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Charleston Daily Courier

Charleston Daily Courier

December 5, 1864


{From the Savannah Republican, December 2}

The Battle of Honey Hill

            Honey Hill is about two and a half miles East of the village of Grahamville, Beaufort District, S. C.  On the crest of this, where the road or highway strikes it, is a semicircular line of earthworks, defective though in construction, as they are too high for infantry and have little or no exterior scope.  These works formed the centre of our lines on Wednesday, whilst our left reached up into the pine lands without protection, and our right along a line of fence that shirts the swamp below the batteries.  They commanded fully the road in front as it passes through the swamp at the base of the hill, and only some fifty or sixty yards distant.  Through the swamp, during the winter months, runs a small creek, which spreads up and down the road for some thirty or forty yards, but is quite shallow the entire distance.  Some sixty yards beyond this creek the main road turns off to the left, making an obtuse angle, whilst another and smaller road makes off to the right from the same point.

            The enemy came by the former road and turned the angle apparently before they were aware of the presence of an opposing force.  They consisted of four regiments of whites and the same number of blacks.  Prisoners, of which ten or twelve are in our possession, state that this force was commanded by Generals Potter and Hatch, some of them say General Foster was also present as chief of command.  The negroes, as usual, formed the advance, and had nearly reached the creek when our batteries opened upon them down the road with a terrible volley of epherical case. This threw them into temporary confusion, but the entire force, estimated at five thousand, was quickly restored to order and thrown into a line of battle parallel with our own up and down the margin of the swamp.  Thus the battle raged from 11 A. M. till dark.  The enemy’s centre and left were most exposed, and suffered terribly.  Their right was posted behind an old dam that ran through the swamp and it maintained its position till the ____ of the ____.  Our left was very much exposed, and an attempt was once or twice made by the enemy to turn it by advancing through the swamp and up the hill, but they were driven back without a prolonged struggle.

            The centre and left of the enemy fought with a desperate earnestness.  Several attempts were made to charge our batteries and many got nearly across the swamp, but were, in every instance, forced back by the galling fire poured into them from our lines.  We made a visit to the field the day following and found the swamp strewn with their dead.  Some eight or ten bodies were floating in the water where the road crosses, and in a ditch on the roadside just beyond, we saw six negroes piled one on top the other.  A Colonel of one of the negro regiments, with his horse, was killed whilst fearlessly leading his men across the creek in a charge.  With that exception, all the dead and wounded officers were carried off by the enemy during the night.  Many traces were left where they were dragged from the woods to the road and thrown into ambulances or carts.  We counted some sixty or seventy bodies in the space of about an acre, many of which were horrible mutilated by shells, some with half their heads shot off and others completely disemboweled.  The artillery was served with great accuracy, and we doubt if any battlefield of the war presents such havoc among the trees and shrubbery.   Immense pines and other growth were cut short off or torn into shreds.

            From all indications it is estimated that the loss of the enemy is fully five or six hundred.  This is the lowest estimate we have heard.  Many officers are of the opinion that their loss cannot be less than one thousand.  Ours was eight killed outright and thirty-nine wounded, three or four mortally.  The enemy fought to some disadvantage, as they fired up hill, and most of their shots ranged too high.

            Our infantry behaved with the greatest valor throughout the protracted struggle.  There was little or no straggling, nearly every man standing firmly to his post or duty.  The Georgia Brigade was commanded by Col. Willis, whose behavior on the field is highly commendable.  The Athens Battalion, under Major Cook, and Augustin Battalion, Major Jackson, stood manfully to their work.  The South Carolina Artillery also acted most handsomely, and served their guns with the skill of veterans.  Great praise is bestowed by the ranking officers on Capt. Stewart, of the Beaufort Artillery, five guns, and on Earl’s and Kapapaux’s batteries, each of which had a gun in the action.

            As before stated the general command was vested in Major General Gustavus Smith, of the Georgia State forces, though the line was immediately under the direction of Col. Coleock, whose conduct on the occasion is spoken of as beyond all praise.  The gallant Col. Gonzales was an active participant in the fight, and might have been seen everywhere along the line posting the guns, and encouraging the troops.

            So much for the battle of Honey Hill.  The enemy were whipped long before its close, but they waited for night to save themselves from disaster in their retreat.  Soon after dark they made off with all possible speed, and as the evidences show, with the wildest fright and confusion. Nearly everything was thrown away in their flight.  The road and woods for miles was strewed with clothing of every description, canteens, cooking utensils, etc., etc., whilst in their camp, about two miles from the battlefield, they left everything.  Any quantity of provisions, bottles of liquor, preserved meats, blankets, overcoats, etc.  were abandoned in their hasty retreat.  With the exception of shelling from their gunboats next day, which was harmless, nothing has been heard of them since their galling defeat and inglorious flight.



[Transcribed by Sharon Strout]


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