Southern Historical Society Papers/Volume 02/October/Defence of Charleston from July 1st to July 10th, 1864
Defence of Charleston from July 1st to July 10th, 1864.
[The defence of Charleston, South Carolina, was one of the most important, skilful and successful military operations of the late war for Southern independence, and if its history be ever written by one competent for the task, it will form one of the most interesting and instructive narratives of that great struggle. The bitterest hatred of the North was directed against that city. Not only was it regarded as the hot-bed of secession, but here, too, "the flag" had been first fired on, and a strong and important fort had been wrested from the United States troops. Northern wrath broke, therefore, in all its force, on that unfortunate place, and the most strenuous efforts were made to capture it. Indeed, its capture seemed to be regarded as a point of honor and an act of retributive justice. During the early part of the war the eyes of all, in every land, who felt an interest in the struggle, were directed to it, and it was generally supposed that it must soon yield to the apparently overwhelming force that the enemy was preparing to hurl against it. Even four years later, when it seemed inevitable that the Confederates must abandon it, the General-in-Chief of the United States army plainly intimated to General Sherman that it would be well if he would utterly destroy it and sow the very site with salt. But in spite of all efforts for its capture, the Confederates held it securely more than four years and until within a few weeks of the close of the war, when disasters in other quarters rendered its occupation no longer desirable. How this was accomplished may well claim the careful study and labor of the military historian. As a part of the material for such a history, we present below General Jones' report and the accompanying report of General Taliaferro, of an important episode in the defence of Charleston.]
REPORT OF GENERAL SAM. JONES.
Headquarters Department of South Carolina,
Georgia and Florida,
Charleston, S. C., August 22d, 1864.
General—I have the honor to submit the following report of military operations in the vicinity of this place from the 1st to the 10th ultimo.
On the 1st ultimo three brigades of the enemy—Hatch's, Saxton's and Berney's—sailed from Hilton Head and united with the troops on Morris' and Folly islands and the naval force in an attack on the works defending this city. The land force, estimated at eight thousand men, was commanded in person by Major-General Foster, and the naval force by Rear-Admiral Dahlgren.
The general plan of the enemy seems to have been to make with the troops from Morris' and Folly islands and the navy such a demonstration on our works on the south end of James' island as to induce us so to weaken the east lines on the same island as to enable them to seize the important work, Fort Johnston. At the same time a column was to move up John's island and take position from which our works on James' island could be enfiladed and taken in reverse, and where batteries could be established nearer the upper part of the city than any they have yet established. The movement on John's island was to be covered and aided by a demonstration in force on the Charleston and Savannah Railroad in the vicinity of Adam's Run.
Accordingly, at daydawn on the 2d July, several regiments crossed over from Morris' and Folly islands to the south end of James' island, and after a sharp skirmish drove in our pickets and captured two field-pieces. At the same time two monitors and several gunboats steamed up the Stone river above Leganville, and opened a heavy fire on our works. Hatch's and Saxton's brigades located on Seabrook's island on the morning of the 2d, and Berney's sailed up the north Edisto and landed at White Point.
All of my available force at hand was immediately concentrated on James' island, and I ordered the First regiment Georgia regulars, three hundred men of the Fourth Georgia cavalry and three companies Third South Carolina cavalry—all dismounted from—Savannah and vicinity to John's island.
At daydawn on the 3d, about one thousand of the enemy in barges, from Morris' island, made a dash at Fort Johnston. They were handsomely and thoroughly repulsed by the garrison of that post under Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, First South Carolina artillery, with a loss to the enemy of one hundred and forty prisoners, including a colonel and five other commissioned officers, and many killed and wounded.
At the same time Berney's brigade advanced towards Adam's Run, but had marched scarcely six miles when it encountered at King's creek a battery supported by a platoon of cavalry which General Robertson had placed there, and after an hour or two of skirmishing, Berney fell back to White Point, re-embarked and rejoined Hatch and Saxton, who, in the meantime, had crossed from Seabrook's to John's island, and moved up towards Charleston. Our very small force (a thin picket line) on John's island retired skirmishing, and on the 7th repulsed a vigorous effort to drive them off, inflicting on the enemy comparatively heavy loss. The enemy, nevertheless, succeeded in gaining a position on the Stono, from which our works on James' island could be enfiladed and taken in reverse.
It was manifestly of the utmost importance that they should be dislodged and driven off John's island. The force at my command was so small, and, from the nature of the service, manning permanent batteries on along line of important works, that I could not concentrate on John's island a sufficient force for that purpose without endangering the most important line of works for the defence of the harbor; because, having command of the water and ample steam transportation, the enemy could, in a few hours and under cover of night, change his point of attack from John's to James' or Sullivan's island or the Edisto. I had reduced the force on Sullivan's island to the lowest point I thought admissible, to reinforce James' island, and every available man along the line of the Savannah Railroad had been ordered to John's island.
As soon as this movement of the enemy was known—2d July—I telegraphed General Johnston (repeating the telegram on the 4th), the War Department, and General Whiting, at Wilmington, asking for reinforcements. I also telegraphed General Chestnut to send me State reserves. General Johnston sent me two small regiments, the Fifth and Forty-seventh Georgia (the same that he had been directed some weeks before by the War Department to send to me in exchange for a brigade that I had sent to him), and General Whiting sent me two companies of artillery. I could obtain no State reserves. When the troops sent by Generals Johnston and Whiting arrived, I directed Colonel George P. Harrison to carry the Thirty-second (his own) and Forty-seventh Georgia regiments and Bonand's Georgia battalion to John's island, and report to General Robertson, commanding that district. With the force thus collected, though not more than a fifth of the enemy's force, as estimated, on the island, it was intended to attack the enemy on the morning of the 8th; but the steamer sent through Wappoo Cut to transport the troops getting aground, the attack was delayed. At daydawn on the 9th it was gallantly made, Colonel Harrison commanding the advance, composed of the Thirty-second and Forty-seventh Georgia regiments and Bonand's Georgia battalion. The enemy was driven from his first line of breastworks, but rallied behind a second, where he maintained his position until late in the evening, when he withdrew and embarked on transports in the Stono, and on the 10th sailed out of the river.
In the meantime, from the 2d to the 10th, the enemy's monitors and gunboats—the naval force has been increased to twenty-two (22) vessels—kept up a heavy fire on our lines and batteries, especially battery Pringle, which was returned with spirit and accuracy crippling and driving out of action one of the monitors. But the active operations of the enemy were abandoned after his reverse on John's island on the 9th.
The details of these operations are given by the reports, which are herewith forwarded, of Generals Taliaferro, commanding on James' and Robertson on John's island. I send also a copy of General Foster's confidential circular, found on the battle field, directing the sailing of the expedition, and a letter dated the 5th of July, and published in the New York Times, giving an account of the enemy's operations to that date. From these it will, I think, be seen that the expedition was one of considerable magnitude, from which much was expected. Officers captured concur in representing it as well and carefully considered and planned, and was confidently expected to result in the capture of Charleston. That it failed is due, under Providence, to the gallantry and good conduct of our officers and men.
Generals Taliaferro and Robertson, whose districts were attacked, were untiring in their watchfulness and efforts to defeat the plans of the enemy, and they were admirably seconded by their officers and men. Colonel George P. Harrison is deserving of especial commendation, first for driving back the enemy's line on James' island, and secondly for his gallantry and good conduct in the engagement on the morning of the 9th. General Ripley's lines on Sullivan's island were not attacked, but they were constantly exposed to attack, and the reduction I was obliged to make of his force to strengthen General Taliaferro imposed greatly increased vigilance and labor on him and his officers and men, which was met by them with alacrity. My staff officers performed their various responsible duties with zeal and intelligence. I am much indebted to Flag Officer J. R. Tucker, of the navy, for his ready and efficient co-operation. Besides his vigilance in watching the approaches to the harbor, he placed at my disposal a naval battalion armed as infantry (Lieutenant Dozier, Confederate States Navy, commanding), which served well and faithfully in the works on James' island, and he also reinforced Fort Johnston with a small detachment.
Your obedient servant,
To General S. Cooper,
A. & I. General C. S. A., Richmond, Va.
REPORT OF GENERAL W. B. TALIAFERRO.
Headquarters 7th Military District South Carolina,
James' Island, July 23d, 1864.
Major Stringfellow, A. A. G.:
Major—I have the honor to report the operations of the troops under my command for the eight days commencing on the 2d instant, during which time the enemy made several attacks at various points of this district, and a determined and persistent effort to reduce our Stono batteries, turn our southern lines of works, and to hold the upper Stono.
On the morning of the 2d, at daybreak, it being low tide, the enemy threw a considerable force upon the peninsula at the south extremity of this island, from Long and Dixon's islands. Driving in our cavalry videttes, they advanced rapidly upon the line of infantry pickets, stretching from Rivers' Causeway to the Stono.
Here they were met with a stubborn resistance by Major Manigault commanding; and on the left—the pickets being supported by Lieutenant De Lorme's section light artillery, with a detachment of siege train artillery, acting as infantry, Lieutenant Spivey—they were severaldriven back with great slaughter.
Unfortunately, Lieutenant De Lorme, whose gallantry was conspicuous, over-confident of his ability to repulse them, delayed too long before attempting to retire his pieces, and at the fourth charge, which he was unable to resist, lost his guns, taking off, however, his limbers and horses. The caissons had been left at camp.
The prisoners subsequently captured admit a loss of two hundred (200) in front of these guns, and the number of ambulances and boats employed transporting the wounded and dead, easily seen from our observatories, together with the number of unburied dead, subsequently found, fully confirm this statement.
Our picket line was retired within range of our batteries, and established from the Stono to Secessionville.
The enemy advanced to within a few hundred yards of our pickets, when they established a skirmish line, and began to entrench. I had not force enough to attack them, requiring all the troops that I could collect to hold the main lines, and to do the necessary picket duty in front. In order to accomplish this, I had to make drafts upon the garrisons at Fort Johnston, and batteries Haskell, Tatum, &c., which, although small, were the largest that could be spared, and then at some hazard. In this way one hundred (100) men were withdrawn from Fort Johnston.
It is to be observed that troops had been noticed passing from Morris' to Folly island the previous day, and the exhibition of strength in my front, estimated at three thousand, induced me to believe that most of the troops on Morris' island had been withdrawn. Simultaneous with the advance of the enemy, a large gunboat steamed up the Stono, to protect his left flank. This boat, coming in range of the guns at Battery Pringle, was made to retire.
The enemy then advanced two lines of battle, with a heavy skirmish line well to the front. I directed such guns of our batteries on the southern lines and at Secessionville as could reach, to be opened upon their lines, which were retired except the picket lines beyond range.
It was believed, and acknowledged by prisoners, that this fire had a telling effect upon them.
No new advance was made, and not being strong enough to attack the enemy, no further change occurred during the day. While these events were transpiring on the southern end of the island, the enemy were intent upon an enterprise in another quarter, which would, could it have succeeded, have been attended with most serious consequences. On the morning of the 3d, at daylight, two columns of barges were observed rapidly approaching Shell Point beach, upon which the several batteries known as Simkins are situated, and which is immediately connected with the important post and harbor defence of Fort Johnston. One column landed its men near our end of the point, and the other and larger between Battery Simkins and Fort Johnston, which post was, simultaneously with Shell Point, fiercely assaulted.
The gallant garrison, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, received them with heroic determination, and the efficient and rapid discharges of heavy and light guns, and the unerring fire from our musketry, soon staggered and drove them back; when, with a rapid charge, headed by Lieutenants Waties' and Reynolds' First South Carolina artillery, upon the enemy, one hundred and forty prisoners, including five commissioned officers, were taken before they could make good their escape.
