|Expedition Up the South - Edisto, S. C.
Official Report of Colonel Higginson
July 11, 1863
The Rebellion Record - a diary of American Events with Documents
EXPEDITION UP THE SOUTH-EDISTO, S. C.
OFFICIAL REPORT OF COLONEL HIGG1NS0N.
On Board Steamer John Adams,
July 11, 1863.
Brigadier- General Saxton:
General: I have the honor to submit a report of an expedition up the South-Edisto River,
undertaken with your consent and that of General Gillmore, commanding department
I left Beaufort on the afternoon of the ninth, with the armed steamer John Adams, the transport
Enoch Dean, and the small tug Governor Milton. I had with me two hundred and fifty officers
and men of my regiment, and a section of the First Connecticut battery, under command of
By four o'clock the next morning we anchored before Wiltown, twenty-one miles up the river,
and engaged a three-gun field-battery there stationed. After three shots they ceased firing,
and, landing with Lieutenant West and thirty men, I took possession of the bluff, where the
clothing, equipments, and breakfast-fires left behind betrayed a very hasty departure. This
bluff affords the key to the river, and we held it all day until sunset though with constant
skirmishing between my pickets and those of the enemy.
We found, as we expected, a row of spiles across the river at Wiltown, and a prisoner whom we
had taken affected great terror of torpedoes. None, however, appeared, and the able
engineering of Captain Trowbridge, in three hours effected a passage for the two small
vessels. This was too late for the tide, and we were obliged to wait till noon before ascending
At the first attempt to ascend with the floodtide the Governor Milton went aground, and the
Dean going about a mile further, had another engagement with the same battery, and again
drove it back. She also running aground, we were compelled to wait an hour longer for the tide,
when the two small vessels ascended together. We met with no further interruption (the rice-
fields on each side being indefensible) till within two miles of the railroad bridge, Here the Dean
unluckily grounded again, and all efforts to get her off being fruitless, I signalled Major Strong,
on board the tug, to proceed upward to the bridge. He soon found himself under the fire, at two
hundred and fifty yards, of a six-gun field-battery planted that morning on the shore, and, after
a severe engagement, in which my vessel could render but little aid, our little consort was
compelled to withdraw; and when at last the Dean was got off, the tide rendered it necessary to
abandon the attempt. We were at this time more than thirty miles from the mouth of the river,
and about twenty miles from Charleston.
Descending the river, the Dean had another fight with her old enemies, apparently reenforced,
who shelled us very severely from a point near Wiltown. We passed the spiles successfully, but
regretted to find the Milton aground upon them. The John Adams tried in vain to pull her off,
and the officers on board were reluctantly compelled to abandon her, as the tide was rapidiy
falling. I was drawing in the pickets and taking them on board the Dean when this decision was
made and acted upon, and it was then' too late for me to do any thing but order the little vessel
to be set on fire, which was accordingly done, tho few men on board having been safely
After this we met with no further incident, except one more artillery fight on the way down the
river, making five in all. I am happy to say that in all these engagements the artillerists, both
white and black, did themselves much credit, as indeed did all my command. I must especially
mention companies K (Captain Whitney) and G (Lieutenant Sampson) upon whom very
exposed duty devolved, in the way of skirmishing.
We brought away about two hundred contrabands, six bales of cotton of the best quality, and
two prisoners, F. Hall (Sixth cavalry) and G. Henry Barnwell, of the Rebel Troop, one of the -
well-known family of that name. Both were captured by my skirmishers, with their horses and full
equipments. For want of transportation, we left behind a number of fine horses. We destroyed
hxrge quantities of rice, by burning the rice-houses, and cut the dams of the rice-fields. No
private property not amenable to military rules was burned or pillaged, though there was
abundant opportunity for so doing.
My command reports two killed, private July Green, company A, and Wm. S. Verdier, company
C, and one wounded, myself not severely, in the side, from the concussion of a shell. Beside
these the engineer of" the Milton was killed, (Mr. Mills,) and one contraband, name unknown.
One sailor was slightly wounded in the foot, and one contraband lost a leg. Considering the
number of shells that exploded in and near the vesselsâ€”fifteen having passed through the
Enoch Dean aloneâ€”I am surprised that the list is no larger.
The loss of the enemy is unknown, but the prisoners stated that one of our first shots
dismounted a gun and killed three men.
I have the honor to be, General, very respectfully your obedient servant,
T. W. Higginson,
|Col. Thomas Wentworth Higginson