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April 20.


Plymouth, North Carolina, garrisoned by one thousand six hundred men, under the command of General Wessells, was captured by the rebels, after an obstinate and prolonged fight. The following account of the operations in the vicinity of Plymouth, and its capture, was given by a participant:

On Saturday evening, April seventeenth, at about half-past 5 o'clock, the rebels attacked Fort Gray, on the Roanoke, two miles above the town, with six pieces of field-artillery. They were speedily repulsed, doing but little damage, except sinking our gunboat Bombshell by firing into her. She dropped down and sunk opposite Plymouth, much injured. On Monday they fired occasionally all day at Fort Wessells, and took it by assault on Monday night, with a loss of some sixty killed. Here our men fought like tigers, and the heroic Captain Chapin, of company K, Eighty-fifth New York, fell. This little fort is about a mile from the town; in it we had about sixty men and four thirty-two pounders. Here, through mistake, the rebels fired on their own men, and, it is said, killed several of them. Our loss here, so far as known, was only two killed, beside Captain Chapin. Our artillery played heavily upon this fort all day Tuesday, ceasing at intervals. On Monday, at dusk, they drove in our pickets in front, killing one and wounding one; and at dark they opened and continued for two hours and a half a most fierce fire of artillery upon Fort Williams, our strongest fort, in which General Wessells had his headquarters during the siege. Fort Williams fired in upon them heavily, with great slaughter, and received but little injury, excepting the death of Lieutenant Cline, of the One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania. Just after dark, one of our gunboats opened upon them a most galling fire. The cannonading now for more than two hours was most grand, awful, terrific, and sublime. I stood upon the piazza of my own room, with shells and balls dropping around me. Men who had been in the Peninsula campaign said they never saw any thing to equal the firing here. One shell from our gunboat, commanded by Captain Flusser, who afterward fell dead on the deck of his own ship, it was said, killed three and wounded nineteen rebels. About nine o'clock all firing ceased, and the rebels retired to the woods in front of Fort Williams.

The women, children, and our sick, were sent to Roanoke Island on Saturday night, together with a schooner-load of old negroes. Another load went on Monday night.

About four o'clock on Tuesday morning, the rebel ram, with two guns, came down and swept out all our gunboats, upon which we had depended so much to protect the left and lower part of the town, The gunboats Miami and Southfield were linked together, and the ram ran between them, and ran into the Southfield, and she soon sank. Then the Miami went below.

All day on Tuesday, the ram lay some two miles below town, and kept up firing all day, but with little or no execution, save perforating the houses. She threw shells most awfully swift. I could dodge balls from other pieces, but it would be hard to dodge one from her. Her guns are thirty-two pounders; a good many of her shells never burst. It takes her about eight minutes to load and fire.

Early on Wednesday morning, about day-light, the rebels, with five brigades, commanded by General Ransom, (a part of Stonewall Jackson's division,) made assault after assault upon the redoubt on the left, in which we had about two hundred men and four thirty-two pounders. Coming up with such an overwhelming force, they succeeded, with the loss of scores of killed, in taking this little fort, which let them into the town, up Main street. Shortly after their entrance into the town, about three hundred of us were taken prisoners of war, and marched nearly two miles below town, leaving our beautiful flag still floating over Fort Williams, with the brave General Wessells, his staff, and some two hundred men, still holding out, and refusing to sur render until ten P. M. on Wednesday. [69]

Their force engaged has been estimated at ten thousand, with a reserve of four or five thousand. Our effective force was about two thousand. Their killed and wounded, I suppose, is about one thousand--some put it at one thousand five hundred. General Hoke, commanding the rebel forces, was heard to say that their loss was about one thousand five hundred, Our killed won't exceed twenty, and wounded not eighty; captured, including citizens, two thousand two hundred. They shot a great many blacks after the fight was over.

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H. W. Wessells (3)
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