Mercury, July 8, 1863 [OAF]
St. Helena Island, S.C., June 29
—Instead of going on another expedition, as we all expected and hoped, we find ourselves at the headquarters of the department, and great changes made in commanders; in fact, the changes had been made at least two weeks before we knew anything of them. It is probable that the change of commander has made some change in the operations in this department, for this summer at least. But from appearances there must be something definite in contemplation, from the fact that all the surplus troops are being concentrated on this island ready for a movement at the shortest notice; either to act on the offensive, at some weak point — as the force here is not large enough to make any grand movement — or to be transported wherever the urgency of the case may require out of this department; but it is safe to say the latter conjecture is the most probable one.
Yesterday there was a terrific thunder storm here. A man in the 76th Pa. regiment was killed by lightening, and 15 more were stunned at the same time, besides exploding 80 boxes of cartridges.
A sergeant in the 1st regiment S. C. Volunteers has been sentenced to be hung for mutiny, or inciting some of the men to mutinous conduct.
The rebel ram Atlanta, taken off the Savannah river, has been pronounced unseaworthy by the Naval Guard. It was the intention of the rebels to play hob with the Yankees. The plan was first, to pay a compliment to Col. Montgomery, then on St. Simon’s Island, and hang his whole force, then come up and clear out Port Royal harbour, raise the blockade at Charleston, and I don’t know but they would have gone on capturing till they reached Boston, according to their story. Probably that was one of the plans to assist in raising their volunteer navy. They have another ram underway at Savannah, but she will not be completed for some time.
J. H. G.
Posts Tagged Port Royal
St. Simon’s Island [BCF]
Yours of the 9th came to hand last evening. At the same time we received news of the Rebel incursion into the Northern [North] and orders to embark at once for Port Royal. We are now waiting for a transport, which will hold the regiment.
The news from the North is very exciting but not entirely unexpected, for Morse wrote me, that Lee wouldn’t leave the Potomac army quiet very long.Then my theory has always been that the North must feel the war much more than they have, before it is ended. I don’t know why we are ordered to return to Beaufort, unless the troops there are going North, or another attack is to be made on Charleston or Savannah.
I thank you a thousand times for your generosity to me in money affairs, dear Father; I never imagined you were going to assume so many of my debts. If Rice has not paid you, what he owes, I wish you would take it out of my funds. I enclose to you some bills which I had in Boston, lest they should be sent to you. I also enclose the following promissory notes:
Lincoln R. Stone — $115
John Ritchie — 115
G. W. James — 115
C. B. Bridgham — 96
I will notify you as soon as they are paid. I send this off immediately as Col. Montgomery’s boats which will get away before we do, will probably catch the “Arago.”
Love to all,
Your loving son
Please drop Annie a line saying we return to Beaufort lest my letter to her should not be ready.
Mercury, June 19, 1863 [OAF]
Port Royal, June 3
—After a long passage of seven days, we have arrived at Port Royal. We are still on board the vessel, and I write my first letter on the top of my knapsack, with one of the loudest noises around me ever heard, and heat enough to make a fellow contemplate the place prepared for the ungodly. There is nothing interesting to write as yet, for the very good reason that we have none of us been ashore. I write this letter to let the friends of the men know that we are all safe, except one, who jumped overboard the first night out from Boston. I think he must have been cracked or drunk, more likely the latter. The men are all in good health and spirits, not one man in the whole regiment being now on the sick list. After we are quartered on shore, and have an opportunity to look around, you may expect better letters.
J. H. G.
Steamer De Molay [BCF]
June 3,1863, Off Charleston
Here we are near the end of our voyage. Everything has prospered thus far. We have had no illness on board, with the exception of a little “heebin” (heaving), as the men call it. I have had no sea-sickness at all myself. The more I think of last Thursday, the more complete a triumph it seems to me. You know from the first day the regiment was organized, no one connected with it has talked extravagantly, or boasted about it in any way; we went on quietly with our work, letting outsiders say what they chose, and wound up with what you saw, as we passed through Boston. That was the greatest day for us all that we ever passed, and I only hope it was of corresponding importance to the cause.
We saw the blockading fleet, and the top of Fort Sumter, off Charleston this morning. We expect to get in this afternoon. I shall go on shore immediately, and report to General Hunter, and if we can find a good camping-ground, shall land the regiment this evening.
Your loving Son
June 3/63 [BCF]
My note to Mother will tell you of our prosperous voyage. My horses are all doing well fortunately. Major Hallowell’s died the 3d day out.
I told Annie that if she needed any more money than her allowance, towards the end of the year, to write to you for it. I shall soon be sending you home plenty. Will you please send an account of how much I have drawn, since I went home, and how much property I own now in the bank & in treasury notes.
I shall send Annie’s letters to her Father’s care, unless she is staying at the Island, as I think that is the quickest way.
