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 efficient transportation. But Mr. Benjamin would not adopt these views, and would not disturb Gen. Huger; he told Wise sullenly that there were no men to spare to reinforce him; and at last he brought the conferences and protestations of the General to an abrupt termination by a peremptory military order, dated the 22d of January, requiring him to proceed immediately to Roanoke Island. The defences of the island consisted of seven small gunboats and six land batteries, not casemated, and wholly inefficient. After manning the forts, there were scarcely more than eight hundred effective men. In the sickness of Gen. Wise, who was confined to his bed at Nag's Head, the immediate command devolved upon Col. Shaw, the senior officer present. In the morning of the 7th of February the enemy made an attack, with twenty-two heavy steamers, upon the little Confederate squadron under the command of Commodore Lynch, and upon Fort Bartow, the most southern of the defences on the west side of the island. The action commenced at two miles distance, the Confederate gunboats retiring slowly with the intention of drawing the enemy under the guns of the batteries. Soon the air was filled with heavy reports, and the sea was disturbed in every direction by fragments of shell. Explosions of shell rang through the air; and occasionally a large one hundred and twenty-four pounder thundered across the waves, and sent its ponderous shot in the midst of the flotilla. At times, the battery would be enveloped in the sand and dust thrown up by shot and shell. The scene of this bombardment, which lasted continuously from ten in the morning until half-past 5 in the afternoon, was a singular and picturesque one. The melancholy shoreline which bound it, was an unbroken one of dark cypresses and pines. On the water were the enemy's vessels rapidly pouring out shot and shell at the line of Confederate gunboats or at the batteries. Still further on, just gleaming through the sunlight, was the forest of masts and the white sails of the transports, kept far in the rear out of the reach of danger. Our casualties on the gunboats were only one man killed and three wounded. But the engagement had been disastrous. The Curlew, our largest steamer, was sunk, and the Forrest, one of the propellers, disabled. Commodore Lynch writes, in his official report, that at the close of the action he had “not a pound of powder or a loaded shell remaining.” This singular deficiency of ammunition and the disasters he had already sustained, determined the policy of retreat, and under cover of the night, the squadron was drawn off to Elizabeth City. Gen. Burnside gave orders that a landing should be made on the island the next morning. It was accomplished under cover of the gunboats, about the centre of the western shore. At nine o'clock the enemy advanced through a country swampy and covered with forest. About the centre of the island an entrenchment had been thrown up, covered on the
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