137. battle of Port Royal, S. C.,1 fought November 7, 1861.
New York world narrative.
on board the Bienville, Nov. 12.
one of the vessels attached to the great Southern naval expedition, and which played a most important part in the affair, was the United States
steam gunboat Bienville
; a steamer whose reputation for fleetness stood second to none in the service of the Government
, and which, as you will perceive, held the post of honor throughout the engagement with the batteries at Hilton Head
I took passage on the Bienville
, which left on the 23d, having in tow the Brandywine
, which Capt. Steedman
had orders to proceed with to Fortress Monroe
He arrived at the latter point at nine o'clock on the morning of the 29th, and met the fleet just on the point of coming out en route
for its intended destination, which at that time was unknown to any one on board our ship.
As I stood on the quarterdeck of the Bienville
and sighted the noble vessels as they gallantly rode out one after another, I felt an enthusiasm, a faith in the might and power of the Government
to vindicate itself, and to perpetuate those institutions that have made us one of the foremost nations of the earth, such as I never before experienced.
The day broke most beautifully, proving to be one of the finest of the season — a happy omen of that success that has far exceeded
our most sanguine expectations.
The day of sailing had so long been delayed that it seemed as if one could feel the sensation of relief experienced by the thirty thousand brave hearts who were anxious to meet the enemy on the soil of his much vaunted chivalry, and who could hardly repress their joy at being fairly in motion.
The vessels came out in regular order, the Wabash
acting as flag-ship, and taking the lead, and the others following in the positions assigned them.
Having received our orders to join the fleet, we did so, having the Brandywine
still in tow, and taking up a position in the rear of the main column.
Late on Wednesday afternoon we encountered a severe gale off Cape Hatteras
, which at one time threatened to do serious damage to the flag-ship of the fleet.
The thorough sea-going qualities of the Bienville
enabled her to ride the gale out safely, but Capt. Steedman
deemed it his duty to lay to during the early part of the ensuing day, lest some vessel of the fleet might have been disabled and need assistance.
Thursday proved to be another beautiful day. The gale subsided as the sun arose, and about noon we proceeded again on our voyage.
The second gale which we encountered, and the effects of which were experienced along the whole line of the southern coast, was one of the most terrific character.
I had never before had an opportunity of witnessing a grand storm at sea. I have often been out in what is termed rough weather, but I never witnessed any thing so thorougly terrific as was this storm, in which we supposed the larger portion of the fleet would be wrecked or so disabled as to render it inefficient for the accomplishment of its mission.
The increase of the gale was gradual from four o'clock Friday morning until midnight, at which time it was at its height.
One moment we were on the top of a wave, and could distinguish the position of the vessels in the fleet by the multitude of signal lights that were swung in the rigging, and the next instant we were down in the trough of the sea, with the avalanche of waters rearing its giant walls each side of our noble craft, and threatening to engulf us in its folds.
To add to our consternation, the rain poured down in torrents as the night closed in, and the darkness became intense, being relieved only by the lightning that broke in sheets of flame from the heavens, almost blinding our eyes and rendering the darkness more intense.
Sailing-Master Smith, of the Bienville
, says that in a thirty-five years experience he never encountered so terrific a storm as this.
The storm would not have caused so great anxiety had we been alone on the water; but conscious as we were that fifty other steamers and transports, freighted with thousands of precious lives, were all about us, and that we were liable at any moment to come into collision with some one of them, filled our hearts with fear, and made the stoutest among us quail.
We could not reconcile ourselves to believe that an enterprise in which the hopes of the country were centred, and which was to render such signal service in the holiest of causes, could be permitted to be destroyed by the fury of the conflicting elements; but we could do no more than make all snug on board, and patiently await the issue.
On Saturday night the gale had in a great degree subsided, and we were gratified to learn that the majority of the vessels composing the expedition had rode it out better than could have been expected.
No vessel in the fleet suffered more or was in greater jeopardy than the transport Winfield Scott
, from the storm.
Heavily loaded, and not calculated to weather safely the fierceness of such a gale, her position was eminently critical.
From the deck of the Bienville
it was easy to see the activity of the men in tossing overboard their tents and muskets, and every thing that was of movable character, to lighten the vessel.
She had on board a portion of the Thirtieth Pennsylvania regiment, altogether four hundred and fifty soldiers.
At length a signal was given to our ship to heave to and save her, the signal indicating that she was leaking, and likely, at any moment, to sink.
Promptly did our commandant respond to the appeal for aid.
As stated above, the storm was at its most furious height.
The waves rolled mountain-high.
It did not seem that any small boat could live an instant in such a sea. “Who will volunteer to save the Winfield Scott
asked Captain Steedman
. “I, I,” shouted a score of voices.
Three small boats were at once lowered, and quickly in them some thirty brave men of our crew, willing to risk their lives to save the endangered crew of the leaking ship.
Two of these boats were swamped, and also one of the Winfield Scott
's small boats.
The scene was one of intense excitement.
From the Bienville
hawsers were thrown out, and no lives, fortunately, were lost.
Our steamer at one time came so near the Winfield Scott
that the cathead of the latter ran into our quarter.
Taking advantage of the proximity, some fifty soldiers leaped upon the Bienville
A few were not successful, the leap being one to death.
Three were crushed in the collision, and their lifeless bodies fell into the engulfing waves below.
The jump for life, the crash, and wild shriek and splash in the water of the inanimate forms of the killed, were the work of a moment.
The whole was a scene of tragic interest, and one that will never be forgotten by any who witnessed it. It was feared by the officers of the Bienville
that our steamer might become seriously endangered through our proximity to the Winfield Scott
Finally, with good fortune, the leakage of the transport was stopped through throwing overboard tents and guns.
The storm began to abate, and our steamer was enabled to withdraw from her side.
I learned from the soldiers who jumped on
, that the most intense panic prevailed on the Winfield Scott
It was in the height of this panic that the men wildly flung their muskets and tents into the sea. The leak was between the wood and iron work
, and above the watermark, and on the vessel being lightened, of course a stop was put to the flowing in of water.
Meantime the men were separated in divisions, and detailed to work the pumps.
They worked nearly thirty-six hours unfalteringly and without complaint.
All believed that the worst was over on which depended their lives, and, impressed with this belief, they labored forgetful of food or sleep.
One of my informants, soldier though he now is, stated that he had followed the sea for ten years, and during this time he had been shipwrecked three times.
He never saw such a storm, and he hoped never to see such another.
We arrived at Port Royal
on Sunday evening, Nov. 3d, being some twelve hours in advance of the fleet, the advance ships of which did not heave in sight until the following morning.
On the arrival of the Wabash
, Commodore Dupont
ordered us to leave the Brandywine
and run down to Savannah
in search of the frigate Sabine
, which we had orders to tow up. Being unable to find her, however, we returned, but were again ordered back to cruise for her during the ensuing night.
On our return, we ascertained that we were to be the advance ship of the starboard column in the engagement, which would give us the post of honor.
During our absence in search of the Sabine
, the steamers Vixen
, supported by three of the new gunboats, had advanced up the harbor for the purpose of buoying out the channel, and marking the line of position and advance of the respective columns.
This was accomplished with the most complete success, and proved one of the most admirable of the many well-laid plans that tended to our ultimate success.
The points had been well ascertained, and the major part of the soundings taken before the rebel batteries opened fire, which they did on one of the gunboats during the afternoon.
By Tuesday afternoon every thing had been put in readiness, and the fleet fully prepared for action.
It was about 4 o'clock, however, before the Wabash
signalized the advance, and it was then so late that it was deemed advisable to defer the attack until the following day. Wednesday morning opened with heavy weather, and the attack was again deferred until it should subside.
Meantime, the enemy were very busy on shore preparing to give us the warmest of welcomes, and exulting over the opportunity they were about to have to sink our vessels as soon as we came within range.
On board the Bienville
every thing was made in readiness.
Shot and shell were brought up from below, the magazines were opened, and the bulls' eyes lit; the gunners took their positions beside the cast-iron peacemakers, and waited to obey with alacrity the order, “Cock your lock, blow your match, stand by, ready--.”
