The Occupation of Brunswick!

 

Extracted from " The New York Times" Wednesday 9 April 1862; Vol. XI, No. 3284; front page col. 3.

I have typed this as it appeared in the paper.  Some names and words were misspelled, then spelled correctly in various places, one being Commander Gordon's name, which is spelled Godon in some instances and Gordon in others.  Also a date of 1861 heads one correspondence and probably should be 1862.

 

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 our Boats,

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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.                                                   

 

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FLAGSHIP "WABASH",
off St. John's, Florida, 21 March 1862

        SIR:  Since 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,
Flag-Officer Commanding
Southern Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Hon. GIDEON WELLES, Secretary of Navy                                   

 

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FLAGSHIP "WABASH"
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.                                                       

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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 vessels.
        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 servant,

S.W. GODON,
Commander and Senior Officer.
To Flag-Officer S.F. DUPONT, commanding South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

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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.

 

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