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Located between modern Ridgeland and Coosawhatchie, the Battle of Honey Hill was the third battle of Sherman’s March to the Sea and the last Confederate victory of the War in the Deep South.  Commanded by General John Hatch, nearly 5,000 Federal troops were dispatched from Hilton Head to cut the Charleston and Savannah Railroad in support of Sherman’s impending approach to Savannah.  More than half the Union forces were colored troops from the 1st SC Volunteers – most of them trained on Hilton Head – as well as from other states, including the famed 54th Massachusetts of the earlier attack on Fort Wagner and popularized in the movie, Glory.  Transported by ships up the Broad River from Hilton Head on November 28th, the Yankees arrived in heavy fog and could not disembark until the following afternoon.  At 0900 the morning of November 30th they encountered approximately 2,500 Confederates, under the command of General Gustavus Smith having just arrived by train from the defenses of Savannah, and local troops from the garrisons in the area under a daring South Carolina Cavalry officer, Colonel Charles Colcock.  The Rebel forces were in a line of solid entrenchments prepared two years earlier by General Robert E. Lee along a low ridge running perpendicular to the road on which the Union approached.  Initially caught by surprise, the bluecoats repeatedly charged the defenses during the day, and in a ferocious 12-hour battle lost 754 men while the Confederates sustained only 47 casualties.

Had the Union won the battle and severed the rail contact between Charleston and Savannah, which it might well have had General Smith’s reinforcements not arrived minutes before the battle began, it is highly likely that an immediate evacuation of Savannah would have ensued, accelerating the fall of Charleston and, most probably, bringing about an earlier end to the War.  Case studies will focus on Admiral John Dahlgren’s adept judgement and audacious strategy for cutting the Charleston-Savannah railway line , General John Hatch and the vaguely constructed Union attack plan, General Gustavus Smith and the extremely rapid redeployment of troops from the defenses of Savannah to aid the aggressive Colonel Colcock at Honey Hill, and Colcock’s canny maneuvering of Confederate troops to gain maximum advantage from the natural and prepared defensive assets along the Honey Hill ridgeline.

The Leadership Experience

Leadership practices brought into focus in the experience will include:

 Adapting quickly to changed circumstances and decisively shifting strategy

 Inadequate gathering of competitive intelligence and sacrificing preparation in favor of urgency

 Lack of clarity in direction and expectations

 Rapid assessment and decision making in the face of adversity and lack of specific direction

 Creating aligned and coordinated action among geographically separated units and resources unfamiliar with each other and terrain to ensure flawless execution  

This one-day program can be delivered in two ways.  One would begin at the hotel/conference facility and, using bus transportation, visit the battle site prior to returning for a final After Action Review (AAR) back at the point of origination.  The second would involve an early morning cruise from a Hilton Head Island dock across Port Royal Sound and up the Broad River to a landing not far from the Union disembarkation point in 1864, with bus transport from there to the battle site and return to the conference facility for a final AAR.  Land transportation would be the contingency for inclement boating weather.

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Battle of Honey Hill
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