Rush C. Hawkins, Brevet Brigadier-General, U. S. V.
One sultry afternoon in the last third of the month of August, 1861, while stationed at Newport News, Virginia, with my regiment, the 9th New York (Zouaves), a message from General Benjamin F. Butler
came through the signal corps station from Fort Monroe
asking if I would like to go upon an expedition.
An affirmative answer brought General Butler
to my headquarters the same afternoon, and he explained the objects of the proposed expedition, which was to be composed of military and naval forces for joint offensive action on the coast of North Carolina
At 11 o'clock in the forenoon of August 26th, 1861, all arrangements having been completed, the combined forces set sail for Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina, with
Flag-Officer Silas H. Stringham
Uniform of Hawkins's Zouaves, the 9th N. Y.|
in command of the fleet and Major-General B. F. Butler
of the land forces.
The same afternoon the fleet arrived off Hatteras
, and at 10 o'clock on the morning of the 28th began the bombardment of Forts Clark
and Hatteras (the latter mounting twenty-five guns), which was continued throughout a part of the day, until several of the ships were compelled to put out to sea for fear of being blown too near the shore.
During the bombardment, efforts were being made about three miles north of the inlet to land the troops through the Hatteras
breakers; in these efforts all the available boats were smashed.
Two hulks, which had been towed from Fort Monroe
for the purpose of assisting the landing, were then filled with troops and slowly allowed to drift into the breakers by means of a cable attached to an anchor and passed around a windlass fixed in the deck of each hulk.
Late in the afternoon, when the wind came to blow fresh from the east, the position of the troops upon the hulks became most perilous, and for a time there were serious doubts about a successful rescue.
, after several unsuccessful backings into the breakers, which every moment were becoming more dangerous, succeeded in getting lines on board the hulks and towing them to calmer water.
But the few troops (318) who had effected a landing were left on shore in face of an enemy twice their numbers.
The next day the vessels came in from sea and recommenced the action as early as 8 o'clock A. M., and by 11 o'clock the last gun on Fort Hatteras had ceased firing, and before noon the white flag had taken the place of the Confederate
During the bombardment our troops on shore gained possession of Fort Clark
, but were driven out by our own guns, a fragment of a shell striking private Lembrecht
, of Company G, 9th New York, making a painful wound in the hand.
This was the only casualty among the Union
The immediate results of this expedition were the capture of 670 men, 1,000 stand of arms, 35 cannon, and 2 strong forts; the possession of the best sea entrance to the inland waters of North Carolina
; and the stoppage of a favorite channel through which many supplies had been carried for the use of the Confederate forces.2
The whole affair was conceived and carried out with simplicity and
professional directness, and the valuable results attained cost the Government
only a small expenditure for coal and ammunition.
fought this action with admirable skill, worthy of a great commander.
Instead of anchoring his ships, he kept them moving during the whole engagement and, as he came within range of the enemy's works, delivered his fire, generally with surprising accuracy, while the gunners in the forts were compelled.
to make an on — the — wing shot with pieces of heavy ordnance, and in most instances their shot fell short.3
On the 29th of August articles of full capitulation were signed interchange-
ably by officers representing both forces, and General Butler
and Flag-Officer Stringham
sailed away with the prisoners, leaving the Pawnee
, Captain S. C. Rowan
, the Monticello
, Lieutenant D. L. Braine
, and the tug Fanny
, Lieutenant Pierce Crosby
, as the sea forces; and detachments of the 9th and 20th New York Volunteers and Union Coast Guard to garrison the captured forts, of which I was left in command.
Just before the squadron sailed, General Butler
sent word on shore that the three schooners left by — the enemy inside the inlet were loaded with provisions that could be used
by the troops.
An examination proved that the only food-materials were fruits from the West Indies
, which were fast decaying.
For the next ten days the diet of the stranded soldiers consisted of black coffee, fresh fish, and a “sheet-iron
pancake” made of flour and salt-water.
This diet was neither luxurious nor nutritious, and it produced unpleasant scorbutic results.
On the 10th of September relief arrived, and with it, under Lieut.-Colonel George F. Betts
, six more companies of the 9th New York.
Until September 16th, nothing occurred to disturb the uneventful routine work incident to military occupation of an enemy's territory.
On that day a mixed expedition of land and sea forces under conmand of Lieutenant James G. Maxwell
, of the United States navy, was sent to destroy the forts of Beacon Island
, near Ocracoke Inlet.
They were found to have been deserted by the Confederates
Forts Hatteras and Clark.
From War-time sketches.|
twenty-two guns of heavy caliber, that were left intact, were made useless by the Union
Soon after the capture of the forts the “intelligent contraband” began to arrive, often bringing news of important military activity in several directions.
Before the first week of our occupation had expired I became convinced that the enemy was fortifying Roanoke Island
, with the intention of making it a base for immediate operations, and that his first offensive work would be against the forces stationed at Hatteras Inlet, with the further purpose of destroying the Hatteras
light; and that they would land a considerable force at the upper end of the island, at a point near Chicamacomico
, and march down.
Seeing the necessity of counter-action on the part of the Union
forces, on the 6th of September I wrote a full account of the situation to General John
, commanding the Department of Virginia, in which occurred the following suggestions:
First. Roanoke Island, which commands the Croatan Channel between Pamlico and Albemarle sounds, should be occupied at once.
It is now held by the rebels.
They have a battery completed at the upper end of the island and another in course of erection at the southern extremity.
Second. A small force should be stationed at Beacon Island, which is in the mouth of Ocracoke Inlet and commands it. Third. Two or three light-draught vessels should be stationed between the mouths of the Neuse and Pamlico rivers.
This would shut out all commerce with New Berne and Washington.
Fourth. There should be at least eight light-draught gun-boats in Pamlico Sound. Fifth. Beaufort should be occupied as soon as possible.
All of these recommendations should be attended to immediately.
Seven thousand men judiciously placed upon the soil of North Carolina would, within the next three weeks, draw 20,000 Confederate troops from the State of Virginia.
