Secessionville, Part 4

Secessionville: Assault On Charleston by Patrick Brennan

Chapter 5
1. This chapter focuses on the preliminary Federal buildup on James Island from June 4-9, 1862. Apparently the heavy rain during this time made the Federal advance proceed slowly. Stevens’ Union Division tried to create more space on Sol Legare and James Islands with daily probes (when the rain permitted it) for Wright’s Division, which was located west across the Stono River at Legareville. The Confederates seemed strangely content during this period to just allow the Northern build-up. The normally aggressive Nathan “Shanks” Evans was oddly quiescent during this time, and the Rebels lost several opportunities to do some real damge to the Yankees, who were basically straddling the Stono River.

2. One thing I did not realize as I started this book was that many of the regiments on both sides had not faced real combat to this point other than the occasional skirmish. For many of these men, this was a brand new ordeal. Friendly fire incidents seem to have been common during this buildup to the Battle of Secessionville. And some regiments which are generally regarded as hard fighters in the history of the war, such as the 28th Massachusetts, performed poorly in their first tests of combat.

3. More bad news came for Pemberton in the form of reduced strength. Lawton’s Georgia Brigade was at first allowed to remain in Pemberton’s Department, but soon enough Davis changed his mind and ordered these men to Richmond. This created another command vacuum in the Department (Lawton had commanded at Savannah), so Pemberton, ever the bureaucrat, moved Mercer from the threatened area at Charleston, gave him the Savannah command, and placed BG William Duncan Smith in charge of Mercer’s old command on James Island. Apparently this at least was good news. Smith immediately conceived of a “unified defensive concept” for the island. He organized a Brigade-sized force and labeled it his “Advanced Forces”. It was to act as a mobile force to counteract the expected Federal thrusts. Col. Hagood was placed in charge of this command, and it consisted of the 1st SC, the 24th SC, Eutaw’s Bn., and the artillerymen of the 4th LA Bn. Smith also created “strong points” behind the skirmish line but in front of the Confederate entrenchments where troops could fall back to if threatened.

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