The battles of 1861.
report of Col. R. G. M. Dunovant, Twelfth regiment South Carolina volunteers.
Headq'rs 12th Reg't S. C. V., Camp Lee, Pocotaligo,
Nov. 16th, 1861. Capt. H. E. Young
, Assistant Adj't General
On the 26th of October last, I assumed command of the forces stationed on Bay Point Island
, consisting of three companies of the 9th regiment, to wit: the Beaufort Artillery, Capt. Stephen Elliott
, Colleton Rifles, Capt. Anderson
, and Capt. Harrison
's company of Infantry; six companies of the 12th regiment South Carolina volunteers, to wit: company A, Capt. McCorkle
; company C, Capt. Davis
; company D, Capt. Booktus
; company E, Capt. Hinson
; company F, Capt. McMakin
, and company I, Capt. Vallandingham
; and a small detachment of Capt. Screven
's, of Beaufort Guerillas, under Lieut. Youmans
My staff consisted of Lieut. W. H. Talley
, Adjutant: Dr. E. B. Turnipseed
; Capt. T. J. Bell
, Quartermaster; Capt. E. A. Rabb
, Commissary; Rev.
C. B Betts
, and Mr. Robert Chisholm
, volunteer on staff.
The entire force on the island, inclusive of field, staff and company officers, was six hundred and nineteen. Lieut. Colonel Barnes
, of the 12th regiment, was placed in command of the six companies of that regiment, and Capt. Anderson
's company, then at the Narrows.
was assigned to the command of the work known as Fort Beauregard
, with his own company and Capt. Harrison
The detachment of Capt. Screven
's company was ordered to report directly to me.
Monday, the 4th inst., the enemy's fleet made its appearance early in the morning, and crossing the bar, came to anchor to the south of an opposite the island, but made no further demonstration of an attack on our position during that day.
In the afternoon, Com. Tatnall
, with three small steamers, attacked the nearest of the enemy's vessels, and after sustaining a heavy fire, and replying most gallantly, retired slowly up the river.
Tuesday morning, in view of the uncertainty of the point and mode of attack, the following disposition was made of the companies of the 12th regiment: companies A and D were posted in rear of a range of sand hills, distant about two hundred yards from Fort Beauregard
, for the purpose of protecting that work, in case of an attempt of the enemy to land.
Companies C and E took position near Capt. Anderson
's company, at the Narrows, and companies F and I were held at the camp of the regiment, being about equidistant between the detachments, so as to support either.
Between seven and eight o'clock, Com. Tatnall
's steamers again advanced and engaged the enemy, who met the attack in such numbers, and with such weight of metal, that the little steamers were compelled again to retreat above the forts.
The enemy followed, firing upon the steamers till within range of our guns, when Fort Beauregard
joined in the conflict and drew a heavy fire of shot and shell, principally the latter, upon that work and the other portions of the island occupied by our troops.
This engagement lasted nearly two hours, when the enemy's fleet withdrew and assumed very nearly its former position, opposite our island, which it retained for the remainder of the day.
The only casualties on our part were those stated in Captain Elliott
's report, herewith transmitted, as resulting from the explosion of a caisson.
The unfavorable state of the weather prevented any further action of the enemy on Wednesday.
Thursday morning, however, the wind fulled and the water was unusually smooth; of this the enemy availed himself, and at 8.30 A. M., the fleet of war. vessels, headed by what is supposed to have been the Minnesota
, bore towards the northwest, till reaching the main channel, they moved directly towards our batteries.
As soon as they came within range, Fort Beauregard
opened upon the vessel in advance, which, being seconded by Fort Walker
and replied to by the enemy, the action became general.
About the time of the first movement of the fleet, it having been reported to me that barges filled with troops were leaving the transports, which still occupied their position opposite the camp, in anticipation of an attempt to effect a landing in that vicinity, I ordered companies C and E, which had been withdrawn on Wednesday, back to a point near the earthwork at the Narrows, retaining at the camp the four remaining companies of the 12th regiment.
After, however, having made a careful personal observation of the movements of the enemy, and in view of their steady advance and heavy fire upon the western end of the Island
, I changed the arrangement of the force, throwing the four companies at the camp in the rear of the sand hills before referred to, near Fort Beauregard
, and withdrew, within supporting distance, the two companies of the 12th at the Narrows.
Thus the troops remained for several hours under a heavy fire of shot and shell, during which they exhibited great coolness and promptness in obedience to orders.
Notwithstanding the protection afforded by the sand-hills, many shot and shell fell around them, but fortunately without inflicting injury of any kind.
The batteries at Fort Beauregard
were worked with great gallantry, skill and energy, and the highest praise is due to Capt. Elliott
and his command, for the manner in which they discharged their important trust.
About 2 P. M. the fire of the enemy upon our batteries was slackened, and redoubled against Hilton Head
A little after 3 o'clock it was reported to me by Adjutant Talley
, that a boat was leaving one of the fleet for the shore of Hilton Head
, amid loud cheers from the former, and that Fort Walker
was silent; I at once proceeded to Fort Beauregard
, and after the colloquies accurately detailed by Capt. Elliott
in his report, ordered him to make arrangements for retreat from the fort towards the Narrows.
