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[150] the 8th the troops that had fired the town returned to Bethel for rest, not having been molested by the enemy.

General Butler, in his report of this affair, said that just before noon the Confederates attacked his guard at the bridge and attempted to burn it, but were driven back, when they proceeded to fire Hampton, in a great number of places, and by 12 o'clock it was in flames and was soon entirely destroyed. He wrote:

They gave but fifteen minutes time for the inhabitants to remove from their houses, and I have to-day brought over the old and infirm, who by that wanton act of destruction are now left houseless and homeless. The enemy took away with them most of the ablebodied white men. A more wanton and unnecessary act than the burning, as it seems to me, could not have been committed. There was not the slightest attempt to make any resistance on our part for the possession of the town, which we had before evacuated. There was no attempt to interfere with them there,. as we only repelled an attempt to burn the bridge. It would have been easy to dislodge them from the town by a few shells from the fortress, but I did not choose to allow an opportunity to fasten upon the Federal troops any portion of this heathenish outrage.

Magruder reported that there was sickness among the troops on the peninsula, nearly all of a typhoid character, and many deaths were occurring. The Fifth North Carolina, over 1,000 strong, had then less than 400 for duty. ‘In addition to the measles, ague and fever, bilious and typhoid fever, symptoms of scurvy are apparent throughout the command; typhoid has been so prevalent and fatal at Jamestown island as to make the withdrawal of the men from that post necessary.’ He added, that he had called out a large force of negroes to complete the fortifications, and he requested that funds be sent for the payment of these laborers, without delay, as many of them were free negroes. He did not wish the sanitary condition of his men to be made known, for obvious reasons, and said:

Those men who can take the field are in fine spirits, and so keen for an encounter with the enemy that I believe Newport News could be carried, though it is excessively strong, and garrisoned by troops and supported by a naval force more than equal to my own in numbers. I do not think it can be done, however, without a loss of one-half of our men in killed and wounded. It could not be held by us for any length of time if it were taken, as the troops from Fort Monroe in much larger force could place themselves in our rear, and the position itself could be shelled by the enemy's ships both in front and on the left flank. Its temporary position, therefore, would not compensate for the loss necessary in taking it.

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