The battles of 1861.
report of the Bombarument of Forts Walker
and Reauregard on the 7th November, 1861, Thomas F. Drayion
. Brigadier General
Head'rs Provisional forces, 3d military District, Dep't S. C., Camp Lee, Harderville,
Nov. 24th, 1861
to Captain D. D. Walker
, Ass't Adj't Gen
't, Charfestion, S. C.: Sir:
I have the honor of presenting my official report of the engagement on the 7th inst., between the Federal fleet, numbering fifteen war steamers and gunboats, and Forts Walker
, upon Bilton Head and Bay Point
, at the entrance of Port Royal Sound
The fleet was commanded by Captain S. F. Dupont
, flage Officer of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and the troops on board the transports by Brigadier-General Sherman
the distance between the Forts
is by coast survey 2-5-8 miles.
the enemy's fleet had been collecting in our waters since the morning of the 4th instant, and had increased in the afternoon to thirty-two war steamers and transports.
on receiving a dispatch to this effect from Colonal William C. Heyward
, commanding the troops at Camp Walker, I left my headquarters in Beaufort
and repatred by steamer to Bay Point
, which I reached at 6 P. M, passing on the way the ever-watchfull little fleet of Flag-Officer Tainall
, Confederate States
after remaining in consuitation until 1:30 A. M., with Colonel R. G. M. Dunovant
, commandant of the Port, I took my depature, leaving him such General instruction as the uncertain mode and direction from which an attack might be expected would permit.
I then visited Commodore Tatnail
, and after an interchange of views, took leave, crossed over to Hilton Head Island
, landed there at daylight on the 5th, and immediately dispatched a courier to Braddock's Point
, couth end of the Island
, ordering Captain Stuart
's company, 9th regiment, to march on Fort Walker
, and embark thence to strengthen Captain Elliott
's guners in Fort Beauregard
This company did not leave on the 6th as proposed, as Captain Sassard
, of the steamer Edisto
, falled to comply with his or ders to carry it across early in the morning.
They were dispatched, however, by the first steamer at my disposal on the 7th, and before they had reached half way across the Bay
they were out off from Bay Point
by the advancing fleet of the enemy, and obliged to seek shelter in Skull creek
, where Captain Stuart
disembarked his whole command in safety.
on inspecting Fort Walker
shortly after my arrival, I found twenty guns of various calibre mounted upon the ramparts, thirteen of which were on the Channel battery, viz:
one 10-inch columbiad in the centre, flanked to the right by five 32-pounders and one 9-inch Dahlgren
rifle cannon, and to the left by six other cantion in the following order:
one 32 pounder, one 8-inch columbiad, three 42 pounders, and one rifled 24 pounder.
|North bastion||1 33-pounder.|
|South bastion||1 32-pounder.|
|South bastion||1 8-inch howitzer.|
|South bastion||1 long 12 pounder.|
|South flank of bastion||1 navy 32-pounder.|
|Redan||1 havy 8-inch howitzer.|
of these eight guns, one in the North
bastion and two in the South
flank could occasionally be used against the ships of war; the rest were for the land defence.
to man the guns within the fort, and for an infantry reserve outside, we had, until reinforcements came from Savannah
on the afternoon of the 6th, two companies of Col. Wagoner
's 1st regiment artillery, S. C.
|militia, numbering||152 men.|
|Three companies, Col. Heyward's 9th|
S. C. V.||210 men.|
|Four companies of Col. R. G. M|
|Dunovant's 12th Regt. S. C. V.,|
|under Major Jones||260 men|
There were stationed on the beach at Camp Lookout, six miles off, Capt. J. H. Screven
's mounted gurillas, numbering 65, who acted as scouts and couriers.
About 9 o'clock A M, of the 5th, Commodore Tatnall
, who had boldly attacked the enemy's gun boats on the previousday, again gallantly steamed out to exchange shots with them, but he was met by too large a force and therefore retired slowly behind our forts.--The enemy followed and engaged both batteries for about forty-five minutes with no other injury than three men slightly burnt in Fort Reauregard from the explosion of a caisson struck by a rifle shell.
On the 6th instant, the fleet and transports, which had increased to about forty-five sail, would probably have attacked us had not the weather been very boisterous.
In the afternoon, about 4 P. M., we received our first reinforcements from Georgia
, four hundred and fifty infantry, under command of Captain Berry
C. S. A., and Captain Read
's battery of two 12-pound howitzers and fifty men.
