The following originally appeared in the Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 3, Reverend J. William Jones, Editor
Report of Major-General Samuel Jones of operations at Charleston, South Carolina, from December 5th to 27th, 1864.
Charleston, South Carolina, January 11th, 1865.
Colonel — The report of operations of the troops under my command, in the late campaign ending in the evacuation of Savannah, called for by the Lieutenant-General commanding on the 2d instant, has been delayed because of my absence from my headquarters on other duty, and the failure of some of the subordinate commanders to forward tome their reports. They have not all yet been received, but as I have been ordered to another and distant command, I respectfully submit, without longer delay, the following report:
The dispatch from the Lieutenant-General commanding, then in Savannah, directing me to establish my headquarters at or near Pocotaligo, was received in this city about sunset on the 4th ultimo. I started by the first train, but owing to detentions on the road, did not reach Pocotaligo until nearly sunset on the fifth. I was not informed as to the number, description or location of the troops in that vicinity, and immediately endeavored to obtain information on those points. I ascertained that the troops, with the exception of the Fifth and Forty-seventh Georgia regiments, a battalion of the Thirty-second Georgia regiment, the artillery, a part of the Third South Carolina cavalry and Kirk’s squadron, were composed of Georgia and South Carolina reserves, and South Carolina militia, and occupied positions extending from Pocotaligo to Savannah river, and up that river beyond Sister’s ferry. Those at and near Grahamville were commanded by Brigadier-General Chesnut, those at and near Coosawhatchie by Brigadier-General Gartrell. They had arrived but a few days previously, and until my arrival were under the immediate orders of the Lieutenant-General commanding or other officer under him. The reserves were very imperfectly organized, and the militia without organization, and many of the men were without arms. Having obtained as accurate information as I could of their numbers and positions, and the positions and movements of the enemy, I ordered Brigadier-General Chesnut to send the Forty-seventh Georgia regiment and a section of artillery by railroad, to be thrown thence to any point that might be threatened, the train to remain at Coosawhatchie and be held in readiness to move the troops at any moment. This order, I regret to say, was not promptly obeyed. Dispatches received during the night indicated that the enemy was threatening Coosawhatchie by way of Bee’s creek and the Coosawhatchie river. At ten o’clock the morning of the 6th, General Gartrell telegraphed me that the enemy was landing from twelve barges at Gregory’s point on Tulifinny river; that he had moved forward a part of his force to meet them. The battalion of South Carolina cadets, having arrived at Pocotaligo, was ordered to guard the Tulifinny trestle, and aid in checking any advance on Coosawhatchie. A section of artillery, supported by the battalion of the Thirty-second Georgia regiment, was ordered to a point on the left of the Tulifinny, from which it was thought it could drive off or annoy the enemy’s transports and barges, and I started myself to ride to Coosawhatchie. But before reaching Tulifinny bridge, the enemy, having landed in much larger force than was at first supposed, had pressed forward up Gregory’s neck to the Coosawhatchie or State road, and having driven back a battalion of the Fifth Georgia regiment (about one hundred and fifty men), interposed between me and Coosawhatchie.
Brigadier-General Gartrell has not submitted a report, but I ascertain from a conversation with him and his subordinate commanders, that on first receiving information of the advance of the enemy, he sent forward only a small battalion (one hundred and fifty men) of the Fifth Georgia, which encountered the enemy on the Gregory’s Point road, about a mile from its junction with the State road, and drove back the advance guard. But the enemy, discovering that the handful of men in their front was not the twentieth part of their own number, pressed forward and nearly enveloped the Fifth Georgia, forcing it back. The Georgia reserve and a section of artillery were then sent by Gartrell to the support of the Fifth Georgia, but it was too late; the entire line soon gave way, fell back in confusion, crossed the Coosawhatchie river and partially destroyed the bridge immediately under the guns, and within easy and effective musket range of our works at Coosawhatchie. Major John Jenkins, whom I had sent forward to ascertain the position of the enemy, was conducting the battalion of cadets under Major White into action, and that gallant body of youths was moving at double quick, manifesting an eagerness to encounter the enemy, which they subsequently so handsomely sustained in action, and would in ten minutes have opened fire on the enemy’s right, when our line gave way as above stated, and the cadets were withdrawn to the railroad.
The enemy having secured a footing at the junction of the Gregory’s Point and State roads, immediately commenced entrenching, and I had no troops at hand with which to attack them that evening. During the night of the 6th, I concentrated on the railroad, near the Tulifinny trestle, all the available troops I could collect, being the Forty-seventh Georgia and a battalion of the Thirty-second Georgia regiments, a company of the First South Carolina artillery, the battalion of cadets and one of North Carolina reserves that had just arrived, and Buckman’s battery of artillery; and ordered Colonel Edwards, the senior colonel, to attack the enemy with that force at day-dawn the next morning. General Gartrell was ordered to make a spirited demonstration of attack from Coosawhatchie as soon as he should hear Colonel Edwards’ guns, and if Edwards’ attack proved successful, to press forward the attack from Coosawhatchie with all vigor. Colonel Edwards attacked as directed, with the result shown by his report, herewith forwarded. The demonstration from Coosawhatchie was not made with any spirit, and this effort to dislodge the enemy failed.
