Titular Philippo.

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than real. If vessels were captured, even in entering the
principal ports, it was due rather to the stupidity of the
persons attempting to run the blockade than to the effective-
ness of the force employed to prevent it. Should a vessel of
ordinary or light draught be desired to reach Charleston,
.she could be taken into Stono, or North Edisto Inlets, or
into any of the channels of St. Helena, or into Port Boyal
Harbor, and from thence in a few hours find her way into
Charleston ; and if desired to reach Savannah, and fearing to
approach Tybee Bar, she could enter either Warsaw or Ossa-
baw Sound, and find her way to her destination without dif-
fictdty. To prevent all this, and eventually, effectively
as far as possible, and for securing a military base of opera-
tions it was essential that a good port on the Southern coast
should be seized and held, and for that purpose not one was
more desirable in every point of view than Port Koyal. As
the Confederates had few vessels of war, and none when mil-
itary operations began, the blockade ot the coast, and effec-
tive aid to the army in the capture of forts, was natmally

"^tse Inlet

le Romairi

33 00


Military Dftpar-flnent










Ik the early part of October, 1861, the steam frigate Wa-
bash was sent from blockading duty to the harbor of New
York, to fit for service as the flag-ship of a force destined to
OTir Southern coast, for the purpose of capturing and hold-
ing some convenient Southern port to serve as a depot for
coal and other supplies, for the use of the vessels maintaining
the blockade of the many inlets, harbors, and sounds' that
lie along the coast from the northern limits of South Caro-
lina to the southern cape of Florida, over which district, what
was known as the South Atlantic blockading squadron held
its watch. The possession of a harbor was essential to main-
taining a proper blockade, as coaling in rough water, if not
impossible, is at least a slow and difficult operation. To go
around Oape Hatteras to Hampton Eoads in order to coal, as
had been the case, hundreds of miles from the blockaded
ports, lessened the effectiveness of the blockade by the ab-
sence of a large number of vessels going and coming, and
when they arrived out, much of the coal taken in was already

On the 10th of October Flag-Officer Samuel Francis Du-
pont hoisted his flag on board of the Wabash, commanded
by Commander C. B. P. Eodgers. Every effort was made
on the part of the flag-officer and his staff to make necessary
requisitions and get on boaird the necessary stores and flt-


ments required for the vessels of wax, and for other Tessels
purchased for wax purposes, few of which were adapted to
carrying heavy batteries and to withstand the buffetings of
rough seas, but they were the best to be had, and as a whole
served the required purpose. This heterogeneous fleet of pur-
chased vessels, ferry-boats, and freight steamers of small size,
were despatched to Hampton Beads as soon as fitted, and the
flag-ship, accompanied by the vessels of war proper, includ-
ing four gunboats built on contract for completion in ninety
days, left for the same destination on the afternoon of the 17th
and arrived the day following, exercising at target practice
during the passage. The Xl-inch pivot guns on board of the
gunboats were found handy and effective within their range.

Hampton Koads at that time was crowded with vessels of
war, transports, and coaling schooners. Those destined for
the command of Flag-Officer Dupont were supplied with
stores and coal as soon as possible, as were also the nu-
merous steam transports carrying some 12,000 men, under the
command, of General T. W. Sherman, with provisions and
army outfits of all kinds. A steamer called the Governor,
suitable for inland waters rather than to the sea, having on
board a battalion of marines numbering 600, under the com-
mand of Major John G. Eeynolds, was also attached to the

After receiving sealed orders as to destination — to be
opened only in the event of separation — this motley force,
numbering fifty vessels, steamed out of Hampton Beads on
the morning of the 29th of October. There was considerable
delay in forming a double echelon line outside of Cape
Henry, and then the fleet proceeded slowly toward Cape
Hatteras. The day previous to this force leaving, the flag-
oiHoer had despatched twenty-five coal-laden schooners re-
lieved in part of their cargoes, under convoy of the sail sloop


of war Vandalia, witli orders to rendezvous off Tybee Bar in
the event of parting company. This with the view of con-
cealing the destination of the fleet.