The surgeon and his assistants were busy in the cockpit spreading out their finely tempered instruments, opening packages of lint, and taking those precautions so necessary, and yet that augur such fearful things to come.
From our gallant commander, Steedman
— himself a South Carolinian by birth, but a thorough Union man for all that — down to the powder-boys who stood in their bare feet, and with shirt sleeves rolled up ready for their work, every heart beat high, and waited with anxiety for the moment of action, which was hourly expected to be signalized from the flag-ship.
On Thursday morning, at 9 o'clock, the flag-ship Wabash
signalled to form in the order of battle.
The flag-ship led the main column, and the Bienville
led the starboard column, having her position on the Susquehanna
's starboard quarter and maintaining it during the entire action.
They were drawn up in the following order:
|Main column.||Starboard column.|
The arrangement of the ships was a work of speedy accomplishment.
They presented a noble and magnificent spectacle.
It was apparent to all that the great mission upon which we had been sent, was now about to be undertaken in hearty earnest.
Every heart beat high with hope, though most well knew that the forts and batteries of the enemy about to be attacked, had been erected under the guidance of enlarged military experience and practical skill, and that behind those distant ramparts, now so obscurely visible, were men whose numbers were as yet unknown, and who, it was confidently supposed, would defend the soil — especially that of South Carolina
, the State
that had taken the lead in the rebellion — with desperate and unyielding courage, and if need be, their life's blood.
Meantime the transports lay outside, awaiting proper opportunity to land their troops.
The ships made the entrance of the Port Royal channel
At the point between the forts, it is twenty-five hundred yards wide.
As the fleet moved up, the rebel batteries on both sides of the river opened fire on the head of the column, with heavy guns of long range.
At ten minutes past ten, the Wabash
fired simultaneously on both Forts Walker
, sending a broadside at each.
Each volley fell in front of the batteries, and ploughed up the sand furiously.
The whole fleet immediately joined in the engagement, and broadside after broadside was fired in quick succession.
In five minutes the action became general along the whole line.
The scene was one terribly grand and exciting.
No words can describe it. So many ships and
gunboats were never before employed in a naval engagement on this continent.
The simultaneous booming of the broadsides, the quick flashing of the belching fires, the dense curling of the masses of smoke, accompanied by the whizzing of the enemy's balls over our heads, their splashing on the water, and their destructive tearing of our masts and sides, gave an impress of danger, and the vastness of the engagement almost impossible to realize, much less to adequately detail.
Meantime, amid the roar of the cannon could be heard the loud voices of command, and as the smoke rolled upward on the deck of each gunboat, could be seen the men arranging and sighting their guns, and everywhere the most courageous and exciting activity.
Of course eager eyes looked toward the forts and batteries of the enemy.
It was known that our firing must be producing terrible effect.
Looking through the marine glasses, it was easy to discern the havoc of our terrific cannonading.
We saw guns dismounted, and huge clouds of sand swept up by our shells as they struck.
As our vessels were moving about in a circuit, so as alternately to come within shot range of the opposing forts on either side, three rebel steamers appeared in sight up the stream.
These steamers, as afterward proved, were part of a squadron, numbering eight vessels, under command of Commodore Tatnall
, formerly of the United States Navy.
A few well-directed shots from some of our ships, convinced them that it was better to head their prows in an opposite direction, which they proceeded, in inglorious haste, to do. It was not long before the dim outline of their retreating forms faded from our view.
I may as well state in this connection, as pertinent to the subject, that a letter was subsequently discovered at Hilton Head
, from Commodore Tatnall
to the garrison officers, declaring in very decisive and valorous terms, that he would defend them to the last, or perish in the attempt.
The plan of the naval attack was arranged with great skill.
Three circuits of the channel were taken.
At each circuit, a broadside was opened upon the fort opposite.
In this way the whole force of the fleet was brought to bear upon the enemy with irresistible effect.
Each firing met with a prompt response.
After the first circuit, the small gunboats took their positions at discretion, choosing any point of attack which might appear to them more effective.
A number of them congregated in a cove, some distance up the inlet, and commanding a range of the rear of the forts.
As the rear of the forts were comparatively unprotected, an attack in this direction would have a most destructive effect upon the two garrisons.
The second circuit was only performed by the Wabash
, and Bienville
occupying the head of the starboard column, was necessarily nearer each of the forts than either of the other ships.
, of the Bienville
, as stated elsewhere, is a South Carolinian, and so is Capt. Drayton
, of the Pocahontas
In the movements of the cannonading fleet, the two vessels came side by side, the two captains standing on the wheelhouses, facing one another.
“Three cheers for South Carolina
shouted Capt. Smith
, swinging his hat over his head with enthusiasm.
“Three cheers for South Carolina
and the American
responded Capt. Drayton
in a voice equally stentorious, and with a circuitous movement of his hat equally enthusiastic.
At one time, when the Bienville
was within short range of Fort Walker
, the whole fire of the fort was concentrated upon her, and she was struck in several places.
One shot passed through the ship just forward of the foremast between the upper decks, and through the water line.
Another struck one of the forward boat davits; the third hit the funnel, and the fourth cut a shroud off. The most destructive shot was one that, after striking the water, glanced and hit the forward division under the bulwarks, and, passing through a beam a foot and a half thick, killed two men, and wounded two others.
The men were employed at one of the guns.
After the third circuit an officer on board the Bienville
, through his glass, discovered two men riding toward Fort Walker
in great haste, and it was conjectured that they bore important despatches.
At three o'clock in the afternoon the flag-ship hoisted the signal to cease firing.
Previously there had been a lull in the engagement for about half an hour, during which the men had been served with lunch so as to have them in proper condition for further hard work.
After this a few shots were fired, and as there was no response from the crews, preparations were made to send a boat to the shore with a flag of truce.
, from on board the flag-ship Wabash
, lowered a cutter, and proceeded cautiously, carrying a white flag to Fort Walker
or Hilton Head
He found nobody there to receive him or the flag of truce, as the rebels had entirely deserted their forts.
Now comes the most exciting event of the engagement — the raising aloft of the Stars and Stripes on the ramparts of Fort Walker
Our men were now on South Carolina
soil, and over their heads proudly waved the American
flag, whose folds have not floated on the breeze in the Palmetto State
since the fall of Fort Sumter
The cheers that uprose on the hoisting of this flag were deafening.
The stentorian ringing of human voices would have drowned the roar of artillery.
The cheer was taken up man by man, ship by ship, regiment by regiment.
Such a spontaneous outburst of soldierly enthusiasm never greeted the ears of Napoleon
amid the victories at Marengo
, or the pyramids of the Nile
The next morning Fort Beauregard
, on Bay Point
, was also occupied, and several gunboats were sent up to Beaufort
, and the town was found deserted.
From one of the wounded rebels taken prisoner
at Fort Walker
, I gather some interesting details of the conduct of the men during the engagement.
It was confidently asserted that no vessel could possibly pass the batteries, and the General
in command had promised his men that every ship should be sunk as it came up; and it is certainly wonderful that we escaped with so little damage.
The rebel batteries were served with the greatest activity.
The great fault was in their firing too high.
An incessant shower of shot and shell rained over us, but with little or no effect.
The wounded rebel says that, on the first circuit round, the General
told them that a number of the vessels must have been sunk, but seeing them emerge from the clouds of smoke and pass on, he concluded they had been disabled and were drawing off. The men thought the victory was theirs.
Refreshments were served and cheers given for the Southern Confederacy.
Their consternation at seeing the Wabash
again wind the column and approach them was great; but they sprung to the guns and fought with desperation.
Again they congratulated themselves the vessels had drawn off disabled; but on seeing the Wabash
, the Bienville
, and the Susquehanna
, rounding up in gallant style for the third time, apparently unharmed, the panic was complete, and they broke and fled in utter dismay.
The forts and surroundings after the battle.
On landing, the forts were found to be utterly deserted, and every thing gave proof of the head-long and utter confusion and haste with which the rebels had vacated their hard-fought positions.
As specimens of military skill, both Forts Walker
are considered by old army officers as the most skilful and formidable earthworks that they have ever seen.
, on Hilton Head
, is much the heaviest, being a gigantic mass of earthworks thrown up in angular walls, the corners being protected by strong redoubts.
