After the fall of Atlanta, 60,000 Federal soldiers under MajGen William T.Sherman began what became known as the "March to the Sea" on November 15, 1864. Nine days later a Federal naval brigade, sometimes referred to as the Fleet Brigade, was organized to assist MajGen John G.Foster, commander of the Department of the South. In particular, this
OPPOSITE Born at Carlisle, Pa, in 1842, John Wilson Haverstick was commissioned second lieutenant of US Marines to rank from March 18, 1864. He served at the Marine Barracks, Washington, DC, from April 2 until June 21, 1864, following which he transferred to the Brooklyn Barracks. (USAMHI photo RG985-CWP28.64)
The assault by Breese's naval brigade on the northeast salient of Fort Fisher on January 14, 1865. Captain Dawson's Marines can be seen advancing on the far right; six would receive the Medal of Honor for their conduct during this action. (Baffles & Leaders)
unit was charged with the destruction of the Charleston & Savannah Railroad, which would prevent Confederate troops from being sent down from South Carolina to oppose Sherman.
The brigade was composed of about 350 sailors plus 157 US Marines from ships of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, under the overall authority of Cdr George H.Preble. The Marine component was led by Lt (acting LtCol) George G.Stoddard, commander of the Marine Guard aboard the USS New Hampshire. The seamen were formed into a battalion of artillery and one of skirmishers, while the Marines formed a three-company third battalion of skirmishers, with a sergeant fulfilling the role of captain for each small company. After several days of intensive training in battalion drill at Bay Point on Edisto Island, SC, the Fleet Brigade embarked on the gunboats Sonoma, Mingoe and Pontiac on November 29, and entered the mouth of the Broad River, about 30 miles down the coast, under cover of a heavy fog. Penetrating inland a further 20 miles, the flotilla turned up a winding creek south of Boyd's Neck, where they were eventually discovered by a Confederate cavalry picket.
Debarking from the Sonoma in ship's boats, the Marines quickly deployed as skirmishers and proceeded towards Grahamville, with the battalion of naval infantry marching in column, and the naval gunners bringing up the rear with two four-gun batteries of naval howitzers. An Army contingent, unofficially designated as the "Coast Division" and amounting to about 5,500 men under BrigGen John P.Hatch, landed at the same place as the main body of the expedition. Meanwhile, the Fleet Bde advanced rapidly inland, but made several wrong tarns due to inaccurate maps: they eventually joined forces with the Coast Div near the Bolan Church, at the junction of Honey Hill and River Roads, where they entrenched and bivouacked for the night.
The next morning a general advance on the Charleston & Savannah Railroad began. After marching no more than five or six miles the expedition collided with Confederate forces near Honey Hill. The Marines were initially held in reserve, but after about two hours' fighting they were ordered forward along with the 55th Massachusetts, to relieve the I44th New York on the right of the Union line. The Marines advanced slowly through nearly a mile of thick woods and swamp before going into line of battle on the double-quick. For the next three hours they engaged with Confederate infantry and artillery, while Jeremiah Cogley, the battalion acting quartermaster-sergeant, braved heavy enemy fire to keep his men supplied with ammunition from the rear. Around 2pm, Acting Ensign Woodward Carter, USN, who was serving as acting major of the battalion, took 20 Marines in an attempt to feel out the enemy left flank, but returned without success. It was apparent that
OPPOSITE Sgt Richard Binder, of the Marine Guard aboard the USS Ticonderoga, was awarded the Medal of Honor for serving his ship's guns "with skill and courage" during the two major assaults on Fort Fisher in December 1864 and January 1865. He is seen here as a private at the beginning of the war. (Marine Corps Historical Center)
the attempt to push through the entrenched Confederate positions to the railroad was failing, and the Federal force was ordered to withdraw that evening. Despite the length of the engagement, the day's fighting at Honey Hill saw only one Marine killed, seven wounded (one mortally), and one missing.
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