I wish, if you agree with me and deem it consistent with your duty, that you would impress upon the Government the importance and necessity of immediate action in this department.
gave this letter the strongest possible indorsement, and sent a copy to the Secretary of War
In my next report (September 11th) I sent an account of the marked enterprise on the part of the enemy, setting forth that since the capture of Fort Hatteras they had strengthened Fort Macon
, obstructed the Neuse
and Pamlico rivers
, mounted seventeen heavy guns at Roanoke Island
and landed a considerable number of troops at that place.
I urged my former suggestions and called for immediate action and reinforcements.
A copy of this letter, with a very strong approval, was also sent to the Secretary of War
, but neither brought any response beyond a merely formal acknowledgment.
My policy from the moment of assuming command on Hatteras Island
had been to cultivate friendly relations with the inhabitants.
As they were mostly of a seafaring race, I concluded they could not have much sympathy with the revolt against a government which had been their constant friend.
Within ten days after the landing, nearly all of the male adults had taken the oath of allegiance, and several professed their willingness to carry proclamations to the mainland, and to bring back such news of military movements as they could obtain.
One of these volunteer spies succeeded in opening communication with a relative, who lived at Roanoke Island
, and from him I learned that, as I had suspected, a force was to start from
that point to make the attack upon Hatteras Island
In the meantime we had done what we could to place the forts at the inlet in a better condition for defense, and General Wool
, of his own volition, had sent reinforcements,--the seven remaining companies of the 9th New York, the 20th Indiana Volunteers,
Colonel W. L. Brown
The Union fleet bombarding Forts Hatteras and Clark.
From a war-time sketch.|
, and one company of the 1st U. S. Artillery, under Captain Lewis O. Morris
In the latter days of September, information of the intended movement from Roanoke Island
made immediate action necessary.
I had already apprised General Wool
of my intention to establish a post near Chicamacomico
for the purpose of protecting the natives who had taken the oath, and also to prevent a surprise by the landing of a large force of the enemy to march down the island.
Accordingly, on the 29th of September, I embarked the 20th Indiana regiment upon the gun-boats Putnam
, and accompanied it to a point opposite Chicamacomico
, saw the troops safely disembarked, and returned with the gun-boats to the inlet.
On the first day of October, the Fanny
was dispatched with supplies, and arrived at the point of disembarkation the same afternoon.
After preparations for landing had commenced, a force of the enemy's gun-boats was discovered.
tried to escape, but got aground and was captured, not, however, until after a spirited resistance by the men and officers with the two small guns which were mounted on her deck.
Flag-Officer W. F. Lynch
, C. S. N., in his report says:
Colonel Wright, of the 8th Georgia regiment, who commands the military forces of the island, had agreed with me to make an attempt to destroy Hatteras Light-house, and we only waited the return of an emissary I had sent to glean intelligence as to the force of the enemy in. that vicinity.
But early in the forenoon of the 1st instant intelligence came that one of the Federal steamers was at Chicamacomico, about forty miles distant on the eastern shore of Pamlico Sound, and I determined to get after her. As Colonel Wright was anxious, however, to make the contemplated attempt, I would not, in courtesy, refuse to wait for the embarkation of troops,
although two precious hours were thereby lost.
We left here at 2:30 P. M. with about two hundred of the 8th Georgia regiment, Colonel W , who is a man after my own heart in such matters, accompanying them.
A little before 5 P. M. we came in sight and soon after opened fire upon the enemy, which was returned at first with spirit; but in about twenty minutes he attempted to escape, and in the attempt ran aground, and shortly after surrendered.
had on board, when captured, a captain and 30 men of the 20th Indiana regiment, and the sergeant-major
and 11 men of the 9th New York.
The Confederate vessels engaged were the Curlew
, and the little tug Junaluski
As soon as I heard of the disaster I sent an order for Colonel Brown
On the 4th of October a large body of Confederates, under Colonel A. R. Wright
, assisted by gun-boats, landed at Chicamacomico
, and Colonel Brown
commenced a successful retreat down the island.
Having received early news, by a native messenger, of the landing and Brown
's march, I moved, with my regiment, toward the north, and met Colonel Brown
's command early the next morning at the light-house.
was closely following the retreating troops, but as soon as he saw the reenforcements he faced about and commenced a retreat which only ended in the landing of his forces at Roanoke Island
During the march back the steamer Monticello
, from the ocean side, with her heavy guns, maintained a fire at the Confederates
across the low sand-fields, which may have annoyed them without doing any serious damage.
This was the end of an elaborately conceived plan on the part of the enemy to capture our troops, destroy Hatteras Light, and recapture the forts of the inlet.
From that time until the arrival of the “Burnside
expedition,” the Federal
forces at the inlet pursued the even quiet of routine duty.
The news of the loss of the Fanny
created some excitement both at Fort Monroe
and at Washington
, and I was severely censured for having divided so small a force, and was superseded by Brigadier-General J. K. F. Mansfield
I am still of the opinion that my course was right, as no other disposition of the small force at my command would have saved the light-house and prevented the landing, opposite the light-house, where there was a wharf and deep water, of the whole Confederate force of about two thousand men. That landing would have given them a safe base for a decisive movement against the Union
troops at the inlet.
I afterward heard that Colonel
Retreat of the Confederates to their boats after their attack upon Hatteras.|
Landing of the Union troops at Hatteras under cover of the fleet.
From a war-time sketch.|
intended to land part of his force above and the balance below the camp of Colonel Brown
, capture his regiment, destroy the light-house, and then, in his discretion, move upon Hatteras Inlet.
The prompt retreat frustrated the first part of the design, and, Colonel Wright
, seeing what he believed to be a large reinforcement, retreated without undertaking the other parts of his plan.
Until October 13th we had peace at the inlet.
That day Brigadier-General Thomas Williams
relieved General Mansfield
, and assumed command of the post.
The new commander was a man of many idiosyncrasies, and outside of his staff Was cordially disliked for his severe treatment of the men.4
On the 5th of November I was sent by General Wool
on a special boat to Washington
to urge upon the President
the importance of either abandoning Hatteras Inlet or erecting suitable accommodations for the troops.
