A word from General Hunter:
HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., June 9, 1863.
Colonel JAMES MONTGOMERY,
Commanding Second S. C. Regiment, Saint Simon's Island:
COLONEL: I have the honor of transmitting herewith a copy of General Orders, No. 100, of the War Department, current series, promulgating a system of "Instructions for the government of armies of the United States in the field," prepared by an eminent international and military jurist, Dr. Francis Lieber, revised by a board of high officers, and approved and established by the President of the United States.*
To sections I, II, III of these instructions I beg to call your particular attention; not that in any manner I doubt the justice or generosity of your judgment, but for the reason that it is peculiarly important, in view of the questions which have heretofore surrounded the employment of colored troops in the armies of the United States, to give our enemies (foreign and domestic) as little ground as possible for alleging any violation of the laws and usages of civilized warfare as a palliation for these atrocities which are threatened against the men and officers of commands similar to your own. If, as is threatened by the rebel Congress, this war has eventually to degenerate into a barbarous and savage conflict, softened by none of the amenities and rights established by the wisdom and civilization of the world through successive centuries of struggle, it is of the first moment that the infamy of this deterioration should rest exclusively and without excuse upon the rebel Government. It will therefore be necessary for you to exercise the utmost strictness in insisting upon compliance with the instructions herewith sent, and you will avoid any devastation which does not strike immediately at the resources or material of the armed insurrection which we are now engaged in the task of suppressing.
All fugitives who come within our lines you will receive, welcome, and protect. Such of them as are able-bodied men you will at once enroll and arm as soldiers. You will take all horses and mules available for transportation to the enemy; also all cattle and other food which can be of service to our forces. As the rebel Government has laid all grain and produce under conscription, to be taken at will for the use of its armed adherents, you will be justified in destroying all stores of this kind which you shall not be able to remove; but the destruction of crops in the ground, which may not be fit for use until the rebellion is over, or which may when ripe be of service to the forces of our Government occupying the enemy's country, you will not engage in without mature consideration. This right of war, though unquestionable in certain extreme cases, is not to be slightly used, and if wantonly used might fall under that part of the instructions which prohibits devastation. All household furniture, libraries, churches, and hospitals you will of course spare.
That the wickedness and folly of the enemy may soon place us in a position where the immutable laws of self-defense and the stern necessity of retaliation will not only justify but enjoin every conceivable species of injury is only to be too clearly apprehended; but until such time shall have arrived, and until the proof, not merely of declarations or resolves but of acts, is unmistakable, it will be both right and wise to hold the troops under your command to the very strictest interpretation of the laws and usages of civilized warfare.
Expressing the highest confidence in your courage, skill, humanity, and discretion, I have the honor to be, colonel, very respectfully yours,
HEADQUARTERS THIRD MILITARY DISTRICT, McPhersonville, June 17, 1863.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that on the 2nd instant I received a telegram at about 9 a. m. that the enemy had landed 200 or 300 men at Field's Point and that a gunboat was destroying the pontoon bridge at Combahee Ferry. I immediately ordered the entire command to protect to Pocotaligo Station and await further orders. I at once galloped to the section (3 miles distant) to put myself in telegraphic communication with the threatened point and to inform department headquarters.
Upon the arrival of my command I ordered three companies of the Eleventh South Carolina Infantry and Captain Trenholm's squadron of cavalry (one company dismounted) to proceed by my special train to Green Pond the whole under the command of Captain Trenholm, who was instructed to be governed in his operations by the last reports of the enemy's movements.
I sent with Carolina Trenholm an excellent map of the country and two guides.
One company of cavalry and a section of a battery were sent to Salkehatchie Bridge; one company and a section to Combahee Ferry.
This force I considered amply adequate to repel any advance of the Emanuel that the enemy were still advancing from Field's Point, and fearing they might have been re-enforced without the knowledge of our pickets, who had retired immediately on their approach, I telegraphed to Charleston for some field rifled pieces with an infantry support, and proceeded myself to Green Pond to await the re-enforcements and accompany them.
Upon my arrival at Green Pond I learned that the gunboats had left the ferry, and reports from detached men arriving at the post satisfied me that the raid been successfully accomplished and that the enemy had retired.
At 11 o'clock p. m. the Twentieth Regiment South Carolina Infantry, Colonel Keitt commanding,arrived at Green Pond, and about the same time I received an official note from Captain Trenholm stating that the enemy had finally disappeared.
