War of the Rebellion: Serial 065 Page 0361 Chapter XLVII. SKIRMISH AT WHITEMARSH ISLAND, GA.

Search Civil War Official Records

FEBRUARY 22, 1864.-Skirmish at Whitemarsh Island, Ga.

Report of Brigadier General Raleigh E. Colston, C. S. Army.


February 28, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report of the affair which took place on Whitemarsh Island on Monday, the 22nd instant:

About 10.30 a.m., I received a dispatch from Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard, commanding Fort Bartow and Oatland and Whitemarsh Islands, informing me that the enemy had landed in force upon Whitemarsh Island and were engaging our artillery. This dispatch must have [been] very much delayed by the difficulty of crossing the river, for I found that the enemy's landing had taken place about two hours before. I immediately ordered the First Georgia Regiment of Volunteers to march forthwith from Savannah to Fort Bartow, and repaired at once to the scene of action with my staff. I also ordered a detachment of 40 cavalry from Major Anderson's command, on Isle of Hope, to repair to Fort Bartow. Upon my arrival I received information through prisoners captured that the enemy had advanced in four transports, besides a party in barges or surf-boats. Their force was stated at four full regiments and six pieces of artillery. The entire force at my disposal on the island was about 250 men and two pieces of artillery of Maxwell's battery.

The configuration of the island made it extremely hazardous for so small a force to advance beyond the tongue of land which forms the end of the island next to Oatland, and the means of transporting re-enforcements to the island or of retreating in case of necessity were very incomplete and slow, consisting only of a ferry-boat. The very small force which I had, consisting only of 125 men in line of battle (the rest being on picket or thrown out as skirmishers), were drawn up across the tongue of land, this being the only position where they could be safe against a flank attack, for just beyond the island suddenly widens to a breadth of 2 miles.

In the mean time the enemy were shelling the island from their gun-boats near the Gibson house, and also from below Turner's Rocks. A portion of my infantry had been sent to reconnoiter the enemy's position and observe their movements. While awaiting their report I consulted about the position with the brigadier-general commanding the district, and received from him the order, in case the enemy should advance in overwhelming force, to evacuate the islands in time to avoid losing men or guns. Fort Bartow would then be ready to open fire and make Oatland and a portion of Whitemarsh untenable for the enemy.

Very soon after perceiving this order a prisoner captured by one of our reconnoitering parties gave the information that the enemy were re-embarking in great haste at the Gibson house. I immediately ordered the First Georgia Regiment (five small companies, numbering altogether about 175 men) and Maxwell's section of artillery to advance in pursuit, but before they could have reached the Gibson house the enemy were out of sight. Up to the moment of their leaving they continued to shell the island vigorously.

I ordered Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard to forward to my headquarters a full report of the affair, accompanied by the reports of his subordinates. From these reports and the information derived