In front of the walls was a deep trench, about ten or twelve feet in width, likewise protected by an admirable chevaux de frise
of thick posts, six or eight feet high, firmly set in the ground, about four inches apart, pointing outward from the fort, and sharpened at the end. With this encircling wall of sharp stakes guarding a deep trench, which in turn was covered by the twenty-six monster guns and columbiads of the fort, it was doubtless impregnable to the assaults of any land force of infantry.
Both forts had probably been erected for at least nine or ten months, as the soil, where not rent by our terrific fire, was firm and well settled, and clothed in a luxuriant mantle of grass.
The country around is one of much beauty and fertility — rising from the sea gently, the coast sloping off far into the ocean, making a long shallow spread of water.
A beautiful cotton-field was near by, the bolls already burst and the long white cotton hanging from them in the greatest profusion.
A Northerner, unaccustomed to the sight of a field of ripe cotton, the scene presented me was one of unrivalled magnificence and novelty.
It seemed as if a living mantle of snow rested upon a square of beautiful country, and undulated like the yellow grain in the gentle winds.
I passed also over a fine patch of sweet potatoes, which bore good evidence of having grown thrifty and well by the fertile sweat of slaves.
The ground in every direction was ploughed into furrows and ridges by our shells and balls.
The earthworks were honey-combed and torn into unsightly heaps, trees shattered in every direction, and long lanes cut through the pure white field of cotton.
The forts, now deserted except by the ghastly bodies of the dead, bore witness to the terrific effect of our fire, the long and unavailing defence maintained by the rebels, and the rapidity with which they had quitted the works and fled when we came, fresh and determined as ever, to the third, and, as it proved, the final engagement.
At Fort Walker
only three guns were found dismounted.
The rest remained in their places well aimed, and had been well served.
They were of immense size, carrying from one hundred and fifty to one hundred and eighty pound balls, and rifled.
Some of them were or old English manufacture, and others were probably cast at Richmond
These were of rough exterior, but proved to be equal in utility to the others.
They were already loaded when we found them, and not one spiked — a fact which evidenced the terror created by our final broadside.
The rebel Tatnall
, who had landed from his musquito fleet, and who had assured his subordinates that their position could not be taken, was among the garrison of one thousand three hundred when they precipitately fled from their forts and ran helter-skelter over the South Carolina
soil back to the woods in the rear.
He doubtless thought that, whether or not “blood is thicker than water,” it is a bad thing to lose.
The exodean flight from Hilton Head
has not been equalled by any thing in the history of the war; and although in truth the rebels fought well and desperately until the last moment, yet their running bears off the palm.
And as the terrified horde fled, the balls and shells from the fleet continually screamed around and above and among them like very devils on the wing, and made many a panic-stricken fugitive to bite the dust.
The whole of the ground passed over was scattered with fragments of shell, and torn and mangled corpses.
Some with the head half torn off, some with entrails spreading for yards around them, some with mangled legs and arms, and with faces distorted with pain and horror.
Some lay prone on the ground, with backs toward the enemy, and others struck dead while in peculiar postures, as if calling and motioning to others.
For two miles back in the woods dead bodies were found of those killed by our shells.
All the rebel wounded were taken off, but the dead remained.
In a massive bomb-proof in Fort Walker
was found the dead body of a Surgeon Borst
, formerly of
the United States army.
He had doubtless retired to this place for safety, and it indeed seemed secure, formed as it was of massive walls and strengthened by great beams of wood.
A large shell had whizzed into the small room through the small diagonal aperture, and struck a heavy piece of timber, tearing away the supports and tumbling down the walls about his head.
A splinter from the fractured beam struck him upon the lead, killing him instantly, just as he had thrown up his bands to shelter himself from the falling walls.
His watch was still keeping correct time in his pocket, when a Federal soldier pointed out the fearful tableaux of death.
, on Bay Point
, had been silenced previously, and with less severe fighting.
It had sixteen guns of large calibre, garrisoned by five hundred men, who were soon convinced that the “damned Yankees,” as the negroes reported them to call us, were more than their match.
They ran in confusion, but one bold fellow returned to the largest gun in the fort and discharged it at us. The enormous rifle ball flew with a tremendous scream over the deck of the Bienville
and struck the after-port of the Augusta
, without, however, killing any one.
That shot was its last, for as it left the piece the gun burst, killing the man who fired it, and scattering missiles all around.
It was a magnificent cannon, and could not have weighed less than one thousand six hundred pounds.
In the forts and in plantation residences around, were found a mass of documents, letters of all descriptions, and officials papers.
A telegram was found, sent by Jeff. Davis
to General Drayton
, stating that from reliable information he had received, a fleet was about leaving New York, destined for Port Royal
This was dated about the first of the month.
The officers of Fort Walker
had established their Headquarters at a rich old plantation mansion, not far from the fort, on an estate belonging to a family by the name of Pope
Here was a splendid library, a mass of papers and documents, and a file of the Charleston Mercury
, for the last thirty or forty years. One was seen dated as far back as 1812.
The order of battle for the day was found, giving directions for the mode of repelling a Federal attack.
It appeared that they had been in constant expectation of our attack ever since the Bienville
first appeared off the harbor, on Monday, and had been busily preparing for us. A large quantity of love letters were discovered, from the Flora McFierys
and South Carolina
, to various officers and men stationed at the fort.
One was from a Georgia lady to her husband, telling him to remember that they had been married but six months, that he promised her not to go as a soldier, and that somehow or other he must get away as soon as possible.
There was something ambiguously added about longing for his embraces, and if he has continued running at the rate with which the Georgians and South Carolinians started, he doubtless enjoys them by this time.
It was evident that the garrisoned rebels had large reinforcements close at hand, awaiting an opportunity to come to their aid should their services be required.
Those reinforcements were kept in the background, to keep our forces ignorant of their strength, and draw us, as was believed, to destruction.
The result showed that they calculated without their host.
Our cannons produced a most.
devastating effect upon their crowded columns, who were hid among the trees, killing them right and left, and putting them to rapid flight.
All about the woods for two miles the bodies of the killed soldiers were to be found, and manifold indications of a hasty retreat.
These reinforcements were stated at ten thousand men.
I should have stated, in a former part of this letter, the attempt of the rebels to destroy their forts and the capturing party by blowing up their magazines.
At Fort Walker
a fuze was lighted and attached to the magazine, but it was discovered in time and extinguished.
At Fort Beauregard
a pistol was arranged to be fired by the opening of a door, and when the Federal party landed it exploded the magazine — killing, however, only two men, and blowing up the rickety old house in which it had been deposited.
Their intention was thwarted as much by their own haste to get away as by the carefulness of our men, as the thing was very bunglingly arranged.
As soon as the negro slaves observed us coming on shore they flocked along the banks in great numbers, some bearing parcels and bundles as if expecting us to take them at once to a home of freedom.
Every variety of negro and slave was represented.
I say negro and slave, for it is a melancholy fact that some slaves are apparently as white as their masters, and as intelligent.
Darkies of genuine Congo
physiques, and darkies of the genuine Uncle Tom pattern, darkies young and jubilant, darkies middle-aged, and eager, and gray-haired, solemn-looking fellows.
Some appeared mystified, and some intelligent.
The quadroon and the octoroon, possessing an undistinguishable tint of negro blood mingled, one drop with seven of Southern nativity and ancient family, formed, to speak mildly, an interesting scene.
As fast as the contraband article came within reach, it was placed in the guard-house, an old frame building behind Fort Walker
Here quite a collection was made.
They were huddling together, half in fear and half in hope, when a naval officer of the Bienville
looked in upon them asking, “Well, well, what are you all about?”
“ Dat's jest what we'd like to find out, mas'r,” was the response.
The officer assured them that they would be kindly taken care of and perhaps found something to do, and need not be alarmed.
“Thank God for dat, mas'r,” was the reply.
On drawing them into conversation, they said
that they caught a great deal of fish in Port Royal harbor, fishing at night, after the plantation work was over.
Two slaves were found reconnoitring about on their own account, and on being brought into camp, explained that they belonged to Mrs. Pinckney
, of Charleston
, and came down to “see what de white people were all about.”
