To prevent Confederate reinforcements from Charleston from interfering with General Sherman's "March to the Sea," which had started at Atlanta on 15 November 1864, the Union had decided to send an expeditionary force inland from Hilton Head to cut the Charleston & Savannah Railroad at Grahamville, SC.
On 28 November 1864, a force of 5,000 soldiers and 500 sailors and marines boarded federal gunboats at Hilton Head Island. All but Companies D and K of the 144th NY Regiment joined the expedition, boarding the steamer Sylph. The immediate destination was Boyd's Landing up the Broad River. Unfortunately, thick fog settled on the river about one hour into the trip. Several vessels including the Sylph became lost and had to retrace their route; others ran aground.
View from Boyd's Landing Looking up Boyd Creek
View from Boyd's Landing down Boyd Creek towards Broad River
The troops finally arrived at Boyd's Landing on the 29th and began the inland march towards Grahamville, approximately 7 miles to the west. Due to navigational mistakes by the Union commanders, the troops made several wrong turns and had to bivouack at Bolan Church for the night. Thus, a crucial day was lost. At about nine o'clock the next morning (30 November), the force moved out towards Grahamville.
At a point about five miles west of Boyd's Landing, the Union force approached a feature known as Honey Hill, a 15-20 foot topographic rise upon which Confederate troops had constructed earthworks. Although they were outnumbered, the elevated position, advantage of surprise, fortified entrenchments and heavy guns of the Confederate forces contributed to a decimation of the Federal troops, who withdrew in defeat following a fierce battle. The Confederates were commanded by Col. Charles Colcock. According to official records, the total forces engaged were 6,400 (US 5,000; CS 1,400) and casualties totaled 796 (US 746; CS 50). Other reports place the CS strength closer to 2,000 with 100-200 Confederate casualties.
Ironically, the majority of the Confederate troops did not arrive at the Honey Hill fortifications until immediately before the battle about nine o'clock a.m. (30 November). They arrived by train on the Charleston & Savannah Railroad from Georgia under the command of Major General Gustavus Smith. Thus, the extra day required by the Union forces to find the right road probably cost them a victory.
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