I refer to the inclosed reports for the details of operations.
The enemy burned four fire residences and six mills, and took off with them about 700 negroes, who are believed to have gone with great alacrity and to some extent with preconcerted arrangement.
Several intelligent negroes had recently escaped to the enemy, among them a pilot reported to be thoroughly familiar with the river. This will account for the boldness and celerity of the enemy's movements.
I beg to inclose with reports issued to Major Emanuel* (to whom an excellent map of the country had been sent), with a copy of a circular to planters, which had been posted at the railroad stations in my district, and copies of which had also been sent to two of the gentlemen whose property has been lately destroyed.
The troops had been located about 3 miles nearer to Field's Point, but two successive commanders, viz, Lieutenant-Colonel Jeffords and Captain Bomar, had remonstrated against their troops being stationed there, on account of the extreme unhealthiness of the locality, and they were moved to Green Pond.
Ballouville is about 3 1\2 miles east of Combahee Ferry, and I had proposed to station an infantry command there, but its surgeon sent in an official statement that troops could not be retained in that locality on account of malarious disease.
As the conduct of the officers and several non-commissioned officers and privates of this command is be investigated by official examination I refrain from an expression of opinion in regard to it.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
W. S. WALKER,
Brigadier General THOMAS JORDAN,
Chief of Staff, &c.
Series 1, vol. 6, Part 1 (Fort Pulaski- New Orleans)
HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, EXPED'Y CORPS,
Beaufort, S. C., February 27, 1862.
SIR: I have to report, for the information of the commanding general, that in pursuance to instructions from these headquarters Captain Ely, Eighth Regiment Michigan Volunteers, and commanding on Ladies and Saint Helena Islands, with 22 men of his own company and that of Lieutenant Doyle, and accompanies by Lieutenants Doyle, Badger, and Brown, all of the Eighth Michigan Regiment, left Ladies Island on the morning of Sunday, February 23, to make an examination of Bull River and the enemy's force in that vicinity. The party employed three row-boats. The services of a negro belonging to Robert Barnwell, who had lately come down the river, were secured as guide. From Coosaw Island another negro, named Cyas, was obtained, who subsequently proved of great service from the intimate knowledge he possessed of the country under examination.
Captain Ely reports substantially as follows: After leaving Ladies' Island at Brick-yard Point, and passing down the Coosaw to the mouth of Bull River, a distance of 9 miles, he ascended the stream to Schooner Channel until he came to the mouth of the creek which passes by Wilmar's Island. There he landed, placed his men under cover of the woods, and with a small party passed over the island and found it entirely uninhabited. Starting at nightfall he passed up the creek to near within 80 rods of its intersection with North Wimbee River, which is about 12 miles from the mouth of Bull River. Here he left the bulk of his party, and in his own boa, with only 3 men, passed into and up the North Wimbee branch to the landing at Barnwell's plantation, a mile distant. This landing is on the right bank. This point was entirely unguarded. He landed, examined the shore for some distance, and visited Robert Barnwell's plantation. There he found an old plantation negro, who came to Robert Barnwell's from Pocotaligo by way of Garden's Corner on the 22nd instant, and who reported that he saw but few troops at the latter place, probably not a hundred all told; that the greater part of the troops had been withdrawn to Pocotaligo, and that the boats at the bridge near Garden's Corner were guarded by 2 men. These boats were row-boats and flats, at least fifty in number (some negroes estimated the number as high as one hundred). Captain Ely also met another negro, who had come down from Walterborough the same day with a loaded team. From him he learned that the nearest picket, composed of 6 men, was 1 1/2 miles distant, at the fork of the roads connecting respectively with Garden's Corner and Combahee Ferry. He likewise said he had seen no soldiers between that point and the ferry.
With this information Captain Ely brought his whole party together at the Robert Barnwell Landing, placed them under cover and with his 3 men and a negro guide started for the Combahee Ferry. He kept in the woods, passed within 40 or 50 rods of the pickets at the cross-roads, and pushed about 1 mile beyond there, where the country became so densely wooded and was so intersected by streams and marshes that Captain Ely was unable to proceed farther. He learned, however, that the principal force of the enemy, estimated at possibly 300 men, is stationed at Combahee Church, about 2 miles from the ferry, on the Garden's Corner road, and that to the left of the ferry there are two pieces of artillery, placed behind an earthwork and covered with pine brush.
