Monday, October 10, 2011

October 10, 1861 (Thursday): Battle at Santa Rosa Island

Confederate Attack at Santa Rosa Island (Library of Congress)

Near Pensacola, Fla., October 10, 1861.
   SIR:  Satisfied from information received that the enemy contemplated opening fire upon us very soon, and desirous of avenging the annoyances he had recently caused my command, an expedition was projected against his outposts on Santa Rosa Island.  It was executed on Tuesday night, by 1,000 men, under Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson, in a very handsome manner.  We attacked and drove in his pickets and outposts, routed a regiment of New York volunteers, Col. Billy Wilson; burned the camp and stores in the vicinity, including a large quantity of stores and provisions; inflicted a loss of about 50 killed, including a number of officers, from the best information we can get; wounded a number unknown; made some 20 prisoners, Major L. Vogdes, First Artillery, with them, and retired within our lines.
   Our loss is more severe than at first reported.  The men became much exhausted from the long and fatiguing march through the deep sand of the island, and no doubt a considerable portion of the loss was from this cause.  We might have easily defended ourselves against the troops on the island, but it was necessary to leave before the enemy’s shipping should open and destroy our transportation, and our means would not enable us to keep them off.  Thus far I hear of about 20 killed on our side, including 3 officers.  Many of them undoubtedly been massacred after being captured, from the appearance of their bodies which were delivered to us.  The enemy also have about 40 of our party prisoners, several of them wounded.
   The exact state of affairs will be communicated more in detail as soon as the reports of subordinates are received, when I will take occasion to do full justice to individuals for special acts of gallantry.  Each State and crops represented in the army participated in the affair, and the gallantry and good conduct of the troops were conspicuous.  Brig. Gen. R. H. Anderson conducted the expedition with a zeal and gallantry worth of high commendation.  At the close he received a painful wound in the left elbow, temporarily disabling him; but it is trusted we shall not long be deprived of his valuable services.
    I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                                                                                    BRAXTON BRAGG,
                                                                        Major-General, Commanding
                                    Richmond, Va.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 6 Page 458

Anderson, later to gain acclaim as a division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia, led a night amphibious landing near Fort Pickens in an attempt to disrupt preparations for a Union bombardment of Confederate positions.  After landing, three columns and a demolition team surprised (at 0330) the 6th New York Zouaves and partially burned their camp.  Reinforcements from Fort Pickens, a mile away, came up and the Confederates made a retreat to their transports.  This became a close call, when the propeller of one boat was entangled in a hawser used to tow a barge. Anderson reported losing 87 men and the Union forces 67.  The raid was intended as a disruption, but it did not prevent the shelling of Confederate positions, which commenced shortly thereafter.

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