The Battle of Honey Hill, S.C.
Report of Commander George H. Preble
U.S. Navy, Commanding Marine Brigade
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


HEADQUARTERS MARINE BRIGADE,
In Camp on Grahamville Road, S. C., December 4, 1864.

GENERAL: In obedience to your order of yesterday, I have the honor to report the part taken by the naval force under my command in the action at Honey Hill, S. C., on the 30th of November, ultimo:

After landing the artillery battalion on the morning of the 29th, at 9 a.m., it was advanced, under command of Lieut. Commander E. O. Matthews, U.S. Navy, about two miles along the road, supported on the right by the sailor battalion of infantry, under command of Lieut. James O'Kane, U.S. Navy, and on the left by the battalion of marines, under command of First Lieut. of Marines G. G. Stoddard, thrown out in advance as skirmishers. At the forks of the road I halted the command and brought our artillery into a defensive position. Having no guide or map to refer to, and not satisfied that the crossing was the one designated as our halting place, from the road not continuing beyond, as shown me on your map at the landing, Lieut. Commander A. F. Crosman, acting adjutant of the brigade, with myself and fifteen of the sailor infantry, went out along the road to the right and disclosed the enemy's cavalry and infantry pickets watching our movements. A few rifle-shots were exchanged, when we fell back to the main command, and at 4 p.m. I moved it to the right or north about two miles, where we were intrenching our camp, when Brigadier-General Potter rode up and informed me that we were on the wrong road. I returned with the command to the forks of the road and encamped for the night, by his order, to refresh our men, who had been dragging the field pieces all day, General Potter continuing with his forces on his route to the left.

At 7 a.m. on the 30th we were on the march again along the southern road. At 7.45 a.m., on receipt of your order, the two lightest 12-pounder howitzers were sent back to the forks of the road we had left, to defend that point until the arrival of a battery from Beaufort. Actg. Ensign J. A. Edgren was detailed to take charge of these pieces. Their arrival was timely, and repulsed a party of cavalry and infantry who were advancing on our right. At 9 a.m. I reported to you in person at your headquarters, at the church. At 9.30 a.m. my brigade was formed in the rear of the First Brigade as the reserve, and was kept in the rear during the whole advance. About 11.30 a.m. the firing in front became quite heavy and continuous. At 3.30 p.m. Lieut. Commander E. O. Matthews was ordered to take a section of heavy 12-pounder howitzers to the front and relieve a section of New York artillery as soon as their ammunition was out. At 3 p.m. these pieces opened fire and continued firing until 6.30 p.m., when the troops were withdrawn. Lieutenant-Commander Matthews covered their withdrawal until relieved by a section of horse artillery, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Ames. The remainder of the artillery battalion returned next in advance of the heavy artillery with the retiring column, as ordered, to the forks, where it had previously encamped and where it was joined by the section under Lieut. Commander E. O. Matthews, when the whole battery was placed in a defensive position to guard the roads until morning. I was much indebted to you for furnishing horses for the artillery, as the long march had greatly fatigued the men. Two companies of sailor infantry did good service in assisting at the drag ropes of the artillery, which could not have been brought up without such assistance. The remaining companies assisted in turning back stragglers from the front. Otherwise, much to the reluctance of its commanding officer, the sailor infantry was compelled to remain inactive in reserve, waiting your orders to move to the front. About noon the battalion of marines was ordered to advance, which they did by the right flank, led by Actg. Adjt. A. F. Crosman and commanded by First Lieut. George G. Stoddard, U.S. Marine Corps, to the road where a battery was in action; there filed to the right about 500 yards, then to the left, coming on to the line of battle in the rear of the Twenty-fifth Ohio Volunteers. They then filed to the right and came by the left flank in line of battle, taking position to the right a little in advance of the line previously formed and in a position pointed out by yourself on the field. The last mile and the coming into line was done on the double-quick. As soon as formed in line fire was opened on the enemy, who seemed to be in force on the left. At 2 p.m. Acting Ensign Carter, acting as major of the battalion, was sent with twenty men to deploy and advance on the right flank. He proceeded for 200 yards without finding the enemy. At 3.30 p.m. the line having fallen back on the left compelled the marine battalion to retire as the enemy advanced, which was done in good order, and a new position taken on the crossroad but still on the right of the line. This place was held by the marine battalion until about 6 p.m., when, in obedience to orders, it was marched to the rear, and took up its position at the forks on the left of the Naval Battery.

Lieutenant Stoddard calls attention to the gallant conduct of Sergeant Cogly in bringing up ammunition to the front under heavy fire, and thus enabling the battalion to hold its position.

With the exception of one man wounded in the battery, all the casualties in my command were among the marines. Considering that the marines were drawn from the vessels of the squadron scattered on the blockade, and had been formed into a battalion only two days previous, and that all the company officers were sergeants, I think their conduct creditable to the corps.

Asst. Surg. W. J. Bowdie, of U.S. Navy, my senior medical officer, at the request of Surg. George S. Burton, U.S. Army, chief medical officer of the military force, was detailed to the church hospital in the rear, and from 9 a.m. the 30th until 2 p.m. December 1 was constantly employed in attending to the wounded brought from the front, and has since been and is still employed at Boyd's Landing in that service.

Asst. Surg. E. M. Corson and Actg. Asst. Surg. H. L. Gibbs were at the front and rendered constant and efficient service to our own and the wounded of the army.

As the casualties in my brigade were fortunately slight, the service of all these surgeons was principally given to the military.

The medical supplies of the army not having arrived, those intended for this command, and happily at hand, were consumed for the wounded of the army.

Herewith I transmit Assistant Surgeon Bowdle's report of killed, wounded, and missing by name, as required by your order.(*) Henry Kittering, seaman, reported as missing, has since returned to the command.

In conclusion I congratulate you, general, on the brave troops you command. I am sure a more cheerful and reliant spirit or greater bravery could not have been displayed by any body of men, and it was only that the enemy was in too strong force and position for the limited force at your control that we did not carry his works.

I take this occasion to express my grateful appreciation of the many kind attentions received by myself and officers from our military brethren in arms. It has been, and shall be, my endeavor to cordially co-operate with the military forces.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. HENRY PREBLE,
Commander, U.S. Navy, Commanding Naval Brigade,
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Brig. Gen. J.P. HATCH, U.S. Army,
Commanding Coast Division, U. S. Army.


Return to Honey Hill home page