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[218] transports having Benham's brigade on board, was directed to explore another channel which opened higher up. He penetrated very far, passed in sight of Fort Pulaski, the defenders of which, being taken by surprise, had not time to turn their guns against him, and arrived before the stockades, which stopped him within short cannon-range of the point where the channel he was following empties into the river. A regiment which had been in charge of these stockades had abandoned them, but five Confederate gunboats soon appeared and opened fire upon the Union vessels from a long distance. This was the flotilla of Tatnall, who, seeing that the Federals were trying to invest Fort Pulaski, was hastening to provision it; the flotilla towed a large number of lighters laden with rations. While it was engaged with Davis' ships on the right side of the river, Rodgers, who found himself precisely opposite on Wright's River near the left side, took part in the combat, throwing his shells into the midst of the enemy's flotilla. Two vessels belonging to the latter beat a retreat. The other three continued their course without sustaining any injury, left the lighters at Pulaski, and returned to exchange a few more shots with the Federals. But the ebbing tide had given the shore such elevation as to intercept all the missiles, and this useless cannonade was brought to an end without bloodshed. Davis, having ascertained that it would require a much larger force than lie had at his command to get through the pass and occupy it permanently, retired. It was decided to attack the defences of Savannah in front, and to force the entrance of the river by reducing Fort Pulaski as speedily as possible.

Pending the preparations for this attack, the necessity of guarding the islands already occupied, the reconnaissances and conquests of new positions by the navy, gave occasion to affairs, generally bloodless, which we shall merely enumerate here in their chronological order.

The islands of Edisto had become the refuge of all the negroes of the neighborhood, who ran away from the main-land plantations, which had been abandoned by the whites. The latter returned from time to time to hunt them out, and on the 7th of February they exchanged a few musket-shots with the Federal gun-boat Crusader.

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Jefferson Davis (2)
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