Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment at the Battle of Port Royal

The Berry Infantry of Floyd County, GA, along with the Berrien Minute Men of Berrien County, GA, were among the companies forming the 29th Georgia Infantry Regiment in the Civil War…

Eight months after the Confederate capture of Fort Sumter the US fleet struck back, attacking Port Royal, SC.  To make the attack, the fleet of some sixty ships sailed from New York through the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, while the Berrien Minute Men weathered the storm on Sapelo Island sixty miles south of Port Royal.  The Federal naval assault came on November 7, 1861; on Sapelo Island the Berrien Minute Men could hear the sounds of the Battle at Port Royal. The untested men on Sapelo were impatient for battle and lamented that they were stuck in a backwater of the war. Not so, their future regimental mates, the Berry Infantry of Rome, GA who were hurriedly dispatched from their station at Camp Lawton near Savannah to Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island overlooking Port Royal Sound, SC.    The Berrien Minute Men and other Confederate companies on Sapelo would have gone, too, it was said, but for the Colonel commanding being too drunk to take the men into battle.  Had the men on Sapelo known what the Berry Infantry were facing, they would perhaps not have been so eager to go.

The destination of the Berry Infantry was Fort Walker, a Confederate earthworks fortification hastily built of sand in the summer of 1861 using the labor of enslaved African-Americans owned by the planters of Hilton Head Island. Construction continued through the summer with the slaves hauling palmetto logs, digging trenches, erecting a powder magazine, and constructing gun emplacements. But the fort was not complete when the Federal fleet commenced the attack on the morning of November 7, 1861.

A soldier of the Berry Infantry, upon returning to Savannah, wrote a series of reports to the Rome Weekly Courier under the pen name “Floyd” describing their experience at the Battle of Port Royal. The writer was probably Thomas J. Perry of Floyd County, GA, a lieutenant of the Berry Infantry, who was known to have written the Courier under this name. In composing these passages, the writer freely confessed, “I have had to write amidst confusion, and under the most unfavorable circumstances. We are hourly expecting to hear of the approach of the enemy. News came last night that they had landed at White Bluff, eight miles below here [Savannah, GA]. I have given you the points though much disconnected.” The narrative has been reorganized here, to present events in chronological order:

Our Savannah Correspondence

Camp Lawton, near Savannah, Ga., November 12th, 1861.

Dear Courier:

There are some facts connected with our departure to Hilton Head Island, that are worthy of notice, The night we first started [Nov 5, 1861,] H. W. Berryhill, H. C. Smith, G. W. Freeman and W. H. Mitchell, had got furloughs to go home, and were getting ready to start, when orders came at 8 o’clock,

Lt. Henry W. Dean, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment

Lt. Henry W. Dean, Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment

for us to be at the Charleston Wharf at 9. Berryhill and Smith abandoned the idea of going home, and at once informed their Captain that they would go with him. B. had just recovered from a spell of sickness, and was not able to do duty. Smith had been sick in his tent for two days. The Captain objected to their going, but they begged so hard that he consented, and they went to the boat with us, and would have gone, if the orders had not been countermanded. Freeman was not able to go, having been sick for the last three weeks; so he and Mitchell left. Lieut. H. W. Dean, who was just recovering from the measles and had just came into the camps that day, got ready to go with us but was ordered to remain. He insisted on going, but the company refused, and ordered him to remain. We left, but on reaching the boat, we found him there, armed and equipped.

The next morning [Nov 6, 1861] when we left, again, the Captain found it necessary to detail one man to stay and take care of the sick. H.C. Smith was by this time broken out with the measles. The Captain asked if there was any one that would stay, and no one responded. He then said, “I must make some one stay.” All spoke and said they wanted to go, and voted for Dean or Berryhill to stay, but they refused, and go they would.  R. Dollar [Reuben Dollar] was then requested to stay, but he refused, although he had just recovered from a hard spell of sickness. Finally James McGinnis was left.

Our Savannah Correspondence.
Camp Lawton, Nov. 9, 1861.

Twenty-six-year-old Lt. Col. Thomas James Berry, CSA, led a Regiment of Georgia troops, including the Berry Infantry, at the Battle of Port Royal. He was a graduate of West Point, class of 1857.

Twenty-six-year-old Lt. Col. Thomas James Berry, CSA, led a Regiment of Georgia troops, including the Berry Infantry, at the Battle of Port Royal. He was a graduate of West Point, class of 1857.

Dear Courier—Our Regiment left here on Wednesday  morning [Nov 6, 1861] at 9 1/2 o’clock, on board the steamer St. Marys, under the command of Lieut. Colonel Thos. J. Berry, for Hilton Head Island, on the South Carolina coast, and arrived there at 1 o’clock, p. m., and then took up the line of march to Port Royal, five miles distance, and arrived there about dark, and spent the night in some old barns.

Next morning [Nov 7, 1861] at 8, we were ordered out, and formed in a line of battle about one mile from the beach, and in the rear of the sand Battery [Fort Walker]… There was no fort, only a sand battery with 13 guns, and only two large ones, and all exposed… At half past 8, the fleet came up, and opened fire on the battery of 13 guns.

Battle of Port Royal. The Berry Infantry, 29th Georgia Regiment were at Fort Walker during the bombardment.

Battle of Port Royal. The Berry Infantry, Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment was at Fort Walker during the bombardment.

The fire was returned, and soon became general.

It was soon announced that one vessel had passed the battery. We were then ordered to advance within a half mile of the beach—we did so, and were ordered to lie down—the enemy discovered our position, and turned loose a shower of shot and shell on us. We lay there for about one hour, the balls and shells fell thick and fast around and about us.

 Bombardment of Fort Walker, Hilton Head, Port Royal Harbor, SC by United States Fleet, November 7, 1861. The Berry Infantry (later Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment) was among Georgia companies sent to defend the island. Image source: Campfire and Battlefield


Bombardment of Fort Walker, Hilton Head, Port Royal Harbor, SC by United States Fleet, November 7, 1861. The Berry Infantry (later Company D, 29th Georgia Regiment) was among Georgia companies sent to defend the island. Image source: Campfire and Battlefield

[At Fort Walker] The largest [gun] was dismounted at the first shot, the next at the 2d fire, so there was only 11 small ones, and Capt. Ried’s [Capt. Jacob Reed, Company D, 1st GA Regulars] two brass pieces to contend against over 500 guns, and they on steel and iron clad vessels.

Cameron [John D. Cameron] went with us, and the evening we arrived there [Nov 6, 1861], he said he would spend the next day in hunting oysters for us, but when morning came he saw that a fight was on hand, and went into the Hospital, where he could have a good view of what was going on, thinking, of course, that he was in a secure place; but the fun had not lasted long before a ball passed through the top of the house; the second soon came along, and then others in such rapid succession that he thought he had got into the wrong pew, and left in double quick, and dodged behind a pine stump, and would occasionally peep around, and could see the balls falling and hear them whizzing bye, and presently he saw a ball strike a tree and tear it to pieces. The thought struck him, that the stump was but little protection, and double-quicked it a little farther. This is his own story. In justice to him I will say he stuck closer to the Berry Infantry, all day, than it could have been expected of him, as he was not allowed to come near our ranks, while in line of battle, as he held no position in the Regiment as yet, not having received his commission. Night came but Cameron had found no oysters, at least he said nothing about them….

