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[310]

The ammunition of the naval howitzers being nearly exhausted, and one piece disabled, the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts was ordered to march by the flank, and form so as to support the guns, leaving the Twenty-fourth on the extreme right. About twenty-five minutes from this time the head of Gen. Parke's column, the Fourth Rhode Island, had reached the breastwork at the railroad-crossing, and after a brisk fire, pushed on and entered the breastwork in an opening left for the railroad-track, and where the enemy's fire had much slackened in consequence of the steady and constant fire of the Twenty-third Massachusetts and Tenth Connecticut. This position of affairs being discovered, I ordered an advance along the line, which was promptly obeyed, the enemy retreating with great precipitation. On entering the breastwork, sharp firing was still heard to the right of the enemy's position, and hearing from Gen. Parke that he was engaged with the enemy's forces in their works on the right of the railroad, I led the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts to their support, and received the surrender of Col. Avery and one hundred and fifty men.

The breastwork we had entered was similar in construction to the abandoned one, running from Fort Thompson, at the river, to the railroadtrack, a distance of a mile and a quarter, and from the railroad-track, rifle-pits and detached intrenchments, in the form of curvettes and redans, followed each other for the distance of a mile and a quarter, terminated by a two-gun battery. Fort Thompson, a flanking-bastion, mounting thirteen guns, all thirty-two-pounders, (two rifled,) four of which were turned so as to bear on our lines. The breastwork was mounted with two complete fieldbatteries, besides several small pieces of heavy artillery, and manned by about six thousand men. The force in men and artillery of the other defences I am unable to give, they not coming under my observation.

Pressing forward, then, with my brigade, I reached the railroad-bridge at Newbern, which, being burnt to prevent our following up the flying enemy, I rested the men on a field on the east bank of the Trent. By order of Gen. Burnside, who had continued up with me, I shortly after crossed with my brigade over the river and encamped the regiments, with the exception of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, in the camp of the enemy at the fair grounds, the enemy having left all his camp equipage, and from appearances must have fled very precipitately; the Twenty-fifth being quartered in the town for police duty.

The fatigue and hardships of the march from Slocum's Creek I need not mention; the horrible state of the road, the wearying labor it cost to drag for twelve miles the howitzers, the severity of the storm, and the wet ground of the soldiers' bivouac for the night you well know.

I must mention in my brigade, where all behaved bravely, with particular praise the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts and the Tenth Connecticut. The former, under a severe fire from musketry in the front, and exposed to a flanking fire of grape and canister from Fort Thompson, unprotected by the trees, behaved with marked coolness and steadiness; the latter advanced close under the enemy's fire, in line of battle, fired with the most remarkable steadiness, and stood steadily up, giving and taking the most severe fire.

The howitzers, under the command of Lieut. McCook, Acting Masters Daniels and Hammond, Captain's Clerk Meeker, Captain Rowan's Clerk Gaberdan, Lieuts. Tillotson and Hughes, of the Union Coast Guard, were most admirably served during the day, and when their ammunition was exhausted, they lay down by their pieces rather than withdraw from their position. Capt. Dayton volunteered again to land and command the gun from the Highlander. His gun was first in position, and he served it as before, with steadiness and efficiency. Lieut. Tillotson, whose gun was disabled, rushed ahead after the action, in pursuit, with such speed as to be captured by the enemy.

From the joy of victory I must turn to the price it cost, in the soldier's death of Lieut.-Col. Merritt, of the Twenty-third Massachusetts, who fell early in the action while urging and cheering the men on, and of Lieut. J. W. Lawton, of the Twenty-seventh Massachusetts, shot dead in the field.

Major Robert H. Stevenson, of the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, was wounded in the leg, but stood up encouraging his men till forced to leave the field. Adjutant W. L. Horton, of the same regiment, was severely wounded by a grapeshot in the shoulder while in the active performance of his duties; and Lieuts. Daniel Sargent and James B. Nichols were each slightly wounded.

Capt. V. V. Parkhurst, of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, had his leg fractured.

Lieuts. J. S. Aitchison and J. W. Trafton, of the Twenty — seventh, were slightly wounded. Capt. R. R. Swift also severely wounded, and Lieut. George Warner had a foot shot off.

Capts. Wesley C. Sawyer and William B. Alexander, of the Twenty-third Massachusetts, were both wounded, the former severely in the leg, rendering amputation necessary, and the latter in the hand.

Lieut. T. W. B. Hughes, of the Union Coast Guard, was also wounded.

Enclosed I hand you the returns of killed and wounded, showing a total of thirty-nine killed and one hundred and fifty-three wounded.

It is with much pleasure that I can report all of my staff as uninjured. They consisted during the day of Brigade-Surgeon J. H. Thompson, who volunteered in the early part of the fight to carry any order for me, and he did so till called elsewhere by his duties, under the hottest fire; Capt. Southard Hoffman, A. A. G.; Capt. Edward E. Potter, A. C. S.; Lieutenant John F. Anderson, A. D. C.; Lieut. J. M. Pendleton, A. D. C.; Lieut. James H. Strong, A. D. C; Lieutenant Edward N. Strong, A. D. C.; and Lieuts. J. L. Van Buren and R. T. Gordon, of the Signal Corps, who were used as aids. And I most cordially bear my testimony to the conduct of the above-mentioned


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