THE OCCUPATION OF BRUNSWICK
Official Reports to the Navy Department--The Town and its
Defenses Entirely Deserted--Reconnaissance to Darien--Sneaking Attack upon one of
THE REPORT OF FLAG-OFFICER DUPONT,
Flagship "Wabash", off St. John's, Florida, 19 March 1862
SIR: I had
the honor to inform the Department, in my communication of the 13th inst., that
I had dispatched a division of my force to Brunswick, under Commander S.W.
GODON, consisting of the "Mohican", the "Pocahontas", and the "Potomska".
These vessels crossed St. Simon's Bar
on the 8th inst., and anchored at sundown within two miles of the forts
commanding the channel.
On the following morning, Commander
GODON, with his division, moved past the batteries, which he soon discovered had
been abandoned, and immediately sent Lieut.-Commanding BALCH, with three armed
boats to take possession of the battery on St. Simon's Island, and Lieut. Henry
MILLER, of the "Mohican", with a suitable force, to take possession of the works
on Jekyl Island.
On St. Simon's Island were two
batteries composed of strong earthworks, and so arranged as to command the
approach to St. Simon's Sound. There were twelve embrasures, and numerous
well-constructed magazines. No arms were mounted, but a ten-inch solid
shot was found near, to indicate the calibre of some of them.
On Jekyl Island were also two
batteries, of much greater strength however. The one furthest seaward and
commanding the main channel, was a bomb-proof work, constructed of palmetto
logs, sand-bags and railroad iron, well supported and braced from the interior
with massive timbers. It had mounted three casemated guns, though these,
their carriages and all the ammunition had been removed.
The other battery, 500 yards
landward, consisted of two casemates and an earthwork capable of mounting four
guns, en barbelle. A magazine and a hot-shot furnace were attached.
Both St. Simon's and Jekyl Islands had been deserted.
After examining the batteries, the
vessels passed up the Sound to Brunswick and anchored off the town. A fire
was discovered near the wharf, which proved to be the Railroad depot and wharf,
the work of the retiring soldiers.
Lieut.-Commanding BALCH, with a large
force, covered by the guns of the "Potomska", landed at Brunswick without any
show of opposition, and hoisted the American flag on the Oglethorp(e) House.
The town was entirely deserted, and nearly all the property which could be
removed had been taken away. The lenses belonging to the Light-house at
St. Andrew's and the Light-house at St. Simons, the latter building having been
destroyed by the rebels, could not, after careful search be discovered.
The channel buoys for the river are still there, but out of place.
Proclamations were posted on some of
the public buildings, urging the inhabitants to return to their homes, and
promising protection to the property of all good citizens, and the landing party
then returned to their vessels.
Nothing was removed from any of the
houses, the men under Lieut. BALCH, commanding, carefully abstained from
injuring or taking away the private effects of the inhabitants. I inclose
(sic) a copy of Commander GODON's interesting report.
Very respectfully, &c.
S.F. DUPONT, Flag Officer.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES.
off St. John's, Florida, 21 March 1862
my last dispatch of the 19th inst., I have received another interesting report
from Commander GODON, giving the details of a reconnaissance by the inland
passage from Brunswick to Darien, a copy of which I inclose (sic).
Commander GODON, with the
"Pocahontas", Lieutenant-Commanding BALCH, and the "Potomska", Acting
Lieutenant-Commanding WATMOUGH, with the launch and howitzer of the "Mohican",
in charge of Lieut. MILLER, proceeded to open the interior communication between
St. Simon's Sound and the Altamaha River. He soon encountered an
obstruction, consisting of a double row of heavy piles, with their tops just
above water at low tide. In a few hours a sufficient number were removed,
and the "Pocahontas" and "Potomska" passed through, but had advanced only five
miles further when another obstruction of the same kind was met with.
After an unavoidable delay, owing to the rising of the tide, this also was
removed, and both vessels entered the Altamaha, and as they turned into the
river, two rebel steamers were seen moving off from the wharf at Darien, with
full head of steam, rendering pursuit useless, particularly as the brasses of
the "Potomska's" shaft bearing had broken, in a measure disabling that vessel.
