I appropriated the mess-room for operations and the officer's berths to receive the wounded. Fortunately we had thought to bring candles along, no others on board. . . . It was not more than one hour before we were busy dressing gun-shot wounds. One man was killed instantly by a ball through the heart and seven were wounded, one of whom will die. Braver men never lived. One man with two bullet holes through the large muscles of the shoulder and neck, brought off from the scene of action, two miles distant, two muskets and not a murmur escaped his lips. Another, Robert Sutton, with three wounds, one on the skull, which may cost him his life, would not report himself till compelled to do so by his officers. While dressing his wounds he quietly talked of what they had done and what they yet can do. Today I have had the Colonel order him to obey me. He is perfectly quiet and cool but takes this whole affair with the religious bravery of a man who realizes that freedom is sweeter than life. Yet another did not report at all, but kept all night on guard and perhaps I should not have known of his having a buck-shot in his shoulder, if some duty requiring a sound shoulder had not been required of him today. The object of our raid was to surprise and capture a company of rebel cavalry pickets, but, as is usual in this war, the enemy seemed to know the secret plan, and we only succeeded in making them skedaddle after a few rounds, and in bringing off five contrabands, a fine piano [for the Beaufort schoolhouse] and divers other things. We also had the satisfaction of burning the plantation house and out-buildings, in accordance with general orders, so they will not screen any more pickets. We steadily send shot and shell over the bluffs to prevent their picking off men from our boat, which is their habit. All this is very exciting and I enjoy it much. I just now volunteered to go up on a bluff and burn a picket house of rendezvous, but I believe the Colonel thinks it is unsafe for his friends to do what he himself is ever ready to do.
We reached St. Mary's before noon. I believe I have before stated that the town was partially burned by the Neptune, yet there were fifty or more houses remaining, including two large churches, a bank, etc. As we approached, the waving of white handkerchiefs began again, by the two maiden ladies (!!) residing in sight of the wharf. All the other houses were uninhabited. The women informed us that they were living entirely alone with their aged mother, that they were “Domingo ladies,” but had not owned slaves since England abolished slavery there.
Their antecedents have been so doubtful that the Colonel thought it best to search their house very carefully in spite of their protestations, and entreaties and talk of honor, etc. etc. permitted to join him and one of the captains in the search and found it very interesting though we discovered no rebels. Of course we had a guard around the house, a guard of such color as greatly to annoy the inmates. They told me that they had not seen pickets at all, and many other things which I knew to be false. But we politely left them, they avowing that they were ladies and thanking us for being gentlemen. As we were about to leave the wharf, bang, bang, bang, went secesh rifles from behind the houses and whistling went the balls over our heads. We were not long in sending shot and shell enough to protect our skirmishers and then the Colonel did what I begged him to do this morning — put nearly all the town in flames, save the house of these women and two or three at the windward of it. I wanted to take the women down to Fernandina and burn every house, but the Colonel thought it best to leave them, so there will still be a screen and sympathy left there for the rebels. But we left an immense fire and I trust the pickets will have to rescue the women from it.
SOURCE: Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Volume 43, October, 1909—June, 1910: February 1910. p. 350-1