General Thomas F. Drayton was in charge of the overall defenses of Port Royal Sound

General Thomas F. Drayton was in charge of the overall defenses of Port Royal Sound

[On the beach] The Captains of the several companies requested Gen. [Thomas F.] Drayton, under whose command we were placed on reaching there, to let us fall back, but he refused. The Captains not being willing to see their men murdered up, took the command of their companies, and ordered them to fall back out of the reach of the guns, until the enemy landed. They accordingly did so. The General soon ordered them back near the beach. The fleet turned loose on us again, with about five hundred guns. We stood there, not being able to return a shot with any success. About 1 o’clock, we were ordered to Reid’s Battery of two guns, near the sand Battery. We remained there until half past two, amid the shower of shot, grape and shell…

There was a continuous roar for five and a half hours. No one could count the reports, and at times could not distinguish the guns.

 

Capt. [John W. ] Turner, Lieuts. [Thomas F.] Hooper and [Henry W.] Dean acted well their parts, perfectly cool all day; in fact there was no fault to be found of any, under all the circumstances.

Our ammunition gave out…

Capt. Reid gave orders for us to leave, as he had lost 15 of his men, killed and wounded.

The men retired calmly, much more so than could be expected…  We [left] all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing.

Those that were with the wounded were left. … There were some left of the South Carolinians wounded. The dead were left on the ground. I heard of no arrangements made by General Drayton to have them buried.

No pen can describe the scene. The fences and houses and Hospital were torn to pieces—men falling in all directions. Some with their heads off, some arms and legs off, and some with their bodies torn to atoms. The balls tearing up the ground in holes deep enough to bury a man. It is impossible to say how many there were killed and wounded.

Gen. Drayton gave orders to fall back with the South Carolina troops in front, and the Georgians to bring up the rear.

The South Carolina troops were the first to leave the field, half an hour before the rest.  Stiles’  [William H. Styles] Regiment next, ours were the last, and our company the last of the Regiment, and Sargeant W. H. H. Camp [William H. H. Camp] the color bearer, the last man to leave. The balls, grape shot and shells falling and passing as thick as hail, as the fleet had ceased firing on the battery and had all their guns were bearing on us, said to be about 500, and we in half a mile of the beach. They continued to fire at us as long as we were in reach of them. I am aware that some will think that this is a strange tale, nevertheless it is true. Our military men men say it was the most terrific bombardment on record.

He [Drayton] marched off, and said nothing about leaving the Island til we got some distance. We all thought when we left the scene of action, we were only going to the woods, to prepare for the enemy when they landed, but to our utter astonishment, we found that the General was making for the boats,

1861 map of Hilton Head Island showing locations of Fort Walker, the woods, Skull creek, and ferry. Distance from Fort Walker to the Ferry landing was about 7 miles.

1861 map of Hilton Head Island showing locations of Fort Walker, the woods, Skull creek, and ferry. Distance from Fort Walker to the Ferry landing was about 7 miles.

We lost all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing….If [Drayton] had let us know he was going to evacuate the Island, we would have brought all our things.

Retreat of the Confederate garrison commanded by General Drayton from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the bombardment by the Federal fleet, on the afternoon of November 7, 1861. - Frank Leslie's Illustrated History of the Civil War. Image source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/38263.

Retreat of the Confederate garrison commanded by General Drayton from Fort Walker to Bluffton, during the bombardment by the Federal fleet, on the afternoon of November 7, 1861. – Frank Leslie’s Illustrated History of the Civil War. Image source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/38263.

On reaching the coast we found that the General had succeeded in getting himself and [the South Carolinia] men off before sundown.

He got himself and [the South Carolina] men off the Island first, and leave us [Georgians] to shift for ourselves, exposed to the enemy’s cavalry.

Colonels Stiles and Berry were very indignant at the General’s conduct—they went to work and made arrangements to get us off about 9 o’clock. It was low tide, and we had to wade some distance to get to flat boats, and then some distance to the steamer St Johns. 

Those that were [left at Fort Walker] with the wounded [had] remained some half hour after the regiments left and as soon as they found the condition of things, they picked up the wounded and made for the boats, and succeeded in getting there in time.It was about 11 o’clock before we got on board. We then run out about 4 miles and cast anchor, and remained there until daylight [November 8, 1861], and then set sail for Savannah, all the time on the look out for the fleet to pursue us, but Providence protected us…

Providence alone protected us. The wonderful escape of our soldiers on that occasion should be a sufficient evidence to all God’s people, that he is a prayers-hearing God and will grant their requests when asked in faith. Prayer is greater than steel or iron, or fleets with all their guns, and skill to man them. For trees,

houses, and fences to be torn to peices, the air full of dust from balls striking the ground, and an array of men walking along, and comparatively few hurt, looks too unreasonable to tell, but prayer availeth much. So we are taught in tho Book of Books and a few of us have realized it. A very wicked young man, who has pious parents, remarked to me the evening of the battle, “I have often heard Pa talk about Providence protecting us, and never could under stand it, but I now comprehend his meaning, for if Providence did not protect us to-day, l am at a loss to know what did.” Tears came into his eyes and he seemed deeply impressed.

The Boat was so crowded that there was no room to set or lie down, so we had to stand up, perfectly exhausted, having had nothing to eat since Wednesday morning, but some cold broad, and but little at that, and no water that was fit for horse to drink, feet and legs wet and no means of drying them.

We arrived safely here [Savannah] at 9 1/2 o’clock, We lost all our knapsacks, blankets and clothing. We are all in rather a bad condition,- most of our boys are not able  to change clothing, and all on account of General Drayton’s conduct…

Col. Thomas W. Alexander, once Mayor of Rome, in the uniform he wore as a Confederate Army officer. Image source: A history of Rome and Floyd County.

Col. Thomas W. Alexander, once Mayor of Rome, in the uniform he wore as a Confederate Army officer. Image source: A history of Rome and Floyd County.

On returning [to Savannah] we found Lt. Col. Alex- [Thomas W. Alexander] and Lt. J. E. Berry [James E. Berry] had arrived, and were preparing to join us.

There is several distinguished military men here, among whom is Gov. Brown.  The troops have been moved off all the Islands, and quite a number stationed near here. Gen. Lawton has had a large vessel sunk in Skull Creek, and one anchored at the Oyster Bed, ready to sink, as soon as the news reaches the city that the enemy has taken possession of the Island.

More than half the citizens [of Savannah] commenced packing up their furniture and goods, and having them drayed to the several depots. The Mayor [Thomas Pilkington Purse, Sr.] was soon

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1842, Alexander Robert Lawton lived in Savannah, Georgia where he was involved in state politics and railroad administration. Lawton was Colonel of the 1st Georgia when that unit overtook Fort Pulaski in January of 1861, and by mid-April he was a Brigadier General in charge of Georgia's coastal defenses. - National Park Service

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1842, Alexander Robert Lawton lived in Savannah, Georgia where he was involved in state politics and railroad administration. Lawton was Colonel of the 1st Georgia when that unit overtook Fort Pulaski in January of 1861, and by mid-April he was a Brigadier General in charge of Georgia’s coastal defenses. – National Park Service

informed that a great many men were leaving also. He issued his Proclamation, forbidding any to leave under 45, and laid an Embargo on all goods being shipped off, and in that way kept some from deserting the city. He let the women and children go. The cars has been crowded for several days going up the country. Some of these ladies had said that they would never leave their homes, unless it was to stand by the side of their husbands, fathers or brothers in repelling the foe, and that they put their trust in God, but as the time drew for them to make good their promises, they put their trust in the Railroad cars.

