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Reconnaissance up the Savannah River and to Elba Island - March 1862
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MARCH 7-11, 1862.

Reconnaissance up the Savannah River and to Elba Island.


Report of Lient. Col. John H. Jackson, Third New Hampshire Infantry.



Port Royal, S. C., March 13, 1862.


I have the honor to report that in compliance with instructions received from Brig. Gen. T. XV. Sherman, March 7, I left this camp at 6 p. m. on that date, and proceeded to Sea brook with 20 officers and 371 men, with Surgeon Moulton and 4 hospital attendants. I arrived at Seabrook at 8 p. in., and found there six boats, two of them of small size. I made every effort to obtain more boats, and after waiting an hour Captain Dunbar arrived from Hilton Head with four boats, making ten boats with which to transfer my command to Daufuskie Island. The boats were crowded full, and I was compelled to leave behind Company A, with 2 officers, and a part of Company F, with 1 officer, a total of 91 men and 3 officers. Just as we were about to leave Seabrook, Captain Dunbar was taken sick, and I placed the whole charge of the boats and boatmen with Lieutenant Cornelius, of Company D, who discharged his duties in a prompt and efficient manner during the whole time of our absence. We left Seabrook at 10 p.m. some of the boats leaking badly. When I arrived opposite Buckingham’s Ferry, and several times before reaching there, I was fired on by rebel pickets. I found we had lost our way, and having no counter- sign, were being fired on by our own pickets as well as by the rebels. I thought it advisable to land and wait till daylight, it then being very dark. Quite a number of shots were fired at us, none hitting either the men or boats. It was 2 in the morning when I landed, two of the boats not coming np till daylight, having lost their way during the night. At daylight I started again, having procured a guide Private Alonzo Borden, Company I, Forty-Fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers. At 7.30 a. m. we came up with the two boats we had missed during the night, and at 9 a. m. I landed on Daufuskie, marched 5 miles, to General Viele’s quarters, and reported to him at 12 o’clock. After landing I sent the boats to Engineers Wharf, at the upper end of the island. General Viele ordered me to encamp and wait further orders. During the evening Companies A and F arrived from Seabrook on the Mayflower, she coming from Hilton Head with commissary stores, and having taken them on board when passing Seabrook. The next morning (Sunday, the 9th) I was ordered to embark and proceed to Savannah River, with my entire command, on a reconnaissance. I proceeded to Savannah River and some distance up the river, without seeing any signs of rebel pickets. I then returned and landed at the battery opposite Jones Island, letting the men leave the boats a short time to rest them. While there a rebel steamer came out of San Augustine Creek in sight of our batteries and steamed up the river towards Savannah. Our batteries opened on them, making some good line shots, though they did not appear to strike the steamer, but they quickened her speed. After resting a short time I crossed to Jones Island. As the boats were heavily laden and the tide low I could not pass down Mud River. I therefore landed the men and sent the boats aronnd to the Oppsite side of the island to join me there. From there I again embarked, and returned to Daufuskie. The next morning (Monday, 10th) 1 received orders from General Viele to take one days rations and with all my command make a recon- naissance of Elba Island, which I proceeded to do, accompanied by Major Gardiner, of the Seventh Connecticut Volunteers, and Captani Liehenan, of General Vieles staff. We left the landing known as the Engineers Wharf at 9.45 a. m. in small boats, which were taken in tow by the steamer Mayflower to the point of Jones Island (on Mud River) known as Sears Landing, arriving there at 12 o’clock. From thence we proceeded in our boats, heavily laden as they were, against wind and tide, through Mud River, across the Savannah River, to a point on Elba island opposite to and below the mouth of Mud River, where I landed, accompanied by Major Bedel, of the Third New Hampshire Volunteers, Major Gardinem, and Captain Liebenan. I at once saw the impracticability of landing my whole force, as the tall reeds and grass on the lower portion of the island had been burned, thus leaving us a fair mark for any of the enemy’s steamers, should any of them (attracted by the large force under my command in small boats crossing the Savannah in (lay- light) have thought best to come down amid attack us. I left the force there under the command of Captain Plimpton, with instructions to officers in command of the several different boats to allow no man to land, but each officer and soldier to remain seated in the boats, covered by the shores of the island, and instructing the officers in charge, as soon as any black heavy smoke became visible beyond them, to pull directly for Mud River, so as to be under the cover of the guns from our batteries and those of