and by the genial warmth of bivouac-fires, were soon smoking pipes and making feeble attempts to forget our weariness and wetness. In the morning, at six o'clock, all the generals were in their saddles, and at seven the column was in motion. The column of Gen. Reno, on the railroad, was the first to move, the Twenty-first Massachusetts, as the right-flank regiment, leading the advance. (In its appropriate place I would here mention that Reno's brigade bivouacked alongside the track, two companies of the Twenty-first having been thrown out as pickets.) The regiment had not proceeded far before, on turning a curve in the road, they saw a train of cars, which had brought reenforcements to the enemy, standing on the track. In front of the locomotive, on a platform-car, had been a large rifled-gun, which was evidently to be placed in position to rake the road. Our men, however, advanced at the double-quick, and poured in a volley with such accuracy of aim, that the enemy, who had already rolled the gun and caisson off the car, did not stop to unload the carriage, but ran into the intrenchments, and the train was backed toward Newbern, leaving the platform-car standing on the track. The Twenty-first had got within short range before discovering the formidable nature of the enemy's earthworks, but now fell back, and, forming line of battle in the woods, opened fire. The Fifty-first New-York was moved to the left and ordered forward to engage a series of redans, the Ninth New-Jersey occupying the left of the line, and the Fifty-first Pennsylvania held in reserve, in rear of the Ninth, a little to the left. Meanwhile Gen. Foster's brigade had advanced up the main road to the clearing, when the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts was sent into the woods to the right of the road, and opening a heavy fire on the enemy, commenced the action of the First brigade. The Twenty-seventh was sent to their left to support them, and news being received that the enemy were trying to outflank us on the right, the Twenty-fifth was sent out to resist the movement. The Twenty-third being moved to the front next in line of battle, opened fire upon the enemy, which was replied to by very heavy volleys, and a cannonade from a park of field-pieces behind the breastwork. The very first cannon-shot killed Lieutenant-Col. Henry Merritt of the Twenty-third, the ball passmg through his body. As he fell he threw up his arms and said: “O dear! O dear!” Gen. Foster's line of battle was completed by moving the gallant Tenth Connecticut to the extreme left, to a position where they had to fight under the most discouraging disadvantages. The ground was very wet, swampy, and cut up into gullies and ravines, which mostly ran toward the enemy, and, of course, while offering no protection from his fire, exposed them on elevations and in valleys. The regiment had shown at Roanoke, however, the behavior of veterans, and nothing else could have been expected at this time but that they would stand their ground to the last. Gen. Parke's brigade, which had followed the First brigade up the main road, was placed in line between the Tenth Connecticut and Twenty-first Massachusetts, the Fourth Rhode Island holding the right of line, the Eighth Connecticut the next place, the Fifth Rhode Island next, and the Eleventh Connecticut on the left Our line of battle was now complete, the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts on the extreme right and the Fifty-first Pennsylvania at the extreme left, and extended more than a mile. The naval battery was in position at our centre, with Capt. Bennett's and Capt. Dayton's rifles alongside, and were all worked with the greatest gallantry throughout the day. The officers in charge of the pieces, without exception, I believe, displayed perfect coolness, and stood by their guns in some cases when a single man was all the assistance they had to work them. This was the case with Acting Master Hammond of the Hetzel, and Lieut. T. W. B. Hughes of the Union coast-guard, the former losing every man, and the latter all but one. The few hours which have elapsed since the battle, have not permitted my seeing the naval officers in person, to obtain particulars of their part of the action, and a complete list of killed and wounded. It was my fortune to assist Lieut. Hughes to a trifling extent after he was wounded, and I can testify to the coolness with which he bore his injury. Acting Master Hammond lost both his shoes in the tenacious clay of the road, and for several hours was compelled to walk in stocking-feet through mud and mire. The battle had waged for something less than an hour, when the Twenty-first lost one of its no blest officers, in the person of Adjutant Frazar A. Stearns, the young man who bore himself so bravely in the difficult and dangerous charge on the right of the enemy's battery on Roanoke Island. Poor Stearns received a bullet in his right breast, and fell dead in his place. He was the son of the President of Amherst College, and possessed the love of his commanding officer and the whole regiment. Lieut.-Col. Clark, who is in command of the Twenty-first, was affected to tears when relating the circumstances of his untimely death, for he felt almost the love of a father for the young man. The fire of the enemy was now telling so severely upon the Twenty-first, that Col. Clark ordered the regiment forward on a double-quick, and at the head of four companies, entering the breastworks from the railroad-track in company with Gen. Reno, the colors were taken into a frame house which stood there, and waved from the roof. The men at the nearest guns seeing the movement, abandoned their pieces and fled, and the four companies being formed again in line of battle, charged down the line upon the battery. Col. Clark mounted the first gun and waved the colors, and had got as far as the second, when two full regiments emerged from a grove of young pines and advanced upon our men, who, seeing that they were likely to be captured or cut to pieces, leaped over the parapet and retired to their position in the woods. At this time Capt. J. D.
This text is part of:
Table of Contents:
Doc . 2 .-fight at Port Royal, S. C. January 1 , 1862 .
Doc . 82 .-fight in Hampton roads , Va. , March 8th and 9th , 1862 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.