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Operations before Charleston in May and July, 1862.

Diary of Colonel Corlos Tracy of General Gist's Staff.

May 17.

Enemy sounding Stono channel in barges; one fired on from Goat Island by riflemen and driven off.

May 19.

Several of the enemy's gunboats attempted to enter Stono Inlet; one ran aground and all put back.

May 20.

Three gunboats crossed the bar and entered the Stono river about 10 o'clock A. M. One ran up and anchored a little below “Battery Island,” commanding the old (river) route from “Cole's Island,” the enemy thinking, probably, to cut off our troops on Cole's Island. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellison Capers, Twenty-fourth regiment South Carolina Volunteers, commanding on Cole's Island, withdrew his force (two companies), under standing orders, to James's Island by the new (back) and scarcely completed route over Dixon's Island. Captain L. Brist, Palmetto Guard, commanding on Battery Island, withdrew [542] his force (two companies), under similar orders, also to James's Island. By like orders the buildings on Cole's and on Battery Island were fired by our men before retiring; volumes of smoke from the burning buildings; our men on the qui vive. On appearance of a gunboat off mouth of Folly river carronade on marsh battery, near Folly river, thrown overboard by those in charge. Cole's and Battery Island shelled by the enemy.

May 21.

Six of our pickets, of Captain Jones's company, Twenty-fourth regiment, South Carolina Volunteers, made prisoners on Battery Island; expecting, apparently, the enemy to pass by without discovering them, they, instead of withdrawing, hid themselves in the magazine on the approach of a gunboat up the Stono. Enemy saw them and landed. “Legare's,” on James's Island, shelled this day by a gunboat slowly going up the Stono.

May 25.

Gunboats to this time had been running up the Stono for several miles every day, shelling both sides of the river, and returning in the evening to Battery Island. Effort to-day of Brigadier General Ripley to draw them within effective reach of guns of “Fort Pemberton” failed. Gallantry of Captain Frank Bonneau, and the men of our little floating battery, stationed for the day in the creek near Dixon's Island, remarked. A gunboat which engaged the battery was driven off in a few minutes. The battery was moored to the land. Three gunboats had been drawn up the river a short distance by General Ripley's movements. On their return, they had passed by altogether, when one came back, apparently to learn what was the little dark object across the marshes and the small islands. Captain B., who was aboard, had just received orders not to fire unless attacked. He had his men ashore under cover. The gunboat opened on him. Captain B. promptly fired his battery (two or three guns) himself. His men, at the first sound of the enemy's gun, came bounding to their little float, and soon manning their guns, drove the gunboat away.

May 31.

Gunboats, to this time, running up the Stono every morning as before, shelling every one who came in sight, whether on foot, on horse, or in vehicle. Some peaceful citizens crossing “Newtown cut” bridge in a buggy, during this period, were very much startled by a shell, and took to flight on foot across the fields. To-day a few shells thrown from the Stono towards Secessionville, fell near the camp of Twenty-fourth regiment South Carolina Volunteers, and to Brigadier-General Gist, Captain James Gist and Captain Joseph Glover, of his staff, who were riding out.

June 1 (Sunday).

A gunboat came some distance up Folly river, [543] but soon retired. Reconnoitering, apparently.

June 2.

A gunboat came up Folly river this morning on the flood about 9 A. M., shelled the battery of Captain Chichester at Legare's Point, that of Captain Warley, close to Secessionville, and Secessionville itself. This place being then occupied by the Eutaw battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles H. Simonton commanding; the Charleston battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel P. C. Gaillard, commanding; the cavalry companies of Captain W. L. Disher, and of Captain----McKeiver, and being the headquarters of Brigadier-General S. R. Gist, commanding on the island. Our batteries responded vigorously. No damage done by the enemy, except to a horse, which had his leg broken by a shell that passed through an outhouse just behind the general's headquarters and exploded. After firing for about an hour the enemy withdrew. No damage up to this time done by the enemy's firing, except to horses.

Evening.--More than twenty vessels in sight off Charleston bar and Stono inlet and in Stono river. Enemy reported as being on James' Island, at the point nearest Battery Island, and as having driven in our pickets.

Captain Carlos Tracy, volunteer aid to General Gist, and Lieutenant Winter, Wassamassaw cavalry, fired on while reconnoitering their position. General Gist and Captain Tracy repeatedly fired on same evening by enemy's advance guard. This firing the first news in camp of enemy's landing.

