on the highest plain, notably in the unequal fight at Pocotaligo. I cannot write of the Beaufort Artillery in this fight without further mention of it. I therefore digress for the purpose of showing the character of the defence of our coast line; the heavy odds encountered in every effort of the enemy to break our lines. This was by no means the only affair of the kind; many similar attacks were made, but uniformly defeated.


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