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4 Series I Volume LIII- Serial 111 - Supplements

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Page 4 Chapter LXV. S. C., S. GA., MID., & E. FLA., & WEST. N. C.

APRIL 9, 1863.-Destruction of Steamer George Washington, near Beaufort, S. C.

Report of Captain Thomas B. Briggs, Third Rhode Island Artillery.

BEAUFORT, S. C., April 9, 1863.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to submit the following report:

On the morning of the 8th of April, in accordance with previous istructions from the general commanding, I embarked on board and took command of the steamer George Washington, then lying at the wharf at this place, and proceeded to Hilton Head in quest of the U. S. steamer Hale, with orders for her to accompany the Washington on a tour of Port Royal Island and to station her at Whale Branch. We had proceeded to or near Brick Yard Point, so called, when the Hale ran on a shoal, grounded, and remained fast. After trying to pull her off, being insucessful, I went on board and told Lieutenant Brodhead, commanding, that I would cruise up to and a lettle beyound Port Royal Ferry and return before night and lay by him to render assistance if he should be attacked before his vessel could float, as I saw that his guns did not bear so as to afford sufficient protection. I accordingly proceeded to the ferry and some hundred yards beyond and then came back leisurely and anchored near the Hale, intending to start again at daylight on the 9th. About 4,15 a. m., while dark, the Hale weighed anchor and started for her station, without reporting to me, and as she lying some distance from me her absence was not discovered until daylight, when I immediately ordered the Washington under way to follow, to see if she carried out my istructions. I had proceeded some hundred yards when work was brought me that a company of cavalry were at the point near which we had anchored, which was situated, as we were running, in our rear. I immediately got my gall and was soon satisfied that instead of a cavalry, it was a light artillery company, and simultaneously I saw a flash and heard a report, followed by several others. The first shell struck on the stern and another entered and blew up the magazinuated near to the stern, making the boat a complete wreck, destroying the ammunition in the magazine, and dismonting one gun. I stood twenty feet from the magazine and was somewhat stunned by the explosion. As soon as I came to my senses and saw our disabled condition, I went forward and seeing her driftin on the hostile shore, adn as I then throught of no possible way of getting her away from that situation, I ordered a white flag to be raised as a signal of surrender, as I wished to save the remaining lives. When the flag had been raised I again went aft and found that the captain of the boat had ordered her to be backed toward the shore of Port Royal Island, and upon examination found that she we on fire. I immediately counseled the men that I saw near me to get ashore, if possible, and latter after seeing all the men that were able to walk strike out for the shore I started myself to send the boat, which had been preserved and had carried one load, to rescue the wounted, which was accrdingly done by Lieutenant Blanding, who got the men into the boat and set them adrift. They were, as I afterward found, picked up by the rebels and, under a flag of truce, returned to the Hale, which came down after the Washington had burned and sunk. I intended to have surrendered the boat, adn the men that reMained, because I saw possible of getting away, as the boat was disabled, the ammunition exploded, and the rebels had complete control of her, but didn's think of leaving her until I found her on fire,


Page 4 Chapter LXV. S. C., S. GA., MID., & E. FLA., & WEST. N. C.

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