War of the Rebellion: Serial 046 Page 0072 S. C. AND GA. COASTS, AND IN MID. AND E. FLA. Chapter XL.

Search Civil War Official Records

At 5 o'clock on the morning of July 10, the enemy's attack commenced by a heavy fire on hour position from a great number of light guns, apparently placed during the preceding forty-eight hours in the works lately thrown up on Little Folly Island. Three monitors about the same time crossed the bar, and brought their formidable armaments to bear on the left flank of our position, while several barges with howitzers in Light-House Inlet flanked our right. For two hours the enemy kept up the fore from these three different points, our batteries replying vigorously. The barges of the enemy filled with troops having seen in Light-House Inlet in the direction of Black Island, and Oyster Point being the nearest and most accessible spot for debarkation from them, it was justly considered the one most necessary to protect, and, therefore, the infantry, consisting of the Twenty-first South Carolina Volunteers, about 350 effective men, were stationed by Colonel R. F. Graham, the immediate commander of the island, on the peninsula leading to that point. In this position the infantry were unavoidably exposed to the fire of the boat howitzers, but sheltered by the nature of the ground from that of the guns on Little Folly Island.

About 7 o'clock the enemy advanced on Oyster Point in a flotilla of boats containing between 2,000 and 3,000 men, a considerable portion of whom endeavored to effect and hold a landing, in which they were opposed by the infantry until about 8 o'clock, when another force of two or three regiments made good a landing in front of our batteries on the south end of Morris Island proper. These formed in line of battle on the beach, and advanced directly upon our works, throwing out on each flank numerous skirmishers, who very soon succeeded in flanking and taking the batteries in reserve. After an obstinate resistance, our artillery had to abandoned their pieces (three 8-inch navy shell guns, two 8-inch seacoast howitzers, one rifled 24-pounder, one 30-pounder Parrott, one 12-pounder Whitworth, and three 10-inch seacoast mortars) and fall back. Two companies of the Seventh South Carolina Battalion, which arrival about this time, were ordered to the support of the batteries; but they could not make head against the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. This succeed of the enemy threatened to cut off the infantry engaged at Oyster Point from their line of retreat, and consequently about 9 o'clock Colonel Graham gave the order to fall back to Battery Wagner, which was accomplished under a severe flanking fire from the monitors. The enemy thus gained possession of the south end of Morris Island by rapidly throwing a large number of troops across the inlet, which it was impossible for the available infantry on the spot (about 400 effective men) to resist. It was not the erection of works on Little Folly Island that caused the abandonment of our position. It was clearly the want on our side of infantry support, and the enemy's superior weight and number of guns, and the heavy supporting brigade of infantry that swept away our feeble, stained means of resistance. The woods that remained unfilled on Little Folly Island were of no material advantage to the enemy, for even had there been labor to remove the, (which I never had), the formation of the island, covered with ridges of sand-hills, formed a screen which hid the enemy's movements completely from us, and afforced all the concealment he could desire. The attack was not a surprise; neither was the erection of the enemy's works on Little Folly Island unknown to the local commanders or to these headquarters. The enemy, indeed, made little effort to conceal them. With a sufficient infantry