The participants in this brilliant affair, were Company G, First South Carolina artillery, Lieutenant Waties; Company K, Captain Gaillard; detachment Company E, Lieutenant Cooper, and detachments Companies A and E, Second South Carolina artillery, Lieutenants Halsey and Raworth. These officers and Corporal Crawford, Company G, are spoken of in high terms of praise by Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, for gallantry displayed on the occasion.
Five barges fell into our hands, and it is certain that the enemy's loss in killed and wounded was heavy, probably exceeding three hundred. Many bodies subsequently floated ashore.
On the Stono, indications began to manifest that the movement of the enemy on this front, was not designed to draw our attention from Fort Johnston, or for some sudden attack upon our lines, but that a serious and determined attack upon our Stono works was contemplated. Two (2) monitors, the Pawnee sloop of war, several wooden gun-boats, and a number of transports ascended the Stono.
Leganville and other points on John's island were occupied, troops debarked, and it seemed apparent that the design of the enemy was to occupy John's island, to erect batteries to enfilade our lines, to reduce Battery Pringle, and secure the Stono for a base of operations against Charleston.
This belief was strengthened by the fact that this route would be identical with that of the British under Sir Henry Clinton, in March, 1780, who occupied John's island, crossed the Stono at the present site of Fort Pemberton, and after securing the river for his line of supplies, moved from James' island to the main land.
The enemy commenced the day by a severe shelling of our picket line, and by a fire upon Battery Pringle and other batteries of the southern lines; upon the latter, apparently, for the purpose of drawing their fire and ascertaining the character of our guns. Believing that the enemy had withdrawn part of his force in front to reinforce John's island, I directed Colonel Harrison, Thirty-second Georgia regiment, with several companies of his regiment, to feel the enemy, and endeavor to ascertain his strength; and, if practicable, to force him back beyond the causeway.
This duty was very handsomely performed by this gallant officer and his capital command. The enemy gave back before them, and our original picket lines were re-established.
I deem it inadvisable to press beyond the causeways, as the enemy on the peninsula were observed to be considerably reinforced from Dixon's island, and as the enemy's gunboats and land batteries controlled the peninsula, and it was of little consequence to us to hold it.
On the 4th the enemy continued shelling our pickets, and bombarded Pringle and the lines all day, and made several attacks at night upon our picket lines near Grimball's causeway, which were repulsed with loss. Captain Lewis, Thirty-second Georgia, commanded our pickets at the point of assault, and deserves much credit for his stout and successful resistance.
Major Manigault, siege train, commanded the general picket line. The enemy shelled our lines and pickets with mortars all night. On July 5th and 6th, the enemy maintained the show of strength on the peninsula, which, as far as could be ascertained, had not been diminished, and made several demonstrations on our lines, which were checked. He continued to shell our pickets and batteries without cessation.
Several transports, some with troops, came up the river, and stopped at Battery and John's islands.
On the 7th the position of the enemy remained unchanged: several additional transports arrived in the Stono. The fire upon our pickets continued, and the attack of the enemy with his monitors, the Pawnee, and other gunboats and mortar boats upon Battery Pringle was very heavy, but little damage, however, was done to the work, and the fire was returned with evident effect. Colonel Harrison, with his regiment, Bonand's battalion, and the Forty-seventh Georgia regiment, was ordered to General Robertson, commanding on John's island.
On the 8th the position of the enemy's lines remained unchanged, which indicated that he had weakened his force here, to reinforce John's island. This morning, the enemy, with two monitors and a fleet of wooden gunboats, opened a terrific fire upon Battery Pringle, which was continued for several hours without intermission, causing no serious damage to the works, but, with extraordinary accuracy of fire, disabling several guns. This fire was returned with spirit by the garrison.