I then returned and issued the necessary orders for the evacuation of the island, and the force moved in good order towards the eastern portion of the island.
The only line of retreat lay across the strip of land known as the ‘"Narrows,"’ scarce fifty yards wide and one thousand long, to the main body of Eddings's Island, which is itself but an extensive swamp, entirely impenetrable save by a trail known to few, and of such extreme difficulty as to preclude the possibility of transporting baggage of any kind beyond what could be borne on the shoulders of the men. Of the character of the route and the consequent impracticability of transportation I had been fully advised, and therefore did not undertake the removal of camp equipage, stores or heavy baggage, nor did I think it prudent to destroy such property by fire, in as much as the retreat was at best of doubtful feasibility, and the nature of the movement would have been thereby revealed to the enemy, and its success still further jeoparded, if not entirely frustrated.
I believe that in consequence of the manner in which the evacuation of the island was effected, it was unknown to the enemy until it had been fully accomplished, and this conviction is strengthened by their failure to take advantage of the entire command of Station- creek and Beaufort river
, to cut off the retreat at Jenkins's Landing, and especially at Whitehall Ferry.
The body of the command reached the landing at Station creek
and crossed to Dr. Junkins
's plantation during the night, and after resting a short time at the latter place, resumed the march for Beaufort
, where it arrived early Friday morning. The town was deserted by the white population, and no representative of the Quartermaster
's or Commissary
's departments, or other person in authority, could be found; I was therefore under the necessity of assuming the responsibility of taking for the use of the troops such provisions and necessaries as their condition imperatively demanded; and had I known the amount and nature of the stores, might have saved much public property which has probably fallen into the hands of the enemy.
I proceeded with the command to Port Royal Ferry, and thence to this place, regarding the latter as an important point of defence, and at the the same time one from which I could readily open communication to procure the necessary supplies for my command.
In consequence of the intricacy and difficulty of the line of retreat, some officers and men, detained by their duties, lost their way; but all these have since rejoined their respective companies.
There is but one man whom I am under the necessity of reporting as missing; as to the particulars of this case, I refer you to the accompanying report of the efficient surgeon of the 12th regiment, herewith submitted.--Some muskets were left, but only those which had been drawn for enlisted men who were at the time absent by reason of the severe epidemic which had thinned our ranks during the previous month.
No soldier threw away his arms.
In regard to the manner in which the retreat was arranged and effected, justice to myself and others requires that I should add a word of explanation.
Having received no instructions as to the mode in which the island of Bay Point
should be defended, nor of the contingencies upon which it should be abandoned, with no arrangement for receiving orders by means of signals, or otherwise from headquarters, and totally without information of any plan devised or facilities provided for the retreat of my command in case of disaster, I felt that these circumstances imposed upon me the obligation of endeavoring to secure some means of evacuating the island in the event such a stop should become necessary.
Accordingly, the state of facts above referred to continuing, on Tuesday I went in person to Captain Elliott
, who, perhaps, was more familiar with the localities than any other person, and after learning from him in answer to my inquiries that a retreat was practicable through Eddings's Island if boats and flats could be secured to take the forces across Station creek
, I instructed him to select some prudent and trusty person to superintend the collection of the necessary means of transportation at the landing on Eddings's Island. The Rev. Stephen Elliott
was chosen to discharge this important duty, and left on Thursday morning for that purpose.
Fortunately, Captain Thomas Hankel
, Mr. Henry Stuart
, and Mr. W. H. Cuthbert
, of Beaufort
, had already secured a large number of flats at Dr. Jenkins
's landing for the purpose of taking them to some point on Eddings's Island for our relief.
; informed them of the plan agreed upon, and thus, through the co-operation of these gentlemen, and the valuable assistance of Captain Tripp
and his command, the evacuation of the island was effected.
I communicated the plan of retreat to none save Captain Elliott
, the Adjutant
and the Quartermaster
Lieutenant Colonel Barnes
, commanding the quarter portion of infantry, was prompt and energetic in executing the orders for the movements of his immediate command.--From the nature of the attack the forces at Fort Beauregard
were the only active participants in the engagement, and I cannot close this report without drawing special attention to the high qualities of the officer exhibited by Capt. Elliott
commanding that work.
Compelled from the necessities of our position to act the part of engineer, ordnance officer, and commander of the fort, he exhibited an energy and intelligence in preparing the batteries for the fight which were only equalled by the gallantry and firmness of the defence.
A I the members of my staff did their duty.
, Captain Bell
, and Rev. C. B. Betts
the chaplain, frequently sent with orders to various parts of the island during the bombardment, executed their trust in a manner entirely satisfactory to
and his detachment were efficient in the performance of the part assigned them.
To Lieutenant Johnson
, of the Beaufort Artillery, the command is under obligations for valuable services rendered at the ferry across Station creek
, and to Captain
Thomas R. Elliott
for similar aid in passing Whitehall ferry.
The reports of Captain Elliott
and Surgeon Turnipseed
are herewith respectfully submitted.