This is Gooding’s 17th letter to the Mercury

Mercury, June 30, 1863 [OAF]
St. Simon’s Island, Ga., June 14, 1863

Messrs. Editors:

—As intimated in my last letter, we left Beaufort last Monday morning. We did not know where we were going, and never found out until we dropped anchor off this Island on the morning of the 9th. After being transferred to a steamer of lighter draught, we were landed about nine miles up the river from the anchorage. Here I may say, I could hardly determine whether we were bound up or down the river, it is so crooked. The next day, after we arrived here, the 2nd South Carolina regiment, the 2nd R.I. battery, and 8 companies of the 54th started on an expedition. We landed on the main land, at a small town, named Darien, about 50 miles from here by water, but only about 20 miles over land. The force took the water route, as it is impracticable to get to it over land, the country being so marshy, crossed by numberless little creeks running through it. The rebels must have left the place when they saw such a large force concentrating on St. Simon’s Island the day before, supposing they would be attacked. After our forces landed, there was not more than 20 inhabitants to be seen in the place, the most of those were slaves and women; so there was no chance to show what sort of fighting material the Fifty-Fourth is made of. The fruits of the expedition are the capture of one schooner and a flat boat, loaded with cotton, about 20 barrels of turpentine, eight hogsheads of rosin, about a dozen cows, 50 or 60 sheep and 20 head of beeves; books, pictures, furniture and household property were burned. The town of Darien is now no more; the flames could be distinctly seen from the camp on the Island from three o’clock in the afternoon till daylight the next morning.

We are to go on another expedition next week, into the interior. It is rumored we are to try to take possession of a railroad between Savannah and some point south, probably Mobile. We all hope the rebels will make a stand, so that we may have a good chance to empty our cartridge boxes.

Talking about Southern scenery! Well, all I have seen of it yet is not calculated to make me eulogize its beauties. If a person were to ask me what I saw South, I should tell him stink weed, sand, rattlesnakes, and alligators. To tell the honest truth, our boys out on picket look sharper for snakes than they do for rebels.

In a church yard here, I saw a stone bearing this inscription, “James Gould, born at Granville, Mass., 1806, died 1862″; another was, “Lieut. Col. Wardrobe, of his B[ritish] Mfajesty’s] service, died 1812″; another, “James Wyley, born at Fitchburg, Mass., 1822, died February, 1863.”

J. H. G.