Yours, Floyd. 

The account in the Savannah papers are very imperfect. We had two wounded in our company. Joseph S. Ayers, slightly wounded in the foot, W. H.  [William H.] Perkinson in the hand.— We have Ayers at a private home. There never was a greater outrage perpetrated upon any set of men, than Gen. Drayton, of South Carolina, did upon the Georgia troops sent to his assistance. He acted more like a mad-man than a General. It looked like he wanted to have us slaughtered, by marching us up under the fire of over five hundred guns, and where we could not defend ourselves.

I hope he will never be in command of any more Georgia troops for he is not the man for a General. 

In the first place, the island was not sufficiently fortified.

And if South Carolinians want help she should first do her duty, and prepare for the worst. She has been boasting that she was ready—she now sees to what extent she was prepared.

Battle of Port Royal headlines, Savannah Daily Morning News, November 9, 1861

Battle of Port Royal headlines, Savannah Daily Morning News, November 9, 1861

Battle of Port Royal
Terrific Cannonading!
Evacuation of the Batteries by the Confederates!
The Forts In Possession Of The Enemy.

About half past one o’clock yesterday morning we received the dispatch published in our morning edition, announcing the evacuation of Fort Walker by our troops and their retreat towards Bluffton. This astounding news was only the precursor of teh more disatrous accounts which reached the city this morning by the boats from the scene of the action which arrived here early this morning.
In the confusion of statements of persons engaged in the action, it is impossible, in the time allowed us to obtain a very connected or circumstantial account of the fight. From various sources we have gathered the following.
As stated in our paper yesterday, the firing between Fort Walker and the fleet commenced about nine o’clock, the fleet giving the most of their attention to Fort Walker. Before ten o’clock seven of the largest steamers of the fleet had passed the batteries, and when the St. Marys left, from whose passengers we obtained our account of the first part of the action, a most terrific cannonading was going on. The fight continued until the departure of the Emma, at twelve o’clock, and when the Savannah left, at 2 o’clock, the firing was unabated, except at the Bay Point battery, which had been silenced between eleven and twelve o’clock. At this time a tremendous cannoading was kept up by the fleet, consisting of some thirty odd steamers and gun boats, which was returned by Fort Walker, the battery on Hilton Head.
The Fort Walker armament consisted of sixteen guns, nine of which bore upon the shipping, the balance being in position on the land side. Five or six of these guns, among them the 24 pound rifle cannon and one ten inch Columbiad, were disabled during the forenoon.- Thus disabled and their ammunition exhausted, the garrison evacuated Fort Walker between three and four o’clock, retiring in the direcgtion of Bluffton, leaving the guns in position and unspiked, have no spikes for that purpose.

In the course of the morning and previous night, considerable reinforcements of infantry and artillery from Georgia and Carolina had arrived at Hilton Head, and were stationed in or in the vicinity of the batteries, but we are unable at present to ascertain the number of troops engaged in the battle.

Capt. Jacob Reed’s artillery corps of the First Georgia Regiment of Regulars arrived at the scene of action on Wendesday night, and, on yesterday bore a gallan part in the fight. Four or five of his men were killed early in the action. The corps lost two of their guns and several horses.
Col. Randolph Spaulding, Georgia Volunteer Regiment, commanded by Capt. Berry were also in the engagement. THey were marched to the beach where they received a galling fire of round shot and shell from the fleet, which, however, they were unable to return with their muskets. Of the Floyd county Berry Infantry, Jas. S. Ayres and Second Surgeon Wm H. Perkinson, received slight wounds.
Col. Wm. H. Styles’ Volunteer Georgia Regiment reached the scene of action at 11 o’clock, havng marched from Skidaway, seven and a half miles distanct, at the double-quick. But they were also unable to fire on the fleet, which was out of the range of their guns. The Regiment had several killed and wounded by shells from the fleet. Our informant states the Col. Styles had two horses shot under him, and in the fall of one of them received a slight injury in the shoulder. The Colonel and his Regiment was at one time exposed to a terrific shelling from the ships, and it is only surprising that more of them were not killed and wounded.

Col. Randolph Spaulding, not bein in command of his Regiment, joined a corps belonging to another Regiment, and engaged in the fight, as far as it was possible for the infantry to participate in it, with his musket on his shoulder

Between 11 and 12 o’clock, twelve vessels engaged the forts, five of them first class steam frigates, the other seven were second class steamers, with a tug leading. The tug opened fire on our infantry stationed some distance from the beach. One of the frigates, the Minnesota, at a distance of two miles, also threw shot and shell at the infantry.
Our informant assures us that seven Dahlgren guns from one of the frigates fired many shots on the hospital containing our wounded, hitting the building several times, notwithstanding the yellow flag was flying. The Surgeons were compelled by this barbarous act to have our wounded moved further into the interior.
The Minnesota is reported to have been on fire three times from hot shot thrown from the batteries.
Col. Spalding’s regiment lost all its baggage, blankets, &c., but saved all their arms.
In the hurry of preparing our noon edition it is impossible to obtain reliable accounts of much that we hear by rumor. We understand that the loss on our side is about twelve killed and forty wounded. Among the latter is Capt. J. A. Yates of Charleston, who was seriously injured by the bursting of a shell. Dr. [Edwin Somers] Buist, of Greenville, South Carolina, was instantly killed by a shell striking him in the head.
We have no positive information from Bay Point battery, farther than it was silcenced at 11 o’clock. We hear that it suffered serious loss. It is reported that garrison retired in safety toward Beaufort.
Of Col. DeSaussure’s regiment, stationed at Fort Walker, four were killed at the battery and twenty wounded.
We understand that the Confederates lost no prisoners, except, perhaps, one or two from Col. DeSaussure’s regiment.
The killed were covered with blankets and left. The wounded were all placed on board of steamers, and will arrive in Savannah today.
The abandon batteries were taken possession by the enemy and the United States flag waived over them as our troops retired.
Thus ends the first act in the grand drama of invasion and subjegation on our Southern coast.
We have no time for comments, and can only say, important as it is, let it not dishearten or discourage, but rather let it stimulate our entire people, every man, woman and child, to determined and unconquerable resistance.

 

Return to Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

 

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The Berrien Minute Men and the 1861 Expedition Hurricane

The Expedition Hurricane 1861

Two companies of men sent forth in the Civil War from Berrien County, Georgia were known as the Berrien Minute Men. For the most part, both companies of Berrien Minute Men traveled with the 29th Georgia Regiment and kept the same campfires, although occasionally they had different stations. They made their campfires most of 1861 at coastal defenses of Georgia, at Brunswick, GA, on Sapelo Island and then around Savannah, GA.

The Berrien Minute Men arrived on Sapelo Island around October 1, 1861 just a month before the final storm of the 1861 hurricane season.  Undoubtedly they experienced a gale on the night of October 31, 1861 as the hurricane, later known as the Expedition Hurricane, passed about 120 miles east of the Island. This hurricane had formed in the Gulf of Mexico and traversed south Florida before moving up the eastern seaboard. By the morning of November 1, 1861, the hurricane passed about 255 miles east of Savannah; the outer bands of the storm were already reaching Savannah with “driving clouds and heavy falling rain.”  The USS Savannah and USS Monticello, blockading the port of Savannah, GA were forced to move away from the Savannah Bar and proceed to seas as a measure necessary to their preservation.

USS Savannah. On Nov 1, 1861 the Savannah was stationed off Tybee Island, blockading the port of Savannah.

USS Savannah. On Nov 1, 1861 the Savannah was stationed off Tybee Island, blockading the port of Savannah.

On the Monticello, the storm damage disabled the engine forcing the ship to make for a safe harbor. That night the storm provided cover for the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escape from Savannah.

On November 2, 1861, following the 1861 Expedition Hurricane, the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escaped from the Savannah River bound for England. On the return trip it was captured by the US Navy & renamed the USS General Meade.

On November 2, 1861, following the 1861 Expedition Hurricane, the Confederate blockade runner CSS Bermuda escaped from the Savannah River bound for England. On the return trip it was captured by the US Navy & renamed the USS General Meade.

In the direct path of the hurricane was the largest fleet of ships that had ever been assembled by the United States Navy. It had been widely reported in newspapers that the  great fleet had assembled at New York, and that General Sherman’s forces had embarked at Annapolis, MD. Among the “Expedition Corps” was the Forty-Sixth New York Volunteer Regiment, Colonel Rudolph Rosa commanding, aboard the steamship USS Daniel Webster.  Later in the war the 46th NY Regiment would occupy Tybee Island, GA opposite the Berrien Minute Men garrisoning Causton’s Bluff near Savannah, GA

USS Daniel Webster, 1861, transported the 46th NY Regiment through the Expedition Hurricane to the Battle of Port Royal.

USS Daniel Webster, 1861, transported the 46th NY Regiment through the Expedition Hurricane to the Battle of Port Royal.

This was the largest naval expedition that had ever sailed under the U.S. flag. Its destination was “supposedly a military secret.” Reporters aboard the USS Atlantic in the Expedition fleet provided various cover stories:  a demonstration would be made upon Sewell’s Point or the fleet would practice an amphibious assault on Fort Monroe.  In Savannah, and probably on Sapelo Island, it was expected the expedition would make an assault on the Confederate shores.  After sailing on sealed orders it was speculated that the squadron would attack New Orleans, Charleston, Pensacola, Wilmington, Beaufort, Galveston or James River.

The expedition did practice an amphibious landing on the Virginia Peninsula at Fort Monroe, where it also expected to embark a contingent of Africa-Americans – escaped slaves – to be employed as support for the mission.

It was believed by the War Department that there were at least 1,000 slaves, or ‘”contrabands,”’ at Fortress Monroe, able to perform a certain sort of labor necessary to the accomplishment of the purpose of the expedition — such work as throwing up entrenchments and adding to the comfort of the officers. Six hundred of these negroes were to have accompanied us, but there is scarcely that number at the fortress, and Gen. Wool has plenty of employment for all of them there. We therefore do not take any. – New York Times Correspondent aboard USS Atlantic

After the exercises at Fort Monroe, the fleet continued on to its unstated destination.

The Great Lincoln Naval Expedition.
FULL PARTICULARS OF ITS STRENGTH.
Rumored theft of its Maps, Charts, and Sealed Orders.

Richmond, Nov. 2.—A special order for the Lincoln fleet, dated on board the steamer Atlantic, Oct. 28, says the expedition will be under command of Commodore Dupont, that it is intended to make a descent on the enemy’s coast, and probably under circumstances demanding the utmost vigilance, coolness and intrepidity on the part of every man in the expedition.
The surf boats and other means of debarkation are believed to be capable of landing at once from three to four thousand men. Some of them carry a hundred men.
The expedition consists of three brigades commanded by Generals Wright, Stephens, and Viele, each with artillery. Full orders are given as to the mode of landing. They have to conquer the ground and succeed. They are directed not to go beyond supporting distance from shore.

Fortress Monroe, Oct. 28.—The fleet will sail to-morrow. One hundred thousand rations have been distributed among the fleet, and sealed orders have been given to the Captains of the several transports. The men and horses are on board. Several of the transports have suffered greatly from the gale during the last few days.
The New York Herald of the 29th says the objects to be accomplished by the expedition are as follows :
First, to carry the war into the Cotton states, which are chiefly responsible for the rebellion, and produce a disorganisation of the disposition of the Immense Confederate army in Virginia.
Second, to secure winter quarters for the Federal troops, and harbors for the refuge the Federal naval and commercial marine.
Third, To open our Southern ports to commerce, and thus satisfy all the demands and obviate all difficulties about the supply of cotton and the efficiency of the blockade.
Fourth, to form a nucleus in the Confederate States near which the long suppressed loyalty and good sense of the people may find a safe expression and encouragement, and to stimulate this reactionary feeling, of which we have seen such remarkable and encouraging manifestations in North Carolina. Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, in a letter to the expedition, gives them authority to employ negroes in the Federal service, but assures all loyal masters that Congress will provide a just compensation for all losses thus incurred by them.
The New York Tribune says one of its correspondents on board the Federal expedition writes from Hampton Roads that the Private Secretary to Commodore Dupont had absconded, carrying off with him the maps, charts, and even the sealed orders of the Expedition.

The Naval Expedition.—Our telegraphic column contains important information. There is no doubt that the whole composition, plan, and private instructions of the expedition are now in Richmond, else how should the information given and the Tribune’s report of the absconding Secretary tally so squarely? Say no more of Yankee shrewdness! 

 

 

A Naval Expedition Sails for Port Royal, S. C.

October 29, 1861, the great naval expedition, which had been fitting out for several weeks, sailed for the southern coast. It consisted of seventy-five vessels of various sizes and descriptions, and 15,000 troops; the former under command of Commodore Dupont; the latter under command of General William Tecumpseh “Cump” Sherman.

The Great Expedition, in Lat. 34 degrees, 37 minutes N., Long. 75 degrees, 50 minutes W., on the way to Port Royal Inlet. – Sketched at noon on 31st October, 1861, from the deck of the Steamer “Matanzas.” At the time, the fleet was 600 miles north of a tropical storm passing over Florida. Image Source: House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/33007.

The Savannah papers noted with glee that the storm would likely strike the US Fleet which had departed NY on October 30 on its mission to attack Confederate force.

“The season is not very propitious for their enterprise…they will be scattered to the four winds, and many of them sunk or stranded…We imagined the “nice time” the Yankees were having in their heavy laden and crowded ships and thought of their chances between treacherous waves and the inhospitable shores to which they were coming and if we indulged a wish that they might all be blown to Davy Jones’ locker, it was only that they might be spared the fate that awaits them whenever they land upon our southern shore.”

That evening, the U.S. Navy expedition encountered the  tropical hurricane—which wreaked havoc on the organization of the fleet.

A Union soldier at sea on board the steamer  USS Atlantic in the Expedition fleet wrote in his journal on November 1, 1861

Wind continued to rise till at 11PM it blew almost a gale. Went on deck at 11 1/2 PM. The scene was fearful, but magnificent. The ship was tossing and pitching in a manner not at all pleasant. The waves were rolling at least 20 feet high and as far as the eye could reach seemed to be capped with silver, while in the track of our wheels millions of stars were dancing and flashing…

Nov 2nd
Last night was the worst I ever saw. I could not sleep, for I had as much as I could do to hold myself in my bunk. Reynolds got thrown out of his and he had a top one too…8AM Our quarters presented a sorry sight. Window in stern got stove in the night. before it could be stopped the water was 3 or 4 inches deep. Shoes, guns, knapsacks, shirts, etc floating round in fine style. Went on deck…10A.M. Wind going down some. Struck green water at 4P.M.