I have reason for supposing that this assistance would have arrived sooner, for Gen. A. P. Lawton
, commanding Provisional forces in Georgia
, wrote from Savannah
to Col. W. C. Heyward
on the 4th inst., 8.30 P. M. as follows: ‘"From a dispatch received to-day from Gen. Ripley
, I infer that you (Colonel H. C. Heyward
) have been sufficiently reinforced from his command until the plans of the enemy shall be more fully developed."’
Two hours after the gallant Georgians
came to the rescue, I received the welcome intelligence that Col. DeSaussure
's 15th regiment South Carolina volunteers, six handred and fifty strong, had landed at Seabrook
's Whaif, upon Skull creek
, and were close at hand.
At last the memorable 7th dawned upon us, bright and serene, not a ripple upon the broad expanse of water to disturb the accuracy of fire from the broad decks of that magnificent armade, about advancing in battle array, to vomit forth its iron hall with all the spiteful energy of long-suppressed rage and couscious strength.
At 9.25 A. M., one 9-inch Dahlgren
gun opened fire upon the sixty-gun steamship Wabash
, flag-ship of Captain S. F. Dupont
, which led the van, closely suceeded by fourteen other large steamers and gun-boats.
The shell from the Dahlgren exploded near the muzzie, and was harmless.
Other shots followed from both forts, and soon the fire became general on land and water.
In spite of our fire, directed with deliberation and coolness, the fleet soon passed both batteries, apparently unharmed, and then returning, delivered, in their changing rounds, after rific shower of shot and shell in flank and front.
Besides this moving battery, the fort was enfiladed by two gun-boats, anchored to the north, off the mouth of Fish Hall creek, (F H) on sketch, and another at a point (C) on the edge of the shoal to the south.
This enfilading fire on so still a sea, annoyed and damaged us excessively, particularly as we had no gun on either flank of the bastion to reply with; for the 32-pounder on the right flank was shattered very early by a round shot; and in the north flank, for want of a carriage no gun had been mounted.
After the fourth
fire, the 10-inch columbiad bounded over the hurter, and became useless.
The 24-pounder rified cannon was choked while ramming down a shell, and lay idle during nearly the whole engagement.
The shells for the 9-inch Dahigren
were also too large; the fourth shell attempted to be rammed home could not be driven below the trunnious, and was then at great risk discharged.
Thus far the fire of the enemy had been endured and replied to with the unruffled courage of veterans.
At 10.30 our gunners became so fatigned that I left the fort accompanied by one of my volunteer Aids, Captain H. Rose
, and went back to Captain Read
's battery, (one and three quarter miles in the rear of the fort,) and brought the greater part of his men back, to take the places of our exhausted men inside the fort.
It was while thus engaged with Captain Read
's company that Col. W. H. Stiles
rods up and reported his regiment about two miles off. I instantly directed my Aid, Lieutenant Drayton
, to accompany Col. Stiles
to the road along which his regiment was advancing, and to statio it in position by the side of the other Georgia
On entering the fort with Capt. Read
's company they were cordially greeted by both officers and men.
The vigorous attack from the fleet continued unabated, with still no decided damage to any of their ships.
About 12.30 P. M. I again went out of the fort, with my Assistant Adjutant-General
, Captain Young
, for the purpose of mustering together the infantry and reseves, and have them in readiness for any eventuality.
Before leaving, however, I turned over the command to Col. Heyward
, with directions to hold out as long as any effective fire could be returned.
Having mounted our horses, we rejoined the troops near hospital No. 2.
I received information through one of the videttes that a steamer and small boats were sounding close to the besch; I detached Capt. Berry
, with three companies of his battalion, under the guidance of Captain Ephraim Harnard
, volunteer Aid, by a road marked K, to watch the enemy, heat them back if they attempted to land and give notice if be wanted support.
I then with my the
through ignorance of our island roads, had lost their way and had not yet come up.
On the road marked D, leading to whar' on Skull creek
, about one-fouth of a mile from Fort Walker
, I unexpectedly met General Repley
Saluting him, I inqured if he visited the island to assume command, and whether he wished to go back with me into the fort?
He said no, but that he would return to Coosawhatchie
to collect and brigh back two or three regiments to my support.
We them moved from under the fire of the ships to the shelter of some myriles, where we could not be seen.
I then stated to him the iccidents of the morning; how the men had fought; that the day was going against us; and that I was then collecting my forces for any emergency that might arise, and if compelled to defend the island, it should be retained to the last extremity.
We then parted, he taking the road towards the ferry, and I in pursuit of the purposes which brought me out of the fort.