The next morning after my arrival in Washington
I reported to the President
and presented my letter from General Wool
, and was asked by the President
to appear before the Cabinet
I did so and explained fully the situation at Hatteras Inlet and urged the importance of undertaking further operations to hold that position, it being the threshold to the
whole inland water system of North Carolina
At this meeting the Secretary of War
was represented by General McClellan
, who had one end of the long council-table to himself.
After I had finished, he drew me into conversation about operations in the Department of Virginia, and as I had often urged upon General Wool
the importance of making Fort Monroe
a base for operations against Richmond
, I was fully prepared to answer his questions or to combat opposition.
At his request I made a rough drawing showing the old road up the peninsula, with a waterway on each side for gun-boats and general transportation.
He listened attentively to all I had to say, talked but little himself, and put my drawing in his pocket.
I have always suspected that my animated advocacy of that route may have had something to do with his change of base from Washington
, and the undertaking of his unfortunate Peninsular Campaign
Before the council dissolved it was decided to hold Hatteras Inlet and to erect suitable quarters for the forces, and I was instructed to wait until necessary orders could be prepared before returning to General Wool
and my command.5
expedition, the naval part being under command of Flag-Officer L. M. Goldsborough
had concentrated in Pamlico Sound
by the 4th of February, and on the 5th the welcome signal was hoisted for the whole command to move up toward the Confederate stronghold.
About sundown, after a charming day's sail, the fleet came to anchor for the night, and started again early the next morning, but in consequence of the inclemency of the weather was soon compelled to seek another anchorage.
On the morning of the 7th the expedition got under way very early, the armed army boats and naval part taking the lead several miles in advance.
By 11 o'clock the first division of army gun-boats, under Commander Hazard
, arrived opposite the forts on the west side of Roanoke Island
, and commenced the bombardment in earnest, and at the same time engaged the enemy's fleet.
As the naval vessels arrived they went into action, and by half-past 11 the whole fleet of gun-boats was engaged.
The engagement between the heavy guns lasted all day without much damage having been done to either side.
At the close the gunners answered each other with about the same spirit displayed at the commencement.
The Confederate forts had, however, fared better than their fleet.
The latter was protected from an assault on the part of our vessels by a row of piles driven across the navigable part of the channel, and by sunken vessels; but, notwithstanding this protection, the accurate fire of the Union fleet soon compelled it to retire out of range, with the loss
Map of the operations at Roanoke Island — from the official records.
Captain W. H. Parker, in his Recollections of a naval officer (Charles Scribner's Sons), thus describes the later Confederate defenses of Croatan Sound: |
Three forts had been constructed on the [Roanoke] island to protect the channel.
The upper one was on Weir's Point, and was named Fort Huger.
It mounted 12 guns, principally 32-pounders of 33 cwt., and was commanded by Major John Taylor, formerly of the navy.
About one and three-quarter miles below, on Pork Point, was Fort Bartow; it mounted 7 [9?] guns, 5 of which were 32-pounders of 33 cwt., and 2 were rifled 32-pounders.
This fort, which was the only one subsequently engaged in the defense, was in charge of Lieut. B. P. Loyall, of the navy.
Between these two points was a small battery.
On the mainland opposite the island, at Redstone Point, was a battery called Fort Forrest.
The guns, which were 32-pounders, were mounted on the deck of a canal-boat which had been hauled up in the mud and placed so that the guns would command the channel.
The channel itself was obstructed a little above Fort Huger by piling.
It was hoped that these batteries, with the assistance of Commodore Lynch's squadron, would be able to prevent the enemy's ships from passing the island.
The great mistake on our part was in not choosing the proper point at which to dispute the entrance to the sound.
The fortifications and vessels should have been at the “marshes,” a few miles below, where the channel is very narrow.
The attack by the Union fleet is thus described by Captain Parker:
At daylight the next morning, February 7th, the Appomattox was dispatched to Edenton, and as she did not return till sunset, and the Warrior did not take any part in the action, this reduced our [Confederate] force to seven vessels and eight guns.
[See list, p. 670.] At 9 A. M. we observed the enemy to be under way and coming up, and we formed “line abreast,” in the rear of the obstructions.
At 11:30 the fight commenced at long range.
The enemy's fire was aimed at Fort Bartow and our vessels, and we soon became warmly engaged.
The commodore at first directed his vessels to fall back, in the hope of drawing the enemy under the fire of Forts Huger and Forrest; but as they did not attempt to advance, and evidently had no intention of passing the obstructions, we took up our first position and kept it during the day. At 2 P. M. the firing was hot and heavy, and continued so until sunset.
Our gunners had had no practice with their rifled guns, and our firing was not what it should have been.
It was entirely too rapid, and not particularly accurate.
Early in the fight the Forrest was disabled in her machinery, and her gallant young captain, Lieutenant Hoole, badly wounded in the head by a piece of shell.
She got in under Fort Forrest and anchored.
Some time in the afternoon, in the hottest of the fire, reenforcements arrived from Wise's brigade, and were landed on the island.
The Richmond Blues, Captain O. Jennings Wise, were, I think, a part of this force.
Pork Point Battery kept up a constant fire on the fleet, and the enemy could not silence it. The garrison stood to their guns like men, encouraged by the spirited example of their instructor, Lieutenant B. P. Loyall. Forts Huger and Forrest did not fire, the enemy being out of range; but the small battery between Pork Point and Weir's Point fired an occasional gun during the day. Toward 4 o'clock in the afternoon a shot or shell struck the hurricane-deck of the Curlew [Captain Hunter] in its descent, and went through her decks and bottom as though they had been made of paper.
Hunter put his vessel ashore, immediately in front of Fort Forrest, completely masking its guns, and we could not fire her for fear of burning up the battery, which, as I have said, was built on an old canal-boat. . . . We, in the Beaufort, did our best in maintaining our position.
