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[73]

IV. Burnside in North Carolina.


Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside and Com. L. M. Goldsborough led an expedition, which had in good part been fitted out in New York, and which left Fortress Monroe at the opening of the year;1 and, doubling Cape Henry, moved southward to Hatteras Inlet, whose defenses had been quietly held by our troops since their capture by Gen. Butler and Com. Stringham five months before.2 The naval part of this expedition consisted of 31 steam gunboats, mounting 94 guns; the military of about 11,500 men, mainly from New England, organized in three bridges, under Gens. Foster, Reno, and Parke, and embarked with their material on some 30 to 40 steam transports. The van of the expedition reached the entrance of the Inlet on the 13th; when it was found that, though care had been taken to select or obtain gunboats of such draft as could readily be worked over the bar at high water, yet a large proportion of the transports, through the incompetence or dishonesty of those employed to procure them, were of such draft as rendered them totally unfit for this service. Of these, the propeller City of New York, 600 tons, heavily laden with rifles, ammunition, tents, bedding, and forage, and drawing 16 feet water, when the greatest depth attainable on the bar was but 13 grounded, of course, in attempting to pass it;3 when the sea broke completely over her stern, every breaker lifting her, and causing her, as it subsided, to settle still deeper in the sand, until she became a perfect wreck — her masts and smoke-stack cut away, her crew, with life-preservers tied about them, lashed to the rigging to save themselves from being washed overboard by each succeeding billow; and at last, after an endurance of 12 to 15 hours, the raging sea began to lift the deck from the hull with every surge. Ere this, her fires had been extinguished, her boats, all but one, filled or stove, and her men utterly exhausted by long fasting and exposure to the cold waves which broke over them continually; while no attention was paid from the fleet to their signal of distress, or even their hail to the S. R. Spaulding, which passed out to sea. At length, two mechanies, W. H. and Charles A. Beach, of Newark, N. J., launched the yawl, and, aided by engineer Wm. Miller, steward Geo. Mason, and Hugh McCabe, fireman, pulled successfully through the surf, over the bar, to the fleet, whence boats were at once dispatched to take off the remainder of the crew, who were speedily rescued. The vessel and cargo were totally lost; as were the steam gunboat Zouave, the transports Louisiana and Pocahontas, and two or three others. Col. J. W. Allen and Surgeon S. F. Weller, 9th New Jersey, were drowned4 by the upsetting of their small boat in the breakers, as they returned to the transport Ann E. Thompson from reporting the arrival of their regiment to Gen. Burnside.

1 Jan. 11-12, 1862.

2 See Vol. I., p. 599.

3 Jan. 13.

4 Jan. 15.

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