previous next

[317] the place had been fired by the enemy was fully realized when its steeples and houses were in view. Newbern had been fired in seven different places, and if the wind had not mercifully subsided, there would hardly have been a house left standing by nightfall. The splendid railroadbridge, seven hundred and fifty yards long, had also been set on fire by a scow-load of turpentine which had drifted against it, and the great structure was wrapped in one grand sheet of flame. Preparations were immediately.made by Gen. Foster to cross his forces, and this was accomplished by the assistance of a light-draft sternwheel steamer, which had been captured with four or five small side-wheel boats, by the naval gunboats, which by this time were quite up to the city wharves.

To the eastward of the city a very large rebel camp, with barracks and tents, was found deserted, and taken possession of. Stragglers from different regiments wandered through the city, and some acts of depredation were committed, but a strong provost-guard was called out; all liquorcasks were staved in, and by midnight the streets of the city were as quiet as if one army had not just fled from it in one direction, and another entered it from the other.

The great majority of the inhabitants had left town, doubtless under the impression that the whole was to be given up to the flames; the stores were closed without exception, and if it had not been for the negroes and a few whites, one might have thought some dreadful plague was raging in the city. The Washington Hotel and Market-House were the principal buildings burned, and the number of private residences will not probably exceed a dozen. The nefarious plan of the rebel military officers and political demagogues was resisted by the better class of citizens, but to no purpose. The hotel was fired by a hot-headed secessionist lawyer, who applied the torch at an angle in the courtyard, with his own hands. The railroad-bridge was fired by accident; but a toll-bridge, the only remaining means of transit for vehicles and pedestrians from shore to shore, was about being set on fire, when the incendiaries were fired upon from a navy-boat and driven off.

Newbern is a very ancient place, but its appearance is made more venerable by the lichens and mosses which cover most of the houses. The streets are wide and mostly bordered by large trees. There are one or two large churches, some banks, a theatre, and two or three newspaper-offices. I made it one of my first duties to go to the office of the scurrilous Newbern Progress, in search of Southern exchanges, but found nothing but a beggarly account of empty lockers, the contents having already been appropriated by straggling soldiers or mischievous negroes. On a table, however, was lying a gilt penholder, with an ebony handle. It may be interesting to the editor to know that, as a piece of retributive justice, his penholder is in my hand at this moment of writing. If we should have a couple of days to spare, it is not improbable that one number at least of a good sound Union paper may be issued from the office of The Newbern Progress.

The officers of the different staffs deserve credit for the manner in which they executed the orders of their commanders on the march and in the field. Young men bred in luxury, who never have or could have seen a day of active service, cheerfully undertook the arduous duties of the staff, in most cases, without a cent of pay, and with only nominal rank. In action, they exposed themselves whenever necessary, and so far as I could see or hear, showed no more tremor when cannon-shots roared by, or bullets whistled about them, than veteran campaigners. I was standing at one time on the main road, in conversation with Lieut. Fearing, of General Burnside's staff, when a thirty-two-pound shot flew between his horse's legs, barely escaping his belly by an inch or two. Beyond giving a look to see if the animal was safe, Fearing showed no consciousness that anything unusual had happened, and went on with the conversation.

Special mention has been made by Gen. Burnside of the reconnoissances by Capt. Robert Williamson, of the regular army, Topographical Engineer on his staff. On every occasion when called upon, he executed his orders with the most perfect self-possession and courage. His services were extremely valuable, and his arrival most opportune. All the members of the different staffs escaped unhurt.

The brigade and regimental surgeons were sadly in need of help on the field and in hospital, the number of wounded being so large, and their own force reduced by absences on leave, and those left in charge of the hospitals at Roanoke Island. The brigade hospitals were in charge respectively of Dr. Thompson, Dr. Cutter, of the Twenty-first Massachusetts, and Dr. Rivers, of the Fourth Rhode Island. The number of our own wounded was such that our surgeons could not give much attention to the enemy's till this afternoon. Today the rain is pouring in torrents on dead and dying on the field of battle, but it cannot be helped. Mr. Vincent Colyer, of the Young Men's Christian Association, who has followed the army here, was active in distributing the hospital supplies so generously contributed by the charitable. New supplies are now needed, and, especially in view of the imminence of another battle, should be forwarded at once to Mr. Colyer, in care of Dr. Church, Division Surgeon, Newbern, N. C. Any vessels coming from New-York or Fortress Monroe, will bring them here free of charge, by Gen. Burnside's special order. Mr. Colyer has gone to considerable pains to collect the names of the killed and wounded, and has laid me under obligations for the list hereto annexed.

As I have given you the general order issued from headquarters before the battle, it will be interesting to subjoin No. 17, just published:

headquarters Department North-Carolina, Newbern, March 15, 1862.
General orders, No. 17.

The General commanding congratulates his



Creative Commons License
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.

hide Places (automatically extracted)
hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Vincent Colyer (3)
A. E. Burnside (3)
Robert Williamson (1)
J. H. Thompson (1)
Rivers (1)
J. G. Foster (1)
J. B. Fearing (1)
Richard H. Cutter (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 15th, 1862 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: