Monday, January 28, 2013

The Capture of the Skidaway Batteries

WARSAW SOUND, GA., March 25.


To-day at 12 M., signal was made by the senior captain, John P. Gillis, commanding the Warsaw squadron, for the vessels in the harbor, consisting of the Wyandotte, Norwich and Seminole to get under way.  The Norwich drawing the least water, Captain Gillis boarded her and led the way in the line of battle, and stood up Wilmington river to attack the batteries at Skidaway Island, which have been building for some time.  All hands in the squadron were delighted at the prospect, particularly after having arrived again at Warsaw from our bloodless victory at Cumberland Sound, and the hope of a little work before us animated both officers and crew of these noble ships.

When we arrived within a mile of the batteries, the Norwich fired a shell from her Parrott gun into a body of cavalry that were seen near them.  The horsemen curvetted about in utter confusion and fled.  Proceeding up a quarter of a mile further, the Norwich sent the rebels a couple more shells into their encampment, that was a little back in the woods, which routed them all out.  As they did not seem inclined to return our fire we drew up quietly in front of the battery and let them have a broadside, which cleared them all out, and keeping up a raking fire upon them on their retreat, our boats were manned and formal possession taken of the fort, the flag being planted on the highest rampart by Capt. Gillis in person.


Acting master Steel, with a picket of eight or ten men, then went to the rebel headquarters, tore down the dirty Secession dishcloth flying there, and nailed the glorious old gridiron – the Stars and Stripes – to the staff in its place, never to be removed, amid salvoes of musketry.  The rebels left everything behind them in their haste to get away, even to their dinners, which were still cooking over a hot fire.

Captain Gillis then ordered all the works of the enemy to be destroyed, as we had not troops with us to hold them, and accordingly they were fired.  The sight was beautiful – the flames bursting  forth in every part, utterly destroying everything.  All the flatboats, scows and other means of transport, belonging to the enemy, were also destroyed; but the private property and buildings were humanely spared by order of Captain Gillis, although after we left, the rebels, fearing our occupation, themselves destroyed them. – During the destruction of the works the enemy fired on us from behind the trees in a wood three quarters of a mile distant, but killed no one.  One of our men was slightly wounded by a minie ball passing between his legs and grazing the flesh on the inner side of his thigh.  During the fire of the enemy our men displayed great coolness and bravery.  Captain Duncan should be especially mentioned for his coolness, courage and energy in the destruction of the works amid the fire of the enemy.


The works on Skidaway island extend for about half a mile along the Wilmington river, and are built well and very powerfully.  Had the enemy remained and fought, our quadroon would have had much trouble; but hour gunboats seem to strike terror into them at every approach, and their only resource is ignominious flight.  The success of the achievement was great, more on account of its dash and daring, and shows what our noble sailors will do when led by a brave commander.  The channel of Wilmington river, as well as Skidaway island, is now thrown into our hands.  Our glorious cause is still blessed under our arms victorious.


After the complete destruction of all their works, that had taken three months for the rebels to put up, the squadron returned to its former anchorage.  Yesterday we took a prisoner, who for some time was sullen and would not answer questions, but he finally came around and told us “Savannah was in a bad way, and was short of provisions.”  By a Savannah paper that he gave us, we learned that they were trying to raise money to build a ram, for the destruction  of Capt. Gillis’ squadron at Warsaw.  This prisoner was taken in a small boat, trying to run the blockade to Fort Pulaski – it is supposed with a mail, but the letters were thrown overboard when he was taken.  From this quarter there is no further military news.

– Published in the Burlington Weekly Hawk-Eye, Burlington, Iowa, Saturday, April 12, 1862, p. 2

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