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[149] which had been burned by the Federals when they evacuated it in consequence of the withdrawal of 4,000 of their best troops to Washington. Butler, in that report, in substance stated:
That be intended to fortify Hampton and make it so strong as to be easily defended by a small number of troops; that he did not know what to do with the many negroes in his possession unless he possessed Hampton; that they were still coming in rapidly; that as their masters had deserted their homes and slaves, he should consider the latter free, and would colonize them at Hampton, the home of most of their owners, where the women could support themselves by attending to the clothes of the soldiers, and the men by working on the fortifications of the town.

Magruder reported, that having known for some time that Hampton was the harbor of runaway slaves and traitors, and that being under the guns of Fort Monroe it could not be held, even if taken, he was under the impression that it should have been destroyed before; and when he found, from Butler's report, its importance to the enemy, and that the town would lend great strength to the fortifications directly around it, he determined to burn it; that the gentlemen of Hampton, many of whom were in his command, seemed to concur with him in the propriety of this course. He further hoped that the sight of a conflagration would draw away the troops from Newport News at night. Having reached this conclusion, Magruder made disposition of his troops, selecting four Virginia cavalry companies to burn the town, three of them made up of persons from that portion of the country, and many of them from Hampton. To support this party, the Fourteenth Virginia was posted near Hampton to guard against an attack from any unexpected quarter; New Market, between Hampton and Newport News, was taken possession of, and a force disposed so as to meet any troops coming from Newport News to the relief of Hampton. He then described the skirmish at the Hampton bridge, which induced the enemy to retreat, at the end of half an hour, with some loss, and with only one of his men wounded. ‘Notice was then given to the few remaining inhabitants of the place, and those who were aged or infirm were kindly cared for and taken to their friends, who occupied detached houses. The town was then fired in many places and burned to the ground.’ About daybreak of

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