Letter from William Warren Marple, Lt. Col. 34th USCT,
to his brother Alfred Marple in Langhorne, Pennsylvania,
describing action during the Battle of Honey Hill,
South Carolina, U.S. Civil War.
The Dept of the South is out on another Expedition, not Johns Island this time , but the Main Land - We Landed from our transports at Boyd's Neck a point 20 miles up Broad River - opposite Whale Island.
We left Hilton Head at 2 O'clock A.M. Monday Morning - the 29th inst.- and steamed up Broad River - but the Fog was so thick - and night so dark that the Boats got Scattered I think full one half of them were aground. Instead of landing at Daylight, as anticipated - The Boat's that were not aground or lost in the small rivers - were back to Hilton Head.
The second effort was made at once - by dark of Monday The troops had effected a safe landing - I was on Steamer Delaware with my own & Col. Beecher's Regt. - having the largest Boat, we were the last to disembark when we did disembark (about dark Monday) the other forces had pushed out some 3 or 4 miles to-ward the Rail Road - Genl Hatch was in Command It seems that he failed for some cause to follow the Directions of his Guides - some say he left them back at the landing. At any rate he got lost and marched a number of unnecessary miles consequently failed to strike the R.R. the afternoon of his landing. The Attack was made about 10 A. M. Tuesday. The fight lasted until 4 P.M. without any intermission. We found the Enemy some three Miles from his works - he made a good fight but gradually fell back to take Shelter in his formidable works near the R.R.
Now I will tell you what part the 34th took in the operations of the day. I was ordered to take position at a cross road and hold it - Two (2) Howitzers and a Co. of Marines were sent to me. It was an important position - about 10 A.M. Monday - the enemy made an attack on me but was repulsed with considerable loss - He did not know that I had Artillery - and when he got quite close to my lines both pieces were opened with a volley of musketry - That commenced and ended the fight - At 12 noon Genl Foster sent me orders to advance on the Coosawhatche Road - a road opposite from the one taken by Genl Hatch and his force - I was to advance 5 miles - to Bee's Creek (near the R.R. at Grahamville) I advanced two (2) miles on the Road - when I came upon a formidable Earth works - with long lines of Rifle Pits - Two companies of Rebel Cavalry with two light pieces of Artillery were found there. The Enemy fell back quickly as I advanced - occasionally exchanging shots with the skirmishing line - 3 miles was yet to pass to find Bee's Creek I was to hold a cross road near this Creek and prevent reinforcements from passing from Charleston to the Battlefield - On reaching the Road I left the Main force (with the Artillery) and advanced one mile with the Skirmish line - Major Anderson Fosters chief of staff at this time came up - I informed him that my position was one that could not be held with so little a force - that I was confident the enemy was beyond the Creek with a large force He replied that he thought their was no force or works near us, - Major come with me and we will settle the questions at once - I at once ordered the skirmish line to advance and the Major & myself rode up to the advance line of our skirmishers.
In ten seconds the Air was full of Shrapnell and Grape & Canister thrown by the enemy from their front near the side of the road -
The Major's horse took its rider rappidly from all danger - The skirmisher were ordered back My horse was struck and badly hurt. I had none killed - 6 of the Men were badly wounded, two mortal all were brought from the field The Major did not stop until he had reached Genl Foster's Hd. Qrs. at the landing some 6 miles to the rear - At 10 o'clock that night I received an order from Genl Foster to Fall back at once and hold the position held by me in the morning - awaiting there for further orders from Genl Hatch - I reached the position about midnight and found Genl Hatch with his whole force His fight was over & his forces defeated ------
Things were in great confusion that night - The Next morning - the good friend the Spade was brought into use & we now hold the position. I was sent early in the morning of the Battle to hold - it is three miles from the Landing - a good position - We hear nothing from Sherman - Heavy fireing is to-day heard in the direction of Savannah. He is expected in that Quarter. We will hold our position here until Sherman come up Supplies are here for him -
Do not fail to send me the things I wrote to you for - Willard will take care of them and send them at once to me
W W Marple
[Original letter in possession of his grandchildren. Typescript by Florence H. Manhart, updated by Elizabeth M. Bentley]
For more information on the Battle of Honey Hill, visit:
135th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Honey Hill
Descendants at Reenactment Memorial Service
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