War of the Rebellion: Serial 020 Page 0178 COASTS OF S.C., GA., AND MID. AND EAST FLA. Chapter XXVI.

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Report of Captain Samuel C. Eaton, First New York Engineers.


Hilton Head, S. C., October 25, 1862

In compliance with orders from Colonel E. W. Serrell, chief engineer I have the honor to report to Colonel Barton of the Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, on board the Planter, at Mackay's Point on the morning of the 22nd instant, with 32 men of my company (F) and 13 men of Company G, Lieutenant McKenna, of Company G, and Acting Lieutenant Browning, of my company, taking our arms, tools, and faggots, for destroying railroads and bridges.

My detachment was taken in tow by the Planter, and steamed slowly up the Coosawhatchie River, accompanied by three gunboats, until within about 2 miles of the town, where two negroes were taken on board, near a large plantation house, on the left bank of the stream. Within about 500 yards of this house the Planter ran aground near the middle of the stream at this point about 75 yards wide. The last gunboat had stopped, and lay about one-half to three-quarters of a mile below. The tide was running out and our boat being fast aground, we were ordered to land at about 2 p.m. The infantry were first landed and skirmishers thrown out, a boat howitzer with a detachment of the Third Rhode Island Artillery, under Captain Gould, and the Engineers following. The landing was made on a miry bank, about 4 feet above the water at that time, and covered with tall sedge-grass, about 100 yards of which lay between us and the solid ground.

The Engineers were ordered to the front to open a passage to the main road, which was about 500 yards in a direct line from the point of our landing,and we followed it in a northerly direction nearly parallel to the general course of the stream. The road had been newly repaired that morning; low bushes and trees lined it on either side, with occasional open fields beyond. After marching about 1 1/4 miles a locomotive whistle was heard immediately on our left and front, and we were halted and brought to the front in line of battle just in time to see the engine unmasked from the trees and bushes that covered its approach from the south. The Engineers were on the right, and, at the command, delivered their fire with the other forces as the train passed loaded with troops.

I was immediately ordered forward with my first platoon to destroy the railroad and telegraph at that point. The remaining portion of the Engineer detachment moved on up the road, under Lieutenant McKenna, with the main body a small party of skirmishers remaining at the railroad with me. As we reached the track a rebel jumped up from the opposite ditch, and gave himself up. We had succeeded in tearing out two rails entirely from the track and five or six others partially kindled a fire for burning the ties and warping the rails, cut down two of the large telegraph poles and cut the wire in several places, when cavalry was reported in our rear, infantry and artillery in our front, and we were ordered to fall back, taking our tools and arms, besides two muskets and one rifle belonging to the enemy. We fell back onto the road, and as the column filed past, marching in retreat fell in with the balance of the Engineer detachment and were ordered to destroy the bridges in the rear of the retreating forces.