On reaching my reserves, at Hospital No.2, I learned that the enemy had ceased making soundings, and had gone back to sea; whereupon, I dispatched Capt. Read
to order Capt. Berry
to return from the beach.
Two o'clock had now arrived, when I noticed our men coming out of the fort, which they had bravely defended for four-and-a-half hours, against fearful odds, and then only retiring when all but three of the guns in the water front had been disabled, and only five hundred pounds of powder in the magezine — commencing the action with tow hundred and twenty men inside the fort, afterwards increased to two hundred and fifty-five, by the accession from Read
These heroic men retired slowly and sadly from their well-fought guns, which, to have defended longer, would have exhibited the energy of despair rather than the manly pluck of the true soldier.
The defence of this post involved a twofold preparation:
First, to repel the attack from the fleet; and second, an assault by the beach from the troops upon the transports.
By the beach we had to provide against an attack from the north, under cover of the luff south of Fish Hall creek, (marked on map F. H.,) and from the south (S,) by the beach, under cover of the woods between, (J, and S,) where a picket of 15 men were posten under Capt. Paul H. Seabrock
; and lastly, by the road marked (K) leading from the beach to the 2d hospital. T. guard agains surprise, either by Fish Hall creek or by the beach at (J and S,) when I was returning to the fort with a portion of Capt. Read
company, I at the same time led up Col DeSaussure
's regiment to the hollow (marked P) west of the wood, and directed them to lie down.
They were perfectly masked from the fire of the fort, But not from that of the fleet, for the watchmen at the mast-heads gave notice of their position, competting Col DeSaussure
after a short time to fall back under a heavy fire to a less dangerous locality.
Had the entrenched camp, with store houses and magasines, been made in time, several lives and large quantities of public property might have been saved.
But it was impossible to have made this within the short time and with the diminutive force at my disposal; for on my arrival at headquarters in Beanfort, on the night of the 17th of October, the number of troops at camp Walker were but three hundred and sixty-two, afterwards increased on the 24th to six hundred and twenty-two, by the accession of four companies under Major Jones
, of 12th regiment South Carolina voluntters.
To this may be added the Engineer
force of some sixty men, who, with the soldiers, worked incessatly day and night.
As for evidence of what they accompished, the eight inch columblad, on the water front, was only mounted on the first of November, one eight inch howitzer in the sallent of the south bastion, mounted on the 4th; one thirty-two pounder on the right flank of the bastion mounted on the 5th; one eight-inch howitzer mounted on a ship carriage; embrazure cut through parapet of demilune; on the night of the 5th covered way and hot shot furnace for forty-two pounders; censtructed of earth and dry masonry — on the morning of the 6th--together with was of moss and hay for same, splinter proof, occupying only onehalf terreplein behind the principal traverse — which was finished on the morning of the engagement, (7th instant,) the material not having arrived before the 4th instant.
The retreat was commenced about three P. M., towards Ferry Point
, about six miles off, Col. DeSaussure
's regiment and Capt
's company of artilery bringing up the rear.
At 1.30 A. M., by the aid of Commodore Tatnall
's fleet, the steamers St. John
's and Edisto
and three large flates, capable of holding one hundred and fifty men each, the troops were all safely embarked without provisions; no ammuntition but what was contained in the cartridge boxes, (the 100,000 cartridges I had made requistion for, and been anxiously expecting, not having reached us till after the battle.) Fearing hat our retreat would be out off by the enemy's gunboats at Skull creek
, no other after native was left but to leave the island and concentrate upon the mainland, where we would be enabled to fight the enemy on more equal terms, should he venture beyond the protection of his fleet and attack us there.
The muskets captured by the enemy, with the exception of some ten of fifteen, were those left in the fort, shattered by shot and shell — other left in camp belonging to men on sick leave or to those engaged in heating hot-shot furnaces two days before the fight — and some boxes of arms which had been left on the wharf the night before the battle, belonging to the sick men of Colonel DeSaussure
's regiment, who had been left behind at Lightwood Knot.
These could have been saved, with a box of swords, if the captains of the steamers Edisto
and St. John
a had not refused to take them on board when directed to do so.
To Captain Tatnall
, Flag Officer
of the Confederate States
Navy, and the officers and men of his little fiest, I can not too highly express my adminration of their intrepidity and hardihood in attacking the enemy's gun-boats, on the 4th and 5th instant.
These encounters, by interrupting their soundings and the location of their buoys, no doubt prevented our being attacked on Turesday, the 5th instant, before our reinforcements reached us
I must also acknowledge the assistance extended to us by the gallant Commodore
with his boats on the night of our retreat from the island.