About 4 P. M. I observed that the enemy's troops were landing to the southward of Pork Point, under the guns of a division of their fleet, and could not perceive that any successful resistance was being made to it. A little after sunset the firing ceased on both sides, and as we felt sure the enemy would not attempt to pass the obstructions by night, as he had declined to attempt them by day, we ran in and anchored under Fort Forrest. . . . Soon after we anchored signal was made by the flag-ship for the captains to report on board.
Upon my entering the cabin I was informed by Commodore Lynch that we must retreat from Roanoke Island.
Much surprised and mortified, I asked why, and was told that the vessels generally were out of ammunition.
A council was held as to whether the vessels should retreat to Norfolk, through the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal, or go to Elizabeth City, on the Pasquotank River.
We would have saved the vessels by going to the former place, but the commodore's orders were to do his utmost to defend the waters of North Carolina; so we decided to go to the latter, where it was understood a fort had been built to protect the town.
Elizabeth City was the terminus of the Dismal Swamp Canal, and we hoped to get ammunition that way from Norfolk in time to act in conjunction with the fort.
I was sent to Roanoke Island to communicate all this to Colonel Shaw, and confess did not relish my mission.
It looked too much like leaving the army in the lurch, and yet to have remained without ammunition would have been mere folly. .. . I met Colonel Shaw at his quarters, and stated the facts in relation to the vessels, and then returned to the Beaufort.
All lights were now extinguished, and the squadron got under way for Elizabeth City.
of one of its vessels.
A short time before sunset the Confederate boats came near enough to fire a few more shots, but were again driven off, this time making their last appearance as a fleet.
During the fight between the forts and the vessels the army transport fleet was at anchor about three miles to the south, prepared for landing.
A little after 4 o'clock the troops began to land, General Foster
's brigade taking the lead, followed by Reno
's and Parke
's. By 10 o'clock a force of about 7500 strong had been landed.
One of the two sections of a boat-gun battery manned by men of the Union
Coast Guard, in charge of Midshipman Porter
, was stationed well out to the front, supported by the 21st Massachusetts; the other troops bivouacked in an open field, where before morning they were thoroughly drenched by a most uncomfortable cold rain.
The morning was cold and cheerless and the breakfast was poor, but the troops were in fine spirits.
was the first to move, the 25th Massachusetts in the advance, followed by Midshipman Porter
The enemy's pickets gradually retired into an earth-work mounting three guns, situated in the center of a morass, flanked on each side by an almost impenetrable swamp, and protected in front by an open field of deep mud, in part covered by fallen trees with their limbs cut short and sharpened.
, as soon as he reached the earth-work, placed his troops and the boat-guns in position, and by 8 o'clock the attack had commenced in earnest.
But no effective work was done until General Reno
came up and with the 21st Massachusetts, the 51st New York, and the 9th New Jersey began his effective attack upon the Confederate
With great difficulty he penetrated the swamp, covered with its thick interwoven growth of briers, shrubs, and trees.
At length he succeeded in delivering his fire from
an unexpected direction upon the enemy inside the work.
They turned their guns upon his troops, but failed to drive them from their position.
While General Reno
was maintaining the left attack, General Foster
, with the 25th Massachusetts and 10th Connecticut, was making a serious demonstration in front; and the 23d and 27th Massachusetts, later with the 51st Pennsylvania, were trying to penetrate the almost impassable wood and swamp in the far-off front of the earth — work for the purpose of getting on the enemy's left.
While engaged in this movement, the Massachusetts
troops encountered a battalion of the enemy and drove them inside their work.
About 11 o'clock General Parke
with his brigade arrived upon the field, and the 4th Rhode Island was ordered to follow the regiments making the demonstration on the enemy's left.
“The 9th New York regiment, arriving upon the ground, was ordered to follow.” . . . “The regiment, under the lead of the colonel, Rush C. Hawkins
, entered the clearing with great spirit.”
Nearly two companies had succeeded in getting into the clearing immediately in front of the earth-work, where the mud was more than ankle-deep, and where they were receiving the undivided attention of the enemy's three pieces of artillery, and getting a shot now and then from the infantry.
Union assault upon the three-gun battery, Roanoke Island.
(see map, page 642.) from a war-time sketch.|
was at this point that Colonel De Monteil
Seeing that it would be almost impossible to get through the deep mud, I had made up my mind to face to the front and make an effort to charge the work, and after a moment's consultation with Lieutenant-Colonel Betts
and Captain Jardine
, who commanded the right company, I ordered my bugler to sound the charge.
At that moment I heard a great cheer down the line, and, looking in that direction, discovered that Major Kimball
had broken the regiment in two parts and was heading the left companies in a direct charge up a causeway running through the center of the field of fallen timber directly to the sally-port covered by a 24-pounder howitzer.
Soon the right companies joined, and all entered the work, pell-mell, together.
As the column advanced, the men crowded each other from the causeway, and soon the whole front of the work was covered with an animated sea of red fezzes.
The men of Company C were the first to cross the ditch and enter the work.
About the same time, the 21st Massachusetts and the 51st New York came into the work from the left.
The officers of those two regiments claimed that their colors were the first on the parapet; if so, it was because the colors of the 9th New York
were in the center of the column and did not get into the work with the men on the right who led the charge.
The regiments sent around to outflank the enemy's left arrived at their objective point about the time the decisive charge was made, and were entitled to a fair share of credit for the successful day's work.
The commands of Generals Foster
pursued the enemy to. a point near the northern end of the island, where an unconditional surrender was consummated.
Soon after leaving the earth-work my regiment deflected to the right and succeeded in capturing two boat-loads of the Richmond Blues, among them O. Jennings Wise
, trying to escape to Nag's Head
, on the opposite shore.
Company B in the meantime had taken possession of a two-gun battery at Shallowbag Bay
, severely wounded, was carried to a farm-house, where he received the best attention attainable, but died the next morning, defiant to the last, and wishing he had more lives to lose in the defense of the Confederacy
Among the results of these two days fighting were the capture of 2675 officers and men of the Confederate army and 5 forts mounting 32 heavy guns, the complete possession of Roanoke Island
, and with it the control of the inland waters of North Carolina
[For losses, see p. 679.]