Commander GODON learned from some
contrabands who came off from shore, that Darien, like Brunswick, was deserted,
a company of horsemen only remaining in the town, with the intention of firing
the place should the steamers approach.
Owing to the crippled condition of
the "Potomska" Commander GODON did not deem it advisable to push his
reconnaissance further, and accordingly returned through the passage he had
cleared to the anchorage at Brunswick. He visited a number of plantations
on St. Simon's Island, but, with one exception, all were deserted, though some
time previously, 1,500 troops were quartered there.
Commander GODON speaks in warm terms
of Lieut., Commanding BALCH and Acting Lieut.-Commanding WATMOUGH, as well as
the officers and crews of all the vessels under his command, in which I heartily
concur, desiring, however, to add my commendation of the zeal and ability of
Commander GODON himself, in carrying out my views in reference to our occupation
of this important section of the coast of Georgia.
Very respectfully, &c., S.F. DUPONT,
Southern Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of Navy
off St. John's, Florida 20 march 1861
SIR: I have
to inform the Department that I have heard, from Commander GORDON, of a
dastardly and concealed attack made upon a boat's crew of the "Pocahontas".
As I have informed the Department, Lieut.-Commanding BALCH visited the town of
Brunswick without anywhere discovering enemy.
A reconnaissance had also been made
for some miles up Turtle Creek with the same results. The rebels
apparently fled into the interior. On the afternoon of the 11th inst.,
Assistant-Surgeon A.C. RHOADS of the "Pocahontas", by permission of his
Commanding Officer, landed with a boat's crew near the town for the purpose of
procuring some fresh beef for the ships. Having accomplished his object,
the boat was returning to the "Pocahontas", but had scarcely gone twenty yards
from the beach, when they were suddenly fired upon by a body of rebels concealed
in a thicket, and I regret to report that two men, JOHN WILSON, ordinary seaman,
and JOHN SHUTER, ordinary seaman, were instantly killed, and several wounded,
one, WILLIAM DELANEY, mortally, and two seriously, viz.: Wm. SMITH, second
first-class foreman, and EDWARD PONSALL, coxswain. After the rebels had
fired their first volley, they called out in most offensive language to
"Surrender"; but this demand was refused by Dr. RHOADS, who, with the assistance
of Acting Paymaster KITCHEN and his wounded boat's crew, pulled as rapidly as
they could toward the "Pocahontas", the enemy continuing their fire. In a
few minutes a shell from one of the 11-inch guns of the "Mohican" dropped among
them, and quite near to another company of about 60 men, who were advancing
rapidly. The rebels scattered and fled in all directions. Several
shells were also fired at a locomotive and train observed in the distance, it is
supposed with effect. Throughout this cowardly assault, Dr. RHOADS
displayed great coolness and courage, and in his report of the occurrence,
whilst commanding the crew generally, he especially mentions the bravery
exhibited by DANIEL HARRINGTON, landsman, into which I shall make further
inquiry. Inclosed (sic) are the reports of Commander GORDON,
Lieutenant-commanding BALCH, and Assistant-Surgeon RHOADS.
I am, Sir, very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,
S.F. DUPONT, Flag-officer,
Commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary Navy.
COMMANDER GORDON'S REPORT
"U.S.S. Mohican", off Brunswick, Georgia, 10 March 1862
SIR: I have
the honor to report that in obedience to your order of March 5, I left
Fernandina on the morning of the 8th, accompanied by the "Pocahontas",
Lieut.-Commanding BALCH, and the "Potomska", Acting Lieut.-Commanding WATMOUGH,
and crossed Fernandina bar with just water enough to comfortably float this
ship. Made the best of my way to St. Simons' bar, and reached it at dead
low water, passing it and getting into Simons' channel, through which I carried
about 17 feet to within two miles of the forts, which we could plainly see
commanding St. Simon's entrance. Here at sundown I anchored for the night.
