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Chapter 5: military and naval operations on the coast of South Carolina.--military operations on the line of the Potomac River.

  • Need of harbors for blockading vessels
  • -- gathering of a naval and military expedition in Hampton Roads, 115. -- composition of the expedition -- its departure, 116. -- a terrible storm at sea -- joy of the Confederates, 117. -- the expedition off Beaufort Harbor -- Confederate defenses there, 118. -- Tatnall and his Mosquito fleet -- plan of attack, 119. -- battle of Port Royal entrance, 120. -- capture of forts Walker and Beauregard at Port Royal entrance, 121. -- Landing of National forces at Hilton head, 122. -- the coast Island region of South Carolina abandoned to the National troops, 123. -- flight of white inhabitants -- capture of Beaufort, 124. -- conquests on the coast of Georgia, 125. -- care of the cotton on the coast Islands, 126. -- movements against Port Royal Ferry -- composition of the expedition, 127. -- battle at Port Royal Ferry -- attempt to close the Harbor of Charleston with sunken vessels filled with Rocks, 128. -- failure of the attempt -- McClellan and the Army of the Potomac, 129. -- preparations for marching on Richmond -- retirement of General Scott, 130. -- organization and equipment of the Army of the Potomac -- French [7] Princes on McClellan's staff, 131. -- position of the Army of the Potomac -- its Departments, 132. -- reviews -- hostile demonstrations, 133. -- a land and naval expedition, down the Potomac planned -- its failure -- the Potomac blockade, 134. -- reconnoissance near Washington City -- Committee on the Conduct of the War, 135. -- Confederates evacuate Munson's Hill--“Quaker guns,” 136. -- expedition to Harper's Perry, 137. -- capture of Harper's Ferry -- the combatants along the Potomac, 138. -- movements on the Potomac, 139. -- invasion of Virginia, 140. -- Senator E. D. Baker and his troops, 141. -- battle of Ball's Bluff, 142. -- a terrible scene on the River, 143. -- disaster to the National arms, 144. -- the honored dead -- explanation demanded, 145. -- the case of General Stone, 146. -- a prisoner of State, 147. -- the Baltimore Plot, 148. -- how Mr. Lincoln's life was saved. 149.

Hampton Roads presented a spectacle, in October, similar to that, late in August, of the Hatteras expedition; but more imposing. It was a land and naval armament, fitted out for a descent upon the borders of lower South Carolina, among the coast islands between Charleston harbor and the Savannah River.

The want of some harbors under the control of the Government in that region, as stations, and as places of refuge of the blockading vessels during the storms of autumn and winter, had caused the Government to take action on the subject even before the meeting of Congress in July. So early as June, a Board of army and navy officers was convened at Washington City.1 The Board, after careful investigations, made elaborate reports, and, in accordance with their recommendations, expeditions were planned. The Secretary of the Navy, with the help of his energetic assistant, Mr. Fox, had so far matured an expedition for the Southern coast, that, early in October, rumors of it began to attract public attention. It became tangible when in Hampton Roads a large squadron was seen gathering, and at Annapolis a considerable land force was collecting, which, it was said, was to form a part of the expedition. Whither it was to go was a mystery to the public, and its destination was so uncertain to the popular mind, that it was placed by conjecture at almost every point of interest between Cape Hatteras and Galveston, in Texas. Even in official circles its destination was generally unknown when it sailed, so well had the secret been kept.

The land forces of the expedition, which assembled at Annapolis, in Maryland, about fifteen thousand in number, were placed in charge of Brigadier-General T. W. Sherman, acting as major-general. The naval portion of the expedition was placed under the command of Captain S. F. Dupont, who had served as chairman of the Board of Inquiry just mentioned. The fleet was composed of fifty war vessels and transports, with twenty-five coal vessels under convoy of the Vandalia. These, with the troops, left Hampton Roads and proceeded to sea on a most lovely October morning,

Oct. 29, 1861.
having been summoned to the movement at dawn by the booming of a gun on the Wabash, the Commodore's flag-ship. The destination of the expedition was not generally known by the participants [116] in it until it was well out to sea, when, under peculiar circumstances, as we shall observe, it was announced to be Port Royal entrance and harbor, and the coast islands of South Carolina.

The army under Sherman was divided into three brigades, commanded respectively by Brigadier-Generals Egbert S. Viele, Isaac J. Stevens, and Horatio G. Wright; all of them, including the chief, being graduates of the West Point Military Academy. The transports which bore these troops were about thirty-five in number, and included some powerful steamships.2

S. F. Dupont.

The Wafbash led the way out to sea, and its followers, moving in three parallel lines, and occupying a space of about twelve miles each way, made a most imposing appearance. The war-vessels and transports were judiciously intermingled, so that the latter might be safely convoyed.3 During a greater portion of the day of departure, they moved down the coast toward stormy Cape Hatteras, most of the vessels in sight of the shore of North Carolina, and all hearts cheered with promises of fine weather. That night was glorious. The next day was fair. The second night was calm and beautiful. There was no moon visible; but the stars were brilliant. The dreaded Cape Hatteras was passed in the dimness with such calmness of sea, that on the following morning a passenger on the Atlantic counted no less than thirty-eight of the fifty vessels in sight from her deck. But, on that evening, the aspect of the heavens changed, and the terrible storm, already mentioned, which swept over Hatteras so fearfully at the beginning of November, was soon encountered, and the expedition was really “scattered to the winds.” So complete was the dispersion, that, on the morning of the 2d of November, only a single vessel might be seen from the deck of the Wabash. Fortunately, there were sealed orders on board of each vessel. These were opened, and the [117] place of rendezvous, off Port Royal, was made known. In that fearful storm four transport vessels were lost,4 but not a dozen persons perished. It was most remarkable how small was the aggregate amount of disaster suffered by so large a number of vessels in company, by a storm so severe that at times it was a hurricane. Some were compelled to part with freight, in order to insure salvation. The gunboat Mercury lost one of her two rifled guns, thrown overboard to lighten her; and the Isaac P. Smith was saved by parting with eight 8-inch guns in the same way. The side-wheel steamer Florida, carrying nine guns, was disabled, and put back in distress; and the Belvidere and two New York ferry-boats (Ethan Allen and Commodore Perry) were compelled to go back to Fortress Monroe, where they gave the first public notice of the storm and the dispersion of the fleet.

The sad news disturbed the loyal people with alarm and distress until the small amount of disaster was known, while the Confederate newspapers were jubilant with the expressed idea that the elements were in league with them in destroying their enemies. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera,” one of them quoted, and added, “So the winds of heaven fight for the good cause of Southern independence. Let the Deborahs of the South sing a song of deliverance.” That joyous song was very brief, for, whilst it was swelling in full chorus, a voice of wailing went over the Southern land, such as had not been heard since its wicked betrayers had raised their arms for the destruction of the Republic and the liberties of the people.

On Sunday morning

Nov. 3, 1861.
the storm began to abate, and the vessels of the expedition to reassemble around the flag-ship. When passing

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