Not having a sufficient number of reliable troops to renew the attack, I endeavored by defensive works to hold the railroad, and the enemy was thus unavoidably allowed time, of which they availed themselves, to strengthen their position on Gregory’s neck. In the mean time, I had ordered Brigadier-General B. H. Robertson from his sub-division to the immediate command of the troops from Bee’s creek to Pocotaligo. On the morning of the 9th, the enemy, endeavoring to get possession of the railroad, vigorously assailed our left near Tulifinny trestle and were repulsed. Later in the day, they concentrated and attacked our line near Coosawhatchie, and were again repulsed. Failing in this attack they never renewed it, but strengthened their position within less than a mile of the railroad, and established several batteries with which they endeavored, but unsuccessfully, to prevent us from using it.
On the 11th, under instructions from the Lieutenant-General commanding, Brigadier-General Taliaferro was assigned to the immediate command of the troops from Bee’s creek to Pocotaligo.
I have stated thus minutely the operations of very small bodies of troops during the 6th, 7th and 9th, because the result of those operations decided my. subsequent action. If the Forty-seventh Georgia regiment and the section of artillery, which I ordered up [from Grahamville within an hour after my arrival at Pocotaligo, had been sent to Coosawhatchie, as I directed, or if, instead of sending forward only a battalion, General Gartrell had employed all of his available force to engage the enemy on the Gregory’s Neck road, leaving a small support for the guns in the fort at Coosawhatchie, I think the enemy would not have succeeded in establishing themselves on Gregory’s neck. The position they succeeded in securing was strong, being on a peninsula, not more than a mile and a half in width, between the Coosawhatchie and Tulifinny, with both flanks protected by those rivers and swamps, some of them thickly wooded. They also occupied Mackey’s point, making it necessary that I should employ a part of my small force to watch the enemy on Graham’s neck, to guard against a movement on the railroad from that quarter. I was convinced that I could not, with the force at my command, dislodge the enemy from his position by a direct attack in front, and therefore directed my attention to their rear. The only plan offering any prospect of success was an attack in the rear from the Tulifinny side. To do this it was necessary to bridge that stream and concentrate a column of reliable troops to attack the enemy in his entrenchments. The means of bridging the stream were procured, and I selected the most suitable point of passage, but at no time was I able to concentrate for the attack more than a thousand troops reliable for such service; for, by the concurrent testimony of the subordinate commanders, the reserves and militia could not be relied on to attack the enemy in their entrenchments. The number of the enemy on Gregory’s neck I estimate at between four and five thousand.
[Note.–It was the same body of troops, General Hatch commanding, that was defeated at Honey Hill, on the 30th November. It was then said to consist of 5,000 men of all arms. General Grant, in an official report, states the Federal loss at Honey Hill to have been 746 in killed, wounded and missing. Six days later, General Hatch landed with his command on Gregory’s neck, and it is reasonable to estimate the number between four and five thousand.]
Under instructions from the Lieutenant-General commanding, directing me if I could not dislodge the enemy from his position, to strengthen my own so as to hold the railroad, and send him all the troops I could spare, I sent him the part of General Young’s brigade that had arrived, and a few other troops, to operate in the immediate vicinity of Savannah, and directed my attention to holding the road to Savannah river, watching and obstructing the crossings on that stream, and making preparations for dislodging the enemy on Gregory’s neck, whenever I could collect the necessary force.
Whilst these operations were in progress near Coosawhatchie, Brigadier-General Chesnut guarded the road from Bee’s creek to Harduville, and Colonel Culcork guarded the line of the Savannah river to Hudson’s ferry, until the arrival in that vicinity of Major-General Wheeler and Brigadier-General Young.
I regarded it as my especial duty to hold the Charleston and Savannah railroad, and keep open communication to Savannah river. This was done, for though the enemy succeeded in establishing batteries within easy range of the railroad, and used their artillery very freely, we held that road; the passage of trains was never interrupted, and only one locomotive and one box car damaged, and two rails broken, until after Savannah had been evacuated and the troops and material brought from that city secured. Trains were passing over the road up to the 27th December, when, under instructions from the Lieutenant-General commanding, I turned over the immediate command of the troops in that vicinity to Major-General McLaws.
Whilst these operations were going on from Pocotaligo to the Savannah river, the other troops under my command held securely Charleston and its harbor, and all of the coast of South Carolina in our possession. The artillery and other veteran troops behaved throughout with their accustomed steadiness and gallantry, and the South Carolina cadets, Major White commanding, who for the first time felt the fire of the enemy, so bore themselves as to win the admiration of the veterans who observed and served with them.
For the casualties, which considering the heavy fire to which the troops were exposed for many days, were very few; and for other details, I respectfully refer to the reports of subordinate commanders.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Samuel Jones, Major-General. To Colonel T. B. Ray, A. A. G., Department South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, Charleston, South Carolina.
headquarters Adams Run, South Carolina, January 5, 1865.