The Confederate fleet, known as the “mosquito filet,” was under command of Commodore William F. Lynch
, who, after firing one of his own steamers, the Curlew
, and blowing up Fort Forrest, a work situated opposite Roanoke Island
on the mainland, retreated up the Pasquotank River
, and concentrated his vessels behind a four-gun battery at a point a short distance below Elizabeth City
At 8 o'clock on the morning of February 10th Commander Rowan
came up with the Union fleet, and the rebels opened fire upon him at a long range.
The Union forces continued their course uninterrupted by the enemy's fire until within three-fourths of a mile of their position, when they opened fire and dashed on at full speed.
In a few minutes five of the enemy's six vessels were either captured or destroyed, and Elizabeth City
was in possession of the naval forces., Two days later a small naval division under Lieutenant Alexander Murray
took possession of Edenton
The morning of February 9th, having heard that a portion of the command of General Henry A. Wise
still remained at Nag's Head
, General Parke
ordered that I should take a battalion of my regiment, proceed to that point, and, if possible, effect their capture.
When we arrived at the place of debarkation we were surprised to meet with no resistance to our landing.
The fact was sufficiently accounted for when we learned that Wise
with his whole command had retreated northward at sundown the day before.
From the time of the capture of Roanoke Island
stories had come frequently to the Union
commanders setting forth the loyalty of the citizens of the town of Winton
on the Chowan River
, and their desire to serve the Union
On the 18th of February an expedition of eight gun-boats under Commander Rowan
, and a land force of which I had charge, started for the Chowan River
, for the purpose of encouraging our friends at Winton
and destroying two important bridges of the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad.
The morning of the 19th we began to ascend the river, and as I had never believed in the tales regarding the loyalty of the Wintonians, from the time of entering the river, I assumed the position of volunteer lookout from the cross-trees of the mainmast of the steamer Delaware
The day was beautiful, the sail charming, and all went well until about half-past 3 o'clock. The steamer had “slowed down” and taken a sheer in toward the Winton wharf
, where a negro woman stood waving a rag, when from my lofty perch I discovered the glistening of many musket-barrels among the short shrubs that covered the high bank, and farther back two pieces of artillery in position.
I shouted to the astonished native pilot at the helm, “Ring on, sheer off, rebels on shore!”
fully half a dozen times before he could comprehend my meaning.
At last he rang on full speed, changed his course, and cleared the wharf by about ten feet. At that moment the enemy opened fire, and
before we passed out of range the low guards, wheel-house, and masts of the Delaware
My descent from the cross-trees, with only the mast to protect my body, was rapid and not graceful; ratlines and shrouds were cut by bullets as I went down, and my escape without injury was one of the every-day miracles of war.
The Union forces withdrew down the river and anchored.
Early the next morning we returned, and after some preliminary shelling, my regiment with two boat-howitzers were landed, the enemy was driven out, and the town was occupied.
We soon discovered that the courthouse and several other buildings were in use for barracks and store-houses for army supplies.
They were all fired.
Then the expedition returned to Roanoke Island
expedition was, for the time being, the last of active operations having Roanoke Island
for a base.
The army forces on shore were enjoying a period of luxurious rest, while the naval vessels were making pleasant excursions to the towns on the shores of the sounds before embarking in an enterprise second
only in importance to the capture of Roanoke Island
It was an open secret that the next move would be against New Berne, a small city on the Neuse River
The morning of the 10th of March 8
a letter was handed to me from General Burnside
containing the information that a new brigade, composed of the 9th and 89th New York and the 6th New Hampshire, and designated as the Fourth, had been formed for duty at Roanoke Island
, which was to be left under my command for the protection of that post.
The formation of this new brigade was the culmination of preparations for the departure of the New Berne expedition.
The battle of New Berne.
The morning of the 11th the force detailed for the attack upon that city embarked and that night, with the naval forces, rendezvoused at Hatteras Inlet.
On the 12th an early start was made, and that evening the whole fleet anchored off the mouth of Slocum's Creek, about sixteen miles below New Berne.
The next morning was as unpleasant as a cold penetrating rain and dark sky could make it, but, notwithstanding, at 6:30, after some preliminary shelling of woods near the landing, the troops began to disembark, the majority
going in small boats, while others in their eagerness for the fray jumped from the transports, which were fast on the mud bottoms, and, holding their cartridge-boxes and muskets over their heads, waded to the land.
In addition to the 13 regiments of infantry, 8 pieces of artillery were landed, 6 in charge of Lieutenant McCook
, of the navy, and 2 commanded by Captains Dayton
, of the Marine Artillery.
The enemy had chosen a strong position, well calculated for defensive purposes.
On Otter Creek
, about seven miles up the river from the mouth of Slocum's Creek, they had a line of intrenchments reaching from the Neuse River
to the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad; two miles beyond they had erected a strong field-work for preventing a landing at that point; three miles farther on there was a battery mounting 4 heavy guns.
but bearing upon the river; and one mile farther up toward New Berne was their long line of strong works, the chief defense against an attack upon that city.
, a large and carefully planned flanking bastion, located on the river, and mounting 13 heavy guns, the enemy's extreme left, was the commencement of their main line of breastworks, which extended a mile and a quarter to the railroad; and commencing the other side of the railroad was another series of defensive works, consisting of rifle-pits and detached intrenchments in the form of redans and lunettes, that terminated in a 2-gun battery, about two miles from Fort Thompson
All were located upon a low, swampy soil.
The line from the river to the railroad was protected by a ditch and clearing in front, and the one
beyond by a swamp and underbrush along its whole length.
These works were armed with 41 heavy guns and 19 field-pieces, and had between 7000 and 8000 men for their defense.
In the river, opposite Fort Thompson
, and crossing its channel, were a double row of piles and many sunken vessels, formidable obstructions, to assist the fort in preventing an attack upon New Berne from the river.
The naval forces moved up the river along with the troops while the light guns on shore were being dragged through the deep mud of the road.
The first day's march took the whole Union force beyond the second deserted work, where the advance came in contact with the enemy's pickets.