At 1 A.M. of the Slst the breeze was fresh from the east-
ward, and the sea rough. Owing to the set of the current and
by getting too far to leeward, two of the transports struck
lightly on Hatteras shoals, when, with a view to their safety,
they all steamed out to the eastward, causing some con-
fusion. After passing Hatteras the course was shaped along
the coast. At noon on the 1st, a dull heavy sky and south-
easterly wind, constantly increasing, gradually settled into
a heavy gale. In the afternoon, the flag-officer made signal
that the vessels would take care of themselves. As darkness
settled over a stormy sea they were seen here and there
under such storm sail as their commanding officers directed.

It was an anxious night ; a furious gale swept the waters,
and as many of the vessels were certainly indifferent sea
boats, grave apprehensions arose as to their safety. The gun-
boats behaved well, which had been doubted from their
motions in rough water when in Hampton Eoads.

Throughout the night, which was very dark, the driven
drops of rain struck the face roughly as pellets when keep-
ing a look-out to windward, and phosphorescent animalculse
lit up the sheet of foam that covered the rough sea. At
3 A.M. the wind, without abating in violence, hauled suddenly
to the westward and the vessels felt more than ever the force
of the sea. When broad daylight came, only one gunboat
was in sight from the masthead of the flag-ship. As the day
advanced several others came in view and followed in her
wake. The Wabash, and such other of the vessels as were
properly fitted, were under sail and using steam as necessary
to maintain position. The wind was from the west and the
vessels were "by the wind on the port tack," that is to say,


the course was toward Bull's Bay, one of the ports supposed
desirable to occupy as a coaling and supply station. At
9 P.M. the Wabash tacked ship and headed southwest, the
wind having changed some two points. It was apparent,
then, to the commanders of such vessels as had not opened
their instructions, that Bull's Bay was not the objective
point, but that it was probably Port Koyal, having a more
central position, and was well known to be the best harbor
for vessels of heavy draught along the whole coast.

On the forenoon of the 3d, the flag-ship made signal for the
commanding officer of the Seneca to come on board. A letter
for Captain J. L. Lardner, commanding the steam frigate
Susquehanna, off Charleston, was given him, as also verbal
instructions that the vessels designated would not leave the
blockade of the harbor until nightfall ; they were then to
proceed to the entrance of Port Eoyal, where the vessels of
the fleet were concentrating, and where Flag-Offieer Dupont
would be found.

The Seneca proceeded on her way to Charleston Bar, some
thirty miles distant. No sooner had she been sighted from
Fort Sumter, than a signal gun was fired, and repeated far-
ther in, probably to announce the arrival of the fleet of which
this vessel was the avant courier. Immediately after the cap-
ture of Port Boyal it was well known that the Confederates
had been correctly informed as to the destination, although
it was only determined a few days before, and was supposed
to be a profound secret.'

• EIOHMOND, November 1, 1861.
Governor Pickens, Columbia, S, C. : I have just received information which I-
coneider entirely reUable, that the enemy's expedition is intended for Port Boyal.

J. P. Benjamin,
Acting Secretary of War.
[Same telegram sent to Qenerals Drayton and Bipley.]— Tol. VI., p. 306 OfS-
cial Beoorda of the War of the BebelUon.


Flag-Offloer Dupont, in -wiiting to the Secretary of the
Navy, on the 6th of November, the day preceding the battle,
says: "Upon taking into consideration the magnitude to
which the joint naval and military expedition had been
extended, to which you (the Secretary of the Navy) have
called my attention, I came to the conclusion that the orig-
inal intention of the Department, if first carried out, would
faU short of the expectations of the country and of the capa-
bilities of the expedition, while Port Eoyal I thought would
meet both in a high degree." '

Notwithstanding the violence of the gale, it was ascertained
that only one vessel attached to the naval force, the steam
transport Governor, had been lost, and that all save seven of
the persons on board had been rescued, through the exer-
tions of the ofScers and crew of the sail frigate Sabine, Cap-
tain Cadwalader Einggold, aided specially and greatly by
the Isaac Smith, Lieutenant-Commander Nicholson. In the
heavy gale the last-named vessel would have foundered, had
not the broadside guns been thrown overboard. The hog
braces of the Governor had first given way, then she lost her
smotestaok, and finally the use of the enginery. It was a
lucky chance that of her human cargo, numbering 650 or
more, so few were lost.

