Doc. 70 1/2-skirmish at Newport News, Va., July 5, 1861.
Fortress Monroe, Sunday, July 7.On Thursday evening Capt. Hammel, of Hawkins's Zouaves, having suspicions of the presence of a scouting party of rebels not more than three miles from Newport News, volunteered, with a company of twenty-five men, to ascertain the fact. The offer was accepted by Col. Phelps, and at dark the party set out. When two miles from camp they halted, and one of the officers walked on a few rods to a spot where, for several weeks, has lain the top of a broken carriage by the side of the road. In this the officer sat down to rest. A few moments afterward Capt. Hammel's party, still halting, were alarmed at the sound of four shots in the direction the officer had taken. They sprang to their arms and hastened forward. While the officer had been resting in the carriage two horsemen had fired upon him, he returning their fire with two shots from his revolver, when the horsemen caught a glimpse of the main party and decamped in haste. A pursuit was ordered, but, after marching rapidly a mile, was given up, and the party camped by the roadside. All was quiet during the night, and at about 4 o'clock A. M. the march was resumed. They had not gone more than a hundred yards when they came upon four rebel horsemen and fired. The dragoons immediately fled. They marched on till nearly 5 o'clock, when a number of the enemy were discovered lying in the bushes. Capt. Hammel with great coolness ordered his men to break ranks and each pick his man, and, if possible, fire from behind a tree. The order was scarcely given when his men discharged their pieces into the bushes, with what effect is not known. The fire was quickly returned, and two or three volleys had been exchanged, when a rebel officer, apparently a colonel, screamed out, “Stop, stop! For God's sake stop! You're shooting your own men! Don't you remember the squad that went out last night with Capt.----?” “Washington! Washington!” he shouted at the top of his voice, and dashed into the road, with another officer by his side. “Washington” was undoubtedly the rebel watchword. He and the men who then rose were attired in a costume almost like that of the Vermont Regiment, and for a moment Capt. Hammel and his men looked at them with surprise. The next instant, however, the white bands around their hats were discovered, and Capt. H. ordered his men to fire. The order was obeyed, Sergeant Martin picking the rebel colonel, and another by his side, both armed with Minie rifles, selecting the other officer. When they fired both rebels fell. The officer was shot in the left side, and the other apparently in the neck or head. The second officer had a gun in his hand, and in falling dropped it. Several rebels immediately sprang from the bushes and, seizing the officers and the gun, dragged all in with them, leaving the ground covered with blood. The firing continued about fifteen minutes, and several others are supposed to have been killed and wounded. The rebels then turned to retreat, and were running up the road in great confusion when a detachment of about eighty dragoons, with a field-piece, made their appearance sweeping down to the rescue. Capt. Hammel's Zouaves loaded immediately, and the flying rebels rushed on toward the approaching cavalry. At just the instant when they met and were mingled in most embarrassing confusion, the Zouaves rushed from their ambuscade and fired, every man his gun into the mass. The scene which followed was perfectly indescribable. Yells, and shrieks, and groans, and imprecations rent the air. The horses many of them wheeled short, trampling upon and mangling the infantry, who had fled to them bearing their dead and wounded. One or two attempts were made to rally, but in vain. While this scene of confusion was going on several fell from their horses, supposed to have been killed by the fire of the Zouaves. Meantime, while they were loading foranother fire, the rebels took to flight in unmanageable confusion. On the spot where they were camped subsequently were found knapsacks and guns and revolvers, and a great variety of camp equipage scattered around, and mattresses covered with clotted blood. A pursuit was not made by Capt. Hammel and his company, (not a single one of whom was injured in the skirmish), on account of the great superiority in numbers of the rebel force. The affair took place on the road near the shore of the river, and Capt. H. returning hastily to camp, several companies were promptly sent out to sustain his men, while he went up the river on the Monticello, from which a number of shells were thrown into the vicinity supposed to be occupied by the enemy. After the firing had continued for a short time a messenger from the land force was sent requesting a cessation. The request was complied with,when the companies marched on to a distance of about eight miles from Newport News without finding any of the rebels, though seeing many indications of their flight.
--N. Y. World.