Ward’s Salt Works on Pawley’s Island
Georgetown County, S.C.
American Civil War
John La Bruce Salt Works
21 July 1862
– U.S. bark Gem of the Sea
– U.S.S. Western World
– C.S.A. Capt. John H. Tucker’s cavalry, “Marion’s Men of Winyah”, thirteen cavalrymen
South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
Conflicting accounts of the outcome
On July 20th, 1862, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Baxter received a Mr. Wingate and his wife who, “made their escape in a small boat from Georgetown.”1 Mr. Wingate, a member of Ward’s Artillery, informed Baxter “that a portion of that company were to leave for Polly’s [Pawley’s] Island, where Ward has his salt works, and that it was the intention of a portion of the troops to cross over on North Island to massacre the contrabands” there who were under the protection of Union forces.1
The above statement regarding intentions to massacre contrabands is uncorroborated and along with other details that U.S. Acting Lieutenant Baxter mentions in his report is highly questionable.
On July 21st, Lieutenant Baxter commanding the U.S. Gem of the Sea, accompanied by Captain Gregory commanding the U.S. Western World, proceeded “up the coast 15 miles to Murray’s [Midway] Inlet.”1 There they found “extensive salt works on the mainland, capable of making from 30 to 40 bushels of salt per day, belonging to John La Bruce, who is a strong secessionist, and Captain Ward, of the artillery, and destroyed them; but while we were in the act of destroying them we were fired on by a party of about twenty-five rebels who were secreted in the woods and had two of our men wounded.”1 The Union force was able to drive the enemy back and accomplish their work; and then returned to anchorage in Winyah Bay.1
Baxter’s version of what happened is quite different from what was reported by witnesses. Refer to the Charleston Courier article below with the caption “Camp Manigault, Pawley’s Island, S.C. 25th July, 1862”:
In a report from the Charleston Courier dated July 26th 1862 it was reported that:
…Georgetown, July 22, 1862.—The enemy’s gunboats commenced throwing shells to-day at the pickets on shore at Pawley’s Island and neighborhood. It is reported they landed and destroyed Mr. Middleton’s salt works, and it is supposed other works along the shore. A contraband from one of the plantations, who is with the blockaders, knew the whereabouts of the works and no doubt piloted the gunboats to the place.2
In another report from the Charleston Courier, dated July 31st 1862 it was reported:
News from the Coast—A Brilliant Affair on Pawley’s Island — A friend furnishes us with the following account of the late brilliant little skirmish on Pawley’s Island, in which a small party of our troops drove off a marauding party of the enemy over four times their number:
CAMP MANIGAULT, Pawley’s Island, S. C.,
25th July, 1862.
A body of forty-five or fifty of the enemy landed on the morning of the 22d instant, from gunboat Western World and stolen steam tug Treaty, at Butler’s Inlet, to destroy saltworks, the property of Ex-Governor R.F.W. Alston and Messrs. La Bruce and Sparkman. They were surprised by a portion of Captain John H. Tucker’s cavalry company, known as the “Marion’s Men of Winyah,” under First Lieutenant H.T. McDonald, and driven off before completing their work of destruction, with a loss of twelve killed and wounded. The statements of Mr. Rosa and the Rev. Mr. Mallet, (an English clergyman on a visit to his connections in this neighborhood) enable us to approximate to the truth in stating the Yankee force at least forty-five, and their loss at twelve. Lieutenant McDonald had engaged but thirteen men. We think the result creditable to the Confederates engaged—thirteen Confederates repelling forty-five Federals under the protection of their gunboats, which kept up a constant fire of shot and shell, with a loss to the enemy of one-fourth of their force engaged, and not a man hurt on our side The skirmish lasted about three-quarters of an hour, when they fled to their gunboats carrying their dead and wounded, leaving some of their arms in their hasty retreat.3
1. Official records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion. ; Series I – Volume 13: South Atlantic Blockading Squadron (May 14, 1862 – April 7, 1863), 202-203. http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/index.html, accessed 13 September 2011. Acting Volunteer Baxter provided a detailed report of the engagement and the events prior too. The names of informants are provided as well as a location for the works.
“Saltville Virginia.” Harper’s Weekly, January 14, 1865. http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1865/january/saltville-virginia.htm, accessed September 6, 2011. The picture is a view from the lower elevation of a salt works which would be located at the beach and looking inland to the main buildings. Though it is a depiction of a salt work in Virginia it is a good representation of those works that would have been found along the South Carolina coast.