> This plainly indicates that the Department had left to Dupont the selection of
the point of attack, to be agreed upon, however, with General T. W. Sherman,
whose orders, dated Augusts, 1861, are as follows : " You will proceed to New York
immediately, and organize, in connection with Captain Dupont, of the navy, an ex-
pedition of 12,000 men. Its destination you and the naval commander will deter-
mine after you have sailed." . . .

The '* confidential " order of October 12th, to the flag-officer, says : " In examin-
ing the various points upon the coast, it has been ascertained that BulFs Bay, St.
Helena, Fort Koyal, and Femandina are each and all accessible and desirable
points for the purposes indicated, and the Grovernment has decided to take pos-
session of at least two of them. Which of the two shall thus be occupied wiU be
committed to your discretion after obtaining the best information you can in re-
gard to them." . . .


The Peerless, an army transport laden with stores, was
.discovered in a sinking condition by the steam sloop Mohi-
can, Commander S. W. Godon, and the crew rescued. In
effecting this. Lieutenant H. W. MiHer of the Mohican was
very highly mentioned by the captain.

It is sufficient to say that certain naval vessels that came
down in the fleet were detailed to relieve the war vessels
proper blockading off Charleston, and that during the. fore-
noon of the 5th all the vessels that were expected had assem-
bled at the rendezvous with the exception of the Pocahontas,
mentioned hereafter, and that all of the army transports ax-
rived before the attack on the 7th, with the exception of the
Peerless, already reported as lost, and the Belvidere, Union,
and Osceola, none of them having troops on board, but army
equipment and supplies, whose failure to arrive seriously
affected army movements and also the means of transporta-

The bar of Port Eoyal Hes ten miles from the nearest low
sandy shores which* form the land-locked harbor; only the
tops of the taller trees are visible, except in certain states of
the atmosphere when the mirage brings up to view continu-
ous forests on Hilton Head to the west, and Bay Point on
the east side of the harbor. Several of the vessels of war,
among them the gunboats and the surveying steamer Vixen,
were directed to feel their way in with the lead, and buoy
out the bar, and secure the safe enti'ance of the heavier
vessels. This was effected by 3 p.m., and all vessels of the
fleet having a draught not exceeding eighteen feet, entered
forthwith, and anchored some five miles outside of the head-
lands, in good holding ground, and fairly sheltered by shoals
to seaward. Plag-Offlcer Dupont says : "To the skill of
Commander Davis, the fleet captain, and Mr. Boutelle, the
able assistant of the coast survey, in charge of the steamer


Vixen, the ohanniel was immediately found, sounded out and

Seamen ■will appreciate this celerity of movement, and the
fact that on the first high tide thereafter all of the vessels
■were taken within the bar.

The gunboats Ottawa, Seneca, Pembina, and Penguin had
anchored, after aiding in sounding out the channel, only
some three miles o^atside of the headlands upon which the
earthworks were plainly visible ■without the aid of a glass.
Near sunset three steamers came out from between the head-
lands, and at long range opened fire on these vessels. They
were soon under way, stood toward the enemy's vessels, com-
manded by Commodore Josiah Tatnall, formerly of the U. S.
Navy, and opening Are, soon caused them to retreat.

Shortly after sunrise the following day (the 5th), the same
mancBu^vre was repeated by the enemy. Just at this time
Commander John Bodgers, accompanied by Brigadier-Gen-
eral H. G. Wright, had gone on board of the Ottawa for the
purpose of making a reoonnoissance of the batteries of the
enemy. The Ottawa made signal to the Seneca, the Curlew,
and the Isaac Smith to follow, and standing in, opened fire
on Tatnall's steamers, and drove them within the headlands,
coming themselves within a distant cross-flre fr&m Fort
Walker on Hilton Head, and Fort Beauregard on Bay Point.
Flag-Officer Dupont says : " These vessels made a reconnois-
sance ia force, and drew the fire of the batteries on Hilton
Head and Bay Point suflciently to show that the fortifica-
tions were works of strength, and scientifically constructed."
In this affair the rigging of the gunboats was considerably
cut by the shells from the earthworks, but no other damage
was sustained. They had the satisfaction of noting an ex-
plosion at Bay Point, which General Drayton stated in his
report to have been caused by a rifle-shell striking a caisson.


