The Naval Expedition.
The naval expedition has captured and occupied Port Royal and Beaufort. The following description, with a lock at the map, will give a good idea of the nature of the country:
Port Royal Entrance is an inlet from the Atlantic, in latitude 32 deg. 8 min. north, fifty miles southwest of Charleston, and fifteen northeast of Tybee Inlet, the entrance of Savannah river. The opening from the Atlantic is between Edding Island and Hilton Head Island, and at that point is about three miles wide. The prolongation inward of Port Royal Entrance is called Broad river and Port Royal river.
Running up this for about twenty-five miles, bending of eastward through the Coosaw river, and coming out to the Atlantic again through St. Helena Sound, you have an irregular area of about twenty-five miles by fifteen. This amphibious region is cut up by numerous rivers, creeks and inlets into a great many islands (Sea Islands) of various sizes, the chief of which are Port Royal, St. Helena, Paris, Ladies, Coosaw, Morgan, Dathaw, Edding, Chaplin, Prentis and Hunting.
Along the coast of South Carolina, as in North Carolina and Georgia, stretches a low and narrow sand-bar — a kind of defensive out-work of the land, seldom inhabited except by lost Indians and runaway negroes, who subsist by hunting and fishing. At distant intervals there are shallow breaches, through which the quiet tide steals in twice a day, swelling the natural lagoons and damming the outlet of the fresh water streams till the current is destroyed and turned back, and their flood dispersed far and wide over the debateable land of the Cypress Swamp. Then, when the heavy rains in the interior have swollen the rivers, the eddying currents deposit all along the edges of the sandy islands and capes the rich freight they have brought from the calcareous or granitic mountains in which they rise, with the organic waste of the great forests through which they flow. This is the soil of the rice and cotton plantations, which are always found in such parts of the tidal swamps adjoining the mainland or the sandy islands as are left nearly dry at the ebb of the water.
The entrance to Port Royal is the best channel for ships through the bars in the whole range of ports below Norfolk.
Ships which draw fourteen or fifteen feet water may go in at Tybee and proceed through land to Beaufort in Port Royal Islands; and from Beaufort, vessels of eight or nine feet water may go through land to Charleston. From Charleston, vessels drawing seven feet water may go through land to the river Medway, in Georgia, which lies thirty miles south of Savannah.
Port Royal Island, the chief of the group above mentioned, is surrounded by the Broad, Port Royal, Coosaw and Beaufort rivers, and is about twelve miles long and six wide. On the east side of the island, and about midway, stands the town of Beaufort on Beaufort river, the approach to which does not admit vessels of over eleven feet draft.
Beaufort is about ten miles from the sea, and sixteen miles from the Charleston and Savannah railroad, and this important line is itself directly approachable by water through Broad river. A force moving up the river from Beaufort, via Beaufort and Coosaw and Port Royal rivers, would strike the Charleston and Savannah railroad at about midway between Charleston and Savannah, and about fifty miles from either city — a fact which renders obvious the immense strategetic importance of that line. Beaufort is the Newport of South Carolina, and has a white population of about one thousand.
Beaufort District is the southernmost district or county of South Carolina, and has an area of 1,540 square miles. It is separated from Georgia by the Savannah river, and is bounded on the northeast by the Combahee river, and intersected by the Coosawhatche. The surface is low and level, the soil sandy alluvial, producing cotton, rice, Indian corn and potatoes, in great abundance. It is one of the most thickly settled districts of the State, the population in 1850 being 38,805, of whom no less than 32,279 were negro slaves.