(October 22, 1862). In the fall of 1862, the Union commander of the Department of the South, General Ormsby McKnight Mitchel, planned an operation to break the railroad connections between Charleston and Savannah at the headwaters of the Broad River near the towns of Pocotaligo and Coosawhatchie. If the railroad could be cut and a base of operations established, Federal forces could then move overland against Charleston or Savannah.
On the night of October 21, under the protection of a naval squadron and guided by former slave pilots and scouts, a Union force of 4,500 men sailed up the Broad River. The next morning a division of 4,200 men under General John M. Brannan landed on Mackey’s Neck between the Pocotaligo and Tulifinny Rivers and moved inland toward Pocotaligo. The Confederates, under the overall command of Colonel William S. Walker, tried to slow Brannan’s advance while awaiting reinforcements. The Federals pushed through Confederate defenses and drove the Southerners across the Pocotaligo River.
While Brannan’s division dueled with the Confederates at Pocotaligo, a second Union force of 350 soldiers of the Forty-eighth New York Infantry and New York Engineers landed near Coosawhatchie. The Federals occupied the town, fired on a passing Confederate troop train, and destroyed some track. By late afternoon the Confederates received reinforcements, and both Federal columns withdrew. The battle cost the Federals 340 casualties, while the Confederates lost 163 men of the approximately 1,000 engaged.
Though the damage to the railroad was quickly repaired, Mitchel was elated by the attack’s initial success. He planned new assaults, but before they could be launched, Mitchel died in Beaufort of yellow fever on October 30, 1862. General David Hunter replaced Mitchel, and the plans for renewed operations against the railroad were suspended. Union forces began organizing combined operations against Charleston.
Carse, Robert. Department of the South: Hilton Head Island in the Civil War. 1961. Reprint, Hilton Head Island, S.C.: Impressions Printing, 1987.
Schmidt, Lewis G. The Battle of Pocotaligo: October 22, 1862. Allentown, Pa.:
Lewis G. Schmidt, 1993.