Doc. 201. reconnoissance at Port Royal.
Commander Drayton's report.
the Unadilla, Lieutenant Commanding Collins, and the Pembina, Lieutenant Commanding Bankhead, piloted by the Vixen, Captain Boutelle. We crossed this bar at half-past 4, and that of St. Helena at half-past 9--a steamer, supposed to be the General Clinch, being then off the Edisto River, which position she shortly left, and steamed up the river. I soon afterward came in sight of a fort on the point of Otter Island, into which, at the distance of a mile, I threw a few shells, as did the gunboats, to discover if it were occupied. There being no answer, I sent a boat on shore to take possession, and found it to be a regular triangular work, with two faces toward the water, of two hundred and fifty feet each, with bastions and a curtain on the land side, the whole surrounded by a ditch. The magazine had been blown up, and every thing carried away or destroyed, the only thing left being the fragments of an eighty-pound rifle gun, which had been burst. There was also, on the outside, a large quantity of timber and palmetto  logs, which I left undisturbed, there being little or no probability of any one coming to remove it, and considering that, should we occupy the place, it would be required to finish the work. Having made the above examination, I continued up the Coosaw River with the gunboats, piloted by Captain Boutelle. When just passing Morgan River, about two miles from Otter Island, I came in sight of a fort directly ahead, and at the junction of Barnwell Creek with the Coosaw. When within a mile, we threw a few shells into it, and there being no signs of occupation, and the negroes showing themselves in the neighborhood, I sent a boat on shore to take possession, and found it to be a redoubt, with a ditch on three faces, and a steep slope toward the water, above which the parapet was elevated thirty feet; its name being (as we found by papers picked up) Fort Hayward. The armament had consisted of only three guns--one rifle, which had been removed, and two eighteen-pounders, which, being of a very antiquated make, and spiked, I destroyed by breaking the trunnions off. The next morning early I returned and removed to this vessel a quantity of intrenching tools which I found near the fort, together with a large sling cart and two siege carriages, which had not been much injured by the fire, which had consumed sufficiently to render use-less the other one and all the limbers. This being completed, I returned to Otter Creek Island, and found there the Vixen, which had preceded us for the purpose of bringing off an engineer--Lieutenant O'Rourke--who had been sent by General Sherman to join us at Coffin's Landing. He desired to make a drawing of the fort, and, as it was late, I anchored for the night, leaving again on the morning of the 27th with the gunboats and Vixen (there not being water for the Pawnee) to ascend the Ashepoo River, as I understood that there was a military station a short distance up. After running a few miles I discovered a redoubt, and having, as before, satisfied myself that it was not occupied, I landed and found that, like the others, it was very carefully and scientifically built, with a deep ditch around it. Every thing had been destroyed and carried away except a rifled twenty-four-pounder, and an old English eighteen-pounder, both of which had been burst, and another eighteen-pounder, which I destroyed. Having performed this duty, I continued up the river, thinking that I might find fortifications at Mosquito Creek, which offers the only inland channel of communication with Charleston. None had, however, been erected there, and I continued up the river to the plantation on Hutchinson Island, about twelve miles above Otter Island, which was as far as the vessels could go. Here were a large number of negroes, but no white men, although they told me there was a picket of soldiers about three miles beyond. At this time I heard heavy firing, and as we all supposed it proceeded from the Pawnee, I hurried every one on board and returned down the river as quickly as possible; but, on reaching that vessel, was told that the sounds came from the direction of Beaufort. Then, with the Pawnee, got under way, and, accompanied by the other vessel, ran across the bay to Hunting Island's River, where I landed and looked for the fortifications on the point of Hunting Island, but could not find the least appearance of there ever having been any there. The light-house had been recently blown up, and all the public property carried away. I had now examined all the points mentioned in your letter, except Coffin's Landing, which had been visited by Lieutenant O'Rourke on his way across, and he reporting that no works had been erected there, I did not think it worth the delay that would have been occasioned there. I left Hunting Island harbor at seven o'clock this morning, and reached my anchorage here at meridian. With regard to the other inquiries that I was ordered to make, I would beg leave to say, that whenever practicable, the slaves have been removed, as on the northern side of the Ashepoo, where there is no communication with the Edisto. At all the plantations south of that, a great many still remain at Hutchinson Island, not less, I think, than one hundred and twenty. Not a white man seems to be left anywhere outside the line of military occupation, which was higher than I was able to go with the vessels. The slaves are doing nothing, are very friendly, and assisted us voluntarily whenever we wanted their aid; and sometimes, as at Fort Hayward, worked very hard. I overheard one of them say, that it was but fair they should do so for us, as we were working for them. The more intelligent among them told me that there was no packed cotton this year, and that not much more than half the cotton and scarcely any of the provision crop had been gathered. I forgot to mention that, as far as we could make out, on our return down the river, (the Ashepoo,) they appeared to be burning houses in the direction of the South Edisto River, or on those plantations which must have still been in the possession of the whites, and the same thing seemed to be continued during the night. I cannot finish without mentioning the obligations I am under to Captain Boutelle for the skill and untiring energy he displayed in piloting us through those inland waters; and I think the people must have been a little surprised at seeing vessels of war passing at full speed up narrow, and not overdeep, rivers, such as the Coosaw and Ashepoo. I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,