Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 26/Heroes of Honey Hill

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[From the Charleston, S. C., Sunday News, Nov. 20, 1898.]


HEROES OF HONEY HILL.




MAGNIFICENT WORK OF THE FIELD ARTILLERY.




Brief Sketches of Stuart's, Kanapaux's and Earle's Batteries—An Enemy's Praise of the Conduct of the Confederates and their Management of the Fight—Splendid Discipline of the Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery Forces Engaged.


[Reference may be made to preceding articles by Hon. William A. Courtenay, ante pp. 52 and 62. This was received from the accomplished writer since they were printed although it preceded them in the date of original publication.

Whilst the articles are mutually illustrative they are not affected in their value by being printed as they are in this volume. Major Courtenay writes as to the artillery heroes of the Battle of Honey Hill: "It was just wonderful what the boys did—Why, a rabbit could not have crossed the road.—Ed.]

It is remarkable enough to be particularly mentioned that field pieces from three separate commands should have been brought together hastily for this fight, without opportunity of choice in guns or artillerists, and yet, had time and preference been possible, none better could have gone into action than those who so distinguished themselves at Honey Hill. Having gathered a good deal of information about the coast defence, and of this decisive battle, and believing that the particulars of each of these artillery commands would be interesting to the South Carolina public, I write this communication.


BEAUFORT VOLUNTEER ARTILLERY (STUART'S BATTERY).


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

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

No reference to the Port Royal battle can properly be made without mention of the artillery garrison on the Hilton Head side, which comprised the German Artillery batallion, Colonel John A. Wagener, from Charleston; Company A, Captain D. Werner, Lieutenants D. Leseman, G. Linstedt, F. W. Wagener; Company B, Captain H. Harms, Lieutenants F. Melchers, B. Meyerhoff (killed), H. Klatte; who as bravely shared the honors and sacrifices of that day. In 1871 General John A. Wagener was elected Mayor of Charleston by a very complimentary vote. The Federal fleet of eighteen ships, carrying 200 guns, sailed around an eliptical course, between the shore batteries, delivering their broadsides with terrible effect against the Bay Point and Hilton Head forts. It was a day of disaster to the Confederate arms; a most unequal combat, but the Beaufort and German artillerists stood at their posts of duty through the battle. The Wabash, the flag ship, it is now known, was struck thirty times and set on fire once; other ships bore the evidence of resistance to the invasion of our State. It was a grand fight between war vessels and land batteries, and yet I have never read any proper Confederate narrative of it.

The late Hon. William Henry Trescot, in his eloquent eulogy on General Stephen Elliott, thus alludes to it: "Early in November, 1861, the greatest naval armament the United States had ever put to sea was collected in the waters of Port Royal. It is strange now to think that with a year's warning, with full knowledge of the danger, the only resistance to this tremendous power was left to two earthworks, two miles apart, hastily erected by such civil skill as could be found, and with the aid of native labor from the adjoining plantations, and garrisoned by a few hundred citizens militia, who had never known a harder service than the weariness of a Governor's review. And still stranger that the neighboring population went on quietly with their accustomed life not a household disturbed, not a piece of property removed and all waited with undisturbed confidence the result of this desperate contest; but so it was. The attack opened soon after sunrise on November 7th, and for many hours the forts were exposed to a fire which, even in the annals of this war, was almost unparalleled. It was soon evident that all the soldiers could do was to show their powers of endurance; for by midday the forts were demolished, the guns dismounted, and the fleet safe within the lines of defence."

Soon after the abandonment of Bay Point, the Beaufort Artillery was thoroughly equipped as a light battery, and did most effective service on the coast line defence, being engaged in a number of combats, in which the company record was maintained on the highest plain, notably in the unequal fight at Pocotaligo. I cannot write of the Beaufort Artillery in this fight without further mention of it. I therefore digress for the purpose of showing the character of tin defence of our coast line; the heavy odds encountered in every effort of the enemy to break our lines. This was by no means the only affair of the kind; many similar attacks were made, but uniformly defeated. On the 22d of October, 1862, a Federal column under General Brennan, consisting of the following commands, advanced to seize the railroad at that point.

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

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

Cavalry, part of the 1st Massachusetts.

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

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

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

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


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

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


THE LAFAYETTE ARTILLERY (KANAPAUX's BATTERY).


This command dates its origin to the early years of the century, as "the Fusilers Francaise;" the company was composed of Franco-American citizens of Charleston, and very handsomely uniformed in blue dress coats, with buff breasts, such as are shown in pictures of Napoleon as consul.

As a boy, I have often seen the company parading as infantry in that beautiful uniform; a prominent corps, and was part of the escort to Lafayette in 1824. About the year 1840 it changed its service to light artillery, and was the first light battery seen on the streets of Charleston with guns and horses; followed soon after by the Washington Artillery, Captain Peter della Torre; the German Artillery, Captain John A. Wagener, and, after the Mexican War, the Marion Artillery, Captain A. M. Manigault. Not only was the "Lafayettes " the pioneer light battery in Charleston, but it was kept up with esprit de corps, and was a well-drilled artillery company. At the opening of "the war between States," it went into service under J. T. Kanapaux, a son of the early captain, Charles Kanapaux.