I had made arrangements for supplying heavier guns to this work, and a seven-inch Brooke gun had reached the fort, but had not been mounted, owing to an injury to the gun; and another (ten-inch Columbiad) was on its way to the work before these guns were disabled. The number of vessels in the Stono was now twenty-two, and being satisfied by this persistent and severe attack upon Pringle, that the plans of the enemy were developed, and that he would bend all his efforts to the reduction of that battery, in connection with his movements on John's island, and that several days would probably elapse before the issue could be determined, and the enterprise abandoned; and believing it to be necessary to place at that battery the most experienced artillerist, I directed Colonel Rhett, First South Carolina artillery, who had been assigned by me as senior officer to the command of the western sub-district, to relieve the command at Pringle, already much exhausted, with companies of experienced artillerists of his command. Major Blanding, South Carolina artillery, with two companies of his regiment, was ordered to that duty. On this day the enemy's boats directed their attention also to Battery Tynes, under command of Captain Richardson, Lucas' battalion, who returned the fire, and at night this battery shelled the enemy's position on John's island, as it was afterwards ascertained, with great accuracy.
On the morning of the 9th, the enemy again opened fire upon Battery Pringle and the lines, but the Brooke gun having been mounted during the night, the wooden gun and mortar boats were made to drop lower down the river, and the monitors were by this gun and the ten-inch Columbiad, several times hit, and one supposed to be considerably damaged. Heavy musketry and artillery firing were heard on John's island at daybreak, and in the course of the evening troops could be seen marching down to the wharf at Leganville, embarking on steamers, but not leaving the wharf.
This indicated an abandonment of John's island, and a probable concentration on this island of all his troops; and I made every disposition to meet an attack. This supposition was strengthened by his sending up the river with the rising tide, just after nightfall, three fire rafts, for the purpose of destroying the unfinished bridge across the Stono, intended to connect this and John's island.
His efforts in this were unsuccessful, as the rafts were boarded by a detachment from the Naval battalion, under Lieutenant Smith, and brought a shore before reaching the bridge.
On the morning of the 10th, several large steamer loads of troops were thrown from John's to this island, and the embarkation of troops at Leganville continued. These demonstrations lasted only until evening, when many transports loaded with troops steamed out of the Stono, and put to sea. The enemy's fire was kept up until evening upon our pickets and Battery Pringle.
About 8 A. M., the enemy made another barge attack upon Simkins and Fort Johnston, which was met by the same gallant garrison of the 3d instant, with the addition of Captain Le Gardem's section of light artillery, and a company of Confederate States marines, and promptly repulsed.
On the morning of the llth, after shelling our troops all night, the enemy's vessels of war steamed out of the Stono, and our troops reoccupied the peninsula. The cavalry videttes were re-established. I think it unnecessary to detail the position and movements of troops in the district and along the lines.
On the 2d instant, the first sub-district embracing the several batteries of Fort Johnston, under Lieutenant-Colonel Yates, Tatum, Ryanse, under Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell. Secessionville and Fort Lamar, under Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, and the First South Carolina artillery, Major Walker, was commanded by Colonel Black, First South Carolina cavalry.
The 2d sub-district, embracing the Stono batteries, Major Lucas, the several batteries of the new (southern) lines, Captain Legan, Major Bonand's battalion, Georgia volunteers, and South Carolina siege train, Major Manigault, were commanded by Colonel Frederick, Second South Carolina artillery. The light artillery of the district, embracing his own and Blake's battery, was commanded by Captain Wheaton, of the Chatham artillery.
The reinforcements which reached me, and which, as circumstances required, were withdrawn or returned, consisted of companies of the Thirty-second Georgia, Colonel Harrison; the command of Colonel Rhett, consisting of the First South Carolina artillery, Captain R. P. Smith, and companies of the First South Carolina artillery, Major Blanding; the Fifth Georgia volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Iverson; the Forty-seventh Georgia volunteers, Colonel Edwards; the Naval battalion, Lieutenant Commanding (Major) Dozier, Confederate States Navy; the Bureau battalion, Major Echols, Chief Engineer of the Department, and Kirk's and Peeble's squadrons, Third South Carolina cavalry; the German artillery, Captain Wagner, and Orleans light battery, Captain Le Gardem; Third battalion North Carolina volunteers, Captain McCauley. To make these fractions more available, these, with such troops as I deemed it prudent to detach from the eastern lines, were organized into two commands under Colonels Harrison and Rhett, and occupied certain positions in support of the lines.
