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[612] by surprise. In a few moments all the streets were invaded, the houses containing Union soldiers were surrounded, and the four guns, together with the small post which guarded them, were captured. But at the sound of the first musket-shots fired in the streets the cavalry returned in full haste from its reconnoitring expedition. The Confederates were checked; the Federals rallied, re-formed and assumed the offensive, supported by the two field-pieces that were still left them. They were also assisted by the powerful artillery of the gun-boats. At the opening of the musketry-fire, it is true, an unexplained accident set fire to the powder-magazine of the Pickett, which exploded, killing and wounding about twenty persons. But the Louisiana, throwing her heavy shells into the houses where the assailants had taken refuge in their turn, compelled them to beat a speedy retreat. The attempt had failed, but the capture of four guns and the destruction of the Pickett sufficiently indemnified the Confederates for the losses they had sustained.

The battle of Antietam had restored confidence to the Federals; the garrisons of all the isolated posts were ordered to be doubly active, so as to occupy the enemy and prevent him from reinforcing Lee's army. In conformity with these instructions, General Dix, who was in command of Fortress Monroe and Norfolk, determined to undertake an expedition west of that place, and asked for the co-operation of Flusser's flotilla for that purpose. The land-troops were to advance from Suffolk by following the Norfolk and Weldon Railroad, and meet at the Franklin bridge, on the Blackwater River, the gun-boats which should have ascended this tributary of the Chowan. The rendezvous was fixed for the 3d of October. The naval force was alone punctual, Dix having relinquished his project at the last moment. The gun-boats, after a navigation rendered more difficult by the narrowness and sinuosities of the Blackwater, found the Confederates at Franklin ready to receive them. One or two regiments of infantry posted along the right bank, under the command of General Pettigrew, opened a terrific fire upon the Federal vessels just as the latter were turning a difficult angle in the river. Scattered at first by a discharge from the Union artillery, the Confederates re-formed in the vicinity of a stockade which had recently been constructed.

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