I enclose a note for Anna Curtis. Call and Tuttlc are making me a flannel suit, which I ordered to be sent to you. Please put in the bundle a good stock of stationery and waste paper — and a supply of quinine, in pills & powder — and some postage stamps.
Your loving son
p.s. I enclose draft of R. P. Hallowell for $137.00
Hilton Head — Arrived safe at 2 1/2. We go to camp at Beaufort up the bay. Montgomery has just ret. from an expedition with 725 blacks from plantations.
Str. De Molay, Off Hilton Head, S.C. [BCF]
Dear Cousin John,
Here we are (the 54th Mass. Vols, (coloured) close to our Department, and in a very different condition from that in which you left us. Our recruiting system did not get well under weigh, until sometime after you went, and then we filled up very rapidly. The Governor gave Ned Hallowell the Majority without any difficulty, and soon after Norwood was ordered to take the 55th which was started about the 10th of May. He refused the Colonelcy for some time, but has finally decided to take it, as the Governor wouldn’t let him come with us, at any rate.
The 54th has been a success from beginning to end. The drill & discipline are all that anyone could expect. Crowds of people came to our battalion drills & dress parades every afternoon, and we have heard nothing but words of praise & astonishment from friend & foe — from hunkers & fogeys, old and young. The camp was crowded on the day of our banner presentation — and the Governor made an excellent speech. Last Thursday, 28 May, we left Readville at 7 A.M. & went by rail to Boston. We marched from the Providence Depot through Essex, Federal, Franklin, School Sts., Pemberton Square, Beacon St. to the Common — then by Tremont & State Sts. to Battery Wharf where we embarked. The streets were crowded, & I have not seen such enthusiasm since the first troops left for the war. On the Common the regiment was received
[rest of letter missing]
(from [BBR] pp.36-37):
HEADQUARTERS DEP’T OP THE SOUTH,
HILTON HEAD, PORT ROYAL, S. C, June 3, 1863.
His EXCELLENCY, GOVERNOR ANDREW, Massachusetts.
GOVERNOR, — I have the honor to announce that the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts (colored) troops, Colonel Shaw commanding, arrived safely in this harbor this afternoon and have been sent to Port Royal Island. The regiment had an excellent passage, and from the appearance of the men I doubt not that this command will yet win a reputation and place in history deserving the patronage you have given them. Just as they were steaming up the bay I received from Col. James Montgomery, commanding Second South Carolina Regiment, a telegraphic despatch, of which certified copy is enclosed. Colonel Montgomery’s is but the initial step of a system of operations which will rapidly compel the Rebels either to lay down their arms and sue for restoration to the Union or to withdraw their slaves into the interior, thus leaving desolate the most fertile and productive of their counties along the Atlantic seaboard.
The Fifty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers shall soon be profitably and honorably employed; and I beg that you will send for service in this department the other colored regiment which Colonel Shaw tells me you are now organizing and have in forward preparation.
Thanking you heartily for the kindness and promptness with which you have met my views in this matter, and referring you to my letter to Mr. Jefferson Davis as a guarantee that all soldiers fighting for the flag of their country in this department will be protected, irrespective of any accident of color or birth,
I have the honor to be, Governor, with the highest esteem,
Your very obedient servant,
May 29, the sea was smooth all day, and the weather fine but not clear. Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket were passed in the morning. At night a fine moon rose. Foggy weather prevailed on the 30th, with an increasing ground-swell, causing some seasickness. The next day the steamer struggled against a head wind. At midnight the craft narrowly escaped grounding on Point Lookout shoals. Some one had tampered with the sounding-line. June 1, pleasant weather enabled the seasick to take some interest in life. The air was soft and balmy, as we ran down the North Carolina coast, which was dimly visible. A few porpoises and a shark or two followed the ship. Distant sails were sighted at times. When evening came, the sun sank into the sea, red and fiery, gilding the horizon. A stiff breeze blew from ahead, which freshened later. Fine weather continued throughout daylight of June 2. With the evening, however, it clouded up in the south, and a squall came up, with lightning and some rain, driving all below.
Morning dawned the next day, with the sun shining through broken clouds. At reveille, some fifteen sail of outside blockaders off Charleston were seen far away, and soon passed. The sandy shores of South Carolina were in full view, fringed here and there with low trees. A warm wind was blowing, ruffling the water beneath a clouded sky. Every one was busy with preparations for landing, — writing letters, packing knapsacks, and rolling blankets. Running below Hilton Head, a pilot came alongside in a boat rowed by contrabands, and took the vessel back into Port Royal, completing a voyage at 1 P. M., which was without accident or death to mar its recollection.
Colonel Shaw, personally reporting to General Hunter, was ordered to proceed to Beaufort and disembark.