It being then 8 o'clock, a halt was ordered for the night, and the weary, hungry troops found a soldiers' resting-place in the mud, with no better covering than a continuous downpour of cold water.
The eight pieces of artillery, although assisted on their way by the whole of the 51st Pennsylvania, did not arrive on the ground until 3 o'clock the following morning.
[See map, p. 651.] During the night it was ascertained from pickets, negroes, and others that the enemy's fortified line was not far off; and early on the morning of the 14th the positions of the Union
forces were designated preparatory to a forward movement for attack.
was to move up the country
Forts Ellis and lane in the distance.
Bombardment of the Confederate Fort Thompson during the Battle of New Berne.
From a war-time sketch.|
road and attack the enemy's left; General Reno
was to advance by the railroad and attempt to turn the rebel right; while General Parke
was to follow on the country road as a reserve, or to operate in the center.
The heads of the two advancing columns soon came within range, and a disposition of the troops for a general engagement was immediately consummated.
The 25th Massachusetts had the extreme right; second in line came the 24th Massachusetts, its left resting on the country road, which was occupied by the artillery commanded by Captain Dayton
and Lieutenant McCook
The 27th Massachusetts, with its right resting on the country road, was joined on its left by the 23d Massachusetts, the whole parallel with the enemy's works.
The artillery and right regiments opened the engagement before those on the left of the road got into position.
The 10th Connecticut Volunteers, arriving a little after the others, was ordered to the left of the 23d.
The action along the whole of General Foster
's front had now commenced in earnest.
The 27th Massachusetts soon exhausted its short supply of ammunition, and was replaced by the 11th Connecticut, which had been ordered by General Parke
to assist in bringing up the guns.
Early in the morning General Reno
, on the left, moved his brigade along the railroad in the following order: 21st Massachusetts, 51st New York, 9th New Jersey, and 51st Pennsylvania.
The first encounter, about 8 o'clock, was with a large detachment of the enemy who were bringing a gun to bear on the railroad.
This move was checked by a well-maintained fire from the Union
skirmishers, and soon after the right wing of the 21st Massachusetts, under
, charged through an opening and captured a brick-kiln within the enemy's line.
The other regiments of the brigade were now brought into line on the left of the 21st Massachusetts, with the 51st Pennsylvania in reserve, supporting the extreme left of the line.
On this part of the field the action lasted for about three and a half hours, when the regiments engaged had expended nearly all their ammunition.
At that time the right wing of the 51st Pennsylvania, under Lieutenant-Colonel T. S. Bell
, was ordered to relieve the 51st New York, which had suffered severely, to pass in front of it, deliver one volley, and then charge the enemy's works.
This order was gallantly executed.
At the same time the other wing of the 51st Pennsylvania and the 9th New Jersey charged the intrenchments, and the enemy fled from their entire left, leaving fifty prisoners. Just then General Reno
discovered the Stars and Stripes waving from the works far off to his right.
, after capturing the brick-kiln, moved along the inside of the works toward the right, came upon a light battery of sixteen pieces which he captured, but was driven back by an overwhelming force of infantry.
's brigade, consisting of the 4th and 5th Rhode Island and the 8th and 11th Connecticut regiments, was
assigned to the center in supporting distance of either end of the line, but this command was destined to play a more important part than merely supporting the troops.
Soon after getting under fire Colonel Rodman
, with the 4th Rhode Island, offered to charge through an opening left in the intrenchments for the railroad to pass through.
The offer was accepted, and the 8th Connecticut and the 5th Rhode Island were ordered to his support.
Passing the rifle-pits, he entered the rear of the intrenchments, moving toward the right, capturing nine brass guns and driving the enemy from his intrenched position between the railroad and the river.
Simultaneously with the movement of Colonel Rodman
, General Foster
made a charge along his whole front, when the enemy retreated.
During the greater part of the action the gun-boats cooperated by shelling the woods in the rear of the works.
's soldierly movement was the culminating point of the day, and ended a battle most creditable for all the Union
troops and the officers who commanded them.
Immediately after the close of the action, New Berne was occupied.
When the strength of the position is taken into consideration, the fatigue of the Union
forces, and the great difficulties they had to encounter in making an infantry attack against a strong intrenched position, it is astonishing that they came out of the action with a loss of only 90 killed and 380
The loss to the enemy was 9 forts, mounting 41 heavy guns, over 2 miles of intrenchments, with 19 field-pieces in position, 6 32-pounders not mounted, over 300 prisoners, more than 1,000 stand of small arms, tents and barracks for 10,000 troops, a large amount of army supplies and naval stores, and the control of the second commercial city in the State of North Carolina
The enemy's loss in killed, wounded, prisoners, and missing was about 578.
This complete success, coming so soon after that of Roanoke Island
, created an esprit de corps among the troops of the Coast division which they maintained to the end of their army career.
Assault of the Union troops upon Fort Thompson, near New Berne.
From a war-time sketch.|
The enemy in their retreat destroyed bridges, and as they passed through the town set fire to it, and left parts of it in a blaze; and the first work of our troops and sailors after landing was to assist the citizens in putting out the flames, which was not done until much valuable property had been uselessly destroyed.
With the military machinery at his command it did not take General Burnside
long to establish order and give the captured city such a government as the occasion required.
The next and most important business in hand was to make the captured position secure from a land attack; and in order to accomplish this, a portion of the railroad leading to Goldsboro
' had to be destroyed, and a line of fortifications built between the Neuse
and Trent rivers
, which would completely insulate New Berne from the surrounding country.
The next and last objective point of any importance in the new department of North Carolina was the capture of Fort Macon
, an old-style, strong, stone, casemated work, mounting 67 guns, garrisoned by above 500 men, commanded by Colonel Moses J. White
, located on the eastern extremity of Bogue Island, commanding the channel from the open sea to Beaufort Harbor, and about forty miles from New Berne.
[See map, p. 634.] To General Parke
was assigned the duty of moving upon this work and undertaking its capture.
March 18th, General Burnside
and Lieutenant Williamson
, of the Engineers
, made a reconnoissance to the east as far as Slocum's Creek, and occupied Havelock Station with one company of the 5th Rhode Island Battalion.
