Port Royal

Captain George Holmes arrived at Savannah, Georgia, with Co A of the CS Marines on September 18, 1861, following which he probably supplied ships' guards for the so-called "Mosquito Fleet" commanded by Flag Officer Josiah Tattnall, which consisted of the converted river steamboat Savannah, the converted tug boat Sampson, the screw steamer Lady Davis, and the transport Resolute. With the approach of the Federal fleet to the bar of Port Royal, SC, on November 4, these four tiny vessels steamed out of the Savannah River and along the coast. Finding the enemy, "forty-four sail strong," off the mouth of the Port Royal Entrance, they fired shots at long range for about 40 minutes before retiring inside the harbor. They bravely repeated this tactic the next day, and once again dropped back into safe waters, the Savannah having received damage to her "upper works." Two days later, and following stormy weather, the Federal fleet finally got underway and forced a passage past Forts Walker and Beauregard, with the USS Minnesota, the flagship of Capt Samuel F.Dupont, leading the way.

With the Federal squadron bearing down on him, Flag Officer Tattnall gallantly ordered the commander of the Savannah, J.N.Maffit,

Port Royal Underwater

A CS Marine Guard under Capt Reuben Thom was assigned to the ironclad CSS Virginia, converted from the USS Merrimack, and commissioned for service at Norfolk, Virginia, on February 17, 1862. (Naval Historical Center photo 58712)

to steam towards Hilton Head, following which she opened fire with her 32-pdrs upon the Minnesota. When that vessel began to return fire, and the paddle-wheel frigate USS Susquehanna gave chase, the Savannah made for the protection afforded by the shallow waters of Skull Creek. Going alongside Seabrook's Landing, most of the Marines aboard the Savannah were ordered ashore under Capt Holmes, and were marched to the relief of Fort Walker. About an hour later a contingent of sailors and the rest of the Marines from the Sampson, commanded by Tattnall, set out carrying naval ammunition to the same post.

Coming within about a quarter of a mile of the fort, Holmes went ahead alone to "see how matters stood." Meanwhile, Tattnall learned that the fort had succumbed to the ferocious bombardment and had been evacuated. Assuming that Holmes had been captured, he ordered the entire naval contingent to return to their vessels. As they withdrew, with Marine Lt David Raney Jr bringing up the rear, they were joined by numerous survivors from the Fort Walker garrison, and were fired upon by US Marines from USS Wabash under Capt Isaac T.Doughty, who had been sent out as a protective picket from Fort Walker. Captain Holmes made his own way back to Seabrook's Landing, and eventually rejoined his command after it had departed for safety aboard the Sampson.

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