The enemy are within 50 yards of us, and before day dawns we should assault him if we remain here. Answer positively and at once. Assistant Engineer Stiles has just inspected the fort; he says it is untenable.
LAWRENCE M. KEITT,
CHARLESTON, S. C.,
September 7, 1863.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the evacuation of Morris Island, including Batteries Wagner and Gregg, by the troops under my command, on the night of the 6th instant:
This step was authorized by a dispatch sent by signals from district headquarters, and received by me between 4 and 5 p.m., and directed in detail by a special order from department headquarters, which was received from Captain [W. G.] McCabe, of General Ripley's staff, at dark, and was necessitated from the untenable condition of Battery Wagner, the greatly exhausted condition of the garrison, and constant artillery and sharpshooting fire of the enemy, which prevented repairs. The gradual approaches of the enemy had passed the front of the battery, and the termination of their sap was not over 50 yards from the parapet of the sea face, enabling them to throw a mass of troops upon this flank when our men were mostly in the bomb-proofs, where I was forced to keep them by the unceasing fire of mortars and rifled guns on land, with an enfilading fire from the fleet during most of the day. The salient on the left of the battery had been swept by such a terrible cross-fire as to breach the parapet and throw it into irregular shapes, rendering the ascent from the moat easy, and moveover, men could not be kept there during this cross-fire without the certainly of most of them being wounded or stunned. This salient is the part of the work gained by the enemy in the assault of July 18.
As soon as the evacuation was authorized, I gave detailed instructions to the regimental commanders, viz, Lieutenant Colonel John G. Pressley, commanding Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers; Major James Gardner, commanding Twenty-eighth Georgia Volunteers, for the gradual movement of their men to Cumming's Point, so as to keep up an effective front to the enemy, and insure silence and promptness. They expressed their hearty approval, believing an evacuation necessary to prevent a useless sacrifice of men. The men went down as if for special duty, and though the most intelligent knew the fact, nearly all went off as if going to be relived.
Captain Huguenin, chief of artillery, was promptly notified of the steps to be taken, and made his arrangements with my sanction for the removal of the artillery, and the written orders when received were submitted to him for his guidance. He was intrusted with the delicate duty of bringing up the extreme rear and firing the only magazine which contained powder, Lieutenant Mazyck, ordnance officer, being ordered to assist him. His report, with Lieutenant Mazyck's, is inclosed, marked A, and is referred to as an important portion of this report.*
*See No. 43, p.536.