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[74] The National loss in precious time, as well as life and property, by the villainy which palmed off on the Government vessels totally unfit for this service, can hardly be overestimated. Two or tree weeks of desperately hard work were expended on getting over such of the craft as were not wrecked; giving the alarmed Rebels the amplest time to concentrate and fortify.

At length, every thing being in readiness, our fleet moved slowly up Pamlico and Croatan Sounds;1 the gunboats in advance and on the flanks of the transports, formed in three columns, each headed by its flagship, every large steamer having one or two schooners in tow, with the spaces between the columns kept carefully clear, and all moving at the regulated pace of four miles per hour. The fleet consisted in all of 65 vessels, covering a space about two miles square; some 50 transports, mainly schooners, having been left at the Inlet. Tile day was beautiful; the distance made about 28 miles, when they halted, near sunset, still 10 miles from the southern point of Roanoke Island, and lay undisturbed through the bright, moonlit night.

At 8 A. M., the signal to weigh anchor was given. At 11, progress was arrested, near the south point, by a storm; and the fleet again lay at anchor till next morning, when, at 10 A. M., the order was given to move forward, and the gunboats led the way through the narrow passage known as Roanoke Inlet, into Croatan Sound, driving 7 Rebel gunboats before them. At noon, our gunboats were under fire of the chief Rebel battery on the Island, known as Fort Bartow, when the Rebel gunboats halted and added their fire to that of the fort. A line of piles driven across the channel was evidently expected to obstruct our advance, but proved inadequate. Soon, our soldiercrowded transports were seen swarming through the Inlet, and preparations were made for landing at Ashby's Harbor, two miles below the fort, which had now been set on fire by our shells. The flames were soon checked, however, and the cannonade on both sides continued; while the Rebel gunboats, which had retreated up the Sound, again appeared and engaged our fleet, till the Curlew, their flag-ship, was struck by a 100-pound shell from the Southfield, and soon enveloped in flames. The firing was continued on both sides till night, without serious loss in men on either. The Rebel barracks in the rear of the fort were destroyed by fire, and their remaining gunboats compelled to withdraw from the contest. All our transports had passed through the Inlet and anchored by 4 P. M., when debarkation commenced under the fire of our gunboats; and 7,500 men were ashore, and most of them in bivouac, before 11 P. M.

The Rebel forces in that region were commanded by Brig.-Gen. Henry A. Wise,2 whose head quarters were at Nag's Head, across Roanoke Sound, and whose forces numbered from 3,000 to 4,000; but hardly 1,000 of them were on the Island prior to the approach of our fleet, when reenforcemnents were hurried over, raising the number of its defenders to about 3,000. Col. Shaw, 8th North Carolina, was in immediate command. Fort Bartow, otherwise

1 February 5.

2 Ex-Governor of Virginia.

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