John Call Dalton, M.D., rode out the 1861 Expedition Hurricane aboard the troopship USS Oriental.

On board the USS Oriental, John Call Dalton, Medical officer, rode out the storm with the 7th New York Militia. He vividly recalled the storm in his memoir:

On Friday, November 1st it began to get rough. The sky was overcast, the ship rolled and pitched, and the wind howled in a way that gave warning of worse to come. As the day wore on, there was no improvement, and before nightfall it was a blowing gale…All that evening the wind increased in violence. Every hour it blew harder, and the waves came faster and bigger than before. The see was no longer a highway; it was a tossing chaos of hills and valleys, sweeping toward us from the southeast with the force of the tornado, and reeling and plunging about us on every side. The ship was acting well and showed no signs of distress thus far; but by midnight it seemed as though she had about as much as she could do. The officers and crew did their work in steady, seamanlike fashion, and among the soldiers there was no panic or bustle. Once in a while I would get up out of my berth, to look at the ship from the head of the companion way, or to go forward between decks and listen to the pounding of the sea against her bows. At one o’clock, for the first time, things were no longer growing worse; and in another hour or two it was certain that the gale had reached its height. Then I turned in for sleep, wedged myself into the berth with blankets, and made no more inspection tours that night.

The SS Governor was overwhelmed by the storm and foundering with a battalion of 385 marines on board, Major John George Reynolds commanding, and 15 crew.  In the gale, the  gunboats USS Young Rover and USS Isaac Smith, both damaged by the storm, were unable to take the Governor effectively in tow. Finally the frigate USS Sabine arrived and a daring rescue ensued at the height of the raging hurricane.  Before the SS Governor sank, the entire complement of the ship were saved with the exception of one corporal and six privates who, attempting to jump from the deck of the Governor to the Sabine were drowned or crushed  between the decks of the two vessels. The reports of the captains of the USS Sabine, USS Isaac Smith, USS Young Rover, and the acting master of the SS Governor were published in the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies.

Expedition Hurricane. Rescue of Major Reynolds's Battalion of Marines From The Foundering Steamer "Governor."

1861 Expedition Hurricane. Rescue of Major Reynolds’s Battalion of Marines From The Foundering Steamer “Governor.”

The awesome force with which this hurricane struck the fleet is evident in Major John G. Reynolds’ report to Commodore Samuel F. Du Pont.

Flag-Officer Saml. F. Du Pont,
Commanding U. S. Naval Expedition, Southern Coast.

The marine battalion under my command left Hampton Roads on transport steamboat Governor on the morning of Tuesday, the 29th of October, with the other vessels of the fleet, and continued with them near the flagship Wabash until Friday, the 1st of November. On Friday morning about 10 o’clock the wind began to freshen, and by 12 or l blew so violently we were obliged to keep her head directly to the wind, and thereby leave the squadron, which apparently stood its course.
Throughout the afternoon the gale continued to increase, though the Governor stood it well until about 4 o’clock. About this time we were struck by two or three very heavy seas, which broke the port hog brace in two places, the brace tending inward. This was immediately followed by the breaking of the hog brace on the starboard side. By great exertions on the part of the officers and men of the battalion these braces were so well stayed and supported that no immediate danger was apprehended from them.
Up to this time the engine worked well. Soon after the brace chains [guys] which supported the smokestack parted, and it went overboard. Some 3 feet of it above the hurricane deck remained, which enabled us to keep up the fires. Soon after the loss of the smokestack the steam pipe burst. After this occurrence we were unable to make more than 14 pounds of steam, which was reduced as soon as the engine commenced working to from 3 to 5 pounds. The consequence was we had to stop the engine frequently in order to increase the head of steam. At this period the steamer was making water freely, but was easily kept clear by the pumps of the engine whenever it could be worked. About 5 o’clock we discovered a steamer with a ship in tow, which we supposed to be the Ocean Queen. To attract attention we sent up rockets, which signals she answered. When our rockets, six in all, were gone, we kept up a fire of musketry for a long time, but, the sea running high and the wind being violent, she could render us no assistance. She continued on her course, in sight the greater part of the night. About 3 o’clock Saturday morning the packing round the cylinder head blew out, rendering the engine totally useless for some time. The engine was finally put in running order, although it went very slowly. The rudder chain was carried away during the night, the water gaining constantly on us and the boat laboring violently. At every lurch we apprehended the hog braces would be carried away, the effect of which would have been to tear out the entire starboard side of the boat, collapse the boiler, and carry away the wheelhouse. Early in the morning the rudderhead broke, the engine was of very little use, the water still gaining on us rapidly, and we entirely at the mercy of the wind. It was only by the untiring exertions of our men that we were kept afloat. Nearly one hundred of them were kept constantly pumping and bailing, and the rest were holding fast the ropes which supported the hog braces.
Toward morning the weather, which during the night had been dark and rainy, seemed to brighten and the wind to lull. At daybreak two vessels were seen on our starboard bow, one of which proved to be the U.S.S. Isaac Smith, commanded by Lieutenant J. W. A. Nicholson, of the Navy. She descried our signal of distress, which was ensign halfmast, union down, and stood for us. About 10 o’clock we were hailed by the Smith and given to understand that if possible we should all be taken on board. A boat was lowered from her and we were enabled to take a hawser. This, through the carelessness of Captain [C. L.] Litchfield, of the Governor, was soon cast off or unavoidably let go. The water was still gaining on us. The engine could be worked but little, and it appeared that our only hope of safety was gone.
The Smith now stood off, but soon returned, and by 1 o’clock we had another hawser from her and were again in tow. A sail (the propeller bark Young Rover) which had been discovered on our starboard bow during the morning was soon within hailing distance.
The captain proffered all the assistance he could give, though at the time he could do nothing, owing to the severity of the weather. The hawser from the Smith again parted, and we were once more adrift.
The Young Rover now stood for us again, and the captain said he would stand by us till the last, for which encouragement he received a heartfelt cheer from the men. He also informed us [that] a large frigate was ahead standing for us. He then stood for the frigate, made signals of distress and returned. The frigate soon came into view and hope once more cheered the hearts of all on board the transport. Between 2 and 3 o’clock the U.8. frigate Sabine (Captain Ringgold) was within hail, and the assurance given that all hands would be taken on board. After a little delay the Sabine came to anchor. We followed her example, and a hawser was passed to us. It was now late in the day and there were no signs of an abatement of the gale. It was evident that whatever was to be done for our safety must be done without delay. About 8 or 9 o’clock the Sabme had paid out enough chain to bring, her stern close to our bow. Spars were rigged out over the stern of the frigate and every arrangement made for whipping our men on board, and some thirty men were rescued by this means. Three or four hawsers and an iron stream cable were parted by the plunging of the vessels. The Governor at this time had 3 feet water, which was rapidly increasing. It was evidently intended by the commanding officer of the Sabine to get the Governor alongside and let our men jump from the boat to the frigate. In our condition this appeared extremely hazardous. It seemed impossible for us to strike the frigate without instantly going to pieces. We were, however, brought alongside and some forty men succeeded in getting on board the frigate. One was crushed to death between the frigate and the steamer in attempting to gain a foothold on the frigate.
Shortly after being brought alongside the frigate the starboard quarter of the Sabine struck the port bow of the Governor, and carried away about 20 feet of the hurricane deck from the stem to the wheelhouse. The sea was running so high, and we being tossed so violently, it was deemed prudent to slack up the hawser and let the Governor fall astern of the frigate with the faint hope of weathering the gale till morning.
All our provisions and other stores, indeed every movable article, were thrown overboard, and the water casks started to lighten the vessel. From half past 3 until daybreak the Governor floated in comparative safety, notwithstanding the water was rapidly gaining on her. At daybreak preparations were made for sending boats to our relief, although the sea was running high, and it being exceedingly dangerous for a boat to approach the guards of the steamer. In cpnsequence the boats laid off and the men were obliged to jump into the sea, and were then hauled into the boats. All hands were thus providentially rescued from the wreck with the exception, I am pained to say, of 1 corporal and 6 privates, who were drowned or killed by the crush or contact of the vessels. Those drowned were lost through their disobedience of orders in leaving the ranks, or abandoning their posts. After the troops were safely reembarked every exertion was directed to securing the arms, accouterments, ammunition, and other property which might have been saved after lightening the wreck. I am gratified in being able to say nearly all the arms were saved and about half the accouterments. The knapsacks, haversacks, and canteens were nearly all lost. About 10,000 round of cartridges were fortunately saved, and 9,000 lost. Since being on board of this ship every attention has been bestowed by Captain Ringgold and his officers toward recruiting the strength of our men and restoring them to such a condition as will enable us to take the field at the earliest possible moment. Too much praise can not be bestowed upon the officers and men under any command. All did nobly. The firmness with which they performed their duty is beyond all praise. For forty eight hours they stood at ropes and passed water to keep the ship afloat. Refreshments in both eating and drinking were passed to them at their posts by noncommissioned officers. It is impossible for troops to have conducted themselves better under such trying circumstances. The transport continued to float some three hours after she was abandoned, carrying with her when she sunk, I am grieved to say, company books and staff returns. In order to complete the personnel of the battalion, I have requested Captain Ringgold to meet a requisition for several privates, to which he has readily assented. I considered this requisition in order, as I have been informed by Captain Ringgold it is his intention, as orders were given for his ship to repair to a Northern port; in which event he can easily be supplied, and my command by the accommodation rendered complete, in order to meet any demand you make for our services.
Under God, we owe our preservation to Captain Ringgold and the officers of the Sabine, to whom we tender our heartfelt thanks for their untiring labors while we were in danger and their unceasing kindness since we have been on board the frigate.
This report is respectfully submitted.
I am, commodore, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Jno. Geo. Reynolds,
Commanding Battalion Marines, Southern Division.

