The Battle of Honey Hill, S.C.
Report of Brigadier General John P. Hatch
U.S. Army, Commanding Coast Division
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records
of the Union and Confederate Armies,
128 Vols.,
(Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1882)
Copy provided by Marjorie Kwiatkowski; HTML text prepared by Gary W. Myers

Deveaux's Neck, S.C., December --, 1864.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to make the following report of the movements of this division from the date of its embarkation at Hilton Head to the close of the action at Honey Hill:

The force collected from different points in the Department of the South, with the addition of a small brigade from the navy, numbered, including all arms, about 5,500 men, organized as follows: Two brigades of infantry, commanded by Brig. Gen. E. E. Potter and Col. A. S. Hartwell, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers; Naval Brigade, Commander George H. Preble, U.S. Navy, commanding; portions of three batteries light artillery, Lieut. Col. William Ames, Third Rhode Island Artillery, commanding. It was embarked on the evening of the 28th November, with the intention of landing at Boyd's Neck at daylight the following morning. My command of the force was to commence after landing. At 2.30 a.m., the hour previously designated, the signal for sailing was given from the flag-ship of the department commander. The transports immediately got under way; but soon after, a dense fog covering the river, some came to anchor, others continuing the advance grounded, whilst others, by a mistake of the pilots, were taken up the Chechesse instead of the Broad River. The pilot of my own steamer advising me to wait daylight, I did so, and consequently it was from that transport the first troops commenced landing, at about 11 a.m. The steamer Canonicus containing engineer troops and material, was unfortunately one of the transports that had gone up the Chechesse by mistake, and did not arrive at Boyd's Neck until about 2 p.m. This caused a delay in building the necessary landing to enable the artillery and means of transportation to be disembarked. The Naval Brigade was the first organized body landed. It was immediately pushed to the front to occupy a cross-roads two miles in advance of the landing Attached to this brigade was a battery of eight light guns, drawn by sailors. The brigade met and drove toward Bee's Creek a small force of the enemy. The Thirty-second U. S. Colored Troops, as soon as landed, was sent to the support of the brigade. At 4 p.m. the detachment of cavalry and a large portion of Potter's brigade having landed, I determined to push forward immediately and attempt to seize the railroad at Grahamville, without waiting the landing of the artillery and the remainder of the infantry. The debarkation of the remainder of the troops continued through the night and following day as the transports arrived. Unfortunately the maps and guides proved equally worthless. The Naval Brigade had pushed back the enemy, who, retreating toward Bee's Creek, were followed two miles from the cross-roads in a direction opposite to the route we were to march, supposing it the direct road to Grahamville. Potter's brigade followed, and it was not until the latter had overtaken the Naval Brigade that the error was discovered. The troops counter-marched and returned to the cross-roads. The sailors dragging the artillery were found to be worn out, and the Naval Brigade was left at that point, with orders to come up in the morning. We then pushed on with Potter's brigade and the cavalry. Two miles from the crossroads was found a fork in the road near a church. The guide, pretending to recognize the point, led the column on the left-hand road. Four miles beyond the church it became evident that the guide had mistaken the road, and I returned to the church, where we bivouacked at 2 a.m. The men had then marched fifteen miles, had been up most of the previous night, had worked hard during the day, and were unable to march farther. The distance marched, if upon the right road, would have carried us to the railroad, and I have since learned we would have met, at that time, little or no opposition. On the morning of the 30th the Artillery and Naval Brigades having come up, it was reported to me that horses had been furnished the naval battery, except for two mountain howitzers. These I directed to return to and hold the cross-roads, supported by four companies of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers. They were attacked, and repulsed a body of the enemy from the direction of Bee's Creek battery. I then marched on the direct road toward Grahamville in the following order: Cavalry; Potter's brigade, with Mesereau's battery, Third New York Artillery; Naval Brigade; Titus' battery, Third New York Artillery; and all of Hartwell's brigade that had arrived at the point, consisting of one regiment and two companies of a second. At 9.15 a.m. met the advance of the enemy, consisting of two pieces of artillery with an infantry support. Our column was marching in a narrow road with dense woods on both sides. The action was opened by General Potter, who advanced the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York Volunteers as skirmishers, supported by the Twenty-fifth Ohio and the One hundred and forty-fourth and One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers. The supports were deployed on the sides of the road when the country opened sufficiently to allow it. Hartwell's brigade was also brought forward as soon as it could find open ground on the right side of the road. We advanced gradually, driving the enemy about three miles and a half, their artillery being silenced at every opening of the section with our advance. Our casualties were not severe during this advance, but a valuable and gallant officer, First Lieut. Edward A. Wildt, Third New York Artillery, fell mortally wounded whilst sighting one of his guns. At 11 a.m. the head of the column came unexpectedly on the main body of the enemy in position. At this point the road bends to the left. The advance following it found themselves in front of all inclosed work pierced for four guns. The redoubt, situated on the crest of a small ridge, was the center of the enemy's line. It is said to have been built two years since, although until now unknown to us. Following the crest of the hill on either side the redoubt, the enemy had thrown up a line of rifle-pits, and within these waited with seven pieces of artillery our attack. In front of the enemy's line ran a small creek, bounded by a marsh covered with dense undergrowth. This was not impassable, but presented a serious obstacle to our advance, being completely commanded by the enemy's fire. Potter's brigade was quickly formed in line of battle parallel to theft of the enemy. One section of Mesereau's artillery, placed in position in the road, opened fire upon the redoubt. The left of Potter's brigade, re-enforced by two companies of the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteers and part of the Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, which had by mistake taken position on the left of the road--made two desperate attacks on the main work of the enemy, led by Col. A. S. Hartwell, commanding Second Brigade. They were repulsed with severe loss. The Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers were rallied, and, with the Marine Battalion, sent to the support of the right wing of the line of battle, with orders to turn the left flank of the enemy. They advanced gallantly, but were unable to carry the intrenchments. This wing finally fell back a short distance to take advantage of an inequality on' the ground, which gave them a position from which they repulsed several attacks made by the enemy. Charges made on our left flank were repulsed with ease. Between 1 and 2 p.m. the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops reached the field, having arrived at the landing at 11 a.m.

