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Text for Page 093 [07-05-1862]

              83
                              James Island.

[newspaper clipping continued: first column]
   I arrived here two days ago, from James Island.
By the time this reaches you, I suppose that woody,
swampy, sultry, and picturesque locality will be
entirely abandoned by our troops, at all events
before the Charleston subscribers to THE TRIBUNE
could receive the copy containing this letter; so I
write without fear of affording the enemy contraband
information.
  The order for the evacuation reached us on the
morning of the 28th, producing, I think, a general
feeling of regret if not of dissatisfaction.  To leave a
place which we had occupied, in which we had
erected so many charming batteries (I refer you to
the map I forwarded for the number), just as they
were near completion, was humiliating � especially
after Gen. Benham�s �successful reconnoissance.�
If the question whether we should or should not
have a parting slap at the Rebels had been put to
the vote throughout the camp, I make no doubt
there would have appeared a strong majority for the
affirmative.  Underlying this feeling, however, in
the minds of all who based their convictions on
something better than impulse, was a strong sense
of the advisability of the movement, if not its
necessity.
   We had but a small force there, which, even if it
drove the enemy from the island, could not hope to
occupy it, much less successfully attack Charleston,
a city which began the work of rebellion and fortifi-
cation simultaneously.  Gen. Hunter could not afford
to send more troops, having a large extent of sea-
board territory to retain possession of, stretching
from the state to the Gulf.  Lastly, the fiercest
Summer heats were approaching, the weather grow-
ing every day more tropical, and the island was de-
cidedly unhealthy.  To keep men upon it for one,
two, or three months � until the fall of all-engrossing
Richmond shall cap the climax of �a short and
bloody war,� and allow of the diversion of some
portion of public and Governmental attention to other
localities � were a mere holocaust at the shrine of 
[f]alse honor.  So we came away.  The cavalry went
[f]irst, the artillery next, the infantry and Gen. Wright
[l]ast of all.  He is now at Edisto Island with his
[c]ommand, where he will temporarily remain � per-
haps longer than temporarily.
   In Battery Stevens � that nearest to the Rebel line
-- our boys obligingly left a few Quaker guns.  They
[t]alked also of establishing a scare-crow picket or
[t]wo, but, I believe, relinquished the idea in virtue
of the consideration that an immovable sentinel
[i]nduces reflection, and reflection inquiry.  For the
[l]ast five days, they � the soldiers, not the scare-crows
-- had only played at working in the batteries,
marching to them with sticks over their shoulders,
in lien of picks, shovels, or axes, and amusing
[t]hemselves as they pleased when they got there.
   How did they embark? you may ask.  Chiefly in
[s]teamers big and little.  I came hither, for my sins,
[i]n the Burnside, a not very large stern-wheel steam-
er, with a civil captain.  Respecting the gallant
officer whose name she bears, as I do, I cannot as-
[s]ert that her owners paid him a very high compli-
ment in the bestowal of the name.  For the Burn-
side was decidedly inmcommodious, her limited cabin
[s]melled of bilge-water, of bed-clothes saturated
with human perspiration, and of salt fish.  Four
meals on board justify me in believing that no fresh
meats are even permitted to appear at table.  Then,
[t]oo, her deck was so crowded with soldiers (strag-
glers and promiscuous persons, many of whom were

[newspaper clipping continued: second column]
there unauthorized) that we could hardly stir.  These
men, too, got a barrel of whisky in the hold, pried
it open with their bayonets, and filled their canteens,
with the inevitable result � drunkeness, quarrels,
and fighting.  One fell overboard, but escaped
drowning, in consequence of there being no room
for salt water in him and his capacity for swimming.
One long, cruelly-sultry day did I endure of this
(in which my neck was cooked by the solar heat to
a color between that of a slice of beet and a boiled
lobster) and two dreary nights; the next morning
brought me to Hilton Head and comfort.
   I found everything quiet enough of course; long
wharf, sand, sea and sky, ex-Rebel fort, neat, un-
painted barracks and store-rooms, tents and hospital.
It was the evening of the Fourth, but still delight-
fully quiet; no drums, no juvenile pyrotechnics, no
exasperating popping of pistols, no shouting drunk-
ards, no � ha ! ha ! � no tin horns! A violent rain-
storm concluded the day, and we slept tranquilly to
its music, and that of the sad, sea waves.  And the
great anniversary dawned cloudily with no par-
ticular celebration beyond the display of the national
flag upon the many vessels in the harbor, and at
noon a general salute of thirteen guns.
   Gen. Hunter, considerate always for the health
and comfort of his men, had ordered no parade; so
the troops had a holiday, and disported themselves
as they chose.  Some bathed, some fished, some
wrote letters to friends and kinsfolk, a very few
got drunk.  Others � the volunteer engineers for
example � at the suggestion of their excellent Lieut.-
Col. Hall, had a shooting match, the men of the
different companies at first contending in friendly
emulation and then the victorious marksmen trying
their skill against each other, for prizes of money
contributed by officers.  As usual the best
soldiers, in a general sense, proved the best shots.
By the way I intend to devote a letter to the history
of this regiment; it is peculiar and worth the telling.
   The 1st Regiment South Carolina Volunteers (the
negro regiment) was, I understand great on parade
on the Fourth, near their quarters on Rebel Dray-
ton�s plantation.  But as I did not see it, and as I
intend to write comprehensively, my impressions of
this excellent, this stupidly-maligned organization,
which will survive the sneers of brutal prejudice to
do honor to the man whose moral courage has
founded it, I defer what I have to say until then.
Only this: I wish from the bottom of my heart that
Gen. Hunter had a hundred negro regiments in
training in this State of South Carolina.  He might
then give the North something to talk of beside that
eternal Richmond.
   Apropos of it, The Charleston Mercury of the
28th of June publishes, with a great flourish of
trumpets, an account of a recent victory over Gen.
McClellan an the Union troops before the Rebel
capital, which, whether true or false, will doubtless
reach you and be reprinted in the New-York papers.
We incline to think there is something in it, for the
Charlestonians fired a hundred guns on the Fourth,
as in honor of some welcome intelligence.  This
was distinctly heard on board the Wabash, Commo-
dore Dupont�s flag-ship.  If it be so, how is New-
York going to take it?  Will it be accepted as an-
other instance of �pushing the enemy to the wall,�
and allowing him to pull the wall down on you
when you have got him there?  After all, the �so-
called Southern Confederacy� may live to be recog-
nized by Europe because of our rational aversion
toward being helped out of our scrape by the black
hands (white within the palms) of �niggers.�
   I close pertinently with a scrap of real news,               
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