P. S.—List of noncommissioned officers and privates drowned and
injured by attempting to leave the U. S. transport steamer Governor
without orders:
Corporal Thomas McKeown, Privates Manus Brown, Timothy Lacy, Lawrence Gorman, Thomas Walker, Robert Campbell, drowned; Private Edward H. Miller, cut in two by collision with Sabine; Private Gustave Smith, arm broken by collision with Sabine.
Jno. Geo. Reynolds,
Major, Commanding Battalion.

On Hatteras the storm surge was so high the entire island was inundated.  Fort Hatteras was the only thing that remained above water. Federal troops evacuated the island and withdrew to Fort Monroe. USS Union went ashore about 13 miles south of Fort Macon.  USS Osceola went on the rocks near Georgetown during the storm. The USS Peerless went down after a collision with the Star of the South.  The confederate press reported that USS Winfield Scott had gone down with two Federal regiments, but that was wishful thinking; the Winfield Scott was badly damaged but remained afloat.

After ripping through the fleet, the hurricane made landfall on November 2, 1861 at 10:00 am at Morehead City, NC with sustained winds estimated at 70 mph, and proceeded up the coast.

When the fleet arrived at Port Royal “many showed the marks of their rough treatment at sea. The big sidewheel steam, Winfield Scott, came in dismasted, and with a great patch of canvas over her bows, looking like a man with a broken head. Other had lost smoke-stacks, or stove bulwarks or wheel-houses.”John Call Dalton

 

USS Winfield Scott, dismasted in the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, made port at Port Royal, SC.

USS Winfield Scott, dismasted in the Expedition Hurricane of 1861, made port at Port Royal, SC.

Some of the other ships were forced to return home for repairs, but the majority rode out the storm successfully.

The expedition proceeded onward to Port Royal Sound for the Battle of Port Royal.  Among the ships joining the rendezvous at Port Royal Sound was the USS St Lawrence. The St. Lawrence had come from blockade duty off St. Simons Island, GA.

USS St Lawrence, US Southern Blockade Squadron, was stationed off St. Simons Island, GA

USS St Lawrence, US Southern Blockade Squadron, was stationed off St. Simons Island, GA

 

The expedition arrived at Port Royal, South Carolina, November 4th, when it was greeted by Commodore Tattnall and his mosquito fleet; which soon withdrew in disgust. On the following day, Commodore Tattnall renewed his “attack,” but a few shots from our big guns effectually disposed of him. The 6th, the weather being stormy, nothing was done.

Surrender of Forts Walker and Beauregard.

On the morning of November 7th, Commodore Dupont engaged the Confederate forts, Beauregard, of 32 guns, and Walker, of 15 guns; the Wabash leading the way, and the other war ships and gunboats following. The batteries from the shore replied with spirit. The action commenced at twenty minutes past nine, A. M., and lasted until half-past two, P. M., when the batteries were silenced, the forts evacuated, and the Stars and Stripes planted on South Carolina soil. Soon after, the Seventh Connecticut regiment landed and took possession of Fort Walker; and on the following morning our flag waved over Fort Beauregard. Beaufort was also temporarily occupied, the whole white population, with the exception of one man, having fled. The Confederate troops, estimated at full 5,000, retreated before the Federal troops could land, leaving arms, baggage, and personal valuables behind. The Federal loss was 8 killed and 23 wounded  –Edgar Albert Werner

The cannonade was so intense the sounds of the Battle of Port Royal could be heard by the 29th Georgia Regiment 60 miles away on Sapelo Island.

The hurricane of November 1-2, 1861 which preceded the battle is known as the Expedition Hurricane because of its influence on the fleet.

Related Posts

Ships of the Great Naval Expedition

New York Times
October 26, 1861

THE GUNBOAT FLEET.

We are now enabled to give the names of all the vessels engaged in this great expedition. The gunboats are all well armed and manned. Vessels like the Unadilla, Seneca, Pembina and Ottawa, each carry one 11-inch Dahlgren, one Parrott rifled gun, and two 24-pound howitzers. The names of the gunboats are:

Vessel, Commander.

      1. USS Seminole ………………..J.P. Gillies.
      2. USS Mohican …………………Godon.
      3. USS Florida …………………..Gildsborough.
      4. USS Pocahontas ……………….Drayton.
      5. USS James Adger ……………..Marchand.
      6. USS Augusta ………………….Parrott.
      7. USS Alabama………………….Lanier.
      8. USS Unadilla ………………….N. Collins.
      9. USS Ottawa …………………..Thos. H. Stevens.
      10. USS Seneca ………………….Daniel Aminen.
      11. USS Pawnee ………………….R.H. Wyman.
      12. USS Pembina ………………….Bankhead.
      13. USS Isaac Smith ……………….Nicholson.
      14. USS R.B. Forbes ………………Newcomb.
      15. USS Curlew ……………………Watmough.
      16. USS Penguin ………………….Budd.

