This account of the Battle of Port Royal was written by Private James (“Jimmy”) A. Parker (1839-1862) who enlisted in Co. E, 100th Pennsylvania Infantry (a.k.a. the “Roundheads”) on 31 August 1861 for three years.
The regiment was part of the Dupont-Sherman grand “Naval Expedition” of some 15 regiments that were transported from Fortress Monroe to Port Royal, South Carolina, on 75 steamers through a hurricane in late October-early November 1861, culminating in the bombardment and occupation of Forts Walker and Beauregard at Port Royal on 7-8 November 1861. The rebels vacated the forts following the Naval bombardment with little loss—8 killed and 23 wounded on the Union side.
The 100th Pennsylvania were mere observers in the action and soon after were sent to Beaufort on Port Royal Island where they remained for several months. They would not see their first action until the Battle of Secessionville on 16 June 1862, where they attacked a confederate battery (Battery Lamar) that was a threat to Union-secured fortifications on the coast. The assault was suicidal in strategy according to the Brigade Commander, Colonel Leasure, but was ordered by higher command. Battery Lamar was situated on a hill on a peninsula-like piece of land between swamps. Attempts at flanking the battery were thwarted because of difficult mobility through the swamp. The Roundheads had no choice but to make a frontal attack. The battle took its toll on the Roundheads with 13 killed and mortally wounded. This battle essentially ended the Roundheads service on the south coast and they were off to Virginia in July of 1862.
It was in the assault on Battery Lamar that Jimmy Parker lost his life. We know this because his comrade, Eddie Miles, wrote the following to his father on 24 June 1862:
“And Jimmy Parker is dead [too]. I haven’t [heard] anything about him since the fight. I miss him as much as I would a brother. We have drilled together for a year now. He was as good [a] soldier as ever was. When we was going out that morning to fight, he was as merry as anybody & said we didn’t know who would come back again. We double quicked a mile & a half up to the fort right in front of six cannons & I don’t know how many infantry & they let loose on us with grape shot & canister & log chains & bottles & pikes, nails, & everything they could get into the cannons. It just mowed our men down like a shot gun would a flock of pigeons. Jimmy Parker’s leg was shot off with a grape shot by the thigh & he was left on the field when we had to retreat [where] the Rebels would get him. Some of the boys saw him when we was on the retreat & he was almost dead. He shook hands with them & told them to shift for themselves to keep the Rebels from getting them. There was 4 of our company killed & 9 wounded but some of them was very slightly hurt.” [See 1862: Edward Riddle Miles to William Miles on Spared & Shared 19]
James’ muster roll tells us he was born in Trumbull county (Ohio) but residing in Lawrence county, Pennsylvania when he enlisted in 1861. The 1860 US Census enumerates him in Plain Grove of Lawrence county, living in the household of 51 year-old Andrew Christy (1809-1880) and 52 year-old Abigail (Parker) Christy (1809-1889)—his uncle and aunt, and also 82 year-old Abigail (Hart) Parker—his grandmother and the widow of Joel Parker (1768-1845). James was one of at least eleven children born to Moses Atwater Parker (1802-1889) and Catherine C. Christy (1808-1879) who were farming in Kinsman, Trumbull county, Ohio at the time James went to war.
[See also: 1861: James A. Parker to Andrew Christy on Spared & Shared 22.]
Hilton Head, South Carolina
18 November 1861
I received a note from you some time ago. Was glad to hear from you but have neglected answering it till now. There is no use for me to apologize for negligence but I will try and do better the next time. We left Annapolis October 17th on the Ocean Queen. Was on the water twenty days. There was a big storm the 31st and there was one vessel lost called the Governor. There was twenty soldiers lost with her. The rest was taken prisoner. I believe we landed on Hilton Head November 8th safe and right side up with care. I must tell you, the boys was about all sea sick but Riddle and myself. You know the water won’t affect us. I had better tell you how we are now. G. Marbell has been sick with a fever but is getting better. D. Emery is sick. I don’t know what ails him. The rest that hasn’t the measles are all well but me and I am able to eat my rations and act the fool as much as ever.
The greatest trouble is there any girls here for us to bother. E. R. is sitting here writing. The old man came along said, “Riddle, I am afraid you ain’t spending the Sabbath as you ought.” He says, “Do you think, I was out with my gun a while ago.” That is enough about that.
The Rebels was pretty well fortified here but they had to leave. The fight commenced the 7th about ten o’clock and lasted about five hours. The Rebels run and left everything behind them. They left dead and wounded. I don’t know how many there was killed on their side. There was but eight killed on our side and some few wounded.
Hilton Head is a rich place. There is sweet potatoes, cotton and oranges and lots more things too numerous to mention. Riddle received a letter from you yesterday. You said Mary Christy had gone to her mother’s. I don’t know how you will get along without her. I must quit for it is about time for dress parade.
Please write soon and I will try and answer the next sooner. Nothing more but remain your friend as ever. My respects to all inquiring friends, — J. A. Parker
to H. R. Mills
N. B. Direct [to] J. A. Parker, Co. E, Round Head Regiment, 2nd Brigade, Sherman’s Division in care of Col. Tompkins, A. Q. M. via N. Y. City
Please give Uncle Woolly the address and oblige your friend. Joseph Woolly, he wrote to his father and told him to direct as before but the mail carries by New York. He wanted to know if I was writing to any of you to send him the address.