June 3.

Last night the enemy and a small party of our men lay near each other all night, at Legare's. Captain Chichester's guns, in being withdrawn from Legare's point during the night, stuck in the mud. Men engaged in endeavoring to extricate them driven off by the enemy near morning. Lieutenant-Colonel Ellison Capers, Twenty. fourth regiment South Carolina Volunteers, with several companies, sent just after daylight to bring off the guns and to ascertain enemy's position. Sharp skirmish with the enemy at Legare's, in which Lieutenant-Colonel Capers drove back for a half mile or more, the enemy's troops in his front, though very much outnumbering him; took twenty-three prisoners, and retired only on the appearance of the enemy in heavy force on the field, supported by a cross fire from gunboats in the Stono and in Folly river. Enemy engaged, said to have been Twenty-eighth Massachusetts and One-hundredth Pennsylania volunteers. Our loss, several wounded, and one taken prisoner. Lieutenant Walker. adjutant Charleston battallion, wounded in the leg, in an endeavor to bring off whom, it was said, private Bresnan, Irish volunteers, was mortally [544] wounded. Gallantry and discretion of Lieutenant-Colonel Capers marked. Captain Ryan, Irish Volunteers, Charleston Battalion, distinguished himself by his dashing courage. Lieutenant J. Ward Hopkins, Sumpter Guard, Charleston battalion, wounded in shoulder. Our companies first engaged were reinforced during the action by several others. All fell back across the causeway to Rivers merely, and joined the main body of our troops. Enemy ascertained from prisoners to be in strong force at Legare's, under command of Brigadier-General Stevens. Heavy bombardment all day by gunboats of our troops in line of battle to resist enemy's advance from Legare's — our troops necessarily much exposed. A section of Captain William C. Preston's battery, light artillery, under Captain Preston and Lieutenant Julius Rhett, was carried with great promptness and dash into position, and worked with fierce energy, under a heavy cross-fire from the gunboats in the two rivers, and under a direct fire from a piece of the enemy's at the woods on Legare's, in front. The fire from these guns, and from the stationary and more distant batteries of Colonel T. G. Lamar and of Captain Warley, in the direction of Secessionville, rendered the enemy's advance across the causeway, through repeatedly threatened, too perilous for him to attempt. Brigadier-General H. W. Mercer arrived from Charleston in the afternoon. Colonel Johnson Hagood, First regiment South Carolina volunteers, previously detained in the city by his duties as provost marshal, joined his regiment during the day, with Captain B. G. Hay, Lieutenant Ben. Martin, and others of his staff. Casualties light. Brigadier-General Gist and aids covered with sand, from explosion of shells. The screeching of the rifle-shells and the heavy explosions of the 11-and 13-inch subsided a little after dark into a discharge of a shell from a gunboat, at regular intervals of half an hour, during the night. Our men, wet, weary and hungry, slept on their arms. The night was tempestuous.

June 4.

Main body of our troops drawn within the lines. Gunboats from creek in front, shelled Secessionville. Design of the enemy to occupy apparent. Enemy said to be advancing this evening. Untrue.

June 5.

Enemy said to be advancing this evening. Our troops marched to the front. Everything quiet by sundown. No fight.

June 6.

Brigadier-General W. D. Smith arrived on the island and assumed command, General Mercer having been ordered to take command at Savannah. Picket guard this evening, under Colonel C. H. Stevens, Twenty-fourth regiment South Carolina Volunteers, skirmished with the enemy at the Presbyterian church; enemy left one [545] dead on the ground; indications that he suffered further. A section of Preston's battery did some firing. No loss on our side. A prisoner brought into camp.

June 7.

Alarm in evening; troops to the front. Everything soon quiet. Enemy moving about Grimball's, on the Stono.

June 8.

Enemy evidently in force at Grimball's. A prisoner brought in this evening.

June 10

During a reconnoisance in some force this afternoon, under General Smith, a part of the troops — the Forty seventh Georgia Volunteers, Colonel Williams commanding — were repulsed in the woods, at Grimball's, after a gallant onset upon the enemy, advantageously posted, supported by artillery and aided by his gunboats in the Stono. Our loss serious; Captain Williams killed. The wood through which the Forty-seventh advanced so dense that order, it was said, could not be preserved, nor could commands be properly extended. Great regret for the loss of the brave Georgians. Heavy firing nearly all night from gunboats in the Stono.

