Doc. 137.-the attack on Newbern, N. C.
Providence Journal account.
Newbern, N. C., March 19.Friday afternoon, March thirteenth, just before dark, news came into camp that Belger's battery, the Fifth and Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, and some cavalry, had gone out on the Trent road, which lies along the Trent River, and leads to Kinston. Rebel scouts were seen in various directions. Saturday, 14th.--At dawn a strong force under Gen. Petigru placed sixteen guns in position near a small fort opposite the town on the north, across the Neuse River. Two or three thousand infantry supported the artillery. They came into a clearing about sixty yards from the fort, and from my position I could see every movement both in the fort and among the rebels. As soon as two or three guns were in position, they commenced a rapid fire of shell and canister. After a few rounds, they sent in to Colonel Anderson of the Ninety-second New-York, (four hundred and fifty of whom held the place,) a flag of truce demanding a surrender, saying that a combined attack was to be made that day on Newbern by General Longstreet's whole command, and that resistance was useless. To gain time for the gunboats to get into position, Col. Anderson asked for half an hour to send and consult Gen. Foster. The flag went back and returned granting the half-hour, and when it was up came in again to see the result. The messenger had not returned, and Col. Anderson replied: “My orders are to hold this place, and I shall never surrender it.” During this interval the rebels had put all their guns in position, straightened their lines, and formed their infantry in three lines behind the guns. General Pettigru was mounted on a large white horse, and was constantly riding up and down the line, giving orders, etc. When the flag went back the third time and the result was known, the rebels opened the most rapid and terrific fire, and the fragments of shell, the canister and grape fell in the water this side of the fort, so that the water looked like a pond in a hailstorm. The men in the fort not wishing to show their strength, lay close behind the sand wall and waited for a charge. In their four hours fight only two men were hurt, and three slightly by a shell. The boys got ready for the charge by biting off cartridges and putting them up before them on the logs, so as to be ready to fire fast. The camp in the fort was completely riddled, more than one hundred shots taking effect on a small building occupied as the Colonel's quarters. The trees were cut and splintered. A thirty-pound Parrott threw shells across the river, and one struck within a hundred yards of the camp of the Fifth Rhode Island, just at the fort. It did not burst, and stands at my feet in my tent. You will soon have a chance to inspect this in Rhode Island, which you will do with all the more interest, as it is a British shell and a most splendid thing. The gunboats were late in getting into position, as the Hunchback was aground, and others were on the other side of the town. A schooner with one gun, manned with negroes, lay in good position, and at once entered the fray with great gusto, and sent her neat compliments directly to the spot. I stood thirty or forty yards from the schooner and saw the men work. There was only one white man on board, and when men tell me the negroes will not fight, I shall beg leave to differ with them in opinion. The gunboats were struck a number of times. For nearly four hours the rebels had it nearly all their own way; but time brings changes. I have seen a skedaddle. The gunboats came around from the Trent River, and commenced to pour forth excellent strains of welcome music; and if you had been there, you would have seen a skedaddle too. The batteries in town and the gunboats threw from six to one hundred pound shells, and the rebels went into the bushes faster than they came out. Some fifteen or twenty rebels were said to be killed, and thirty or forty wounded. One thirty-pound siege-gun burst and killed a number of their own men, and is now in the fort. One one hundred pound shell from the Hunchback killed six rebels. They attempted to creep up in the afternoon and plant a battery in the woods below, but were unable to get a foot-hold. Just before dinner a train of platform-cars with a locomotive in the rear, and a twelve pound brass Napoleon on the front car, stopped before our camp, and in twenty minutes from the receipt of the order we were dashing out to the camp of the Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania, Colonel Jones, doing picket-duty some eight miles from Newbern, on the Kinston Railroad. Reports from headquarters came that a force of eight or ten thousand men, with thirty pieces of artillery and some cavalry had reached a point on our flank, nearer Newbern than ourselves, and Col. Jones was ordered, if pressed, to retire on Newbern, fighting his way as he came in. Captain Douglass of the Fifth Rhode Island and one company of the Fifty-eighth Pensylvania went up the railroad, and the enemy in small force retired beyond Coal Creek. At dusk the outer pickets were driven in. Col. Arnold suggested that tattoo be beaten at several points. The cars were kept running and the enemy would suppose our force much larger than in fact it was. The scouts reported a small force within half a mile of a camp at nine o'clock. Major Tew of the Fifth Rhode Island, with the companies of Captains Gregg and Moran, and one piece of artillery, were posted to defend the road leading from the Trent road to our camp, and the other end of which was supposed to be in possession of the enemy. Major Tew spent the night in throwing up a rifle-pit, and every preparation was made by Cols. Jones and Arnold for a desperate defence. Col. Arnold informed me that unless an attack was made before morning, one would not be made. We slept with watchful interest to hear the whistle of the first shell, and heard it not. Early in the morning (Sunday, fifteenth) Cols. Jones and Arnold concluded if the