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                              Letters to

[newspaper clipping: first column]
The Disaster on James Island   A Repor-
     torial Visit to the Scene of the Fight 
     Present State of Feeling of the Troops
      -- A Deserter s Story.

From Our Special Correspondent.

               Near Gen. Wright s Headquarters.
        Camp on James Island, S.C., June 24, 1862   Noon.
     I have just returned from  a successful reconnois-
sance,  not  in force,  of the enemy s works, and
the scene of our disaster, on yesterday week.  Lux-
uriously reclined beneath canvas, with the end of the
tent agreeably hitched up for the purpose of affording
free ingress to a delicious breeze, which renders the
otherwise tropical noontide endurable, I am going to
tell THE TRIBUNE all about it.
    The kindness of Capt. J. M. Rice, aid to Gen.
Hunter, and, at present, volunteer aid to Gen.
Wright, procured me a horse, adding also the greater
courtesy of his company.  With us, too, rode Capt.
R. W. Thompson, jr., a gentleman occupying similar
rank and position.  Both are young men, but soldiers,
who have won the deserved good opinions of all who
know them: the latter, a Virginian by birth, with
kinsfolk fighting on either side of the war, was with
Gen. Hunter, in Missouri, and once lay with a bro-
ken leg in an ambulance doing his duty as well as he
might, while passing though a Secesh country, with
Rebel Price pursuing in the rear   happily living to
read of his presumed capture or death by the enemy.
The obligation of the ride and company is not the 
only one for which I am indebted to these gentle-
men, and I am well content that it should be so.  If
all army officers were like them, the task of a war
correspondent would be pleasant indeed; I think it
might even admit of the drawback of heat, muske-
toes, fleas and sand flies incidental to this insect-
plagued region.
    We rode out of camp at a comparatively early
hour; but the sun was hot enough to render my
having my head closely shorn and a bit of wet linen
between it and my hat a matter of congratulation.
Through a field, at first unplanted, presently ripe
with green corn, the ears of which will soon be pal-
atable as a vegetable, by a road on which three
might trot abreast, with dense woods skirting us on
our left.  (We occupy just the borders of them and
les than a quarter of a mile s distance of narrow
forest-lanes within, no more.  I threaded these yes-
terday afternoon, and found two sign-boards, one
appertaining to ante-Secession times, and bearing the
inscription  7 1/2 miles to Charleston;  another,  2
miles to h l    the work of our soldiers, sugges-
tively indicating the direction of the gunboats.)
Through a belt of open woods and another field, to
where the forest joins the road.  Here, dismounting,
we leave our horses, with others, picketed under
shelter of the woods, and continue our journey on
foot.  Just the road, indeed, by which our brave
fellows marched to the slaughter, before the daybreak,
on that unfortunate Monday morning.
    But ere we proceed, let us observe a small head-
board marking the grave of a Rebel officer, Capt.
Williams of the 47th Georgia.  He was buried where
he fell, emerging from the forest, on the date of our
arrival hither, during the skirmish then occurring.
He came cheering on his men to the capture or de-