June 14.

Brigadier-General N. G. Evans arrived on the island to assume command. Heavy firing of shot and shell upon Secessionville, from enemy's gunboats and from a battery erected at Legare's Point. Vigorous replies of Colonel Lamar's guns. Firing nearly all day One man killed in his tent, at Secessionville, by a shell.

June 15.

Similar firing upon Secessionville. Colonel Lamar replies more deliberately. Firing very slow towards night. Two men wounded on our side.

June 16.

Attack of the enemy at daylight on the earth-work at Secessionville; Brigadier-General Stevens in command of assaulting column of six regiments--Eighth Michigan, Seventh Connecticut, Twenty-eighth Massachusetts, Seventy-ninth Highlanders, Forty-sixth New York, and One Hundreth Pennsylvania. Brigadier-General Williams in command of brigade operating to flank the work on its right by an advance on Hill's place; Brigadier-General Benham in command of whole. Our work a simple “priest cap,” covering a neck of land about fifty (50) yards wide, flanked right and left by a creek, and defended by four guns and about six hundred men. Enemy repulsed with fearful loss. Colonel T. G. Lamar in immediate command of our batteries, assisted by the no less brave Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas M. Wagner, Captain Reid, Lieutenant Humbert, and others, and supported by the brave Colonel Gaillard and the infantry. Colonel C. H. Stevens and Colonel Simonton showed promptitude and skill, repulsing the flank movement on our right. Enemy's fire from gunboats [546] in Stono and Folly rivers, from his stationary battery at Legare's Point, from his light artillery, and from his small arms, terribly severe; particularly so his fire on our right flank from across the creek at Hill's. Our battery at one time almost silenced by this latter fire. A gun, worked by Lieutenant-Colonel Ellison Capers, in a little battery across the creek at Clarke's, somewhat flanking the enemy's advance, did effective service. By order of Colonel Johnson Hagood, in command of advanced troops, the Louisiana battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel McEnery, reinforced the garrison at Secessionville during the fight, and rushing gallantly into the fire, with the cry of “Remember Butler,” soon drove the enemy from his flanking position at Hill's. The Eutaw battalion, on the right, engaged the enemy for a short time in the woods, to the rear of Hill's house, when he fell back, together with the troops engaged by the Louisiana battalion and our other troops from across the creek. Then the entire force of the enemy, between five and six thousand strong, slowly and sullenly retired from the attack to their positions on the Stono, and within their late line of pickets, burning Rivers's house on their retreat. Enemy's loss probably eight hundred men; ours under one hundred. The brave Captains Reid, of Colonel Lamar's regiment of artillery, and King, of Sumter Guard, Charleston battalion; Lieutenant Edwards, and many other gallant men of ours killed. Colonel Hagood, while leading his horse by the reins had them severed by a piece of shell. Several of the enemy bravely mounted our ramparts. Several got to the rear of it by flanking it on the left.

June 17.

General S. Cooper, senior general Confederate States Army, visited the island to-day.

June 18.

Flag of truce from the enemy to inquire after wounded and prisoners, and asking leave to send comforts to them, and offering similar privilege to us as to our men.

June 20.

A few shell thrown by a gunboat to-day at men at work on our west line.

July 1.

Total inactivity of the enemy, offensively, since repulse of 16th ult., except the firing of the few shell on 20th. Grand salute today at sunrise along our entire line, and at Forts Johnson, Sumter, and Moultrie, in honor of our successes before Richmond. Enemy reported to be advancing. Troops under arms and to the front. False alarm. Enemy suspected to be about to retire from the island.

July 5.

Enemy's land force, known to have been retiring for several days from Grimball's, now ascertained to be all withdrawn from [547] that place. Transports for several days past seen going out of Stono. Gunboats in the river off Grimball's.

July 7.

Major William Duncan, First regiment South Carolina Volunteers, narrowly escaped being made prisoner by a party of the enemy at the large work thrown up between Rivers's burnt house and the Stono; party probably from gunboats. Enemy withdrawn from Legare's.

July 8.

Enemy known to have altogether abandoned James Island, and our city to be safe for the present.

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