The attack upon this fort, though not so concentrated and heavy as that upon Walker
, was nevertheless very severe.
Its armament (see accompanying sketch) was nineteen guns, of which the following, viz:
One 8-inch Rodman
, bored to 24-pounder and rifled,
One 8-inch columbind,
Two 42-pounders, reamed to 8 inches, and
One 32 pounder, in hot-shot battery,
Were the only guns capable of being used against the fleet.
The force on Bay Point
was six hundred and forty men, commanded by Col. R. G. M. Dunovant
, 12th regiments S. C. volunteers.-- Of the above, one hundred and forty-nine garriosoned Fort Beauregard
, under the immediate command of Captain Stephen Elliott, Jr.
, Beaufort Volunteer Arti fery, Company A, 8th regiment S. C. volunteers.
The in fantry force of Col. Dunovant
's regiment was entrusted with the protection of the castern part of the island, and of the defence of the Bastion line of the Island
Narrows, where an attack was expected from the enemy.
Knowing how small a force Capt. Elliott
had to command his batteries, I ordered, as soon as I reached Hilton Head
on the 5th instant, Capt Stutt
's company, (Hamilton Guards,) 9th regiment South Carolina volunteers, to march upon Fort Walker
from Braddock's Point
, and take thence the steamer Edisto
for Bay Point
; but the failure of Capt. Sassard
, of the Edisto
, to fulfill his appointment at the hour designated, prevented me from supporting Capt. Elliottas
But on Thursday morning, 7th inst., having obtained the steamer Emma
, I dispatched Capt. Stuart
's company in her to Fort Beauregard
, The rapid advance of the enemy's fleet, howeve', to the attack on the batteries, cut off and compelled her, at the risk of being intercepted, to turn back and seek shelter in Skull creek
, on the shores of which Capt. Stuart
's company safely disembarked and joined me in the afternoon.
And here again was exhibited another act of heroism on the part of our veteran Commodre, who. to save the Emma
, interposed his own frail flag steamer between her and the advancing flag ship of Commodore Dupont
, drawing upon himself her entire broadside, and thus disverting this huge leviathan temporarily from her course, secured the safety of the Emma
at the peril of his own vessel.
The non-arrival of any reinforcements at Camp Walker, until the night of the 6th instant, also provented me from sending the four companies of the 12th regiment S. C. volunteers, under Major Jones
, to the support of the other six companies of the regiment at Bay Point
For the details of the engagement at this port, the notable examples of bravery, the general good conduct their well-timed retreat, in the direction indicated by the dotted red lines on the map appended, I bag leave to reter you to the official reports of Col Daungvant and Capt. Elliott
But among the many officers and men honorably noticed on this occasion in the official report of Col. Dunnvant
, of them are
bravery in front of the foe, but his opportunities enabled him to surpass all his brother officer in the skillful arrangement of his defences, superb condition of his batteries, and in the high discipline which he had imparted to his moced company the creation of his own indefatigable exer fone.
The delays and dangers incident to the manner in which troops and supplies of all kinds were landed at the forts of Port Royal
, and the absence of all means of retreat in case of disaster, had attracted my most serious attention immediately after I assumed command at Beaufort On the evening of the 17th ult. I immediately took steps for remedying the first and providing for the latter.
With the double object of landing supplies on all weather at Bay Point
, and at the same ime of furnishing the means of retreat beyond the range of the enemy's guns, I directed one of my volunteer aids, T. R. S. Elliott
, to make an examination of the adjacent creeks to the north of the fort.
He reported that about three miles from the month of Moss creek
there was a depth of water sufficient for steamers drawing seven feet, at low water; and that from thence a causeway of three hundred yards over the marsh might easily be made, and furnish a sure means of transportation, and thus avoid the losses and delays which had previously cocurered in landing from the steamels, into flate, upon the beach.
From the point above indicated, in Moss creek
, flats were to have been provided and stationed to convey the soldiers in case of emergency across the creek; thence by land to Station creek
, where other flats were to be placed for the same object as at Moss creek
landing at St. Helens, the transit to White Hall ferry, opposite Heaufort, was comparatively safe.
On Hilton Head
I also commenced repairing the wharf at Seabrook
's landing, on skull creek, with a view of transporting stores to Fort Walker
when the weather was too boisterous to land them in the suif.
Land completion of the wharit was prevenned, however, by the unexpected attack of the enemy.
Though in its incomplete state, it had been put to successful use.
I succeeded, howerver, in obtaining from Chaleston two flats and two troop boat and from Savannah
three large flate capable of containing one hundred and fifty men each, which reached Jeakins Island Ferry in time to assist in emberking our troops on the night of the retreat.
