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Beaufort Volunteer Artillery (Stuart's Battery).

Our historian, the late William Gilmore Sims, is authority for the statement that this command was founded in 1776, and served during the war for independence; it was on duty at the siege of Charleston, and of course, was included in the surrender of May, 1780. The commanders from 1776-1865 have been Captains Burke, Henry, Grayson Zealy, George P. Elliott, B. J. Johnson, J. G. Barnwell, Stephen Elliott, Jr., H. M. Stuart. In the early days of this organization its services were presumably for heavy artillery, a similar organization existing in Charleston at the same period, and now maintained only as a social one, ‘The Charleston Ancient Artillery.’

As far back as present memories go, the company had field pieces, but did not use horses. The light battery gun drill was kept up, and the members were familiar with the light artillery manoeuvres, the mechanism of guns, carriages, caissons, and familiar with the different projectiles in use according to the United States artillery manual of that date. The high character of its membership, and its efficiency gave it prominence at the opening of ‘the war between the States.’ At the Battle of Port Royal, November 7, 1861, this command, under Captain Stephen Elliott, Jr., (later brigadiergen-eral, C. S. A.) was assigned to duty on the Bay Point side of the harbor, and it was the only artillery garrison on that side. Colonel Dunovant's infantry regiment was in the rear of the fort as a supporting force, but took no part in the action. The lieutenants were Baker, Rhodes and Stuart.

No reference to the Port Royal battle can properly be made without mention of the artillery garrison on the Hilton Head side, which comprised the German Artillery batallion, Colonel John A. Wagener, from Charleston; Company A, Captain D. Werner, Lieutenants D. Leseman, G. Linstedt, F. W. Wagener; Company B, Captain H. Harms, Lieutenants F. Melchers, B. Meyerhoff (killed), H. Klatte; who as bravely shared the honors and sacrifices of that day. In 1871 General John A. Wagener was elected Mayor of Charleston by a very complimentary vote. [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. [235]

On the 22d of October, 1862, a Federal column under General Brennan, consisting of the following commands, advanced to seize the railroad at that point.

From that valuable contribution to our war history, ‘A Sketch of the Charleston Light Dragoons,’ by Captain E. L. Wells, a member of that veteran corps, we get the names of these several regiments, batteries, etc.:

Infantry, 47th, 54th, 76th Pennsylvania, 3d, 4th New Hampshire, 5th, 6th Connecticut, 3d Rhode Island, 48th New York; nine regiments, say 400 men, 3,600.

Cavalry, part of the 1st Massachusetts.

Artillery, a Rhode Island battery, 4 guns, two sections, four guns, 1st regiment, United States regulars, three howitzers, manned by sailors, eleven guns.

It is safe to estimate the total force at 4,000 men. The Confederate force was, by actual count, 405 men for duty, under the command of Colonel W. S. Walker, who earned the sobriquet of ‘Live Oak’ in this fight, and was subsequently promoted brigadier general.

The Charleston Light Dragoons, dismounted as infantry, Captain B. H. Rutledge; Lieutenants R. H. Colcock, L. C. Nowell, James W. O'Hear; Rutledge Mounted Riflemen (on foot), Captain W. L. Trenholm, Lieutenants Legare, J. Walker, first; Ed. H. Barnwell, second; John C. Warley, third. This command was armed with breech-loading carbines, very thoroughly equipped, and in a very high state of discipline. I heard an inspecting officer speak once of the clean condition of the carbines, that he thought a white cambric handkerchief could be passed through the barrel without soiling.

Beaufort (Elliott's) Light Battery, four guns. Lampkin's (Va.) Light Battery, four pieces. Major Morgan, with two companies of cavalry. Captain Izard's company, of the 11th regiment, infantry.

Captain Joseph Blythe Allston's company, of Abney battalion of sharpshooters.

Charleston was well represented at Pocotaligo, a battle of most desperate character in attack and defence! for a part of the day the field pieces were engaged at the short range of from sixty to eighty yards; the odds were ten to one, but the enemy finally abandoned the field, and retreated to their water base, protected by gunboats. The Confederate casualties were 145-36 per cent. of the force engaged—in [236] killed and wounded; the Federal losses are believed to have been three times as many.

But to return to my narrative of the Beaufort Artillery. Three years of active service on the coast, with and near the other commands brought together for the fight at Honey Hill, was the best introduction for Captain H. M. Stuart to the command of the artillery there. He was everywhere regarded as a brave soldier and experienced, steady fighter, and might have been aptly described, as Macaulay alluded to some of the officers of the civil war in England, as having the essential military requisites of ‘the quick eye, cool head and stout heart.’ He and his efficient cannoneers, at the head of the Grahamville road, certainly made a splendid record on November 30, 1864, at Honey Hill. As soon as the carpet-bag government of South Carolina ended, and Governor Hampton took charge of the Executive office, the Beaufort Volunteer Artillery reorganized, under Captain Stuart, and still continues in State service.

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