The ammunition of the troops engaged being nearly expended, and none arriving from the rear, this regiment was necessarily held in reserve, as I received information from deserters and prisoners that large re-enforcements were being received by the enemy by railroad. One section of Mesereau's artillery, having been placed in battery in a position completely commanded by the artillery and sharpshooters of the enemy, lost two of its officers wounded, and most of its horses and cannoneers; two of the ammunition-chests on the limbers were blown up. A detail of a company from the One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops was ordered to bring off the guns. Capt. A. E. Lindsay, commanding the company, was killed, and Lieut. H. H. Alvord was severely wounded. The command of the company devolved upon a sergeant, who did not understand the object of the advance, and failed to accomplish it. First Lieut. O. W. Bennett, One hundred and second U.S. Colored Troops, with thirty men was detached for the same purpose, and executed it in the coolest and most gallant manner. Mesereau's artillery was then sent to the rear, and Titus' battery brought into action. The artillery fire was directed to be continued slowly, as the ammunition was being expended and none received from the rear. The caissons as fast as emptied were ordered to the landing to refill. About 3 p.m. 6,000 rounds of musket ammunition was received and issued to those regiments entirely out. It was, however, now certain that the enemy's position could not be carried; and whilst a moderate fire was kept up, arrangements were commenced for retiring as soon as it became dark. The ammunition of Titus' battery, except twenty rounds each for two guns, being expended, the naval guns under Lieutenant Commander Matthews were brought into action, one section at a time. The ambulances having been lauded commenced reaching the front. One section of Titus' battery, supported by two regiments of infantry, took post half a mile in the rear. Two regiments of infantry were then drawn from the flanks and posted one mile farther to the rear, where the road crossed a ravine. Two regiments of infantry were detailed to carry the wounded. At dusk the retreat commenced. The Naval Brigade, with the exception of its two pieces of artillery, then engaged, was ordered to occupy the cross-roads; the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York Volunteers and One hundred and second U. S. Colored Troops, with one section naval artillery, remained at the front, keeping up a slow fire with artillery until 7.30 p.m., when, the main body of the command being well on its march, they withdrew, and were in their turn covered by the Fifty-sixth and One hundred and forty-fourth Regiments New York Volunteers; these were again covered by the Twenty-fifth Ohio and One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers, posted as before mentioned. The whole retrograde movement was executed without loss or confusion; there was no pursuit by the enemy or alarm of any kind; not a wounded man was left on the field, except those who fell at the foot of the enemy's works in the charges in which we were repulsed; no stores or equipments fell into the hands of the enemy, except some thrown away by the men on the advance, to enable them the better to follow the enemy in his retreat.

