Report of Flag-Officer Du Pont, U. S. Navy.
Port Royal Harbor, S. C., May 14, 1862.
SIR: I enclose a copy of a report from Commander E. G. Parrott, brought here last night by the late rebel steam tug Planter, in charge of an officer and crew from the Augusta. She was an armed dispatch and transportation steamer attached to the engineer department at Charleston, under Brigadier-General Ripley, whose barge, a short time since, was brought out to the blockading fleet by several contrabands.
The bringing out of this steamer, under all the circumstances, would have done credit to anyone. At 4 in the morning, in the absence of the captain, who was on shore, she left her wharf close to the Government office and headquarters, with palmetto and Confederate flag flying, passed the successive forts, saluting as usual by blowing her steam whistle. After getting beyond the range of the last gun she quickly hauled down the rebel flags and hoisted a white one.
The Onward was the inside ship of the blockading fleet in the main channel, and was preparing to fire when her commander made out the white flag.
The armament of the steamer is a 32-pounder, on pivot, and a fine 24 pounder howitzer. She had, besides, on her deck, four other guns, one 7-inch rifle, which were to be taken the morning of the escape to the new fort on the middle ground. One of the four belonged to Fort Sumter, and had been struck, in the rebel attack on that fort, on the muzzle.
Robert, the intelligent slave and pilot of the boat, who performed this bold feat so skillfully, informed me of this fact, presuming it would be a matter of interest to us to have possession of this gun.
This man, Robert Smalls, is superior to any who has yet come into the lines, intelligent as many of them have been. His information has been most interesting, and portions of it of the utmost importance.
The steamer is quite a valuable acquisition to the squadron, by her good machinery and very light draft. The officer in charge brought her through St. Helena Sound and by the inland passage down Beaufort River, arriving here at 10 last night.
On board the steamer when she left Charleston were 8 men, 5 women, and 3 children.
I shall continue to employ Robert as a pilot on board the Planter for the inland waters, with which he appears to be very familiar.
I do not know whether, in the views of the Government, the vessel will be considered a prize; but, if so, I respectfully submit to the Department the claims of this man Robert and his associates.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
S. F. DU PONT,
Flag-Officer, Comdg. South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Source: Navy O.R.– Series I–Volume 12 [S# 12]
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
From October 29, 1861, To May 13, 1862. pp. 802-end