negroes know every creek and marsh, and one of them guided the boat party over the marsh so as to avoid our pickets entirely, while the other piloted the steamers. Their purpose was to seize the bridge leading to Oatland, and thus to cut off all the forces and negroes on the island. In this they signally failed. Although several hundred negroes were working on the fortifications on the island, not a single one was taken.
There is no doubt that the enemy lost several men killed or wounded, but they carried them off with them. We took 4 prisoners, 1 of them a lieutenant.
Our loss was 1 killed in Richardson's section of artillery, 1 slightly wounded, and 11 captured. Seven of the latter belong to an Irish company, from which many desertions have lately taken place, and from the position of this company it is more than probable that these men went to the enemy voluntarily.
It will appear from this report that the pickets were not surprised by the enemy; that at Fleetwood's fired upon the enemy and retreated, being entirely too weak to do otherwise. The detachment of the Fifty-seventh at the Gibson house behaved very badly. Their officers deserve credit for their personal conduct, and are deeply mortified at the behavior of their men. Lieutenant-Colonel Pritchard, who has command of the island, acted with promptness and judgment, but his force was too weak to allow him to do more than observe the movements of the enemy. Captain Turner also deserves mention for the judicious measures which he took to save and for his efficiency in reconnoitering the enemy. Lieutenant Richardson, commanding section of Maxwell's battery, deserves great credit for the rapidity with which he brought his artillery into action and drove back the enemy from the bridge.
I have made a more detailed report of this affair than its importance seems to justify, in order that the position of affairs on Whitemarsh might be fully understood.
Since the departure of two of my regiments for Florida I have been utterly unable to guard that island. Until lately only about 60 men picketed it, when several hundred negroes were sent there, and the enemy was made aware of it by deserters. I had to strip the city lines of the necessary guards and impose such severe duties upon the rest of the troops that the surgeons are protesting against it, and with all my efforts I could not place on Whitemarsh more than 200 men, who have had to do the picket duty day after day without being relieved. The Holcombe Legion is now placed as a garrison for Oatland and Whitemarsh, but it was only upon the urgent representation of the general commanding the district that it was not sent to Florida yesterday. Whitemarsh Island is too large and too accessible, not only by numerous creeks, but over the marshes at high tide, to be guarded by a few men, and unless a considerable force is kept there what pickets we are able to establish must always be liable to be cut off.
In the late affair it was only the artillery which I requested the brigadier-general to give me for the protection of Oatland bridge which saved us from losing this bridge, for we had not enough infantry to protect it and guard the possession of the island and the construction of the bridge at Causten's Bluff becomes a source of weakness and danger instead of strength. I would also call attention to