In closing this report I must give the gallant men the credit due them. The list of killed and wounded, none of whom fell in retreat, attest their good conduct. The affair was a repulse owing entirely to the strong position held by the enemy and our want of ammunition. A few instances of individual gallantry that have come particularly to my knowledge I will mention: Col. A. S. Hartwell, Fifty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers, commanding brigade, received his third wound during the engagement at the foot of the enemy's intrenchments; Col. James C. Beecher, Thirty-fifth U.S. Colored Troops, twice wounded, refused to go to the rear until the close of the action; Lieut. George H. Crocker, Third New York Artillery, continued to serve his guns, after losing an eye, until they were withdrawn by order.

Lieut. Cols. W. T. Bennett and James F. Hall, of my staff; S. L. Woodford, One hundred and twenty-seventh New York Volunteers; N. Haughton, Twenty-fifth Ohio; James C. Carmichael, One hundred and fifty-seventh New York Volunteers; A. J. Willard, Thirty-fifth U.S. Colored Troops; Lieut. Commanders A. F. Crosman and E. O. Matthews, U.S. Navy; Capt. T. J. Mesereau, Third New York Artillery; Lieut. G. G. Stoddard, U.S. Marines; Lieuts. E. H. Titus and George C. Breck, Third New York Artillery, deserve particular mention. The brigade commanders--Brig. Gen. E. E. Potter, Commander G. H. Preble, U.S. Navy, and Lieut. Col. William Ames, Third Rhode Island Artillery--gave me a hearty support. General Potter, who commanded the advance, handled his troops handsomely, and personally superintended the withdrawal of the rear of the command on the retreat. To my own staff I am indebted for their energy and activity. Col. G. A. Pierce, quartermaster, volunteer aide, was wounded whilst making a reconnaissance. Capt. G. E. Gouraud, of General Foster's staff, won the praise of all, and is particularly commended for gallantry. (*) Capts. W. W. Sampson, acting aide-de-camp, and T. L. Appleton assistant provost-marshal; Lieuts. L. B. Perry, acting assistant adjutant-general; E. B. Van Winkle, aide-de-camp; D. G. McMartin, aide-de-camp, and T. C. Vidal, signal officer, did their duty nobly, and assisted in rallying at the front and leading forward those troops who, unable to stand the terrible fire of the enemy, were repulsed in the assault.

In the reports of brigade commanders, herewith inclosed, you will find personal mention of other officers. The medical department, under direction of Surg. George S. Burton, Third Rhode Island Artillery, proved itself highly efficient, and the corps of stretcher-bearers visited thoroughly all parts of the field where the troops were engaged. A list of the casualties accompanies this report. The total killed, wounded, and missing is 746. Of the 28 missing, I have been indirectly informed that 13 unwounded and 5 wounded men are in the hands of the enemy.

I am, captain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General, Commanding.

Capt. W. L. M. BURGER,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Hdqrs. Dept. of the South.

Recapitulation of the killed, wounded, and missing in the Coast Division, Department of the South


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