the Western World to leave a small boat for us, or if this was not practicable, to take all the boats, leaving us on the island. After these instructions I divided our small force landed, by giving Major Bedel 6 men, and instructions to proceed across to the opposite side of the island, scattering his men, and thence to the upper cud, while with Major Gardiner, Captain Liebenan, and 6 men I proceeded on our course on this side, expecting to join Major Bedel at the upper end of the island. We separated to start upon our several courses at 1.43 p. m., and after traveling two hours and a quarter and crossing several small streams we came to the point of land, the extreme end of the island, looking towards the mouth of Wright River. On a point of land above the mouth of said river we saw a large store-house, or factory, with the windows closed, and no signs of any picket, although 2 men were seen, apparently unarmed. From this point we proceeded directly across the island to the opposite side. Here we found the ruins of two houses, with one high brick chimney standing. From this point we could look directly up a stream across which there seemed to be a bridge, with heavy, strong abutments, as if intended for guns to be placed upon. Upon these abutments men could be distinctly seen at work, but what they were doing or if guns were in position at this place we were unable to see, as the afternoon sun shone directly against us and, shining upon the water, impaired our view. Near the bridge, on the side towards us, were three steamers lying at anchor (these were black) and one white steamer under way inside of the bridge. On the right-hand side were two vessels, schooner-rigged. It was impossible to tell whether they were steamers or sailing vessels. I then proceeded to the above-mentioned chimney, from which point I plainly saw houses, appearing to be store-houses, apparently filled with men, some of whom were distinctly seen lounging in the windows, but could see no signs of a battery. While resting ourselves, we saw a sail-boat well filled with men some sailors and some soldiers, about 20 in all leave one of the steamers and shape their course for this point. We at once proceeded to return to our boats. After a fatiguing tramp of one hour amid a hail one of the corporals who accompanied us saw a sail passing down the river, He reported the fact to me. We then ascertained that it was a boat from the steamer Western World, with Captain Gregory and Surgeon Moulton, of the New Hampshire Third, who were in search of us alongshore, thinking from our protracted absence we had lost our way. The captain immediately took us on board, and we proceeded to join the forces of my command, lying in boats at the lower end of the island. On arriving there we found Major Bedel returned with the men of his command and 4 of those of mine. He reports that after crossing the island and proceeding up the southerly side opposite Saint Augustine Creek, on the upper point of which he discovered a picket of 5 men, they were within range, but his instructions were not to fire upon any pickets, but to keep themselves hidden. After traveling an hour and a half he found a stream, which it was impossible to cross. He followed the course of the stream inland until he reached the head of the stream, where he lost his way, owing to the thickness and height of the rushes, when, finding evening approaching, he returned to the boats. Upon my joining the forces in the boats, we proceeded to camp, where we arrived at 8 o’clock p. m. The next morning (Tuesday, 11) I received orders from General Viele to prepare to return to Hilton Head, with the understanding that the Mayflower was to bring the troops and tow the boats. Between 3 and 4 o’clock p. in., and after the men had been standing in the rain sonic tune, we were notified that we must return in our boats, and as it was impossible to get all the men in the boats, I sent the boats around to the point (Egg Point), where we first landed on the island, and marched the men down there. It was dark when we arrived there, and the tide muning out and a strong head wind blowing, I found it impossible to get home that night. I then took two companies across the river to Law- tons plantation, on Hilton Head Island, and sent the boats back to join the other boats. I left Major Bedel with the remaining four companies, with instructions to return to Hilton Head as soon as practicable. The next morning early Major Bedel landed with two companies at Lawton’s Plantation. The remaining two companies went to Seabrook in the boats, and marched from there to this camp yesterday noon. Between 9 and 10 o’clock a. m. I left the plantation with the four companies there and arrived here in camp at 1 p. m. Every man that left the camp with me has returned. Five men are sick and iii their quarters, and 1 was sent to the hospital on our return. The remainder of the men are in good health and spirits.


With great respect, this report is respectfully submitted,


Lieutenant- Colonel, Commanding Third New Hampshire Vols.


To Commanding Officer,

Port Royal, SC



SOURCE: The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 6; page 97-100.