Major Charles S. Stringfellow, Assistant Adjutant-General, Charleston, South Carolina:
Major — I have the honor to report that in obedience to instructions from Major-General Jones, I assumed command of all the troops between Bee’s creek and Tulifinny trestle on the 8th of December, ultimo.
About 9 o’clock on the morning of the 9th, the enemy opened on the left of my line a very rapid and continuous fire, from some eight guns. His line of skirmishers advanced about 10 o’clock, and immediately after the entire left became hotly engaged, our men fighting behind temporary earth works. Several attempts were made to carry our lines, but all were handsomely repulsed. The troops fought with great spirit. Foiled in his undertaking, the enemy moved to his left, in the direction of Coosawhatchie. The engagement was renewed most vigorously on our right at 3 o’clock P. M., and after an obstinate resistance by the enemy, lasting some two hours, he was driven eight hundred yards from his original line.
The Thirty-second and Forty-seventh Georgia regiments, the Seventh North Carolina battalion, and the battalion of South Carolina cadets, all under the immediate command of Colonel Edwards, occupied the left; the Fifth Georgia regiment, the First and Third Georgia reserves, under Colonel Daniel, the right. It was reported that General Gartrell was .slightly wounded, by a fragment of a shell, before he reached the field.
The German artillery, Captain Bachman, rendered very efficient service on the left, as was proved by the number of dead found in their front. Major Jenkins, commanding the cadets, was particularly conspicuous during the morning fight.
Colonel Edwards deserves especial credit for the admirable disposition of his troops.
The enemy’s loss, though not accurately ascertained, must have been heavy, as quite a number of his dead were left on the field.
Our casualties during the day were fifty-two killed and wounded. A tabulated list is herewith enclosed.
Both the officers and men of my command behaved well. Captains Haxall and Worthington and Lieutenants Johnston and Stoney rendered most valuable assistance in the execution of orders while the fight was progressing.
I am, Major, most respectfully, your obedient servant,
B. H. Robertson, Brigadier-General.
Headquarters Tulifinny works, South Carolina, December 19, 1864.
Major Charles S. Stringfellow, Assistant Adjutant-General, Charleston, South Carolina:
Major — In obedience to instructions from Major-General Jones, dated Pocotaligo, December 6, 1864, directing me to attack the enemy early on the 7th, in his position near this point, I made the following disposition of the force under my command, consisting of about two hundred men of the Forty-seventh regiment Georgia volunteers, commanded by Captain I. C. Thompson; two companies of the Thirty-second Georgia, with the Augusta battalion local troops; one company of the First South Carolina infantry, Captain King, and one hundred and thirty South Carolina militia, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Bacon, of the Thirty-second Georgia, and the battalion of South Carolina cadets, commanded by Major J. B. White, making in all seven or eight hundred men. Early in the morning, four companies were thrown forward as skirmishers, under command of Major White. The line, composed of the Forty-seventh Georgia on the right, and the troops under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Bacon, on the left, moved just in rear of the skirmishers. In a thick wood, near a bend in the old Pocotaligo road, the right of my skirmish line struck the enemy. The front was then changed gradually to the right, until the line crossed the said road, at nearly right angles, when it confronted the enemy and became engaged throughout its entire length. At this stage of the action the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Nesbett arrived and was posted on the left of my line of battle. Our skirmishers drove the enemy vigorously until the right of the line became engaged with the enemy’s line of battle, our left at the same time overlapping his right. This position was maintained until after Colonel Daniel’s demonstration on my right, when the enemy made new dispositions on and extending beyond my left. It becoming apparent that the enemy’s force considerably outnumbered mine, which consisted largely of raw troops, it was deemed impracticable to attack him in force, without which it was impossible to drive him from his position. I therefore withdrew, in good order, unpursued by the enemy, to my present position. The troops engaged, which were my skirmishers only, behaved with great gallantry.
By permission of the Major-General commanding, we began, on the morning of the 8th, to fortify our position. The work was continued uninterruptedly until the morning of the 9th, when the enemy drove in our pickets and advanced in force to within two hundred and fifty yards of our position. We opened upon him with artillery and musketry, and in a very short time drove him back with considerable loss. On the afternoon of the same day, in the attempt to re-establish our picket line, the enemy was found in the wood on our right within a hundred yards of the railroad. After severe fighting for about two hours, he was driven off and our line re-established. On the next morning it was ascertained that he had fallen back to his original position, and our picket line was advanced four or five hundred yards beyond its former position.
The casualties amounted in all to four killed, one commissioned officer and thirty-one men wounded, many of them very slightly.
Judging from the unburied dead, the graves and other evidences found upon the field, the enemy must have suffered a loss of not less than two hundred and fifty in the fighting of the 9th, and not less than fifty in that of the 7th, making in all a loss of not less than three hundred (300).
A. C. Edwards, Colonel Commanding.
I omitted to mention, in enumerating the force under my command on the 7th instant, the three pieces of Captain Bachman’s battery, which, owing to the character of the country, it was found impracticable to use in the action.
A. C. Edwards, Colonel Commanding.