Tuesday, November 1, 2011

October 26, 1861 (Saturday): Word of the Fleet's Destination

USS Wabash, Which Took Part In the Expedition to Port Royal Sound
NORFOLK, October 26, 1861

Honorable J. P. BENJAMIN:
A Federal soldier's hat was picked up to-day at Colonel Taylor's farm, near Willoughby's Point, 3 1/2 miles from Old Point. It contained two Boston papers, one of the 19th and one of the 21st. They contain important development as to the destination of the great expedition. The gunboats are to concentrate in Hampton Roads, and the transports are to repair to Annapolis, and there embark a force of 25,000 men, under General Sherman. Several of the larger steamers are loaded with surf-boats. The papers state that the expedition is intended for Charleston and other places on our coast. At sundown the lookout reports over 100 sail of vessels in the Roads. They are arriving and departing continually. The main part of the expedition is still at the Roads, and great activity prevails in the fleet. Will send papers by Monday's mail.

Captain, Signal Officer, Department of Norfolk.

Official Records Series I., Vol. 6, Part 1., Page 297

Unfavorable weather had kept the seven ship expedition from departing from Hampton Roads.  This information, even if only the best estimates of a newspaper, was closer to accurate than previous information which pointed to Richmond, a landing point on the Potomac, Wilmington, and New Bern.  The ultimate destination would be Port Royal Sound, below Charleston and above Savannah.  The purpose was to gain access to a port which could resupply the blockading squadrons of the North.  Ships were limited by a need for supplies, including water.  While the fleet was in harbor there were strict injunctions against wasting water.  The expedition would not be able to be resupplied until it arrived at its destination, six days sail away, and the transports did not normally carry near the amount of water which would be needed by the soldiers embarked.

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