Letter, 18 May 1863, from Union soldier J. Vinton Martin, Hilton Head, S.C., to his cousin, Martin Bell, reports that furloughs were being granted to five percent of the “whole command.” “The regiment is on Botany Bay Island, Stono river, and like the charge well,” Martin writes. “Their duty is light, they having nothing to do but picket and camp-guard, and is so arranged that they are on duty but one day in nine.”|
The writer also tells of crucial military intelligence procured from a Confederate deserter—“the rebels had put in floating torpedoes, so that they would come down with the tide and do damage to our gun-boats. This statement was found to be true, and the torpedoes attended to ere they reached their destination.”
Union and Confederate pickets reputedly were quite friendly, and “ours exchanged coffee for tobacco until the issue of an order stopping it.” “Fresh vegetables are quite plenty,” Martin notes, “We have had several times potatoes, peas, beans, radishes and cabbage at our mess—two weeks ago I ate ripe black berrys.”
John V. Martin is identified as a corporal in the 76th Pennsylvania Infantry. He enlisted on 28 October 1861 from Blair County, Penn., and was killed in action on 7 May 1864 at Chesterfield Heights, Va. The 76th Pennsylvania, also known as the Keystone Zouaves, arrived at Hilton Head early in December 1861 and remained there until May 1864 when it was ordered to Virginia.