MAY 26, 1864.-Destruction of U. S. transport Boston at Chapman's Fort, Ashepoo River, S. C.
Report Lieutenant Colonel John D. Twiggs, First South Carolina Cavalry.*
HDQRS. ASHEPOO AND COMBAHEE SUB-DISTRICT,
Chisolmville, May 27, 1864.
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that about 1 o'clock the morning of the 24th instant I received from Lieutenant Isaiah J. Fox, Company I, First Regiment South Carolina Cavalry, who was just going on a scout, the information that one large steamer had passed Chapman's Fort. Shortly afterward he dispatched me that two more steamers, supposed to be Federal gun-boats, were coming up the Ashepoo River. I immediately ordered Lieutenant W. J. Leak, commanding detachment First South Carolina Cavalry, to re-enforce the pickets between Chapman's Fort and Chehaw River. Holding his reserve midway, I ordered the first section of Captain W. E. Earle's light battery to take position at Chapman's Fort, and the second at Mr. William Means' causeway, on the Ashepoo road. Captain Bridges I ordered to take his lightest gun to the same place. Captain Mathewes was supported by a detachment of cavalry and ready for action.
When I arrived at Chapman's Fort I found a large Yankee steamer aground 300 yards below the piling in the Ashepoo River, lying with her bow on to the breast-works, and in such a position that my left gun commanded her starboard side and my right her port bow, and also allowed a raking fire fore and aft. The third shot fired from the artillery struck her steam-chest, causing the steam to escape rapidly. Captain Earle fired 200 shots and struck her repeatedly. As soon as the artillery commenced firing I ordered a portion of the First South Carolina Cavalry dismounted, and advanced them as sharpshooters to the edge of the marsh, ordering them to fire upon the steamer; but after a few rounds, finding that it caused no diminution of the number on her decks, I caused the firing to cease.
The enemy did not reply to Captain Earle's fire until he had fired 20 shots. His fire was not returned by the vessel aground, but by another Yankee vessel 2 miles off. The fire was kept up by first section of Earle's light battery and the farthest Yankee steamer until 8.30 a.m., when two more steamers made their appearance, and after a very short period two more came up, making fire in all. The four steamers afloat then commenced shelling from Chapman's Fort to Chehaw River.
At 10 a.m., I ordered Captain Earle to cease firing, his ammunition becoming very short. The boats which came up last had a great many men on their deck, and fearing an infantry flank movement I told them to retain a few shell, grape, and canister. During the cessation of Captain Earle's battery the enemy shelled furiously, making two trips to the steamer aground; took off her crew and troops. Finding her very disabled, they set her on fire and retired down the river. The pickets on duty at Chapman's Fort report the steamer that ran over the piling and past Chapman's Fort to have thrown three flashes of a white light while crossing the piles. They also report that she had a large number of horses on board. The
*See also Foster's report, p.8.