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[290]

During this encampment the men learned through some source on what point this portion of the army was expected to move. It was whispered through the camp that the march was to be on to New Berne, and it was further said that the land forces were to be supported, or assisted, in the attack on the town by men in long boats on the Neuse river, under command of Colonel R. Taylor Wood. These boats, it was stated, were to be equipped with all necessary appliances and the men were to be armed with cutlasses, etc., for boarding vessels, and on arriving in sight of the town, and if gunboats should be seen in the river, the men were to lay to their oars and secrete themselves as best they could under the over-hanging boughs of the trees on the banks of the stream, when they were to remain until nightfall, when a concerted move on the part of the crews of the several boats was to be made on the Federal gunboats and the latter taken, if possible, by boarding; or, finding that this would be an impossibility, they were to make the attempt to blow them up if they could do so. A boat was captured by this expedition, but not without severe resistance.

The month of February at last arrived, camp was broken, and the forward march again resumed. As the battery, with the infantry and other artillery took the road toward the little seaport town of the Old North State, the boats above spoken of, with their crews, the latter being in high spirits and proposing to give a good account of themselves, moved off quietly down stream.


Unknown road.

None of the men of the land forces knew anything of the road upon which they were traveling. They did not know what was in front of them or how many of the enemy they might encounter before they reached the goal the government at Richmond seemed to be so desirous of possessing. The forces had traveled three days and had not obtained sight of a single man decked out in blue. On the night of the third day there was a halt, orders were quietly issued that there were to be no camp-fires, and all talking must be done in a very low tone.

The guns stood in line in the middle of the road with the horses still hitched to them, and the men lay on the ground to get, if possible, a few minutes' rest; for they fully realized that they were in the enemy's country, and knew not what was in store for them on the next day, or how severe a struggle they might have to go through.

The morning broke with a thick fog or mist hanging low, and the

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