They said that the white people all ran away when the ships came up, crying, “Great God!
are coming; fire the boats.”
Other slaves reported that “when the white folks see the little boats coming up, dey laffed at dern, but when dey see de big checker-sided vessels comin‘, they laffed on de oder side der moufs.”
The number of slaves will probably increase each day, and the importance of their aid must be great.
Soon after landing, a detachment of men proceeded up to Beaufort
, and found it tenantless except by one dilapidated person, who presented some traces of cultivation, and of having been an original South Carolina
gentleman, but he appeared to be either paralyzed by drunkenness or fear, and it probably was not the latter.
He met the Federal
troops on the outskirts of the city, and with hat in hand, and gently swaying from side to side, hiccupped out a few undistinguishable words as they passed in. The remnant of secesh chivalry excited only the risibles of our men as they raised, with many cheers, the Stars and Stripes over Beaufort
As I close my long and hasty letter, troops are being landed from the transports to occupy and repair the forts and positions gained by their bravery and valor.
They are encamping in a sweet-potato field, the edibles of which they will soon, doubtless, exhibit a fondness for. General Sherman
's Headquarters are at the mansion-house lately occupied by the officers of Fort Walker
Over its roof the Stars and Stripes of the Union
now wave, and our victorious troops gaze on it with full, gushing hearts, and songs of exultant triumph.
Journal of the Vanderbilt.
on board steamer Vanderbilt, Tuesday, October 29.
At half-past 4 this morning the signal gun for getting under way was fired from the U. S. steam-frigate Wabash
, Commodore Dupont
At five there was a general weighing of anchors, and the Wabash
steamed out at half-past 5.
As the sun rose the whole fleet was under way, the weather being delightfully clear, a light breeze from the west, and no clouds.
Some delay occurred in getting the fleet in proper order, but at ten the Commodore
's ship was off Cape Henry Lighthouse, the fleet following in regular order.
At two o'clock P. M. Cape Henry Lighthouse was out of sight, the fleet bearing due south.
Whether beautifully clear; wind from the west; no clouds, and the sea but slightly ruffled.
The fleet, consisting of about fifty steamers and transports, all in sight, and retaining their order, according to brigades, presented a most magnificent sight.
The low shore of Virginia
is dimly visible at the right, and fast receding from sight.
At three o'clock P. M., two of the propellers we brought with us relieved two of the blockading squadron on this part of the Virginia coast
, and the two vessels relieved are following with us.
At sunset we were off the North Carolina
coast but out of sight of land.
At eight o'clock P. M. the whereabouts of the fleet could be traced by the lamps in the rigging, the horizon all around being dotted with lights, bearing steadily south, and weather unchanged.
Wednesday, October 30
.--A beautiful clear morning; wind from the southwest; but few clouds.
The headway was but a few miles an hour all night, and the vessels have changed position considerably.
, instead of being in the lead, is in the centre, the Vanderbilt
being ahead, and several vessels six to ten miles ahead.
About forty vessels in sight.
.--The vessels of the fleet have resumed their position of yesterday, the Wabash
in the lead, off Chicamacomico Inlet.
P. M.--Off Cape Hatteras
, but cape not in sight.
Weather clear, wind moderate, and sea not very rough.
P. M.--Wind increasing and sea rough.
Thursday, October 31
.--A high wind from the southwest prevailed all night.
Headway slow; making but two and a quarter miles an hour.
The wind has now fallen considerably, and has changed to the west.
.--In the Gulf
Weather warm; sea smooth; progress slow — only forty-four miles south of Hatteras
P. M.--The afternoon has been lost in lying by, waiting for the fleet to come up. The Baltic
and nine other vessels have been missed, and the Atlantic
sent back for them.
Friday, November 1
.--The Atlantic has come back with the missing vessels.
had been aground near Hatteras
Fleet all in sight; wind high from the southeast, and considerable sea running; weather cloudy.
. P. M.--Wind increased to a gale; sea very rough, and vessels all laboring heavily.
Signalled from the Wabash
to keep further off the coast.
No observations for latitude to-day.
P. M.--Wind so high that we had to cut the hawser towing the Great Republic.
. 2.--The gale eased up during the day, but is worse than ever during the night.
It has scattered the fleet in all directions, and not a vessel is in sight except the Great Republic.
We are now steering west across the Gulf
stream, having run out east during the night.
Sea rough, and soldiers suffering severely from sea-sickness.
P. M.--Still heading west; dead wind ahead.
By observation at noon we are about sixty miles from the North Carolina
coast, and making for land.
As we have been running west all day, we must have been out to sea pretty far. Seven of the fleet are now in sight, and others expected to appear at intervals.
Sea continues rough.
P. M.--The storm having scattered the fleet, the sealed sailing orders were opened to-day, and it was found we were ordered to land at Port Royal
, near Savannah
We have been running southwest since three o'clock. The wind has fallen, and the sea is much smoother.
. 3.--The storm is over, and the weather to-day is again warm, and the sea smooth.
We ran slowly all night southwestward, and since daylight have been running rapidly.
, with one of her smoke-stacks carried away, is to the larboard; the Atlantic
and Daniel Webster to the starboard.
A. M.--Seven vessels in sight ahead.
A. M.--Have reached rendezvous, and are now lying by South Carolina
coast, dimly seen to the starboard.
Eleven of the fleet in sight.
Waiting for the fleet to come up. No sign yet of the Wabash
P. M.--Fourteen of the fleet around us. Still lying to. No tidings of the Wabash
The Winfield Scott
has just come up, nearly wrecked in the gale of Friday night; she had to cut her masts away, and her bow is badly stove in; she was compelled to throw over her three rifled-cannon, all her freight, the muskets and equipments of her five hundred men ; every thing but rations for her troops, to keep her from going to pieces.
At midnight of that night she had five feet of water in her hold, and but for the labors of the soldiers in baling out, her fires must have been extinguished, and nothing then could have saved her. During the night the gunboat Bienville
came to her relief; and as soon as she came alongside the chief-engineer
of the Scott
and his assistants, and thirteen of the crew, jumped on board, abandoning the Scott
to her fate.
This came near leading to a panic among the soldiers, who gave up all for lost when they saw the crew fly; but the captain of the Scott
went on board the Bienville
, and, with the assistance of her officers, put the chief-engineer
in irons and brought him and the runaway crew back.
Things then went on better, the soldiers behaving remarkably well.
, of the Thirtieth Pennsylvania regiment, five hundred of whose men were on board, describes the night as a most fearful one.
The gale was terribly severe; the boat was a mere shell; the terror of the men as the timbers cracked and the masts went overboard; the despair when it was announced she was leaking badly, and the panic when the crew attempted to escape — all combined to make it a night of anxiety and horror.
The Winfield Scott
has just been taken in tow by the Vanderbilt
, and will leave with us in the morning.
The Governor, a light-boat, seventeen years old, from Long Island Sound
, with fifty marines on board, was seen during Friday night with her Union down and firing guns of distress.
The Winfield Scott
was bearing down to her when one of the gunboats made for her, but the captain of the Scott
is unable to say whether she was relieved or not. She probably foundered.
Her loss, with the wreck of the Scott
, is the only injury we have heard of by the storm.
All the small vessels which have come up describe the gale as terrific, creating scenes of confusion and alarm on every boat containing troops.
. 4.--We are again under way, bearing nearly due west.
Twenty vessels in sight, but the Wabash
has not yet been seen.
We are now but a short distance from Port Royal
Weather fine, and wind off-shore.
.--Off Port Royal
Thirty-eight of the fleet arrived and in sight, and the Wabash
and the gunboats among them.
The Governor went down with twenty men on board, the Pembina
taking off all who were able to escape.
No word yet of the Union
, R. B. Forbes
, and Ericsson
The gunboats are now feeling their way up the river, sounding and marking the channel.
The only sign of the enemy so far is a little tug, which came down far enough to catch sight of the fleet, and then put back.
P. M.--It has been a most beautiful day, scarcely a breath of air stirring, and the water as smooth as a mirror.
The gunboats are now moving up toward the river, followed by the smaller vessels of the fleet.
P. M.--Three small vessels have just put off from shore to meet our gunboats.
, and Unadilla
are in the lead, and the Pawnee
in the rear.