Three other smaller ones were sent at the same time to ‘"White Hall Ferry,"’ which assisted in performing he same good offices for Col Dunovant
The rest of the scheme, for went of time and flate, could not be cariled out in the manner I intended.
For the purpose of sending messages between Forts Walker
and Beanlegard, and thence to my headquarters it Beanfort, I had prepared, by the assistance of Cap. Lynch
, another of my aids, a number of signa flags, the designs of which had air-day been prepared and painted, and only needed a few more days to have been put into operation.
In alluding, as I have, to these matters, I do not me in to refisct upon any person, as to say these pressing wants could have been supplied anterior to the period when I entered upon my new duties.
My design has been to exhibit the condition in which I found my command, and to show that I have left no effort untried to improve it.
Notwithstanding the prompt measures adopted by Col. Dunovant
to effect his retreat in the direction of the Narrows, it is surprising that, with the knowledge possessed by the enemy, (through Mr. Boutelle
and others connected with the coast survey,) that his retreat had not been intercepted by gunboats passing up towards Beaufort
, and mine by other steamers taking the passage through skull creek, towards the ferry landings Why they did not adopt this course, must be left to time to explain.
The following is a correct list of killed, wounded, missing, and taken prisoners:
|Killed in Fort Walker||10|
|Wounded in Fort Walker||20|
|Killed in colonel DeSaussure's 15th regiment South Carolina volunteers,||1|
|Wounded in Fort Beauregard||13|
|Total Killed and wounded||59|
|Taken prisoners sick in hospital||8|
|Total killed, wounded, missing, and taken prisoners||66|
The helds of the Quartermaster
's and Commissary
's Departments, Major
and Capt. C. D. Owens
, have discharged their several duties with economy and fidelity.
The reports hereun to appended of these officers and their assistants show how unwearied and earcest were their efforts to save the public property left at the headquarters in Beaufort
I must likewise make honorable mention of Col. W. C. Heyward
, 9th regiment South Carolina volunteers, who commanded in Fort Walker
and its vicinity, and who, during the battle, made the best use of the means at his disposal.
Col. John A. Wagoner
, first regiment artillery South Carolina milica, supported by Major Arthur M. Huger
, of the same regiment, was placed in the immediate command of all the batteries, nine of which, upon the water front, were manned by the German artillery companies and B, Capts Harms
and werer, first regiment artillery South Carolinia militia, all of whom fought under the flag of their adopted country with an enthusiasm which could not have been urpassed had they been fighting in defence of their own fatherland.
The remaining four batteries on the left flank of the water front were under the direction of Captain Bedon
, ninth regiment South Carolina volunteers, the flanking and rear guns of the fort were mansed by detachments from Captains Bedon
's, Cannuady's, and White
's companies, ninth regiment South Carolina volunteers, Major
F. D Lee
, South Carolina
Englneers, and constructing engineer of Fort Walker
, not only fought gallatly at the batteries, but afforded valuable assistance at other points in work during he contest.
Captain Joseph A. Yates
, battalion South Carolina Artillery and acting orduance officer was zealous in the execution of the all the duties assigned to him. Towards the close of the fight he was severely wounded, but has since recovered, and is gain ready, in an other field, to resist all maranders that approach our shores.
and his able assistants, Drs
. W. C. Ravenel
and William Ellioti
a volunteer from Savannah, Georgia
, were present and rendered efficient service in the hospitals.
I cannot but regret the painful wound which has been the cause of the resiguation of D. Ogeer
as Medical Director
in my medecal district.
In conclusion, I cannot but express my high appreciation of the galiant behavious of my Capt. Henry
E Young and J. E. Drayton
; as also that of the gentlem comprising my volunteer staff, Captains Cheves
, H Rose, E. Lynch
, J. E. Eddings
, J. J. Middleton, Jr.
and Joseph M. Huger
The names of the officers and men not mentioned in my report, will be found deservedly mentioned in the official reports of the Colonels
of regiments, commandants of batteries, and chiefs of the general staff
I have the honor to be.
It might be proper to remark upon the within report, there are probably some in advertent in accurac as --or to give a report of movements and ordes from these head quarters, and instructions given after news was received that the enemy's fleet was intended, for Port Royal
, and how they were carried out and followed I deem, however, that no good would result to the service from a discusssion of these points at this time, and requesting that should it be thought proper to publish this raport.
it should be publisned with this endorsement,
It is respectfully forwarded.
(Sighed.) R. S. Ripley