Fort Macon after its capture by the Union forces, showing effects of the bombardment.
From war-time sketches.|
, a small settlement opposite Bogue Island, was occupied; the 22d, two companies of the 4th Rhode Island took possession of Morehead City
; the night of the 25th, a detachment of the same regiment, with a company of the 8th Connecticut, occupied Beaufort
; and the night of the 23d, Newport
was garrisoned by the 5th Rhode Island.
Thus all the important positions around or in the vicinity of Fort Macon
had fallen into the possession of the Union
forces without contest or the loss of a man. General Parke
, who had established his headquarters at Carolina City
, demanded a surrender of the fort, which was refused.
The evidence of preparations completed and in hand left no doubt upon the mind of General Parke
that Colonel White
intended to make a desperate defense.
It was therefore decided to besiege the fort, and as soon as possible to make a combined land and sea attack.
In this important work General Parke
was most ably assisted by Captain Williamson
and Lieutenant Flagler
, of the Ordnance Corps
On the 29th a part of the Third Brigade was landed upon Bogue Island, and operations for besieging the fort were immediately commenced.
The configuration of the sand-hills was singularly well adapted to facilitate the operations of the Union
These ridges or hills intervened between the working parties and the fort to such an extent in height as to permit the erection of besieging works to go on by day as well as by night, without any serious inconvenience from the enemy's fire.
By April 23d, the fort was entirely cut off from
communication with the outer world.
On the ocean side the blockading division, consisting of the steamers Daylight
, State of Georgia
, and Chippewa
, and the bark Gemsbok
, under the command of Commander Samuel Lockwood
, prevented all intercourse from that direction.
announced the works completed, and his readiness for an attack, and Colonel White
was again summoned, and again, in the tersest possible terms, declined to surrender.
The preparations for the reduction of the fort consisted of a battery of 3 rifled 30-pounder guns, under Captain L. O. Morris
; another of 4 8-inch mortars, under Lieutenant D. W. Flagler
; and a third of 4 10-inch mortars, commanded by Lieutenant M. F. Prouty
, of the 25th Massachusetts.
From these works the bombardment commenced on the morning of the 25th, and continued for ten hours. The fire from the Union batteries was not only vigorous, but also accurate and effective.
Shell after shell dropped into the work and exploded.
Many breaches were made, the ramparts were swept clean of gunners, and seventeen guns were disabled and dismounted.
The naval forces, owing to the sudden coming on of a gale, after participating in the early-part of the bombardment, were compelled to seek deeper water.
On the morning of the 26th Colonel White
, by the hanging out of a white flag, indicated his willingness to surrender.
He and his troops received honorable terms and marched out of the fort as the 5th Rhode Island marched in, and so ended, in a comparatively bloodless victory, the siege of Fort Macon
, the combined losses of both sides being only 9 killed and 25 wounded. 10
During the bombardment a detachment of the Signal Corps under Lieutenant Andrews
rendered most important assistance to the commanders of the batteries.
His position on the Bogue
banks was nearly at right angles with the line of fire.
Early in the action he saw that the 10-inch shells were going three hundred yards beyond the fort, and that the 8-inch shells were falling short.
By signaling his observations, the elevations of the pieces were corrected, so that after 12 o'clock every projectile from the mortars fell inside the fort.
This was not only one of the first, but among the better, of the achievements of the Signal Corps, proving its usefulness in war operations.
Soon after the capture of Roanoke Island
rumors reached us of the building of rebel iron-clads which were to enter Albemarle Sound via
the Dismal Swamp Canal
and Roanoke River
. Commander Rowan
and I were equally
anxious to protect the “pasteboard” vessels composing his fleet.
We decided it would be feasible to land a considerable force at Elizabeth City
, make a forced march to the south end of the Dismal Swamp Canal
, and destroy the lock that connected it with the river.
In an interview with General Burnside
the plan was submitted and approved; he agreed to detail a necessary additional force from New Berne to take part in the movement, and I was ordered to have my entire command ready for April 14th.
On the 17th I received a personal letter from him, saying he had detailed the 21st Massachusetts and the 51st Pennsylvania, and ordering me to embark immediately with at least eighteen hundred men, and closed by saying he would be up at once or send orders.
The morning of the 18th I was greatly surprised to receive a call from General Reno
, who stated that he had with him two regiments and was in command of the expedition.
The transports were soon under way, and reached the point of debarkation at about 1 o'clock the next morning.
My brigade, consisting of the 9th New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Kimball
; the 89th New York, Colonel H. S. Fairchild
; and the 6th New Hampshire, Colonel S. G. Griffin
, was landed and on the march by 3 o'clock. A light mulatto man for a guide came to me from one of the gun-boats and by a circuitous route took us far out of the way, so that we marched 30 miles to get at the rebel position, instead of 16 by the direct road.11
This detour led to the meeting of the Union
commands where two roads joined, about three or four miles from the enemy's position.
It was decided that General Reno
should take the advance, and that I should follow as rapidly as the fatigued condition of my men would permit.
Soon after 1 o'clock the rebels were discovered with a small detachment of cavalry thrown to the front, their infantry and artillery in a concealed line along the edge of a wood, facing an open field.
The action was commenced by rapid shell-firing from the enemy's guns, which was vigorously answered by the four rifled pieces (two belonging to Company K, 9th New York), commanded by Colonel William A. Howard
, of the Marine Artillery.
The 21st Massachusetts and the 51st Pennsylvania, coming in range, were deflected out of a road, through a field, to a wood on the right.
My command soon arrived, when the 6th New Hampshire was ordered to the left, and the two other regiments followed those on the right.
The action had continued for about an hour (chiefly artillery), when I concluded to make an observation in an open corn-field, directly in front of the rebel center.
I proceeded to a fence within a hundred yards of the edge of the clearing, heard no firing of infantry, concluded the rebels had been silently outflanked on their left by the 21st Massachusetts and the 51st Pennsylvania, and thought my regiment might get across the corn-field and capture the battery which still continued the action.
