HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES,
Morris Island, S. C., January 31, 1864.
Captain ADRIAN TERRY,
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report, for the information of the major-general commanding the department, that 3 deserters from James Island enetered our lines yesterday evening, and are now in charge of the provost-marshal. Their names are James Cummings, Patrick O'Neil, and Richard Crowley, late members of Company H, Twenty-seventh Regiment S. C. Volunteers, formerlyknown as the Charleston Battalion. They took a picket-boat near Battery Ryan, and following down the creek, landed in the marsh near Black Island, where they gave themselves up to our pickets. They are Irishmen, and were residents of South Carolina before the war broke out. I examined them separately, and their statements concide remarkably well. There is great despondency and bad feeling among the rebel troops on James Island. Their company was composed of Irishmen, with the exception of 6, and with scarce an exception all are anxious to come withih our lines. the discontent among th native South Carolinians is nearly as great as among the soldiers of foreign birth. For the last three months they have been much pinchd for food, and there is but a very limited supply kept on hand on James Island. The soldiers receive hominy and about a quarter of a pound of beef for breakfast, a pint of rice and the same quantity of beef for dinner, and nothing for supper. They state that some of the officers are as anxious to quit the service as the privates. Sixteen men of their company had agreed to make the attempt to desert ot us in a body last night. They state that our shells have done cnsiderable damage in Charleston. The Mills House had been struck several times, and a number of rooms torn to pieces. On Christmas day two large cotton presses were burned. In Market street, near the corner of King, a tavern and a cutlery establishment have been destroyed. Most of the shells explode, but as yet few people have been injured by them. Charleston is depopulated, except by the very poorest class of people, and they have moved as far up town as they can get. Beauregard's headquarters and all the public offices have been removed to the upper part of the city. For a period of two days many of our shells fell very near Beauregard's quarters. Theprices of everything are extravagantly high; rice, $22 per bushel; bacon, $4 per pound; corn, $18 to $20 per bushel.
These men have all served in turn in Sumter, and are able to give an intelligent account so far as they go. There is a permanent garrison in the fort of 300 men, made up by details of 100 men from each of the respective reigments around Charleston in turn. One-third of the garrison is changed every twelve days, and next Tuesday night, the 2nd of February, is the time for relieving 100 of those now there. Cummings came off duty out of the fort only en days ago, and appears to be the best informed on the subject. Since the last bombardment they have constructed three strong bomb-proofs, one on the city face, one on the Morris Island face, and another on the Sullivan's Island face. They are built of strong timber, covered with sand and the debris taken from the ruins of the fort. They intend, or are about making, a new sally-port on the Mount Pleasant face. Ten days ago there was one iron piece mounted on the city face and four small barss pieces on the bomb-proofs to use in