[newspaper clipping: second column]
struction of the Yankees, then looked upon by the
Rebels as a sport as easy as partridge shooting.  He
fell riddled by seven musket balls, dying on the same
night, but not before he had expressed changed con-
victions as to this antagonists, and asked that some
mark might indicate his resting place.  Our men
carved into the headboard in accordance with the request,
and there he lies, shaded by the melancholy boughs
of the forest, with their long, pendant mosses.  Near
the grave was an unexploded bomb-shell, which had
rolled a man over without killing him.  In the ac-
tion of that day we lost 10 men, the Rebels 75.  You
may see the marks of the storm of bullets that tore
through the green life of the wood at this hour.
     Onward.  We are now skirting a forest full of
magnolias, beeches, live-oaks, and pines, a specimen
of the two former of which we observe growing in
twin-like proximity.  On the right is a compara-
tively open space, with girdled and felled trees, corn
growing beneath them.  Very soon we arrive at a
hedge and embankment, not the work of engineers,
but the common division of land in this country, and
excellent as a defense.  This marks our extreme
line of pickets; beyond is an open field, a hedge,
and the pickets of the enemy.
      At certainly not more than a mile and a quarter s
distance rises the Rebel tower, plainly discernible
between some tall trees.  It is a skeleton one, neatly
built, not unlike a New-York fire observatory in
construction, almost if not quite 200 feet high.  Be-
low, one sees the red line of the fort, on the fur-
ther side of a deep fosse, the scene of the hottest
part of the recent conflict, where the brave High-
landers, the New-York 79th, rushed at a double quick
to the relief of their fast friends and comrades, the
8th Michigan, both regiments leaving too many
mute witnesses of their valor in front of the work.
Directly behind the Rebel stronghold is Secession-
ville, a village, newly-named, of perhaps a dozen or
twenty wooden houses, and at no great distance
Fort Johnson, on the coast.  (This, erected during
the war of 1812, had fallen into decay before Seces-
sion time; probably the Rebels have rebuilt or re-
paired it.)  From it one looks directly at Charleston.
     In front, and on the right of the Tower Battery,
as it has been designated by our troops, stretches a
marshy prospect, dotted with stumps of trees, and
intersected by hedges, into which swamp the creek,
terminating in our camp, flows and loses itself.
Its muddy waters, to the last degree dreary and
detestable at low tide, but well-looking enough at
flood, are, from our point of vision, imperceptible,
its low banks being hidden by a line of trees, upon
whose luxuriant summer foliage the shabby moss
hangs as appropriately as the cobwebs on a wedding-
garment.  The marsh is sometimes overflowed from
the other side of the island.  Hidden in it, and in
the broken, low-lying expanse on our right, our
pickets at present bar the progress of the enemy in
the direction of the camp of Gen. Stevens.
    We find on picket-duty half a dozen good fellows
of the 76th Pennsylvania, under command of Capt.
Littell, of Co. K. Being  up a tree,  in slang
parlance, does not imply an improved lookout, but
the Captain suggests that it would improve ours;
accordingly, we ascend a prickly-laurel-leaved one,
bearing green berries, of course, festooned into
 looped and windowed raggedness  with moss.
The prospect pays us, especially when looked at
through a good field-glass.
    We see distinctly the Rebel tower from summit to
base, a man in it (but that we observed below), the
fort, tents, Secessionville, certain Rebel pickets near
the woods to the left, and the surrounding country
But for intervening trees and obstacles we might
perhaps have beheld Fort Sumter, with the stars and
Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty: page eighty-four
Description:Newspaper clipping reporting on the scene of the James Island disaster and the mood of the troops.
Subject:Civil War; Georgia Infantry Regiment, 47th; Fort Johnson (S.C.); Gunn, Thomas Butler; Hunter, David; James Island (S.C.); Journalism; Littell, Captain; Military; New York Infantry Regiment, 79th; New York tribune.; Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, 76th; Rice, J.M.; Thompson, Richard; Williams, Captain; Wright, Horatio Gouverneur
Coverage (City/State):Charleston, South Carolina
Scan Date:2010-09-10


Title:Thomas Butler Gunn Diaries, Volume Twenty
Description:Includes Gunn's descriptions of his experiences as a war correspondent for ""The New York Tribune"" at Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida, especially Hilton Head, Port Royal, St. Augustine, Key West, and the end of his experiences with the Army of the Potomac during the Peninsular Campaign when he had to leave camp due to illness.
Subject:African Americans; Boardinghouses; Bohemians; Civil War; Diseases; Gunn, Thomas Butler; Journalism; Marches (U.S. Army); Medical care (U.S. Army); Military; Military camp life; Peninsular Campaign (Va.); Travel; Women
Coverage (City/State):New York, New York; Port Royal, South Carolina; Hilton Head, South Carolina; Key West, Florida; St. Augustine, Florida; Virginia
Note:Thomas Butler Gunn was born February 15, 1826, in Banbury, England, and came to New York in 1849. During the Civil War he worked as a correspondent for the New York Tribune and the New York Evening Post. He returned to England in 1863, and died in Birmingham in April 1903. The collection includes twenty-one volumes of his diaries, including newspaper clippings, letters, photographs, sketches, and various other items inserted by Gunn. Diary entries date from July 7, 1849, to April 7, 1863, and include his experiences with the New York publishing and literary world, his descriptions of boarding houses, his travels throughout the United States, and his experiences traveling with the Federal army as a Civil War correspondent.
Publisher:Missouri History Museum
Rights:Copyright 2010 Missouri History Museum.
Source:Page images, transcriptions, and metadata of the Thomas Butler Gunn diaries have been provided by the Missouri History Museum.