About noon a single steamer of the enemy came out, and at
long range opened fire on the nearest vessel, but soon left on
receiving a ricochet Xl-inoh shell from the Seneca, which
lodged in the hog braces, as was known later. The failure
of the fuze, doubtless, prevented serious results.

At 11 A.M. the flag-ship crossed the bar and anchored some
five miles from the forts; she was followedr^by the Sus-
quehanna and the heavy army transports, which anchored
somewhat farther out. Signal was made for the command-
ing oiEcers of vessels to come on board the flag-ship. On
entering the cabin of the flag-officer they were made ac-
quainted with the plan of battle, and instructions were given
them as to their position in line.

The vessels designated for the attack were of course quite
ready, but the day was well advanced when the special
instructions had been given and the necessary buoys plant-
ed, particularly on Fishing-rip Shoal. The flag-officer says :
" This rendered the hour late before it was possible to move
with the attacking squadron. In our anxiety to get the out-
line of the forts before dsCrk, we stood in too near this shoal,
and the ship grounded. By the time she was gotten off it
was too late, in my judgment, to proceed, and I made signal
for the squadron to anchor out of gunshot of the enemy."

The day following a heavy westerly wind prevailed;
although the water was not rough, an attack would have been
made at great disadvantage. The morning of the day follow-
ing was calm and beautiful. In his report of the battle and
abandonment of Port Royal, General Drayton, who com-
manded the Confederate forces, says : "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. . . . 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 armadft about ad-
vancing, in battle array, to vomit forth its iron hail, with
aU the spiteful energy of long-suppressed rage and conscious

At early dawn of the 7th signal was made from the flag-
ship "go to breakfast," and after the usual time given, the
signals "get under way," ".form line of battle," and "pre-
pare for action," followed in due time. The vessels of war
were then lying more than four miles outside of a straight
line connecting the earthworks, situated, as General Dray-
ton states, two and five-eighths miles apart and soon to be
the objects of attack. The commanding officers of vessels,
previously instructed, on weighing anchor took position in
lines as follows : Main column, flag-ship Wabash leading,
Commander C. E. P. Bodgers; side-wheel steam frigate
Susquehanna, Captain J. S. Lardner ; sloop Mohican, Com-
mander S. W. Gqdon ; sloop Seminole, Commander J. P.
Gillis ; sloop Pawnee, Lieutenant-Commanding E. H. Wyman ;
gunboat Unadilla, Lieutenant-Commanding Napoleon Collins;
gunboat Ottawa, Lieutenant-Commanding Thomas H. Ste-
vens ; gunboat Pembina, Lieutenant-Commanding John P.
Bankhead, and saU-sloop Vandalia, Commander Francis S.
Haggerty, towed by the Isaac Smith, Lieutenant-Command-
ing J. W. A. Nicholson. It wiU be remembered that the
last-named vessel, to prevent foundering, had thrown her
broadside guns overboard in the gale of the 1st.

The flanking column consisted of the BienviUe, Com-
mander Charles Steedman, leading ; the gunboat Seneca,
Lieutenant-Commanding Daniel Ammen ; gunboat Penguin,
Lieutenant-Commanding P. A. Budd, and the Augusta, Com-
mander E. G. Parrott.

At half-past eight the vessels were as fairly in position as


attainable when not under good steerage way, and as they
steamed ahead at nine, signal was made for close order, and
the line of battle was fairly developed, at distances intended,
of a little more than a ship's length apart, the flanking col-
umn appearing through the intervals, as it were, and at a dis-
tance from the other line of a ship's length. The reader will
bear in mind the ample sheet of water between the earthworks.
The order given was, that the main colunm, in passing in,
should deliver its fire on Fort Walker (Hilton Head) and the
flanking column on Fort Beauregard ; when the vessels had
passed within where the guns could no longer be trained
on the works of the enemy, the main column would turn
toward Hilton Head, pass again toward the sea and against
the flood tide, steam quite slowly, delivering their fire, and
when again reaching a point where their guns cotdd no longer
be brought to bear on the batteries of the enemy, the vessels
would be turned toward mid-channel, and pass as in going
in first, following the flag-ship in line. This made the ves-
sels describe an ellipse, the curves of which, • in relation to
the distance from Fort Walker, were chosen by the flag-ship.
In passing in, the shortest distance from Fort Walker was
probably about eight hundred yards, and heading outward
is given as six hundred yards. This evolution was to be
continuous until the reduction of the fort, or until further