On his return he proceeded to Bush Church, examined the country in its vicinity, and, favored by the woods in its immediate vicinity, passed entirely around it. At Bush Church he found only about 30 men, quartered in the church itself. They stationed pickets a quarter of a mile down toward the Chisolm Landing, on the Coosaw, and about the same distance up the road toward Port Royal Ferry. Their headquarters are some 1 1/2 miles in rear of the Adams Landing, and the force there is about the same as at Combahee Church.
Captain Ely also examined the country between Stuart's plantation and Bush Church. It consists of open woods and fields, and furnishes the best route to Bush Church from the river. At Stuart's troops should be landed to operate against Bush Church. The distance is only 1 mile. Edward Barnwell has a plantation a mile below Stuart's. All these plantations are on the right bank of the river. From Robert Barnwell's place a causeway leads to Buch Church. A wide gap has been made in it, through which boats can pass, and which compelled Captain Ely to make a long detour up the river to reach the latter place. Boats can go above Robert Barnswell's to Potter's.
Captain Ely could easily have surprised and captured the pickets at Bush Church, and both he and his command felt some inclination to attempt it. His instructions were, however, to get information, and he found no difficulty in controlling his command.
In the morning, before the break of day, Captain Ely returned to his men and boats, crossed back to the channel from whence he came undiscovered by any of the enemy, and returning came in sight of Field's Point, where he discovered a few men at work apparently repairing the fort, and on the left bank of the Combahee River were extensive rice fields on fire, which int he evening were visible at a long distance.
The enemy's force, as far as Captain Ely could learn, is in that direction very small at the present time. Many of the picket stations have been taken up lately. The Combahee Ferry is made passable by flats, so that teams pass over as on a bridge. Captain Ely reached Brick-yard Point on the morning of February 26, and was therefore absent two days and three nights.
The reconnaissance of Captain Ely does him great credit, and has resulted both in verifying and adding to the information already obtained. I have instructed him to continue his reconnaissances, looking particularly to the Ashepoo River. The above account is nearly in his own words, and I have adopted the above from in order to incorporate with the details of his written report details which I have gathered from him on a personal conference.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your most obedient.
ISAAC I. STEVENS,
Captain L. H. PELOUZE,
Actg. Asst. Adjt. General, Eped'y Corps, Hilton Head, S. C.
My favorite, from R. E. Lee himself, which explains why the raid took place:
Series 1, vol. 6, Part 1 (Fort Pulaski- New Orleans)
Coosawhatchie, December 7, 1861.
General R. S. RIPLEY,
Commanding, &c., Charleston:
GENERAL: I have read with attention your letter of the 5th instant. I regret to learn that the Marion Light Artillery is not yet prepared for the field. Went it is ready please inform me whether it will be required in the vicinity of Charleston.
Unless more field artillery can be obtained, it will be almost impossible to make head against the enemy, should he land in any force. I understand from your letter that the Washington Artillery is only temporarily in Confederate States service, and suppose, therefore, cannot be calculated upon for general service. Being partly equipped by the State and partly by the Confederate States causes embarrassment in supplying it with necessary articles. It is very desirable that the battery should enter the Confederate service so soon as to be rendered as efficient as possible.
The defense of the rivers Ashepoo, Paw Paw, and Combahee, for the protection of the railroad, is of the greatest importance, and I trust may brew speedily accomplished.
As the positions occupied will be on the main, the withdrawal of the troops, in case of necessity, can be easily effected. Moreover, the protection of that section of the country, upon [which] you rely for subsistence, is very desirable. The only difficulty I see to the measure is the want of troops to insure successful resistance should the enemy land in force. The three rivers being defended as proposed, the passage through Dawho and at Church Flats being obstructed, preclude the enemy's approach to the railroad. It would be also desirable to prevent his occupation of Edisto, but whether fixed batteries can now be erected of sufficient strength I think is doubtful. It will also, I fear, be impossible to obtain the regiments which you think necessary for the purpose. I can learn of no regiments in South Carolina entering the service. Several have been offered to me from other States, but they are all unarmed, and I have none for them.
R. E. LEE,
The only railroad and road that connected Savannah to Charleston ran through the Low Country.