ment of the fleet it having been reported to me that barges filled with troops were leaving the transports, which still occupied their position opposite the camp, in anticipation of an attempt to effect a landing in that vicinity, I ordered Companies C and E, which had been withdrawn on Wednesday, back to a point near the earthwork at the Narrows, retaining at the camp the four remaining companies of the Twelfth Regiment. After, however, having made a careful personal observation of the movements of the enemy, and in view of their steady advance and heavy fire upon the western end of the island, I changed the arrangement of the force, throwing the four companies at the camp in the rear of the sand hills before referred to near Fort Beauregard, and withdrew within supporting distance the two companies of the Twelfth at the Narrows. Thus the troops remained for several hours under a heavy fire of shot and shell, during which they exhibited great coolness and promptness in obedience to orders. Notwithstanding the protection afforded by the sand hills many shot and shell fell around them, but fortunately without inflicting injury of any kind. The batteries at Fort Beauregard were worked with great gallantry, skill, and energy, and the highest praise they discharged their important trust.
About 2 p. m. the fire of the enemy upon our batteries was slackened and redoubled against Hilton Head. A little after 3 o'clock it was reported to me by Adjutant Talley that a boat was leaving one of the fleet for the shore of Hilton Head amid loud cheers from the former and that Fort Walker was silent. I at once proceeded to Fort Beauregard, and, after the colloquies accurately detailed by Captain Elliott in his report, ordered him to make arrangements for retreat from the fort towards the Narrows.
I then returned and issued the necessary orders for the evacuation of the island, and the force moved in good order towards the eastern portion of the island. The only line of retreat lay across the strip of land known as the Narrows, scarce 50 yards wide and 1,000 long, to the main body of Eddings' Island, which itself is but an extensive swamp, entirely impenetrable save by a trail known to few, and of such extreme difficulty as to preclude the possibility of transporting baggage of any kind beyond what could be borne on the shoulders of the men. Of the character of the route and the consequent impracticability of transportation. I had been fully advised, and therefore did not undertake the removal of camp equipage, stores, or heavy baggage. Nor did I think it prudent to destroy such property by fire, inasmuch as the retreat was at best of doubtful feasibility, and the nature of the movement would have been thereby revealed to the enemy, and its success still further jeopardied, if not entirely frustrated.
I believed that in consequence of the manner in which the evacuation of the island was effected it was unknown to the enemy until it had been fully accomplished, and this conviction is strengthened by their failure to take advantage of the entire command of Station Creek and Beaufort River to cut off the retreat at Jenkins' Landing, and especially at White Hall Ferry. The body of the command reached the landing at Station Creek and crossed to Dr. Jenkins' plantation during the night, and after resting a short time at the latter place resumed the march for Beaufort, where it arrived early Friday morning. The town was deserted by the white population, and no representative of the quartermaster's or commissary's departments, or other person in authority, could be found. I was therefore under the necessary of assuming the responsibility of taking for the use of the troops such provisions and necessaries