The records of the corps have been lost or destroyed, so that a full roster of commanders is not possible, but the following names are recalled: Victor Durand, Charles Kanapaux, Peter B. Lalane, A. Roumillat, Gustavus Follin, Charles Emile Kanapaux, J. J. Pope. 1 1, roes of J /.,.{ Hill. 287

From the beginning of the century, the French element of Charles- ton's population has been uniformly public-spirited and devoted to the best interests of city and State. The following were officers in 1861: Captain John T. Kanapaux; Lieutenants M. P. O'Connor, L. F. LeBlcux, G. W. Aimar, A. Victor Kanapaux. By assignment to special duties and other causes, changes occurred during the war, and at the date of the Honey Hill battle (1864) the following were commissioned officers: Captain John T. Kanapaux; Lieutenants, senior first, C. J. Zealy; junior first, A. Victor Kanapaux; second, T. W. Bolger.

Two guns and thirty-six men, under Lieutenant Zealy, were de- tached from Bee's Creek Battery and sent to Honey Hill. No pass- ing commendation does justice to that meritorious officer, Lieutenant Zealy, whose career in the war was marked by devotion to the cause and a cheerful and most efficient discharge of duty. If he had done no more than serve his guns in the desperate fight down the road in the morning fight near Bolan Church he would be entitled to the highest praise. He still survives; resides in Charleston, and is richly enti- tled to the "well done" of the community. The other two guns, under Sergeant Joseph Bock, acting lieutenant, remained in position at Bee's Creek, and the surplus men were equipped as infantry, un- der Lieutenant T. W. Bolger, as a support for the guns there. Cap- tain John T. Kanapaux remained in command of that post. An incident in the fight at Honey Hill in this Lafayette detachment is worth recording, showing the character and military spirit of the men. Sergeant Julius A. LePrince was at one of the guns; he was a sufferer from chills and fever, and that was the alternate day for his attack; sure enough, in the very midst of the fight the gallant ser- geant was shaking very perceptibly, and burning up with fever, but by sending spare men off to the rear, to fill his canteen with water, which he was drinking in large quantities, he kept to his gun. An officer finally noticed him and promptly said:

" Sergeant, you ought not to be here; go the rear! "

But the sergeant quietly remarked :

" If I go to the rear, shaking as I am, people might think I am scared ! ' '

He stayed by his gun until the action was over, late in the eve- ning.

My youthful friend of November 30, 1864, as modest as he was brave, who was then scarcely of military age, is now among the "Survivors" with streaks of silver in his hair; he will, I hope, ex-

238 Southern Hi^nriml Society Papers.

cuse me for publicly recording how he did his duty to South Caro- lina and the South, under very serious disabilities, in perilous times. As soon as it was possible after the election of Governor Hamp- ton, the " Lafayettes " resumed their position in the volunteer mili- tary of the State, and are still in that service.

THE FURMAN LIGHT ARTILLERY, (EARLE'S BATTERY.)

One day in 1862 a tall, well-mounted artillery officer rode up to my quarters, near Hardeeville, and inquired for me; he introduced him- self as Captain Earle; said that his light battery had been ordered to the vicinity, and asked my advice as to a good locality for a company camp. I mounted my horse and rode with him, pointing out differ- ent localities that were suitable, one was finally selected, and later in the day the command arrived. In the course of conversation Captain Earle remarked upon the disabilities encountered in drilling and preparing the men in the light artillery service. He had found it impossible to obtain a hand book for the light artillery drill, and had to be dependent upon such verbal instructions as he could obtain. By a singular coincidence I owned a copy of the very latest edition of the United States Light Artillery Manual, descriptive of and illustrated with plates of each and every part of the gun, carriage, caisson, projectiles and every detail of the drill, etc. I mentioned this, and said I would send to Charleston and get the volume for him. This I did, and I record here that I never in the army, or out of it, witnessed more painstaking, constant work done than went on in " Earle's Battery." Hour after hour, day after day, for months the drills were kept up, and the result was very soon seen one of the best disciplined and most efficient light batteries in the service. The personal friendship thus begun lasted uninterruptedly until Cap- tain Earle's recent lamented death.

The company known during the war as " Earle's Battery" was organized in August, 1861, by (Rev.) W. H. Campbell as captain, for service in Colonel Maxcy Gregg's infantry regiment. It soon attracted a large membership, and the lieutenants were: G. W. Holtzclaw, first; W. E. Earle, second; James Furman, third. There being need for artillerists, Colonel Gregg consented to release the command; in numbers it was large enough for two companies. Captain W. H. Campbell was promoted major, and Lieutenants Holtzclaw and Earle were made captains. Captain Earle's company as a compliment was named for Dr. James C. Furman, a prominent and highly esteemed citizen of Greenville city. Its three officers

Heron of //<.>/ /A'//. L':;'.

were Lieutenants James Furman, a son of Dr. Furman; E. H. Gra- ham, Jr., S. S. Kirby (Citadel, 1860), and Anderson. (In United States War Records and other war publications Earle's Battery is not reported at Honey Hill a strange neglect and unexplained.)

