It might have been better, as shown by results, if Colonel Hoyt had remained in immediate command of the second division of his regiment, which he at starting took under his charge and in which and in the third division the retreat commenced; he might have stopped the confusion and retreat; but his error, if any, in landing at the head of his regiment was certainly a pardonable one, and a natural consequence of his inherent gallantry.
At the time of Colonel Hoyt's landing great confusion existed in the second and third divisions of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania falling back in confusion. The One hundred and twenty-seventh New York shared the general movement, and retreated also. The whole expedition returned to Morris Island.
Colonel Gurney, One hundred and twenty-seventh New York, commanding post of Morris Island, who was charged with sending the expedition, did not accompany it, but remained at Paine's Dock. there seems no sufficient reason for this conduct. The expedition was a highly important one, comprising a considerable part of the force on Morris Island, and there was no danger of any attack on the island during its absence. The presence of a commanding officer when the landing was effected would undoubtedly have been of great service in preventing the retreat. Colonel Gurney certainly committed at least a great error of judgment.
The chief cause of failure was the want of dash, energy, and authority on the part of the subordinate officers. In an expedition of this kind, the officers commanding boats must exercise in great measure an independent authority, while at the same time they have the men entirely under their control. It is upon them that the main responsibility must rest, and the evidence shows that many of them were totally unequal to this occasion. Among those who seem to have been most wanting in decision and power of command were Major Jayne, Captain Weed, and Lieutenants Farr, Moses, and Hollingsworth, of the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, and the confusion in the boats could only have arisen from a very lax state of discipline in this regiment.
The One hundred and twenty-seventh New York Regiment is less culpable than the Fifty-second Pennsylvania, inasmuch as they followed instead of leading in the retreat, and they showed more coolness and discipline; still they are gravely in fault for not obeying the peremptory orders of their commanding officer, Major Little (who seems to have done everything in his power), to land. From this censure must be excepted Captain Henry, Captain Little, and Lieutenants Little and Abercrombie, who brought their boats to the shore and landed. Captain Weston, too, deserves favorable mention. The officers and men of the Third Rhode Island Artillery behaved well.
The expedition was well planned, and notwithstanding hindrances and delays would have succeeded had it not been for the absence of the commanding officer and the want of spirit and energy on the part of many of his subordinates.
JOHN C. GRAY, JR.,
Major and Judge Advocate.