War of the Rebellion: Serial 020 Page 0011 Chapter XXVI. SKIRMISH ON WHITERMARSH ISLAND, GA.

Search Civil War Official Records

This was the first firing I heard, the other being scattering and the noise of the steamer preventing those of us on board from hearing anything else. As soon, however, as we had landed and the reports of the guns were heard I started my men at a double-quick, having then 2 or 2 1/2 miles to go. This distance we made as quickly as possible. On the way I met several of the wounded we made as quickly as possible. On the way I met several of the wounded men and those who were without cartridges coming back. At the distance of about half a mile or less from the Gibson house I met Captain Crawford with his men retreating across a small field, and learned from him that he and Captain McCallay, who with their forces had divided near the cedar hedge, had been overpowered after having sustained heavy loss and exhausted their ammunition, and were compelled to retreat, and that the enemy-a full regiment-were ingot pursuit. Seeing that Captain Crawford and all his men were completely worn out I ordered them to the rear, and formed my men in single rank along and just in the edge of a skirt of woods, ordering them to lie down and wait for the command to fire. Soon the enemy came, shouting as they came, apparently confident of overtaking and capturing the small party who had so long held them in check. The imprudence and impatience of one man prevented me from getting the enemy completely by surprise, and I believe in our power. He, contrary to orders, fired too soon, and knowing that a scattering fire would begin, I gave the command to fire, and one volley checked their progress and turned them back. They discharged their guns at use, but without effect. I kept my men in their position, expecting another advance, but no Yankee showed himself again. Soon Captain McCalley, about whom I felt great uneasiness, came in from a direction to the right f us, some of his men wounded and the rest without cartridges and all completely exhausted.

Night had then come on us, and having only about 60 men with cartridges and physically able to fight, I deemed it imprudent to pursue the enemy to their boats, knowing their overwhelming force of 800 men and also fearing an ambuscade, as a skirt of woods through which they retreated was between us, and we could not then ascertain whether they were fleeing or awaiting our advance.

On the next day I found that they had remained on the island only long enough to gather up their dead and wounded, as they had left knapsacks, cartridge boxes, canteens, haversacks, overcoats, blankets, &c., and a number of guns, all of which we gathered up. I also saw the doors that they had taken from the houses there and on which they had borne off their killed and wounded. The doors were very bloody.

During the first part of the engagement, and while Captains Crawford and McCallay were driving the enemy before them, a Federal lieutenant was mortally wounded, and from him the fact was ascertained that their force numbered 800 or 860; it was the Eighth Michigan. Another prisoners, who was taken with the lieutenant, also stated that the men we were fighting wee no foreigners. Several caps were found with the letters of the companies to which the wearers belonged on them, showing that there were different companies. I also learn from the officers and men that while the fighting was going on in the field in front of and from here, just beyond the Gibson house, the enemy formed in line of battle and their entire force took part in the fight. Some time during the engagement the enemy landed some artillery (the tracks of the wheels were found by us the next day), but it was not brought into action at all, and I judge was carried back on the boat as quickly as it had been landed.