Numbers 4. Reports of Lieutenant James H. Wilson, U. S. Topographical Engineers, Chief Topographical Engineer Department of the South.
ON BOARD THE STEAMER HONDURAS,
Off Wilmington Island, Ga., April 17, 1862.
SIR: I have the honor to submit the following for the information of the general commanding:
Escorted by seven companies of the Eighth Michigan Volunteers, commanded by Colonel Fenton, and a small detachment of the Rhode Island Artillery, I embarked on the steamer Honduras at Goat's Point about 8 o'clock yesterday morning, for the purpose of making a reconnaissance of Wilmington Island. Proceeding through Lazaretto Creek, Tybee River, and Wilmington Island. Proceeding through Lazaretto Creek, Tybee River, and Wilmington Narrows to Screven's plantation, two companies, G and B, about 115 men, under the command of Captain Pratt, were landed, with orders to march at once to the southwestern end of the island, skirting Turner's Creek on the right, so as to cover the boat party, which was to follow that steam of Wilmington River Asceding to the junction of Oakland and Turner's Creeks, the balance of the command, in all about 300 men, were landed at Gibson's plantation.
The first company ashore was directed to move at once to the southwest end of Whitemarsh Island, skirting Turner's Creek, and with instructions to leave a small picket at the intersection of the road from Gibson's and Oakland to Turner's till another company should arrive at that point.
A third company was to be thrown out on the road to the ferry at Carston's Bluff, to protect the boat party at Oakland Creek. The two remaining companies were to be held in reserve at Gibson's plantation.
Lieutenant Colwell and 16 men of the Third Rhode Island Volunteers, with one light 6-pounder, were left in charge of the steamer.
The gun could not be landed, on account of the inability of the boat to lie alongside the landing.
Having Proceeded through Turner's to Wilmington River I returned by the same route and landed at Gibson's. Directly after arriving there I was informed that our patrols had discovered the enemy in force at or near Fleetwood's, and had seen traces of them all the way to Turner's. Colonel Fenton had already given orders for the advance companies to fall back to Gibson's, and made his dispositions for repelling an attack and covering our embarkation. After an examination of the ground, at my suggestion one company was thrown farther forward, to take shelter behind the hedge and fence surrounding one of the houses. The colonel had already designated this potion, and stationed another in the woods lining the marsh on the left, and the balance behind the houses and trees nearer the landing.
After these dispositions were completed, and between 4 and 5 p. m., the rebels, subsequently ascertain to be the Thirteenth Georgia Volunteers, about 800 strong, armed with Enfield rifles, preceded by a heavy line of skirmishers, made an attack upon our position. After our advance line had delivered its fire from the hedge the bugles sounded "the charge" for the main body. This was confounded with "the retreat." The advance line abandoned its cover and fell back through an open space toward the reserve. While in this somewhat confused condition the enemy advanced rapidly, pouring in upon us a steady and destructive fire. Our men replied with spirit from such