The three rebel boats open on ours, firing three rounds, all of which fall short.
answers, then the Curlew
and the Unadilla
, and then the Pawnee
, each feeling the way, and firing closer to the enemy at every shot.
After exchanging shots for half an hour or so, none of which seemed to hit on either side, the rebel boats drew off and showed a clean pair of heels, making up Port Royal River, where two other vessels were lying, which did not come within shooting distance.
It was now sundown, and by the time our gunboats, the Curlew
in advance, had chased them out of sight and got abreast of the little town at the mouth of the river it was dark, and the firing ceased.
There was no firing from the land batteries, and no guns on shore were visible.
Seen from a distance, the interchange of shots presented a beautiful sight.
The calm, clear atmosphere rendered it easy to see a great distance; and as the rebel gunboats, after receiving a few shots uncomfortably near, took to their heels, there was a general
cheer through the crowds in the fleet anxiously looking on.
P. M.--There is a general preparation going on for landing the troops in boats to-morrow for a land assault.
. 5.--The cannonading was resumed this morning and continued till eleven o'clock, and apparently without effect.
None of the rebel shots have struck our boats, and we could see none of ours strike them.
The three rebel boats came down again this morning, and opened fire spitefully but at long range — every shot falling short.
Our boats, which anchored last night on the spot they had driven the rebel boats from, worked up abreast of Port Royal
, answering the enemy's shots without much effect; and when opposite the town a battery of two guns on the shore opened on them, followed by two guns on the shore on the opposite side of the river's mouth.
The guns opposite Port Royal
were too weak to do any harm, every shot falling far short; and several shots from the foremost of our gunboats seemed to weaken their fire considerably.
The guns in Port Royal
had nearer work of it; but all the shots went over the fleet, doing no hart.
The rebel boats kept a safe distance from the forward gunboats of our fleet, and finally sneaked off up the inlet behind the town, the firing ceasing all around about eleven o'clock, our boats maintaining their anchorage abreast of the town.
and the other vessels-of-war have just moved up to the scene of conflict, cheered by the men in every vessel as they pass, their crews cheering lustily in return.
She anchored at least three miles from shore, the water being evidently too shallow to allow her to go further.
The vessels with troops are getting their boats out ready to land.
P. M.--The fleet has been inactive all day since the war vessels moved up. The Ericsson
is aground on the bar outside, and has Hamilton
's battery aboard, and the need of this battery has prevented a landing to-day.
. 6.--The fleet has been inactive all day, but there has been a great deal of preparation going on. On shore, on both sides.
of the river, the enemy is very busy.
Their half-dozen river steamers, all armed, have been running all day, bringing in troops and guns, and getting ready for an obstinate defence.
Our fleet is anchored in the bay, just beyond the mouth of Port Royal River.
There are two islands at the mouth of the river--one on the north and one on the south, opposite each other, and there are strong batteries on both.
That on the south has apparently over twenty guns, and that on the north over fifteen guns.
Which one the fleet will attack perplexes the enemy; but he has apparently concluded that the heaviest attack will be on the south side.
The inlet behind the north island leads north to Beaufort
, and that behind the south island leads south to Savannah
this morning, the fleet moved up and attacked both forts, directing its heaviest fire upon that on the south island.
The batteries replied vigorously, but were badly handled, and their shot nearly all fell short.
The fleet, on the contrary, poured in upon the south battery a perfect shower of iron hail.
The gunboats rendered excellent service, every shot almost telling, while the Wabash
, and Vandalia
poured in most effective broadsides.
About 1 o'clock P. M. a white flag was visible on shore.
The firing then ceased, and the commodore's gig went ashore from the Wabash
with a white flag, and found the fort abandoned.
The American flag was immediately hoisted, and as it once more floated in triumph over the soil of South Carolina
, it was greeted with deafening cheers by the anxiously awaiting masses on board the fleet, and all the bands, as of one accord, struck up our national airs.
Our loss was only one killed and nineteen wounded. The Seminole
had four or five shots planted in her hull.
is disabled in her machinery, by balls which penetrated her hull.
The dead and wounded of the enemy cannot now be ascertained.
Eight dead bodies were found on landing, and two sick in the hospital.
The wounded (and probably many of the dead) were carried off. Twenty guns and two howitzers were captured, and large quantities of ammunition.
The garrison was eight hundred yesterday, and reinforced by five hundred last night.
A perfect panic seems to have seized them when the shot came in hotly on them.
Where they are, cannot yet be ascertained.
Our gunboats have gone up the southern inlet to cut off their retreat.
The northern island was abandoned by the enemy at the same time.
It has a battery of some fifteen or twenty guns, which we shall take possession of in the morning.
This victory was won altogether by the fleet.
New York times narrative.
I shall endeavor to give a faithful narrative of the conflict, its attendant circumstances, and such other matters as may seem to be of interest.
The day itself was more beautiful, if any thing, than the finest with which we had been favored since our arrival at Port Royal
The wind, blowing gently from the northeast, scarcely caused a ripple upon the water, and the sky was only flecked here and there with a feathery cloud.
Early in the morning the rebel gunboats took up the position which they had occupied on other days at the entrance of the bay, while as many as seven rather large river steamers, coming from behind the headlands, passed backward and forward in the offing, occasionally approaching the fortifications on either side, and communicating by means of a row-boat with those on shore.
Some of these vessels had brought reinforcements from Charleston
the larger number were crowded with excursionists, from all the country round, who had come to witness the utter humiliation of the “Yankees” and the destruction of their fleet.
One of the steamers is believed to have had the Consuls of England
on board, for she displayed the flags of those nations, as well as the rebel ensign, and taking a position beyond the reach of danger, remained until the victory was won.
At 9 o'clock, the fleet was signalled from the Wabash
to raise anchor, and in rather more than half an hour afterward, all the vessels were in motion.
They moved slowly toward the land, cautiously feeling the way with the sounding line, arranged in two columns, of which the first was led by the flag-ship, and the second by the Bienville
The first column comprised the Wabash
, and Vandalia
, in tow of the Isaac Smith
The gunboats Penguin
, and R. B. Forbes
, followed in the track of the Bienville
Sufficient space was given each vessel, in order that the fire from one column might not interfere with the operation of the other.
It was well understood that the Commodore
intended to fight at close quarters, and the fact intensified the interest everybody felt in the approaching conflict.
As the fleet moved majestically on toward the foe, the few minutes consumed in getting within range of the batteries seemed dreadfully long to the spectators, who watched in deep suspense for the commencement of the fight.
At length, precisely at five minutes before 10 o'clock, the Bay
Point battery opened its fire upon the Wabash
, and that at Hilton Head
followed almost within a second.
The ships were then nearly midway between the hostile guns, and scarcely within range.
For a minute they made no reply; but presently tile Wabash
Then grandly she poured from both her massive sides a terrible rain of metal, which fell with frightful rapidity upon either shore.
The other vessels were not slow in following her example, and the battle was fairly begun.
From my point of observation, on board the Atlantic
, which had been taken as close to the combatants as was consistent with safety, in order that Gen. Sherman
might witness the proceedings, it was apparent that few of the shells, which at first were the only projectiles used, burst within the fortifications.
The guns had too great an elevation, and their iron messengers went crashing among the tree-tops a mile or two beyond the batteries.
The same was the case with the rebels, whose shot passed between the masts and above our vessels.
The frigates and gunboats each having delivered their fire, which mainly in this round was directed against Bay Point
, passed within the bay, indifferent alike to the bursting shells, humming projectiles, and hot round-shot which the rebels furiously discharged, breaking the water into foaming columns everywhere around them.
It was, I believe, part of the plan of battle to engage the batteries alternately, and the vessels preserving their relative positions, were to move in circles before the foe. This mode of procedure was decided upon, because the current sets swiftly in the straits between the fortifications, which are about two miles and three-quarters apart, and it was impossible, even had it been desirable, for the vessels to remain stationary long enough to silence one battery before attacking the other.
Something occurred, however, to change these arrangements a little.