On the 7th, Colonel Harrison, with his troops, was ordered to John's island, and on the 8th I assigned Colonel Rhett to the command of the west lines.
It affords me much pleasure to testify to the gallantry and determination displayed by officers and men.
The lines in advance of our batteries were shelled unremittingly for eight days and nights by monitors, throwing fifteen-inch shells and grape and canister, by gunboats and mortar hulks, and by the enemy's land batteries on Long and Dixon's islands; yet there was not the slightest demoralization or confusion produced.
The troops employed on this duty, and which deserve to be particularly noticed, consisted, from time to time, of detachments of the Second South Carolina artillery, including the detachment under Captain Dixon from Fort Johnson, the First South Carolina infantry (regulars), the First South Carolina artillery, Company B siege train, the Thirty-second Georgia, First South Carolina cavalry, and Kirk's and Peeble's squadrons South Carolina cavalry, and Bonand's battalion Georgia volunteers. The officers commanding them were Colonel Harrison, Thirty-second Georgia; Major Bonand, battalion Georgia volunteers; Major Blanding, First South Carolina artillery; Captain R. Press. Smith, First South Carolina infantry; Captains Dixon, Humbert, Stallings and Kennedy, Second South Carolina artillery; Warley, Rivers, Witherspoon and Barnett, First South Carolina infantry, and Trezervant, First South Carolina cavalry; Porcher Smith, train.
At the Stono batteries the officers and men behaved with gallantry under fire, and deserve special mention.
The officers were Major Lucas, commanding, and Major Blanding, First South Carolina artillery; Captains Hayne and Richardson, Lucas' battalion, and Rhett and King, First South Carolina artillery; Lieutenants Ogier, Martin, Reverley, Lucas and Ford, Lucas' battalion, and Stewart, First South Carolina artillery. Lieutenant Ogier is particularly mentioned for his gallantry.
The batteries at Fort Lamar, under Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, and those on the southern lines, under Captain Legan, did good service during the continuance of these operations, as did the light batteries under the command of Captain Wheaton.
I desire to record my appreciation of the energy and vigilance displayed by Colonel Black, commanding east lines, not only during these operations, but ever since he has been entrusted with his important command; to acknowledge the excellent discharge of his important duties by Colonel Frederick, commanding west lines, and to testify to the energy and ability which was manifested by Colonel Rhett, commanding reserve troops, and subsequently west lines.
I have already alluded to the services rendered by that capital officer, Colonel Harrison; and the brilliant affair of Fort Johnson speaks for itself of the ability of its gallant commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Yates.
To the members of my staff—Captain Page, A. A. G.; Lieutenants Cunningham, ordnance officer, and Meade, A. D. C.—I am particularly indebted for the faithful discharge of their duties, and also to Surgeon Lebby, Senior Surgeon of District, and his corps of assistants. I estimate the loss to the enemy at not less than 700, including 140 prisoners; whilst our loss was twenty-five (25) wounded and ten (10) killed and died of mortal wounds.
I estimate the strength of the enemy to have been at least 8,000 in my front and on John's islands, and at one time, between four thousand (4,000) and five thousand (5,000) on this island.
In conclusion, I trust it will not be regarded as improper in me to acknowledge and express my thanks to the Major-General commanding for the rapid, and, under the circumstances, extraordinary concentration of troops, and the unhoped for reinforcements placed from time to time at my disposal, and for the promptitude with which he directed my efforts to be seconded by the several staff departments.
I am, Major, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
Wm. B. Taliaferro,
Dunham Massie, Gloucester County, Va.,
June 21st, 1870.
The above is a true copy of the original report made by me, and addressed to Major Stringfellow, Adjutant-General to Major-General Samuel Jones, Confederate States army, commanding the Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Wm. B. Taliaferro.