Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861 (Night)


Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861 (Night)


Capers writes to his wife Lottie from Johns Island, and gives a more detailed account of the retreat that he described in his previous letter from that morning. He writes that Colonel Branch ordered his men to retreat without their belongings, but then sent the wagons back to collect some items that had been abandoned. Branch told Capers that he ordered the retreat because he was afraid the enemy would cut off their regiment, but Capers writes that Branch should have waited and attacked the enemy instead. Capers describes the retreat as "childish" and says he will resign and join Stevens. He says that he hopes to see Lottie soon, and asks her not to send any more packages until she either sees or hears from him again.


A1961.1, Box 1, Folder 48


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Ellison Capers Collection









Date Valid


[Page 1]
Camp at Church Bridge Johns Island
Thursday Night Dec 19th 1861

My Precious Lottie – I wrote you a hurried note this morning giving you somewhat of an account of Col. Branch retreat from Rockville, but I'll give you here more of the particulars. The Regiment which numbered scarcely 300, were on dress parade when the firing reported. Our camp was about a ¼ of a mile this side of Rockville, on the road that leads up to this bridge, & a picked guard was kept at the village, one sentinel being posted in a tower of one of the houses: a position which commanded the view of the Edisto River, from its mouth to Wadmalaw River. If you look on the map in the Hall, you will see that Rockville is situated on a creek that runs in from Edisto and around Wadmalaw Island, &

[Page 2]
with Church Creek, which runs in from Wadmalaw River, cuts off Wadmalaw Island from Johns Island. The former of these creeks is called Bohicket, & for several miles from the Edisto is deep & navigable to gunboats & transports. So also is Church Creek, & the Wadmalaw River, so that you see the enemy can completely surround Wadamalaw Island, & to hold it, with light troops, when the enemy threatens to attack would be foolish, because of his ability to land his troops at opposite points, & attack the force on the Island from front and rear. But this refers to the enemy as meaning to attack, & not to his reconnoitering parties. Now our regiment went to Rockville as a corps of observation - to watch the enemy, and to whip him, if we get the chance. When Branch received

[Page 3]
the report of the picket, that the gun boats had entered the mouth of the River, and saw them himself, firing into Clark’s Island & landwards, he at once took it for granted that they knew all about his camp, meant to shell his men out & in half an hour before he after the first alarm was given, & while the boats were firing into - Seabrooks Island & the abandoned forts on Clarks Island, the Colonel ordered the men to fall in without knapsacks, leaving their tents standing, & marched them four miles up the road! Subsequently he sent back the wagons, which brought off about ⅔ of the knap sacks & company property, ⅔ of the tents & the ammunition, & a very small part of the commissary stores. When I joined the regiment, as I told you, else where, I found them at this a point four miles from Rockville &

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about to move on here. The Colonel told me that the reason he ordered the retreats was because he was afraid the enemy would cut the regiment off by sending up boats to Bear’s Bluff, (see the map just where Wadmalaw & Edisto rivers join) & also up the Bohicket, who would land troops &c. It seems to me that a man with half of a head would have known better & acted more wisely. This is the enemy’s first visit to North Edisto. He is gradually exploring the rivers & the very fact of his firing into the deserted dismantled fort on Clarks Island, showed that he did not know that it was deserted, when it has been so since Port Royal fell. As our camp was exposed to view from the river it would have been well to have moved it back, out of sight, shielded by trees, & kept the men where they were until the enemy did land, & then, if his

[Page 5]
numbers were not too great for us, attack him, but the retreat was made purely on the sight of those gunboats, & the regiment dispersed. Of course, the Yankees felt their way & the negroes told their small advanced scouting boats that we had run & they went up the Bohicket to the Rockville Wharf, landed & took our knap sacks & tents, gave the negroes the stores, & [illegible] went off! Gadsen with a detachment has gone down today to see what is there, if anything. The morning after the Regiment left, Lieutenants Sinclair & [illegible] went all through our old camp & brought away what they could. The Yankees did not land until later in the day in what force, the “corps of observation” can say as they by that time were at Church Creek . Of course Branch meant it all for the best, but he played the mis-

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chief, as you must seem providing another instance of the Carolinians running at the sight of the enemy. I thank god I was not there, though I expect to get my share of the shame. So much for the childish retreat, with this remark added, that the men were keen to do their duty. I am resolved as soon the regiment decided whether they will volunteer, or not which will be on next Wednesday, to resign in the latter case & join the Clem Stevens. I may have a day or two & if so my most cherished one, it shall be with you. I have not heard from the bundle yet, darling, & am sorry that the work of your precious fingers should not be mine. Don’t send any more bundles, however, until you either see me, or hear from me. Kiss my dear little boy, & my dear wife, for your-

[Page 7]
self, you have all my heart. I trust, darling that you are well though you do not say one word about your health, more precious to me than all the world beside. Don’t answer this letter, as I may see you before you have an opportunity to write. You will get this on Sunday & I may be at Cherry Grove on Wednesday. I don’t expect to stay longer than day & night, as I will have to hurry on & join Stevens in the city, in the work of raising & organizing his regiment. Good night my darling, & may God bless you.


Capers, Ellison, 1837-1908, “Letter from Ellison Capers to his wife Lottie, December 19, 1861 (Night),” The Citadel Archives Digital Collections, accessed July 13, 2024, https://citadeldigitalarchives.omeka.net/items/show/18.