Battle of Port Royal "Fueling the Northern Blockade" November 7, 1861
To sustain and strengthen its blockade of Southern ports, the U.S. Navy needed to have a coaling, refitting, and supply station located somewhere on the southeast coast. A good candidate for this sort of operation seemed to be the site at Port Royal, SC., located in the strategically critical area between Charleston and Savannah. Even better for the Northern forces, the Confederate garrisons at Port Royal Sound were undermanned and known to be short of ammunition.
In late October 1861, Flag Officer Samuel F. Du Pont assembled a fleet of 75 warships, with 12,000 troops in transport. Their objective was Port Royal Sound, which was guarded by an earthwork on either side of the harbor entrance-Fort Beauregard at Bay Point and Fort Walker on Hilton Head Island.
At 9:00am on November 7, 1861, Du Pont led his naval squadron into Port Royal Sound, steaming straight in between the two forts. A Confederate flotilla of four vessels could do very little to oppose the force of such superior numbers. Circling slowly, the fleet pounded the earthworks of Fort Walker, and then of Fort Beauregard. The inexperienced Southern gunners found it difficult to hit the moving targets, and the men of the U.S. Navy planted shot after shot into the forts.
Reluctant to give up though their chances were nil, the Confederates fought on through the morning and into the afternoon. But between 2:00 and 3:30pm, with their ammunition supply all but exhausted, they were forced to flee their forts and withdraw inland to form a new line of defense. Port Royal Sound was secured as an important refueling depot for the federal blockaders operating in the area.
Casualties were light, with 11 Confederates killed, 48 wounded, 3 captured and 4 missing. Among the federals, 8 were killed, 6 seriously wounded, and 17 slightly wounded. The federal vessels sustained no significant damage.
Fascinating Fact: Port Royal, which represented a valuable federal toehold in Confederate soil, later became a center for Negro refugees.
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