It is true the larger vessels followed the Wabash
, from first to last, in the prescribed way, and the Bienville
, leading the second division, gallantly maintained the position which had been assigned to her throughout the entire action; but the gunboats, finding that they could bring a destructive enfilading fire to bear upon Hilton Head
, by stationing themselves in a cove, about a mile's distance to the left of the fortification, took that position, and performed most efficient service.
, perceiving the good result of the manoeuvre, permitted them to remain.
was brought as near Hilton Head battery as the depth of water permitted; while soundings were given and signals made during the whole time the ship was in action, as regularly as upon ordinary occasions.
Within a distance of nine hundred yards from the rebel guns, the Wabash
threw in her fiery messengers, while the other frigates, no further away, participated in the deadly strife; and the gunboats, from their sheltered nook, raked the ramparts frightfully.
Thus the fire of about fifty guns was concentrated every moment upon the enemy, who worked heroically, never wavering in his reply, except when the Wabash
was using her batteries directly in front of him. Then it was too hot for flesh and blood to endure.
Shells fell almost as rapidly as hail-drops within, and for a mile and-a-half beyond the battery.
As they struck and ploughed into the earth, a dense pillar of sand would shoot upward, totally obscuring the fortification, and driving the blinded gunners from their pieces.
In describing their circuit and delivering their fire, the vessels consumed rather more than an hour for each round.
Little more than half of this time, however, was spent in getting into position; for gliding slowly around, perhaps entering the bay beyond the fort half a mile, just far enough to permit the safe turning of his immense ship, the commodore brought her back, and repeated from his starboard battery, until the guns became too hot to handle, that devastating fire.
What is true respecting the firing of the Wabash
is also true respecting the Susquehanna
, and the rest.
Each vessel discharged her broadside at the shortest possible range, loading and firing again and again, with all the coolness and precision exercised in target practice, before she passed the battery.
But the enemy was by no means inactive.
He offered a stubborn and heroic resistance.
Looking through a powerful telescope belonging to the engineer officers
of the expedition, I saw, when the ships were approaching the battery the second time, two men wearing red shirts.
They had been particularly active, and now sat at the muzzle of a gun, apparently exhausted, and waiting for more ammunition.
This terrible fire from the fleet was falling all around them, but they moved not, and I doubted if they were alive.
Finally they sprang up and loaded their piece — a shell at that instant burst near them, and they disappeared, doubtless blown into atoms.
I heard frequently, during left, the hottest of the fight, most unqualified expressions of approval for the manner in which the rebels served their guns.
That their marksmanship was good, the torn hulls and cut rigging of our vessels,, rather than the number of killed on board, furnish full evidence.
After the second round had been brilliantly fought on both sides, the Wabash
gave a signal to the vessels which had been most actively engaged, to cease firing and give refreshments to their men. Accordingly the steamers repaired to a point beyond reach of the batteries, and the poor sailors — nearly exhausted with their work — satisfied their hunger and gratefully accepted a few moments' repose.
Then it was that the gunboats did their most efficient cannonading.
Their shell and round shot flew straight across the parapet of the fortification, driving the men from their guns and making dreadful havoc.
The little steam-tug Mercury
, Master Commanding Martin
, gallantly steamed into a shallow bay to the left of the fort, not more than half a mile distant, and presenting her diminutive figure to the rebel guns, opened upon them with her thirty-pounder Parrott
, which was fired rapidly and with good effect.
From her proximity to the fort, Capt. Martin
was probably the first to see that the rebels were preparing to evacuate the place.
In rear their of the fortification, extending about three-fourths of a mile, is a broad meadow bounded by dense woods.
Across this open space the enemy was carrying his dead and wounded, and wagons were hurriedly removing the equipage of the camp.
The Mercury, steaming closer to the shore, found that the battery had been deserted, and immediately took the news to the flag-ship, which, by this time, with her sister vessels, was coming up like a destroying angel to renew the conflict.
The commodore almost simultaneously received confirmation of the tidings from other sources, and even while listening to the words of the messenger, the rebels struck their flag.
The signal to cease firing was at once hoisted, and it being precisely a quarter to three o'clock, the bombardment had been nearly five hours in progress.
The flag-ship lowered a boat and sent it ashore, carrying a flag of truce in the bow, and our own proud banner at the stern.
Its mission was to inquire if the enemy had surrendered.
Commander John Rodgers
, a passenger on the Wabash
, who had come down to join his vessel, the Flag
, now blockading off Charleston
, and had been acting during the fight as aid to Commodore Dupont
, was assigned the duty of taking the flag ashore.
Himself and crew were unarmed, but they found no one to receive them.
He planted the American
ensign upon the deserted ramparts, and took possession of the rebel soil of South Carolina
in the majesty of the United States
Another and larger Star-Spangled banner was afterward displayed upon the flag-staff of a building a few rods to the where the rebel standard had waved during the combat, and whence it had just been taken down.
and his gunboats disappeared in the early part of the engagement.
He sent a few shots toward the fleet, but as usual his boats were not near enough to do us injury.
Much regret was felt that neither of our fast steamers pursued and captured the Commodore
He would have been an interesting prisoner.
Among the papers found in the secessionist garrison was one from Mr. Tatnall
, in which he promised emphatically to General Drayton
, who commanded the rebel forces, that his gunboats should be brought down from Savannah
, and that they should share the fate of the forts.
The promise was kept and the fate was shared — the latter much earlier than was necessary.
Ten thousand eager eyes beheld our flag as it was planted upon the parapet, and who shall describe the enthusiasm with which the sight was greeted?
Cheer followed cheer from the men-of-war, and were echoed by the transports in the distance.
Tears of joyful pride filled many an eye; hands were cordially shaken, heartfelt congratulations for the glorious victory were expressed.
Some, in the exuberance of their exultation, danced wildly and clapped hands, until it seemed doubtful whether they would ever cease their antics.
Nor was the ebullition of patriotic fervor at all decreased when the regimental bands, with earnest feeling, as if by a spontaneous impulse, all struck up “The Star-Spangled banner,” the majesty of which had been so signally vindicated.
The transports had been lying during the engagement with their anchors “hove short,” ready to run up to the fort with their troops at the first sign of victory.
Immediately they got under way, steaming quickly along through hundreds of shell cases, which, having been emptied of their contents, were thrown overboard, and now dotted the smooth water for miles around us, telling as plainly as words of the large number of shots that had been fired.
As the transports passed the ships which had participated in the glories of the day, cheer after cheer was cordially given by the soldiers in acknowledgment of the dauntless courage which had resulted in such a victory, and the enthusiasm was undiminished until long after
our anchors had been dropped, a few hundred yards from shore, and the boats were being collected for the purposes of disembarkation.
The limited means for landing made the operation one of the slowest and most tedious I have ever witnessed.
The surf and flat boats first went alongside the steamers containing Wright
's brigade, and one regiment was put on shore before any attempt to move another was made.
I must be permitted to remark, without intending to be offensive, that soldiers on shipboard are awkward enough, but pack them closely in a small boat and they seem to lose all control over their limbs, so that nothing whatever can be done with them.
This characteristic intractability was not lacking on this occasion, and it seemed that each particular man took ten minutes to get himself on board after the order to enter the boat was given.
Adding to the delay was the fact that the beach shelved so gradually that none of the loaded boats could approach it within fifty yards or more; and the soldiers, therefore, had to divest themselves of shoes and stockings, and flounder through water up to their knees.
Leaving these unfortunate creatures with my mind filled with misgivings as to the consequences should the rebels rally to attack them in their unprepared condition, I sauntered into the fort and examined it.
It was then in charge of Lieut. Barnes
, of the Wabash
, who had been sent on shore with his battalion, consisting of seventy sailors and fifty marines.
Sentinels were pacing upon the parapets and at the approaches to the work, and pickets were stationed about two hundred yards from the outer limits, on the flanks and at the rear.
Evidences of the wild confusion — nay, the abject terror — in which the rebels had left the fort, were abundant everywhere.
There were twenty-three guns in the fort, only three of which had been dismounted by our fire, and not one of the remainder had been spiked.
Several, indeed, were loaded, ready for our men to defend themselves in case they should be attacked; while the magazines, of which there were three in the fort, contained ammunition enough to withstand a very long siege.
