Thursday, July 4, 2013

Siege Operations on Morris and Folly Islands, S. C. until July 4, 1863 - Capt. Paul Whipple and the Seventh New Hampshire in the Civil War

In preparation for the coming assaults on Fort Wagner, the Seventh New Hampshire engaged in siege operations on Morris and Folly Islands.  The following is from Henry F. W. Little. The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Seventh New Hampshire Veterans Association, Concord, N. H., 1896, pages 102-105.
USS Delaware
 The regiment disembarked from the transport "Delaware," and by the light of lanterns and aid of flat scows, landed upon the south end of Folly Island, which was one of the most dreary and worthless collections of sand-hills to be found on the coast. For the remainder of the night the regiment bivouacked on the beach, and at 10 o'clock on the morning of the 17th were ordered into line and were marched about five miles, to a camp-ground towards the north end of the island, where was quite a belt of woodland. The ocean beach of this island was of beautiful, clean, white, quartz sand, was very wide, and at low tide was as hard as a floor. The island was composed of a series of sand-hills, and a large portion of the island was covered with a growth of pine and palmetto, which afforded the [103] troops fuel and shade. We arrived at our camp-ground about noon, and at once details were made from each company to clear up the bushes from our camping-ground before we could pitch our tents. Wells were dug from three to twelve feet deep - water being found at a level with the sea, which at first tasted fairly well, but after a few days it would turn dark colored, smell strong, and taste so badly that it was almost impossible to use it for drinking purposes. This was the poorest drinking-water we found while in the service.
Sea Shore--Folly Island, S.C. May 1863 Alfred Rudolph Waud, 1828-1891, artist 
We found quite a collection of troops camped in the woods in this section of the island, and we were led to believe at once that the new department commander intended to assume the offensive at once. The duties now assigned us were to assist in building heavy fortifications and planting batteries on the extreme north end of the island, and immediately fronting Morris Island, which the Confederates had to a considerable extent already fortified. Our intervals of rest from these duties were occupied by the severest drill of five hours each day, and strict discipline was observed in preparation for the coming service. The north end of the island being covered with a dense growth of underbrush and belts of heavy timber favored our work, the heavy sand-hills that here skirted the beach on Lighthouse Inlet favored the secrecy of our operations, and we soon had a series of batteries securely erected and ready for action when the orders should be given to dig the embrasures through the top of the sand-hill in their immediate front. The greatest secrecy had to be observed in order that the enemy might not in the least be at all suspicious of our work. Fresh troops kept arriving, and nearly every day brought some new regiment or battery, until the time for final action came, when about seven thousand men were encamped upon the island; of this force some four thousand men under Brig. Gen. Israel [104]  Vodges had remained upon the island since the attack on Fort Sumter on the 7th of April, and had been busily engaged in erecting strong works at the south end of the island and other works about two miles south of the north end of the island, and a military- road had been constructed about ten miles long, which communicated with all parts of the island. The northern extremity of Folly Island was subject to being cut off occasionally by tidal overflows and was known as Little Folly Island. It was on this extreme point well covered by the brush and woods that masked batteries were commenced on the 14th of June, to mount, when completed, forty-seven guns and mortars- Colonel Putnam was on June 20 put in command of a brigade, and Adjt. Henry G. Webber was detailed as acting assistant adjutant-general on his staff. The troops upon the island were kept constantly at work until the completion of the batteries. 

The Confederates had commenced as early as the 10th of March to fortify the southern extremity of Morris Island, and had eleven guns mounted in readiness for an attack, of which four commanded the crossing at Lighthouse Inlet, and the Confederate captain, John C. Mitchell, of the First S. C. Artillery, who was in charge of the south end of Morris Island, opened fire in a desultory way as early as June 12, and for a week or ten days continued this fire, principally from mortars, which killed and wounded several men; our forces made no reply, but kept on working like beavers in the construction of those masked batteries, which were less than a thousand yards from the rebel fortifications. 

On the Fourth of July, the routine of duty was the same, and the national salute usually fired in commemoration of our National Independence, had to be dispensed with as a military necessity, except the one fired by the blockading squadron at the mouth of Charleston harbor, for we could [105] not inform the enemy that we had artillery present, although it was generally supposed that the rebels well knew that a picket force was kept on Little Folly Island. Hence we were compelled to enter in our diary on that intensely hot day, and in explanation of the silence imposed upon us under the circumstances, as we sat astride the muzzle of a thirty-pounder Parrott, pointing toward the enemy, whose entrenchments we could plainly see, only a few hundred yards away, by pushing aside the dense undergrowth of bushes in our immediate front: 
We could fire no salute, even a single shot. 
    For our work could not be tarried: 
So we silently prepared for the contest hot. 
    For Charleston must soon be carried. 

Our position, exactly, the rebels know not. 
    We 've faith in our powder and ball, 
And the monitors will help to give them a shot, 
    The rag over Charleston must fall.

Henry F. W. Little. The Seventh Regiment New Hampshire Volunteers in the War of the Rebellion. Seventh New Hampshire Veterans Association, Concord, N. H., 1896, pages 102-105.