The battery at Honey Hill had Lieutenant Kirby sick in the hos- pital, and Lieutenant Anderson absent on leave. Sergeant J. P. Scruggs, acting lieutenant, was in charge of a gun on the extreme left of the line, commanded by Major John Jenkins. The other guns, with those of the "Beaufort" and " Lafayettes, " were in battery at the head of the Grahamville road. Earle's Battery was in a number of engagements on the coast line during the war; did tours of duty at Fort Sumter and at Battery Wagner, and was with the army when it surrendered at Goldsboro, N. C.

In conclusion, I remark that Captain Stuart was fortunate in his command, having the entire confidence of the well-drilled veteran artillerists guarding the key of the battle line at Honey Hill. I doubt if any better light artillery battle service was ever directed or per- formed in any war! The best evidence of this may be to take the enemy's account of it.

In Captain Emilio's (U. S. A.) book we get an idea of the confu- sion and demoralization caused by Captain Stuart and his artillerists at the head of the road after three hours' service of his guns. I quote:

"The 35th United States colored troops, Colonel Barber, charged up the road; it went forward with a cheer, but receiving a terrible fire, after some loss, was forced to retire." * * * "Colonel Hartwell, with eight companies 55th Massachusetts, ordered a charge in double column. Twice forced to fall back by the enemy's fire, their brave colonel gave the command, 'Follow your colors!' and himself led a charge on horseback; the 55th turned the bend, rushed up the road, and in the face of a deadly fire advanced up to the creek. But it was fruitless; the pitiless shot and shell so decimated the ranks that the survivors retired, after losing over one hundred men in five minutes! Colonel Hartwell, wounded and pinned to the ground by his dead horse, was rescued and dragged to the woods." " The noise of the battle at this time was terrific; the artil- lery crashing away in the centre, while volley after volley of mus- ketry ran down both lines, and were reverberated from the surround- ing forests." * * * "As we approached, they took off their hats and shouted, ' Hurrah! Here's the 54th! Go in, boys; no loading in nine times there.' "

240 Southern Historical Society Papers.

" At 1:30 o'clock I saw General Hatch speak to Colonel Bennett, chief of staff* who at once rode to me and said, ' Follow me.' I re- plied, ' I would like a moment to close up my men, Colonel,' when he said, in a most excited manner, ' General Hatch's orders are for you to follow me.' Well, after Bennett's remark I had only to fol- low, which I did. Arriving near the section of artillery, he said, 'Go to the rear of that battery, file to the left and charge!' I obeyed orders all but the charging! On the right of the battery I looked around and found Lieutenant Reid and eight men. How the cannon shot tore down that hill and up that road. I could see where the 55th had charged and the dead lying there. ' Wagner ' always seemed to me the most terrible of our battles, but the mus- ketry at Honey Hill! (' Georgians,' under Willis, Edwards, Wilson, Cook and Jackson, and '3d South Carolina cavalry,' as infantry, under Major John Jenkins responsible), was something fearful. The rebel yell was more prominent (artillery, cavalry and infantry, all re- sponsible) than ever I heard it! "

"GOOD MANAGEMENT OF THE ENEMY."

" It is only fair to say that the Confederate management seems to have been excellent from first to last. The energy which brought a force from Western Georgia to the coast of Carolina so opportunely that it got in position only ten minutes before the main action opened, the audacity and adroitness which checked the advance of a whole brigade for several hours with one (2) gun and a few dis- mounted cavalry, and the soldierly ability with which artillery and infantry were so handled, as to inflict a loss of 750 men, while losing only 50, all deserve the highest praise; on their side good general- ship, on ours the reverse."

On the day of Honey Hill the disastrous Battle of " Franklin " was fought; then quickly followed the burning of Atlanta, the fall of Savannah, the burning of Columbia, Averysboro, Bentonville and the surrenders at Goldsboro and Appomattox! The Confederate armies! how memory goes back to their wonderful achievements! Their high soldierly qualities! Their whole career, marked by a virile spirit; a decisive energy; a brave persistence; a patient endur- ance, which reflect the high military qualities of the men of the same race, "kin beyond sea," who won victory for Wolfe at Quebec! Made Ingliss hold Lucknow against fearful odds! and who planted the Cross of St. George on the walls of Delhi, in the midst of the mutiny! If a like success did not attend finally the grand achieve-

achievements of the soldiers of the South the causes may be traced, partly to disparity of numbers and resources, and partly to other serious disabilities of a different kind, which the loyalty of the armies to the and the forbearance of the people in their homes for the sake of "The Cause" have forbid all reference to or mention!

"Lee wore the gray! Since then
 'Tis right's and honor's hue!
He honored it, that man of men,
 And wrapped it round the true."

Wm. A. Courtenay.

Innisfallen, October, 1898.