After dark I shifted the anchorage of the ship to alter the range of any guns
that might be left in the batteries. At daylight I made preparations to
pass the batteries, and at sunrise, weighed anchor and stood in. I soon
discovered that the batteries were evidently abandoned, and anchored my little
force inside, and beyond range of the guns, and made signal to land from the
Lieut.-Commanding BALCH, of the
"Pocahontas", with three boats, took possession of the fort on St. Simon's
Island, consisting of strong earthworks of considerable extent, and having had
eleven guns mounted. Some solid 10-inch shot found in the fort would
indicate the calibre of some of the guns there. I inclose (sic) a detailed
report of the taking of that battery by Lieut.-Commanding BALCH.
Lieut. MILLER, of this ship, at the
same time occupied the fort on Jekyl island, which was, it seems, a much
stronger position. It was a sand work with much five casemates finished,
covered with railroad iron, and very well built, and two unfinished casemates,
the iron rail ready to be put up. These two forts commanded the channel
for a long distance, and their fire crossed the entrance, which is a mile or a
little more wide. Once the batteries were passed they could offer but
little difficulty, as in five minutes the guns of all the vessels could have
enfiladed them, and could even fire directly in the rear. But they would
have given a number of vessels severe trouble in getting beyond them. I
inclose (sic) the report of Lieut. MILLER, of the fort on Jekyl Island.
As soon as the boats returned, I went
on the "Potomska", and proceeded in her up the river to Brunswick. So soon
as we opened the town to view, a heavy fire commenced, and at the same moment I
perceived the railroad cars moving at full speed in the woods. I at once
determined to bring up the ships and myself off the town, in the hopes of
preventing, by my presence, the place from being burned, and at once returned to
the "Potomska", as I had the pilot with me. Both the "Mohican" and
"Pocahontas" were under way before I reached them, and we proceeded to
Brunswick, off which place I anchored as the sun went down.
The cars had returned, but again
started at our approach. The 'Pocahontas" anchored opposite the town, but
outside of Buzzard Roost Island, the "Potomska" still higher up, and her guns
commanded the railroad beyond the town. The following morning I sent the
"Potomska" into the branch opposite the town. Neither this ship nor the
"Pocahontas" can well get in, as at high water but twelve feet of water was
found in the bulkhead, and between the wharf and Buzzard Roost Island the river
is but about 400 feet wide.
With the "Potomska", Lieut. BALCH
took charge of a landing party, consisting of 25 marines from this ship and the
"Pocahontas', and the two 12-pounder guns, with 40 riflemen from the different
vessels, landed and hoisted the flag. The place was deserted, and most of
the furniture of the houses removed. Still there was much private property
about, some in scows on the wharf, ready to be removed. After a careful
examination of such buildings as might be supposed to contain public property
and a careful survey was had, I visited the town and then directed the command
to retire into the ship, having posted a notice, urging the inhabitants to
return, and promising protection to all property for all good citizens. I
inclose (sic) Lieut. BALCH'S report of his landing, &c. Nothing in the
place was touched by the landing party, and such houses as were not open were
not even entered. I sincerely hope that some good citizens at least may be
found willing to resume their homes under my public notice, and I shall not
allow the place to be visited except on duty.
The fire we noticed was the work of
the retiring soldiers, and proved to be the railroad depot and the wharf.
The lenses belonging to the lighthouses were not found. The channel buoys
are in the river, but out of place, and the lighthouse destroyed.
The town is closely surrounded by
woods, is generally well built, and extends over a considerable space.
Several contrabands have come on board. Soldiers are said to be in the
woods not very distant, and most of the inhabitants are said to be 14 or 16
miles back, encamped. I have sent the "Pocahontas" and "Potomska" up the
river as far as they could go to reconnoiter. There is a schooner of
considerable size on the stocks, unfinished. Fires have been burning about
us, but I believe it is the brush being consumed. Nor have I notices, as
far as the people are concerned, that they are willing to follow the advice of
Messr. TOOMBS and COBB, by placing the torch in the hands of the children to
consume their property. All that is done in that way seem to be done by
the order of military commanders, who, having no local interest in the
neighborhood of their command, have the heroism to consume the property in which
they have no immediate interest. I am very respectfully, your obedient
Commander and Senior Officer.
To Flag-Officer S.F. DUPONT, commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
UNITED STATES STEAMER "MOHICAN"
St. Simon's Island, 16 March 1862.
SIR: I have
the honor to report that on the 13th inst. I started in the "Potomska",
accompanied by the "Pocahontas", with the launch and howitzer of this ship in
charge of Lieut. MILLER in tow, and proceeded through the inland passage toward
the Altamaha River.
I had heard that there were one or
two rebel steamers at Darien, and I hoped that I might get possession of them.
About five miles from the anchorage at this place, and where I had left the
"Mohican", between the batteries we found, as I had learned from contrabands,
that the river was staked entirely across We reached the spot at low
water, and found a double row of heavy piles, with their heads just above water.
I at once got to work with both vessels, and in a few hours hauled enough out of
each row to allow a passage for both vessels--say forty feet--and here for the
first time I learned that about five miles beyond another obstruction of the
same kind had been placed. We reached the second difficulty at midnight,
placed our hawser as the tide was rising but unfortunately the hawser disengaged
itself from the pile, and in the night, with the rising tide, we could not find
them to go on with the fork (sic), and my hope of passing through during the
night was lost. My object was to get into the river so as to make a dash
up to Darien by early daylight. We, however, worked hard that day, and by
112 o'clock got through this last obstruction. Between the two
obstructions midways, a battery had been built of mud, with the seeming object
of firing at the vessels employed in removing the piles, but which could not be
observed from those vessels. As we passed the second obstruction and
turned the river, we saw the steamers moving off from the wharf at Darien, with
full head of steam, going up the Altamaha River.
At sundown I anchored both vessels at
Doboy Island, passing, to reach that spot, which is on the Altamaha River,
through Mud River at high water, with just twelve feet. We remained that
day at Doboy, the wind blowing quite a ale from S.W. to W. As I had lost
all hope of the capture of the steamers, and observing several large fires in
the neighborhood of Darien, I determined to proceed no further at this time,
more particularly as I found that the brasses of the "Potomska's" shaft bearing
had broken, and I feared she might become disabled. I had indeed
accomplished my object, which was to open the inland passage to Darien and if
the "Potomska" had not been in what I fear a crippled condition I should have
placed her at Doboy, which commands the river outlet, or at Sapellow (sic)
Island, which commands the entire entrance to the Altamaha and the inland
passage to Savannah. Darien has been deserted as was Brunswick; this we
learned from some contrabands who came off to us; a company of horsemen only
remaining in town, with the intention of firing the place should we approach it.
I have been from one end of St. Simon's Island to the other. But one white
man is I saw him. He is with his aged mother and little child. He
had never been in the army, refused to have his house, and was in mortal dread
at our coming, as the military had informed him that we came for the purpose of
destroying even the women and children. We procured beef for the vessels
at his plantation, for which we paid the price he asked, and furnished the
family with some articles, such as coffee, salt, &c., which articles they had
not even seen for months. We stopped at one or two other plantations on
our way back; all were deserted, but had been tenanted by the military at
various times, for as late as November, some 1,500 troops were quartered on St.
Simon's. We found some of the places to contain large quantities of
cattle, and at KIND's (may mean KING's) plantation, not three miles from
this anchorage, we counted some fifty head near where we landed. All the
blacks have been removed from St. Simon's, and at Doboy we met the only negro
seen, who was old, and alone on the place. He had been the father of
thirteen children, but he informed me that every one had been sold as they
reached about 18 years of age, and as he graphically expressed it "for pocket
money for his master." Your orders did not embrace the reconnaissance I
have just made, and which has caused a delay of several days in communication to
you my progress to Brunswick. I hope, however, you will approve my conduct
in the matter. I have now cleared the passage to Darien from inside, which
can be performed rapidly by gunboats of ten feet draft. The draft of the
"Pocahontas" and "Potomska" is rather great, as they might be caught and delayed
for higher tides.
I now beg leave, Sir, to express
myself in warm terms of commendation for the energy and skill of
Lieutenant-Commanding BALCH and Acting-Lieut.-Commanding WATMOUGH, and for the
aid they have rendered me in the active work we have been engaged in for the
last eight days; and I take equal pleasure in mentioning the cheerfulness in the
work of the officers and crews of the three vessels engaged. I have the
honor to be, &c.
S.W. GODON, Commander.
Flag-Office S.J. DUPONT, Commanding
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.