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[269] transportation accumulated here at that time, the cars were delayed until after twelve o'clock, for want of water; pending which, the enemy appeared in force before General Clingman's three regiments, and he withdrew across the county bridge to this side of the river. The artillery of the enemy was playing upon the railroad bridge, and Evans's brigade had at last to move forward by the county road, and cross, if at all, the bridge a half-mile above the railroad.

About three o'clock in the afternoon, one bold and daring incendiary succeeded in reaching, the bridge, and, covered by the wing wall of the abutment, lighted a flame, which soon destroyed the superstructure, leaving the masonry abutments and pier intact. At that time, reenforcements which I had ordered from Richmond were hourly expected.

It was very important for us now to save the county bridge, the only means remaining of crossing the river in this vicinity. Evans's and Clingman's brigades were ordered to cross, supported by Pettigrew's brigade, and the Mississippi brigade, just coming in, was ordered to move forward at once.

The enemy were driven back from their position on the line of the railroad; but on account of the lateness of the hour, the nature of the ground, and the fact that our artillery, cavalry, and a large portion of the reenforcements had not yet arrived, it was not advisable to attack their strong second position that evening.

During the night the enemy made a hurried retreat to their fortifications and gunboats, moving with such celerity that it was useless to attempt pursuit with any other arm than cavalry, of which at that time, unfortunately, we had none

I passed over the railroad from the Neuse bridge to Wilmington on the twenty-fourth, and returned last night. The bridge is fast being repaired. At present we are subjected to the temporary inconvenience of transhipment across the county bridges, but in a few days this will be remedied, and every thing restored to the former condition.

I regret that this grand army of invasion did not remain in the interior long enough for us to get at them. As it is, they burned the superstructure of two brides, which cost originally less than ten thousand dollars, and call be replaced at once, and have utterly failed to attempt to take advantage of the temporary and partial interruption of our railroad line for the purpose of striking a decisive blow at any important point before we could thoroughly reestablish our communication with it.

I beg leave to call your attention to the reports of Lieut.-Col. Stevens, confederate States engineers, and to Lieut.-Col. Poole, as well as to those of the three brigadier-generals previously named.

Our loss is reported at seventy-one killed and two hundred and sixty-eight wounded, and about four hundred missing. Most of the latter were taken prisoners at Kinston bridge, and have since been returned paroled.

I am, General, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. W. Smith, Major-General Commanding.

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