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[132]

On opening the reach of the river leading to the mouth of the canal, I discovered two small steamers and three schooners about a mile and a quarter up the canal, and that the mouth of the canal was obstructed.

Pickets stationed near the mouth fired their muskets to give the alarm, and a large body of men, whose muskets glistened in the sunshine, got under cover at the point where those vessels were.

I immediately moved up within a couple of hundred yards of the mouth of the canal, until all the vessels grounded, and ordered the White-head to open fire with her nine-inch guns. But three shells were fired, when the whole body precipitately fled.

On going on shore, I found that a schooner had been sunk about fifty yards within the mouth, supported by piles, logs, etc., forming a complete barrier. I advanced a picket of fifteen men, under command of Acting Master Graves, followed by the machinists of the Louisiana, with crowbars, mauls, etc. At the distance of half a mile a second row of piles had been driven. They were at work on this when we surprised them. The steamers and schooners had left before we landed; but a fine large dredging-machine remained, and this we soon saw sinking. This sunk diagonally across the canal, closing it entirely for the passage of the smallest vessel, being say ten feet from one bank and six from the other. The machinery was entirely destroyed by the working party, the hull above water burnt and entirely consumed.

A resident named Stone, having a store near this point, was interrogated, and stated that the force near was the remnant of the Wise Legion, commanded by Wise in person, and numbering about six hundred men. Capt. Graves, with a few men, followed their rear guard to the county bridge. This is the thoroughfare between Currituck and the upper counties, and there was a battery of three guns placed to command the canal and main road. The guard had been removed. In their haste they left the axes used in destroying the dredging-machine, some canteens, haversacks, and clothing. In fact, as a contraband deserter from the Legion at Elizabeth City told me: “Ever since that fight in Western Virginia, in which we lost five hundred men, we have been running all the time, and now they will never stop until they get back to Richmond.”

I completed the rebel works by sinking two schooners in the mouth of the canal and burning all that remained above water. The work completed, I returned to this anchorage.

My thanks are due to Acting Master Graves and Assistant Engineer Lay, acting chief of the Louisiana, for the complete manner in which my directions were carried out.

Respectfully submitted.

William N. Jeffers, Lieutenant Commanding. Lieut. Corn. A. Maury, Senior Officer Commanding Expedition.

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