The encampment, consisting of about eighty tents, to the left of the fortifications, indicated, if any thing, more plainly than the fort, how hurriedly its late occupants had decamped.
Most of the tents had been undisturbed.
Officers' furniture, uniforms and other clothing, dress swords, small stores, with here and there an article which told that even in camp the warriors had not been wholly bereft of the society of their wives, mothers, and sisters — were left as significant tell-tales of a sudden departure.
Over the meadow, to which I before alluded,were scattered blankets, knapsacks, (some of which, singularly enough, were recognized as those which had been cast away by our panic-stricken troops at Bull Run
,) muskets, bayonets, cartridge-boxes, and a few dead mules and broken vehicles, not camp wagons, but family carriages, which had been used to carry away the dead and wounded.
I was afterward told by a negro — a slave — who gave himself into custody, that the rebels, believing their position to be impregnable, and confident of sinking the ships, had invited the ladies of the neighborhood to come down and see our chastisement.
Many did so, and the broken carriages in the field had conveyed them thither, but in view of the unexpected result of the fight, these vehicles were devoted to the use of the wounded.
There was plenty of testimony regarding the destructiveness of our fire — not alone from the prisoners, of whom about twenty fell into our hands, but also from the very earth itself, where numerous deep and long furrows, caused by ricochetting shells, and fragments of jagged iron, in countless quantity, told mutely and more impressively.
Eight dead bodies, some shockingly mangled, were found within the fort.
One was that of a young officer, whose legs had been shot away.
There was a mangled arm in one place, half-buried in the sand, and in another, near where the huge guns lay prone with their carriages shattered, were mangled pieces of flesh immersed in gore.
I saw still other sickening things.
Commander Charles Steedman
, of the Bienville
, himself a native of Charleston
, with that humanity which is ever the handmaid of bravery, assumed the task of interring the remains of those South Carolinians who had fallen.
This was accomplished in as respectable a way as circumstances permitted, and the Episcopal
burial service was read by the chaplain of the Wabash
Meanwhile, as the troops landed, they scattered themselves about the encampment, apparently under no control of their officers, but possessed with the one idea of plundering the property which the rebels had left.
This conduct was utterly inexcusable, as the victory had been won without their slightest aid; but, for a while, nothing but pillaging went on. The soldiers were eclipsed, however, in their disgraceful deeds by the crews and some of the officers of the transports.
These last, not content with securing a slight memento of the fight, filled their boats with trunks, muskets, and other “portable property,” which they placed on board their ships, and then returned for more.
It was painful to witness the wanton destruction of clothing, which the ravagers trod under foot after they had obtained it from trunks that were broken open in their desire to find more valuable spoils.
The free use of whiskey, which was found in abundance among the officers' stores, began to have its effects upon the men; and, finally, only after stringent measures had been resorted to, was some degree of order restored.
I learned that the tars who landed earliest obtained some splendid trophies.
The most elegant was a sword, with silver scabbard and
hilt; the blade, containing two golden lines of Arabic characters, denoting it to be a Damascus steel — probably an heir-loom.
This, with a large Confederate flag, and the standard which Capt. Rogers
planted on the parapet of the fort, beside two pretty brass field-pieces, go to Washington
as presents to the Navy Department.
I went into a house — the only building in the vicinity having any architectural pretensions — and found that it had been used by the rebels for a hospital.
There were three rebel soldiers there, two of whom were brothers, named Lewis
and William Noble, and the other called himself James Darragh
William seemed to be very ill, almost at death's door, from the effects of typhoid fever, and Lewis
, who had been nursing him, preferred to be taken prisoner rather than desert his brother.
Of the other man I learned nothing.
They were dressed in very dingy gray uniforms, and seemed not at all troubled at the fortune which had befallen them.
The sick man said there was no medicine at the post, and he had suffered for the lack of it, adding that the surgeon told him there was nothing else to do but to trust in God.
These men formerly were laborers in the turpentine woods of North Carolina
, but coming down to Charleston
some months ago, were impressed into the rebel service.
Both admitted that they had had enough of secession.
gave me some information respecting the number of troops at the post, and upon other subjects, which I have since had an opportunity of verifying.
The fortifications at Hilton Head
and Bay Point
were commenced as early as last July, and since that time the Ninth South Carolina Volunteers, Col. Heyward
, and the Twelfth, Col. Elliott
, have been stationed here.
These troops were under the command of Brig.-Gen. Thos. F. Drayton
, whose residence is upon Hilton Head Island
, and who was present during the bombardment.
This Gen. Drayton
is said to be an accomplished soldier, having had the benefit of a West Point education, and a singular circumstance of the battle was the fact that his brother, Percival Drayton
, commander of the United States
war steamer Pocahontas
, was arrayed against him. As soon as the fleet made its appearance off Port Royal Bay, Gen. Drayton
sent to Charleston
for reinforcements, and the day previous to the fight five hundred German artillerists, commanded by Col. Wagner
, came down.
Five thousand more troops, under Gen. Ripley
, were expected; but for some reason they failed to appear, and the South Carolinians were forced into the fight with less than two thousand men at both their positions.
H. J. W.
National Intelligencer account.
We reached this point on Monday morning last, after encountering a violent gale, (on Friday the 1st instant,) which dispersed our fleet, and caused the loss of four of the vessels composing it, viz., the Peerless
, and Union.
Of these the two former were abandoned at sea, the crew of the Peerless
being saved by the gunboat Mohican
, the captain being the last to leave the wreck, and then astonishing his rescuers by boarding them with his trunk
. The crew of the Governor
and the marines embarked on it, under the command of Major Reynolds
, (with the exception of about a dozen of the latter,) were likewise rescued by the frigate Sabine
, of the Charleston
Of the Osceola
nothing definite is known.
The Union is reported to have gone ashore and its crew taken prisoners by the rebels.
By Wednesday most of the surviving vessels were safely anchored within the bar of the Port Royal
On Tuesday morning a reconnoissance was made by Gen. Sherman
, resulting in the discovery of a formidable battery at Hilton Head
, on the south or left of the entrance to Broad River
, and two others on the opposite or northern side of said entrance, which is about two miles in width — the one exactly on Bay Point
, the other on the curve of the bay, about a mile nearer the ocean In the vicinity of all the batteries rebel camps were plainly visible.
During the three days succeeding our arrival rebel gunboats were discovered through our glasses — some coming from the direction of Beaufort
and others from Savannah
— running down occasionally from Parry Island
, which faces the entrance, into the outer harbor, and even stopping to send boats ashore to the batteries.
After they had sufficiently roused our patriotic indignation by flaunting their rebel banners in our faces, some of our gunboats were sent up on Monday evening to disperse them.
Considerable firing ensued, but it was at sufficiently long range to be, as far as we know, altogether harmless: the rebels retiring as our gunboats advanced, as if for the purpose of enticing them within the range of their batteries on Bay Point
With this exception nothing occurred to enliven the interval of delay, during which, however, much work was quietly done in surveying and sounding the channel, collecting accessories to our naval force from the blockading squadrons off Charleston
, and Savannah
, arranging the preliminaries for an attack on the batteries from the water, and the subsequent, or possibly contemporaneous, disembarkment of the troops for the purpose of holding what the navy had acquired, or to aid in extirpating the enemy should he prove more than a match for the navy.
The impatience of the military was beginning to display itself, when a grand council of war was held on the Wabash
, (the fla-ship of Corn.
,) at which Generals Sherman
, and Wright
were present, soon after which, on Wednesday evening, it was
whispered about that an engagement would take place on the following morning.
On Thursday the sun rose in an unclouded sky, a gentle breeze stirred the waters of the harbor in which lay rocking on the tide about fifty vessels, of every shape and size, from the little Mayflower
, which showed by her shattered paddle-boxes how gallantly she had braved the stormy Atlantic
, to the giant steamer (Vanderbilt
) by her side, which had so much excited our admiration by towing with apparent ease, through the opposing waves and howling winds of the previous Friday
, her noble sister the Great Republic, which was now coming up the bay; the smaller vessels of the naval squadron were forming into line in obedience to the order signalled from the Wabash
; the transports were crowded on deck, and shroud, and spar with soldiers and officers of every grade; glasses were in great demand, and every eye was strained to witness the impending conflict.