      In addition to these vessels, all of which are steamers, there are now on the station, and to join the squadron,
      Vessel, tonnage, Commander, station
      <

      1. USS Sabine ……………………………(50,) Capt. RINGGOLD, at present blockading Charleston;
      2. USS Susquehannah……………. (15,) Capt. LARDNER;
      3. USS Flag………………………….. Commander RODGERS; off Savannah
      4. USS Savannah……………. (24,) Commander MISSRGOM, off Savannah
      5. USS St. Lawrence……………. (50.) Capt. PURVIANCE, off St. Simon’s Island, GA
      6. USS Dale…………….(16,) Commander YARD, off Fernandina, FL
      7. Vandalia……………. (20,) Commander HAGGERTY, recently off Bale’s Bay, S.C., but just returned to Hampton Roads;
      8. Governor……………. (transport,) Capt. C.L. LITCHFIELD, with Major REYNOLDS’ Battalion of Marines.
        The entire armament of the fleet is about 400 guns.

THE TRANSPORT FLEET
STEAMSHIPS.

Vessel. Tonnage. Commander.

 

  1. Baltic………………2,723……………Comstock.
  2. Ocean Queen……….2,802……………Seabury.
  3. Vanderbilt…………..3,360……………La Favre.
  4. Illinois…………….2,123……………Rathburn.
  5. Star of the South…… 960……………Kearnly.
  6. Marion…………….. 860……………Phillips.
  7. Parkersburgh………. 715……………Hoffman.
  8. Matanzas………….. 875……………Leesburg.
  9. Cahawba…………..1,643……………Baker.
  10. Empire City………..1,751……………Baxter.
  11. Ariel……………….1,295……………Terry.
  12. Daniel Webster……..1,035……………Johnston.
  13. Coatzacoalcos………1,953……………Botcock.
  14. Roanoke……………1,071……………Conch.
  15. Ericsson……………1,902……………Cowles.
  16. Oriental……………. — ……………Tuzo.
  17. Potomac…………… 448……………Hilliard.
  18. Locust Point……….. 462……………French.
  19. Philadelphia………..1,236……………Barton.
  20. Spalding…………… — …………… —
  21. Winfield Scott……… — …………… —
  22. Atlantic…………….2,815…………… —
  23. Belvidere………….. — ……………Phillips.
  24. Ben. Deford…………1,080…………… —
  25. Mayflower, (ferryboat.)
  26. Philadelphia, (ferryboat.)
  27. Baltimore, (ferryboat.)
  28. Eagle, (ferryboat.)
  29. Star, (ferryboat.)
  30. Pocahontas, (ferryboat.)
  31. Commodore Perry, (ferryboat.)

SAILING VESSELS.

Vessel. Tonnage.

  1. Great Republic….. 3,356
  2. Zenas Coffin…….. 338
  3. Ocean Express…..1,697
  4. Golden Eagle…… 1,128All these transport vessels are armed. They carry ordnance and Quartermaster’s stores, two houses in frame work, bricks in large quantity, about 1,500 shovels, the same number of picks, sand bags, horses, boats for landing men and guns through the surf, and every other article likely to be required for a campaign.

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island: Part 5

Berrien County in the Civil War
29th Georgia Regiment on Sapelo Island
Part 5:  Tidewater Time

During the Civil War,  two companies of men that went forth from Berrien County, GA were known as the Berrien Minute Men.  From October, 1861 to January, 1862, the campfires of the Berrien Minute Men  were made at Sapelo and Blackbeard islands protecting the approaches to Darien, GA on Doboy Sound and the Altamaha River.  The Berrien Minute Men arrived in early October and were stationed on Sapelo Island along with the Thomas County Guards, Thomas County Volunteers and Ochlocknee Light Infantry.  Regimental officers were elected by the first of November. Through the fall, the men bided their time, fighting boredom and disease…

Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island

  1. Arrival On Sapelo
  2. Place of Encampment
  3. Camp Spalding
  4. Election of Officers
  5. Tidewater Time
  6. In Regular Service

The soldiers of the 29th Georgia Regiment lamented their defensive position so far from the action of the war.   William J. Lamb and Thomas L. Lamb left the Berrien Minute Men in October to join Company E, 54th GA Regiment. Moses Giddens and John F. Parrish  left camp by the end of October. Parrish was a miller and took an exemption from military duty for service essential to the war effort; he later served as a judge in Berrien County. William Anderson, Enos J. Connell and Newton A. Carter left sick, but later returned to the regiment on Sapelo.

While languishing on the tidewater, the closest the 29th Regiment came to an enemy engagement was listening to the sounds of the Battle of Port Royal on November 7, 1861. Some 60 miles from the men on Sapelo Island, cannonade sounds from Port Royal may have carried over the distance due to an acoustic refraction caused by atmospheric conditions.  In the right combination, wind direction, wind shear, and temperature inversions in the atmosphere may cause sound waves to refract upwards then be bent back towards the ground many miles away. Numerous cases of acoustic refraction and acoustic shadows in Civil War battles have been documented.

Battle of Port Royal

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

Sounds of the Battle of Port Royal were heard sixty miles away by the Berrien Minute Men on Sapelo Island, GA.

The Battle of Port Royal was one of the earliest amphibious operations of the Civil War, in which a US Navy fleet under Commodore Samuel Francis Dupont and US Army expeditionary force of 15,000 troops under General Thomas West Sherman captured Port Royal and Beaufort,  South Carolina. The Confederate forces  defending the harbor at Fort Walker on Hilton Head and Fort Beauregard in Bay Point were completely routed  after a four hour naval bombardment.

Sergeant Robert Goodwin “Bobbie” Mitchell, of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry, Company E, 29th Georgia Infantry wrote  to his sweetheart, Amaretta “Nettie” Fondren in a letter home dated November 11, 1861, “How bad did it make me feel to remain here and listen to the booming of the cannon and not knowing but what every shot was sending death to some noble Georgian’s heart…How my blood boiled to be there.”

Sergeant Mitchell’s letter also reported that Colonel Spalding had gotten “shamefully drunk.” That fact was known to Spalding’s fellow plantation owners as well.  Charles C. Jones, who was Mayor of Savannah until August, 1861, wrote  in a letter to his father on November 9, 1861, that Colonel Spalding was supposed to have taken the regiment to South Carolina to participate in the defense of Port Royal, but it was rumored he was too drunk to do so. Jones was 1st Lieutenant of the Chatham Artillery, which in the summer of 1862 would share a station at Causton’s Bluff with the Berrien Minute Men defending approaches to Savannah, GA.

The Battle of Port Royal dramatically exposed the vulnerability of the Confederate coast, ultimately leading to the abandonment of the Georgia sea islands.

