Sunday, July 7, 2013

Siege Operations on Morris and Folly Islands, S. C., July 7, 1863 - Capt. Paul Whipple and the Seventh New Hampshire in the Civil War

The Seventh New Hampshire continues its siege operations and prepares to invade Morris Island for the coming assaults on Fort Wagner:
July 7, the regimental cooks were ordered to cook three days' rations, and from this order the boys drew their own conclusions; on the evening of the 8th, we were ordered to the front on Little Folly Island, at the batteries as a support, in very light marching order, with only equipments and canteens, and we were ordered to stop there on the 9th, as there were no troops with which to relieve us. A blockade-runner, the "Ruby," had, previous to the arrival of the Seventh on Folly Island, been wrecked off Lighthouse Inlet, and very near the northeast end of Little Folly Island, on which the rebels had a look-out: this wreck was visited nearly every day by parties of the rebel soldiers, and was within easy rifle range of our pickets, who were not allowed to tire a shot, and were obliged to keep concealed from view. [106]

Folly Island, S.C. (vicinity of Charleston). Beached remains of the British-built blockade runner Ruby, run aground after passing the Federal squadron, June 10-11, 1863. 
"We regret to say that the steamer Ruby, Capt. PEAT, from Nassau, got ashore on Folly Island breakers, near this bar, on Wednesday night. A large portion of the cargo was thrown overboard, and everything possible done to get her off, but without success. The Yankees on Folly Island having discovered her early on Thursday, opened on her from a battery. Capt. PEAT was then compelled to set her on fire and abandon her, and she afterwards blew up. While Capt. PEAT and his crew were coming ashore to Morris Island, they were shot at by the Yankees with cannon and small arms, and the balls came dropping around them in every direction". New York Times, The Destruction of the Blockade-runner Ruby. From the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal, June 16. Published: July 12, 1863

So secretly had our forces constructed their works that in an official report of Brigadier-General Ripley, commanding the Confederate forces around Charleston, about this time he states, " that up to the 8th or 9th of July, the enemy, so far as ascertained, had constructed no works on Little Folly except to shelter his pickets from our shells." This was a day or two only before the attack, and those thoroughly well-built batteries for forty-seven guns and mortars had been under construction since the 14th of June, without any discovery. With lookout stations on the ruins of the old lighthouse, Morris Island, on a mast- head of the wrecked blockade-runner "Ruby," off Lighthouse Inlet, and at Secessionville, on James Island, there had as yet been no discovery of our works.
In his book entitled "The Defense of Charleston Harbor," Maj. John Johnson (Confederate), speaking of the opening of the tire from the rebel batteries on the south end of Morris Island, on June 12, says: " It may well be asked. Why was not the tire of the Confederates more vigorously maintained ? Only their confidence that nothing serious was meant by the Federals can account for the oversight, while it cannot excuse it." While the dense wood and underbrush and the sand-hills afforded good concealment to the working parties, Major Johnson says: " But it was chiefly to a ruse practiced on the artillerists of Morris Island that the concealment was due. A blockade-running steamer grounded and became a wreck off the inlet. When General Vodges advanced a few field- guns on the beach to shell the wreck, the Confederate batteries drove them off and thenceforward, their men being unmolested in plundering the cargo, the impression was conveyed to the Confederates that only a picket force was opposed to them." 
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 105-106.

Seventh New Hampshire's Colors. (National Archive)