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[313] landed from the transports--one from the Cossack, under command of Capt. J. W. Bennett, and the other from the schooner Highlander, under Capt. E. G. Dayton. The Cossack's gun was worked, in action, by Mr. Stroud, the second officer of the ship, with great gallantry and precision.

Along the river, by the mouth of the creek, he ground is marshy, and while not so much so as the landing-place at Roanoke Island, was still miry enough to make the labor of dragging the field-pieces very heavy. Our path led for little distance through a fringe of woods, in which the Spanish moss was hanging from almost every tree — a sad-colored drapery, but quite appropriate, I thought, for the journey to spirit-world that many were then treading. I recollect standing beneath a thick canopy of this moss with the gallant young Hammond, who fought so bravely at Roanoke, to watch the men as they labored to get his gun through a bit of mire, and thinking which of these twelve would meet his death before we got to Newbern. Alas! every man of them was killed or wounded.

After leaving the woods, we came upon a strip of beach, and, after marching a mile through the sand, ankle-deep, struck across a piece of fallow land, and came upon the county road. One of the finest sights of the day was the march of the column diagonally across this clearing, the thickset hedge of bayonets shining like frosted grass in the sunshine, and the long line of blue-clothed men undulating like a great snake over the inequalities of the ground. A little way up the road we found extensive cavalry barracks, some distance back, in a wooded ravine. So great had been the hurry of leaving that the officers had left their breakfast untouched — the men theirs in the mess — tins. Furniture, books, clothing, all the conveniences of camp-life, were strewn about the cantonment, and in the stables one solitary little pony was found tied, and appropriated by an aide-de-camp, whose undignified appearance when mounted elicited many a jest and laugh from his friends of the several staffs.

The rains of the week preceding had brought the county road into a sad plight, and our troops marched for five miles through mud and water, such as one would hardly expect to find this side of the heavy clays of Yorkshire. There was no straggling or hanging back, however, for the officers met every loiterer with the order to close up ranks and keep together. The Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, having the right of the First brigade, was, of course, at the head of the column; the Eleventh Connecticut brought up the rear of the Third brigade. We had proceeded, perhaps, five miles when the skirmishers came upon a clearing with a line of breastworks and batteries apparently a mile in extent. The column was immediately halted, and a reconnoissance being made by Capt. Williamson, Topographical Engineer on Gen. Burnside's staff, it was found deserted. The work must have required the labor of a thousand men for a month, being constructed in the most thorough and scientific manner. A deep and wide moat extended along the front, and an abattis of felled timber had been made on both flanks. No guns had been mounted, the enemy probably thinking the division was to move first on Norfolk, and that no great haste was required in preparing the nice little thing for our reception.

A mile further on, a road crossing our line of march ran down to the river. Thinking that the enemy might have a fortification on the beach, with a large supporting body of infantry, a reconnoissance was ordered by Gen. Foster, and Lieutenants Strong, Pendleton, Captain Hudson, and other of his aids riding down, found a large battery, which had been deserted in haste. They waved a white handkerchief as a signal to the gunboats, and a boat put off immediately from the Delaware, and the National flag was hoisted on the parapet.

All the afternoon it had been raining by showers, the intervals being filled with a continuous drizzle, which alone would have wetted the men to the skin, so that when night was approaching without our having met the enemy, it is not strange that we should have looked with anxiety for the order to halt. Gen. Reno's brigade had been turned off on the railroad, at the first point where the county road crossed it, with the view of flanking the enemy, while the main body attacked them in front. The two bodies met at another crossing, and here a man coming on horseback from Newbern was arrested, and gave us the information that Manassas was evacuated. The joyful news was passed along the column from regiment to regiment, and was hailed with such a tempest of cheers as made the welkin ring indeed. Imagine the cheering of a whole army, itself on the march to a battle, on hearing such joyful tidings as these! Whether true or false, the effect of the story was excellent, for when the order “forward” was given, the men sprang into their places with a cheerful alacrity which could hardly have been expected of jaded men.

At six o'clock we had advanced to within a mile of the enemy's line of fortifications, and a halt was ordered. Generals Burnside and Foster and their staffs were riding some distance in advance, even of the skirmishers of the Twenty-fourth, and I certainly expected that we should all (for I happened to be with the party for an hour or so) be bagged by some marauding squadron of rebel cavalry, who would dash out and take us in the rear. Capt. Williamson and Capt. Plotter and Lieut. Strong were sent ahead to reconnoitre, and after riding half a mile came upon some cavalry pickets, by whom they were hailed and whom they challenged in return. On their reporting to Gen. Burnside, the column was ordered to halt and bivouac for the night on both sides of the road. It was a wet, miserable night, the rain-drops showering down upon us from the trees, and the sodden leaves and woods-mould making anything but a comfortable couch. However, we cut down some yellow pine-trees for fuel,

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A. E. Burnside (3)
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J. L. Reno (1)
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James M. Pendleton (1)
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