At length the Wabash
, which had been prepared for action two days before, was observed in motion; steaming slowly in on the northern side past the Bay
Point batteries, followed by the Susquehanna
, (in tow of the Isaac Smith
, and others.
A few shots were exchanged with the battery on their right and with the rebel gunboats that hovered around below Parry Island
; but it was not until they had rounded above in a graceful sweep, and returned seaward past the Hilton Head
fort, that our ships appeared really in earnest.
The guns of the Wabash
were opened upon this battery a few minutes before ten A. M. After delivering her broadside, she turned her head toward the centre of the channel, up again on the Bay Point
side, again rounding above and returning as before to throw another torrent of shells into the enemy's position.
The remaining ships-of-war followed her in beautiful order, so that while one was resting her men and cooling her guns, another was belching forth with terrible precision on the camps and cannon of the foe.
From twelve to two o'clock the firing from our side was perfectly terrific, and after the latter hour the enemy responded only at intervals.
At three o'clock (just five hours after the commencement of the engagement) a boat from the Wabash
was seen making for the shore, with a white flag at the bow and the American
ensign at the stern.
She soon touched the sandy beach, and a moment after we thought we could discern our flag upon the ramparts.
Our men could not help giving utterance to exclamations of hopeful joy; but the loss sanguine waited a few moments in eager suspense, until suddenly, from the roof of a conspicuous old mansion by the fort, a great flag, that could not be mistaken, displayed the Stars and Stripes in all their glory, in beautiful contrast with the green woods beyond.
The unwonted emotion with which the assembled thousands beheld the emblem of their country's power floating serenely over the “sacred soil” that first dishonored and defied it, was quickly evinced by the loud and repeated cheers which rang from vessel to vessel throughout the magnificent harbor.
Our joy was tinged with a feeling of sorrowful apprehension for the many who, we supposed, had helped to attain this result by the sacrifice of their lives; and it was not until a few hours later that we learned, with astonishment, that our loss in killed and wounded did not exceed thirty.
The enemy's loss is not exactly known, but is probably from fifty to a hundred.
They left their batteries in extraordinary haste, not even delaying to spike their guns.
Upon seeing the Hilton Head
battery abandoned, the rebel forces retreated from Bay Point
— their commander assigning as a reason, (in a note, subsequently found in the hospital, addressed to the General
commanding the forces of the United States
,) that they could probably find an opportunity elsewhere to render more important services to the cause of the Confederacy
than by endeavoring to hold a position which was no longer tenable, and thereby securing for themselves quarters in Fort Lafayette.
A great amount of property has fallen into our hands, comprising about forty guns of large calibre, considerable quantities of ammunition, provisions, tents, and personal baggage.
's brigade was landed on Thursday evening at Hilton Head
; that of Gen. Stevens
at Bay Point
early this morning; the rest of the troops will doubtless be landed to-morrow.
The work of the navy has been splendidly performed.
The army will now have to put forth all its energies to secure the foothold we have gained against the forces which we fully expect will soon be sent to “exterminate” us. Being already in possession of fine fortifications, ready made to our hands, beside having almost undisputed control of the waters around us, commanded by Generals
in whom we repose the fullest confidence, the forces now here will doubtless be able to maintain themselves against any force of the enemy.
But in order to avail ourselves of this point as a base of operations against Charleston and Savannah, should any such operations be contemplated, large reinforcements should be promptly forwarded
As a centre of operation by land or water, as a place of refuge for our blockading squadron, and for merchant vessels in distress, and as a port for the re-opening of the cotton trade, this position is unrivalled.
That the moral effect of the victory will be great, both at home and abroad, can hardly be questioned.
Hoping that a death-blow has thus been dealt to the cause of the rebels, and to the tyranny and misery which at present prevail here, I remain, with much respect, yours,
Cost of the battle of Port Royal
fired, during the entire action, nine hundred shots, being all eight, nine, ten, and eleven-inch shells, with the exception of a few rifled cannon projectiles of a new pattern, and which were used simply as a matter of experiment.
fired three hundred shots, the Bienville
one hundred and eighty-five, and the average of the gunboats and the other smaller ships may probably be set down at one hundred and fifty each.
There were, in all, sixteen vessels engaged on our side, and probably from all of them were fired not far from three thousand five hundred shots and shell at the two forts, Walker
, the four-gun battery, and the three steamers.
The battle of Port Royal
may be set down as having cost the country not less than twenty-eight thousand dollars. Reckoning, then, a few items of this battle, beginning with the immense cost of this fleet, which has been preparing since August last, the pay of the soldiers, the value of their food, and the expense of the two lost vessels on a very moderate scale, it will be seen that battles are an expensive amusement, even for a “great country.”
A few, a very few, items of the expense of the show would foot up something like this:
|Rent of vessels,||$3,600,000|
|Pay of soldiers, etc.,||630,000|
|Value of rations consumed,||320,000|
|Value of clothing worn out,||165,000|
|Value of powder burned,||28,000|
|Value of the Governor and Peerless,||160,000|
, Nov. 18.
A rebel account.
The following particulars of the battle of Port Royal
have been received here up to three o'clock P. M.:
, of the Berry Infantry
, and other officers who were in the engagement, have arrived in the steamer Sampson
, which brought a number of the wounded up to the city.
The action took place on Thursday, between a portion of the enemy's fleet, consisting of fifteen vessels inside the entrance, and Fort Walker
, beside a large number outside the island.
There were five hundred men in Fort Walker
, which was the total force engaged with the enemy, there being but about one thousand eight hundred men, all told, on the island.
The steamship Minnesota
(Wabash) was the first to enter the port, which engaged Fort Walker
, discharging shot and shell from three positions, front and rear, beside discharging a terrible hail of shot and shell into the woods and thickets, as also into a cotton field outside the fort, where our men were stationed, expecting the enemy to land from their transports.
After the second round from the broadside of the fleet, the principal gun of the battery was dismounted.
The engagement lasted five hours, and all of our guns on Fort Walker
excepting two being dismounted, the fort was no longer tenable.
Previous to the concentration of the fleet, however, an arrangement was made for the blowing up of the magazine, in case the enemy, on taking possession, should attempt to open it. Our men outside of the fort were exposed to a heavy fire during the whole action, without any means of defence or protection.
The whole number of killed, wounded, and missing, did not exceed one hundred men. The names of the missing and wounded, as far as we have been able to collect them, are as follows:
Berry Infantry: Sergeant T. Parkerson
, wounded in the hand; private Hess
, wounded in the foot, slightly.
Georgetown Forresters: two missing.
Volunteers: J. W. Fontaine
Seventeenth Patriots: private A. Thompson
South Carolina Volunteers: Captain Radcliffe
, Company A; two missing.
regiment: fifteen missing from one company.
We learn, in addition, that Dr. Buist
, of Charleston
, was killed by the explosion of a shell in Fort Walker
, while dressing the wounds of a soldier.
Lieut. T. H. Smack
, of the South Carolina Volunteers, was struck in the leg, below the knee, rendering amputation necessary.
The total number killed in the fort was about fifteen.
In Capt. Reid
's company of regulars there were sixteen killed, wounded, and missing, out of forty-eight. Private Kelly
, while working one of the guns in the fort, had his head shot off. Capt. Reid
's company, immediately on landing, pushed through the enemy's fire into the fort, and worked the guns of their battery in an admirable manner for four hours, and were highly complimented by the Commanding General
They drew their brass pieces on retiring twelve miles, and then abandoned them.
's company of artillery was also engaged in working the batteries, and behaved with the utmost coolness and gallantry, and did effectual service.
was slightly wounded in the face, and the blood was trickling from the wound as he was working the battery.
One of Gen. Drayton
's aids was shot from his horse, and a piece of shell grazed the General
He received also a slight wound in the arm. The force on the island consisted of Heyward
's Nineteenth, and De-Saussure
's and the Fifteenth South Carolina Volunteers, Style
's Twenty-seventh Georgia regiment, and a company of regulars.
The men were taken off the Bay
Point battery to the mainland.
No particulars relative to this battery have been received, only that it had been in constant action, receiving and returning a heavy fire.