July 10, 1864: One more go at Fort Johnson

After the failed Federal assault against Fort Johnson on July 3, the Confederates fully expected a second attempt.  On July 6, Federal signaleers intercepted several messages passing alarms.  The Confederates saw men embarking boats at the old Swamp Angel Battery.  From their perspective this could only mean another Federal assault was in the works. Major-General Samuel Jones addressed Colonel John L. Black, then in command of the brigade defending James Island and Brigadier-General William Taliaferro’s second in command:

Inform General Taliaferro of the movement at the Swamp Angel, that he may re-enforce Fort Johnson and other points on the east lines, if necessary, as it is not probable he will have to send troops to John’s Island to-night.  The party embarking at Swamp Angel may be destined for Haskell or Cheves.  Keep vigilant watch. One of our gun-boats in rear of Johnson.

But nothing came of this threat on the 6th.  The days passed.  The bombardment of Fort Sumter stepped up.  Federal operations on John’s Island wound down.  But the Confederates still suspected an attack on Fort Johnson or other nearby works.  Then in the evening of July 10, around 8:30 p.m. came the alarm:

The enemy are attacking Haskell.

And hour later, came a message from Black, correcting the earlier message:

The enemy have been repulsed and Fort Johnson re-enforced. The report of Haskell being attacked was a mistake.  It was Simkins.

Fort Johnson’s commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph A. Yates, reported at 10:15 p.m.:

The enemy immediately after dark (he expected no doubt to find us not on the alert) made an attempt to take Battery Simkins, but we opened immediately upon them, heavily, with artillery and infantry, driving them back.  Three of their boats effected a landing, but finding the balance of the expedition could not stand up to it they took back their boats and made off.  We are all right and ready for them.

Taliaferro’s official report, filed two weeks later, mentioned reinforcements in the form of a section from Battery A, Orleans Guard Artillery and a company of Confederate marines.

Official Federal accounts are silent on the operation.  Given that only three boats landed, this was likely a reconnaissance mission and with secondary aim to distract from the withdrawals from the other side of James Island and from John’s Island. Of all the operations Foster initiated in the first week of July, only the bombardment of Fort Sumter continued.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 35, Part I, Serial 65, pages 169, 256, and  261. )


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