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The Capture
The Johnson's Island Autograph Book Of Lt. Samuel Dibble

The following is taken from "Extracts from the Diary of Lieutenant-Colonel John G. Pressley, of the Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers," which is published in Volume XIV, pages 54-55, of the Southern Historical Society Papers, and a June 8, 1863, letter from Colonel Charles H. Simonton to Capt. W.F. Nance, which is published in Volume 14, page 968, of "The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies."

About the first of July, First Lieutenant Samuel Dibble, of the Edisto Rifles, a restless, dashing and daring young officer, determined to find out whether the enemy were occupying Long Island. This island is the next below Secessionville, and was at the time covered by a dense growth of pines, scrub oaks and such other trees as grow on the uncultivated islands on the coast. He received permission to go on a scouting expedition, and selected to accompany him two men well qualified for such service, men of true courage and extraordinary presence of mind. These two men, both of whom were only too glad to have an opportunity to volunteer for desperate service, were Sergeant D.M. McClary of the Wee Nees and Corporal McLeod of the Washington Light Infantry Company B. A very light boat which belonged to the post was manned by these two non-commissioned officers, with the Lieutenant at the helm. During the night at high water they pulled across the marsh and landed on Long Island. The men were instructed by Lieutenant Dibble to wait at the boat till his return, proposing to go into the woods by himself and ascertain the situation, and telling them that he would not be gone very long. McClary and McLeod waited till daylight, concealing themselves in the grass, when a Federal sergeant came out of the woods, drew out a telescope and after adjusting the glasses rested it against a tree and leveled it at our works at Secessionville. The non-appearance of Lieutenant Dibble was now understood by his escort. They at once ordered the Yankee to surrender, and having disarmed him ordered him to take hold of one end of the boat, which was now aground, the tide having receded, and assist in pushing it to the water. They had not proceeded far across the mud flat before a squad of the enemy appeared on the edge of the marsh, and demanded their surrender. This they refused, and ordered their prisoner, on pain of instant death, to push the boat with all his might.

They had not many paces more to go till they got the boat to the water, when they got in, compelling their prisoner to follow them and still to protect them by keeping himself between them and the squad, loudly calling for their surrender. They soon got out of range without a shot being fired, the Yankees preferring to allow the game to escape rather than endanger the life of their comrade. He was brought safely to Secessionville. We searched him for papers, and found a diary, which he had brought down to the capture of Lieutenant Dibble. The diary gave an account of the building of masked batteries at Folley Inlet on the northern end of Folley Island, of which the Confederates had no knowledge previously. I deemed this information quite important, and sent the diary immediately to General Ripley in Charleston. [If proper attention had been paid to the information which it contained the surprise and disadvantage of the roth of July would have been avoided, and the advantage gained would in some measure have compensated for the unequal exchange which had been made when we lost Lieutenant Dibble and got a sergeant.] I allowed nothing taken from our prisoner except this diary, and the spy-glass. These he begged to be allowed to retain. He was told the diary was too valuable to be left in his keeping, and that as our Lieutenant had a spy-glass with him when he was captured, we would take this glass in exchange. [Lieutenant Dibble remained a prisoner in the hands of the enemy till October, 1864, and the Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers was thus deprived of one of our most promising officers.]

Hdqrs. First Sub-Division First Military District,
Secessionville, June 8, 1863.

Capt. W.F. Nance, Assistant Adjutant-General:

Captain: In order to ascertain the movements of the enemy on Long Island in front of Secessionville I detailed Lieut. Samuel Dibble, Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers, to go over with two men and to scout the island. He went last night, landed, and went over the island. This morning whilst they were waiting on the tide, Lieutenant Dibble being at a point whence he was watching the enemy, the two men with him heard the approach of a large party of the enemy and heard them capture Lieutenant Dibble. Immediately afterward a sergeant of the Fifth Connecticut came to them to capture their boat. They at once took him prisoner, and whilst one of them used him as a protection from his party, the other pushed the boat down to the water. They then came off safely with their prisoner. This took place from just before daylight to a little after. It appears that the enemy have a regular picket on Long Island, consisting of some 30 men. They have an excellent point of observation, giving a full view of Secessionville, and out of the range of our guns, being at the same time under the command of their battery and gunboats.

Lieutenant Dibble is an excellent scout, cool, sagacious, and daring. The temporary loss of his services will be very great. I would call the attention of the brigadier-general commanding to the skill and courage exhibited by the two men with him, who in the presence of an overwhelming number captured their prisoner and brought him off safely in their sight.

Their names are Sergt. F.L. McClary and Corpl. R.A. McLeod, both of Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Charles H. Simonton,
Colonel, Commanding.

Although some information -- including the above letter -- indicates that Lt. Dibble was captured on June 8, 1863, the actual capture date is almost certainly July 8, 1863. I possess a letter which Lt. Dibble wrote from Secessionville on June 28, 1863, and he was not then imprisoned. I believe the letter above was either misdated originally or, more likely, was copied incorrectly in the official records.