The flanking column was to deliver its fire in passing in
on the Bay Point batteries, then turn its attention to the
force of the enemy afloat, and after sinking or driving it
away, take up a position to the north of Fort Walker, the
best attainable to enfilade that work. In giving these in-
structions the flag-officer stated that he knew Tatnall well ;
he was an officer of courage and plan, and that it was not at
all unlikely in the heat of action and smoke of battle he


■would endeavor to pass out and destroy the transports, and
the vital duty of the flanking column was to take care of
Tatnall, and destroy his vessels if he attempted that move-

With these explanations the reader is prepared to con-
sider the vessels ■with a speed of sis miles per hour, fairly
formed in two columns and at 9.26 coming within long
range of the earthworks, -when the enemy opened. The
force of Commodore Tatnall lay just -within an imaginary
line connecting the two forts. The vessels composing it were
poorly adapted for successfully opposing those advancing and
now within fair range of the earthworks. Tatnall's were what
are known as "river steamers," extremely vulnerable, boilers
and machinery fully exposed, and the guns carried, although
rifled, were of inferior calibre.

The vessels entering were not long in replying to the guns
of the enemy; with carefully studied elevations and well-
directed aim, the heavy shells fell fast within the earth-
works, burying themselves and exploding, throwing sand
into the guns, covering platforms and gun-traverses with
sand, and disturbing much the accuracy of aim and rapidity
of fire of the enemy.

As the columns advanced, Tatnall's steamers withdrew,
but when the main column turned they again put their bows
toward the fleet, perhaps imder the impression that the
vessels found the fire from the earthworks too heavy to be
borne, and were withdrawing. However that may be, seeing
the vessels ag3in returning, the Seneca was again headed
toward them from a position just reached north of Fort
Walker, and on her opening Are, they entered Scull Creek,
the entrance to which has no great depth and is intricate ;
it is situated four miles northwest of Fort Walker.

The Wabash, followed closely by the Susquehanna, swept


again slowly and majestically in face of the earthworks at a
distance not exceeding sis hundred yards, delivering with ac-
curacy and great dexterity their heavy broadsides. Having
passed beyond the point which would admit of training the
guns, again they turned, and heading iato the harbor con-
tinued their broadsides. This was too much for troops not
habituated to the use of heavy guns nor trained to war. Be-
fore the vessels entered, they saw in the cannon which they
served what they fancied and believed a sufficient means to
sink or destroy a fleet, and yet, with painful slowness and
automaton-like regularity it swept around, delivering broad-
sides of shells with surprising rapidity, exploding them on
the parapets and within their works, covering them up alive,
as it were, in what they called their " sacred soU." Their
guns were struck and broken or dismounted, guns' crews
killed or wounded, and the mighty engines of yesterday
seemed to have no potency to-day, wielded as they supposed
deftly, but in reality clumsily. They saw the vessels were
not impeded and did their will.

There is a force in the logic of war. Indisputably rude it
is, yet more powerful than that of the bar, or even that of the
pulpit ; in undisciplined troops it addresses itself specially
to what is equivocally called the "meanest comprehension."

To the battering force in front, that passed along in grim
procession, was added the enfilading fire, described by
General Drayton as follows : " Besides this moving battery,
the fort was enfiladed by the gunboats anchored to the
north off the mouth of Fish Hall Creek, and another on an
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
by a round shot, and on the north flank, for want of a car-


riage, no gun was mounted. After the fourth fire, the X-
inoh columbiad bounded over the hnrter, and became useless.
The 24:-poTinder rifled was choked while ramming down a
shell, and lay idle during nearly the whole engagement."

"The vigorous attack of the enemy continued unabated,
with still no decided damage to any of their ships. At half-
past twelve I again went out of the fort with my Assistant-
Adjutant-General, Captain Young, for the purpose of muster-

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Online LibraryTitular PhilippoThe Navy in the Civil War .. → online text (page 2 of 22)