HDQRS. SIGNAL DETACHMENT, DEPT. OF THE SOUTH,
Hilton Head, S. C., December 18, 1864.
Captain JESSE MERRILL,
Chief Signal Officer, Department of the South:
CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following special report of duty performed by me, which resulted in opening communication with General Sherman, in Ogeechee River:
On the morning of the 12th instant I was ordered by you to accompany you on board the U. S. revenue cutter Nemaha, to proceed with General Foster down the coast to endeavor to open communication with General Sherman's army if it approached the coast. We left Hilton Head at 10. 30 a. m., and proceed through the inland passage to Fort Pulaski. Here I obtained twelve signal from the ordnance officer of the fort by order of General Foster. Not being able to obtain any information here we proceed through Lazaretto Creek into Wassaw Sound. I closely examined the shore as we passed along for some indications of General Sherman's approach to the coast. Arrived at Wassaw Sound at 3 p. m. and proceeded outside. We arrived at Ossabaw Sound, where the U. S. steamer Flag was doing blockading duty at mounts of Ogeechee, Vernon, and Little Ogeechee Rivers. Here I was ordered by you to go on the Flag, and received instructions from General Foster to use every means in my power to find General Sherman, and to reconnoiter those different rivers closely, and to go up on the picket-boat, if one was sent out. I then proceeded on board the Flag with Sergeant Hardly and Private Smedes, and was introduced to Captain Williamson, commanding, by Major J. F. Anderson, chief of staff to General Foster. Captain Williamson promised to render me every assistance in his power, but had no picket-boats to send out, but as soon as the tug Dandelion returned would let me have her to proceed up the Ogeechee and Vernon Rivers. Finding I could do nothing that night in reconnoitering, I induced the captain to fire his heavy guns six times in rapid succession, after which I threw up several rockets in rapid succession, and closely scanned the horizon inland for some answering signal. After waiting some time a faint shoot of light was seen to arise in the direction of the Ogeechee River, but no being satisfied, I threw up two more at once, and again saw the response, but at so great a distance as to be almost indiscernible. It was then about 3 a. m. of the 13th instant.
The tug having returned, I desire Captain Williamson to send me up, but as Admiral Dahlgren desired the pilot to go out over the bar, he wished me to wait until daylight. At 8 a. m. I went on board the tug Dandelion and proceeded up the Ogeechee River, looking closely in every direction with my glass for some signal or sign of General Sherman's army. We proceeded up the river to a point just out of range of the rebel fort McAllister and the batteries on the opposite side of the Little Ogeechee River. Here the captain was afraid to proceed any farther on account of the cross-fire which the different forts could bring upon him; but desiring to reconnoiter their position, I obtained the use of a small row-boat, and, accompanied by Sergeant Hardly and Private Smedes, and four men to row, I proceeded up along the shore until I arrived nearly opposite Fort McAllister's guns, and had passed the forts on the Little Ogeechee. Here I put the boat into a small creek, where we were concealed from the enemy by the high grass of the marsh. I then made a careful and close reconnaissance of the forts and the surrounding country. While so engaged I was very much surprised to find that we were not discovered by the enemy; but I soon