 “The attack on Port Royal had a major impact on General Robert E. Lee, who took command of the Confederate Department of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida on November 8, 1861. As a result of his observations of the potential of the Union naval forces, Lee determined that the dispersed garrisons and forts that protected the widely scattered inlets and rivers could not be strengthened enough to defeat Union naval forces. Accordingly, he concentrated the South’s coastal guns at Charleston and Savannah. Making use of the Confederacy’s interior lines of communication, Lee developed quick-reaction forces that could move along the coastal railroads to prevent a Union breakthrough.” – HistoryNet

For a while after the fall of Port Royal, time continued to drag for the Berrien soldiers on the Georgia tidewater. The sick roll continued to grow. Isaac Baldree, John M. Bonds, John W. Beaty, James Crawford, William W. Foster, John P. Griffin, John L. Hall, George H. Harrell, Burrell H. Howell, Bedford Mitchell James, James S. Lewis, Thomas J. Lindsey, Edward Maloy, Newton McCutcheon, Samuel Palin,Thomas Palin, A.D. Patterson, John W. Powell, William J. Powell, James S. Roberts, Jason Sapp, Sidney M. Sykes, Levi T. Smith, Charles N. Talley, James B. White  and Thomas W. Beaty of Captain Wyllys’ company of Berrien Minute Men were absent on sick leave. Hyram F. Harrell, of Captain Lamb’s Company, left sick; he died on February 4, 1862.  On November 27, Hansell H. Seward and James A. Slater of the Ochlocknee Light Infantry were discharged from service at Darien, GA.

On Sunday, December 1, 1861,  Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote his wife that the weather was unseasonably warm.  William and his brother John were recuperating from severe colds.  Several of the men in camp on Sapelo Island were sick, and measles was spreading among the men.   William and his father, Major Levi J. Knight, were  up the river at Darien, GA, where they attended church together.  The town was later described by Union officer Luis F. Emilio, “Darien, the New Inverness of early days, was a most beautiful town…A broad street extended along the river, with others running into it, all shaded with mulberry and oak trees of great size and beauty. Storehouses and mills along the river-bank held quantities of rice and resin. There might have been from seventy-five to one hundred residences in the place. There were three churches, a market-house, jail, clerk’s office, court-house, and an academy.”   Wharves and docks were along the river.

Hugh E. Benton of the Thomas County Volunteers deserted the regiment on December 4, 1861. By this time, Sergeant Mitchell was frustrated and disgusted with the long inactivity of the 29th GA Regiment on Sapelo Island.  In his letter of December 9, 1861, from Sapelo, Mitchell complained of boredom in the camp.  Historian Lesley J. Gordan summarized Mitchell’s  despondence:

Far from the front, he found himself doing “nothing exciting or encouraging.”  The army seemed “cruel and despotic in its nature,” and he grew annoyed with the antics of his fellow soldiers, whom he deemed “rough and unrefined.”  

By mid-December, Berrien Minute Men Company D were on station at Camp Security.  Little is known about this camp except that it was “near Darien, GA” which would seem to place it on the mainland, rather than on the islands. Another soldier’s letter written from Camp Security and postmarked at Darien describes Camp Security as “one of the most abominable places on earth.”

Measles were soon rampant among the men. On December 18, Pvt. William Washington Knight wrote  from Camp Security, “Nearly all of our company have the measles.     Capt [John C.] Lamb has it.   We have eighteen privates fit for duty.    Reddin B. Parrish of our company son of Ezekiel Parrish died yesterday evening at sundown.     He was one of the best steadyest young men in our company.   Capt Lamb sent him home last night to be buried.”  The body of Redding Byrd Parrish was returned to Berrien County, GA.  The internment was at Pleasant Cemetery near Ray’s Mill (now Ray City), GA.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861 while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

Grave of Redding Byrd Parrish, Pleasant Cemetery near Ray City, Berrien County, GA. Parrish died of measles December 17, 1861, while serving with the Berrien Minute Men at Camp Security, McIntosh County, GA. Image source: Terrell Anderson.

There were some sixty men of the regiment sick with measles including John Knight, Ed Lamb, J.S. Roberts, Jasper M. Roberts, John Clemants, and John W. McClellan among others.

On December 14, 1861, Colonel Randolph Spaulding resigned his position for unknown reasons. In a new election, Captain William H Echols, was elected Colonel of the regiment. But the Confederate War Department declined to permit Echols to accept the position, and he remained in his position with the Confederate Corps of Engineers.  Another election was then ordered and William J. Young was elected and commissioned as Colonel of the Regiment.

Most of the men recovered from the measles. Some didn’t. Nathan B. Stephens of the Thomasville Guards died of measles on December 11, 1861, at Camp Security.

Henry C. McCrary died of measles on Christmas Day.  On New Year’s Eve, John C. Clements was put on sick leave.  Sergeant Lewis E. Cumby of the Thomas County Volunteers was sent home with measles and pneumonia and died on New Year’s Day, 1862.  Elbert J. Chapman, known to the Berrien Minute Men as “Old Yaller,” was furloughed. Chapman later deserted the Berrien Minute Men, joined another unit, was court martialed and executed for the desertion. John A. Parrish and John M. Griffin were absent on sick leave; Griffin never returned. E. Q. Bryant of the Thomas County Volunteers was at home sick.   Harrison Jones of the Berrien Minute Men was discharged with a disability January 12, 1862. Stephen N. Roberts and James S. Roberts, kinsmen of John W. Hagan, went home sick.  James returned to the regiment by February, 1862, but Stephen never recovered; he finally succumbed to pneumonia in Lowndes County, on January 6, 1863.

On January 1, and again on January 4, 1862,  Sergeant Mitchell wrote that there was drinking and fighting among the men.   The conditions of camp life had taken their toll on the morale of the men, but soon the 29th Georgia Regiment would be reported ready for action.

About Robert Goodwin Mitchell:

Robert Goodwin Mitchell was born on a plantation in Thomas county, Georgia, July 15, 1843, a son of Richard Mitchell and Sophronia Dickey. His father had served as a state representative from Pulaski County, before settling in Thomas. After some preliminary work in the neighborhood schools, Robert Goodwin Mitchell attended Fletcher Institute, at Thomasville, and later he was a student in the preparatory department of Mercer University for one term. When but eighteen years old, he volunteered for the Confederate service at Thomasville, and was mustered in Savannah in July, 1861, as color bearer, in Company E of the 29th Regiment. Mitchell had the natural countenance of a leader; He stood 6′ 2″, with blonde hair, grey eyes and a dark complexion. He was soon  appointed sergeant and at the re-organization in 1862, was made second lieutenant. When Gen. C. C. Wilson, of the 21st Regiment, was put in command of the brigade, including the 29th Georgia Infantry, Mitchell was appointed to the General’s staff as aide-de-camp. He married Amaretta Fondren on January 21, 1864. Mitchell was serving in the trenches under fire in the battle at Atlanta on July 22, 1864, and was severely wounded on the line southwest of the city, August 9, 1864. It was while Robert G. Mitchell was disabled from the wound he received in the war that he began the study of law. In 1865, he established a home south of Thomasville which grew to be a 2000 acre plantation. He went into a law partnership with his brother for a while before being appointed Solicitor General of the Southern Circuit. He was elected a state representative, then a state senator.   After serving his term as senator, Mitchell resumed his law practice until 1903, when he was elected judge of the superior court of the southern circuit of Georgia, to succeed Judge Augustin HansellThe letters of Robert Goodwin Mitchell are part of the Robert Goodwin Mitchell Papers, Hargrett Rare Books & Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, GA.

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