I returned, and described what I proposed to do, and asked the men if they thought they were equal to the undertaking.
Although greatly fatigued,
they answered, “We will try.”
Arriving at the fence, the regiment was formed in line of battle, and commenced to move over the field.
When within fifty yards of the edge of the clearing, the right companies received the concentrated fire of the whole of the enemy's infantry and artillery, and in less than two minutes lost 9 killed and 58 wounded. I immediately ordered a deflection to the right, when suddenly the rebels ceased firing, and fell back to avoid being outflanked by our force that entered the wood on their left.
The 6th New Hampshire gave them a parting
volley, which caused their artillery to retreat, and so ended the battle of South Mills
, or Camden
as it is now known.
I was helped off the field to a negro cabin, and heard nothing from General Reno
until about 9 o'clock, when he came to me with the information that he had learned that reinforcements were coming from Norfolk
; and we agreed, under the circumstances, that it would be better to return to the gun-boats.
The command moved at once through the mud and rain, reached the point of debarkation about 4 o'clock the next morning, and returned to Roanoke Island
My brigade had marched about 46 miles in a little less than 26 hours, besides taking part in a severe action.
Our entire loss was 14 killed and 100 wounded and missing. Among the former was Lieutenant Charles A. Gadsden
, adjutant of the 9th New York, an Americanized Englishman, who had been with his command less than a week.
He fell most gallantly at the head of the first company that came under fire, where he had no right to be.
Chaplain Thomas W. Conway
, of the 9th New York, who with Surgeon George H. Humphreys
remained behind with the wounded, discovered that the rebel infantry, which gave us such a warm reception, were concealed in a broad, deep drain which conformed to the edge of the wood, and was parallel to my line of attack.
The lock the expedition was sent to destroy remains to this day intact, and no iron-clad has ever passed through it, and for the best of all reasons, that none was ever built for that purpose.
May 7th, Captain O. W. Parisen
, with Company C, 9th New York, embarked on the gun-boat Shawsheen
, proceeded to Catharine's Creek
, which empties into Chowan River
, landed his command with a part of the gun-boat's crew, marched about two miles back from the creek and destroyed a large storehouse filled with $50,000 worth of commissary supplies for the rebel army.
While returning to the gun-boat, Captain Parisen
repelled an attack of rebel cavalry, which after one volley retreated, with the commanding officer mortally wounded.
Immediately after the first occupation of the inland waters of North Carolina
by the Union
forces, great inconvenience had been experienced, and in several instances movements had been retarded, because the only way of communication with Washington
was through the sometimes dangerous and always unreliable channel of Hatteras Inlet.
Knowing this, I had constantly urged upon General Burnside
the importance of opening connection with Norfolk
through the Currituck Sound
and Dismal Swamp Canal
, and, as a preliminary to such an undertaking, had commenced blowing up the obstructions placed by the enemy in the Currituck Canal
. May 28th, I received permission from General Burnside
to make an attempt to get to Fort Monroe
through my proposed route, for the purpose of having an important conference with General Wool
I embarked Company K of the 9th New York, with its battery of rifled naval boat-guns, on board the small side-wheel steamer Port Royal
All the canal obstructions not being removed, I decided to
Passage of Union boats through the Dismal Swamp Canal.
(see map, page 634.) from a war-time sketch.|
pick my way outside in Currituck Sound
through a narrow, crooked channel.
The result can best be told by a dispatch to the New York Tribune from Fort Monroe
May 30th, 1862.
This morning the side-wheel steamer Port Royal arrived here from Roanoke Island, via the Currituck Sound and Dismal Swamp Canal. Colonel Hawkins and a company of his gallant Zouaves are the first to open communication between Generals Wood and Burnside.
By this movement we can dispense with all seaward transportation, and forward supplies, etc., in a safe and rapid manner to our troops in that vicinity.
When I was left in charge of Roanoke Island
, Commander Rowan
assigned to the command of the naval division in Albemarle
and Croatan sounds Lieutenant Charles W. Flusser
, who had been conspicuous for his efficiency upon many occasions.
A finer character than this officer possessed it is impossible to imagine,--patriotic, sincere, manly, modest, considerate, and truthful to an extent almost beyond description; and a braver man never lived.
Early in June he took possession of the town of Plymouth
, situated a short distance above the mouth of the Roanoke River
, and held it unaided by land forces until June 15th, when Company F of the 9th New York was detailed for guard and observation duty at that post.
It did not take a long time for us to ascertain that there were among the non-slaveholding population many who professed sentiments not hostile to the Union
, and that they had expressed a determination never to serve in the ranks of the rebel army.
constantly urged upon me the importance of enlisting these men in the cause of the United States
Nearly all of the poorer class of inhabitants were still devoted to the old government; and many had successfully resisted rebel conscription, and had never given their allegiance to the rebel government.
Very few of them were slave-owners, and consequently had little interest in aiding the rebellion.
They worked in their fields in groups, with arms near at hand during the day, and at night resorted to the swamps for shelter
against conscripting parties of rebel soldiers; and by thus constantly being on the alert, they succeeded in rendering unavailing all efforts to force them into the ranks of the Confederate army.
In several interviews which I had with Commander Flusser
, he urged me in the strongest manner to occupy the town of Plymouth
, and to organize the Union
men of that vicinity into a regiment of soldiers.
I had several conversations with General Burnside
in relation to this matter, and the final result was that he placed the affair entirely in my hands.
Accordingly, by appointment, Commodore Rowan
and I met some two hundred and fifty Union men; and a free interchange of views in relation to the affairs of the country took place.
The matter of great concern with them was, “What will become of us in case we are captured by the rebels?”
We assured them that the Government
of the United States
would protect them and their families to the last extreme, and that any outrage perpetrated upon them or upon their families would be severely punished.
An enlistment-roll was accordingly made out, and about one hundred men signed their names at once.
Too much cannot be said of the devotion of these men under peculiar dangers — of these men of the 1st North Carolina.13
Things remained in this condition until July, 1862, when General Burnside
, with the Ninth Corps, of which my command was part, was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac.