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[613] They well knew that this obstacle would stop the enemy's vessels, for it could not be removed without much labor, which would have involved great loss of life without any certainty as to its results. Flusser, seeing nothing of the army and dreading to be blockaded, decided to retreat. He was saluted along the whole route by the bullets of sharpshooters hidden in the woods adjoining the river, and finally re-entered the waters of the Chowan after having lost ten men, considering himself fortunate in having been able to extricate his three vessels from a perilous position at that price.

At the end of the same month General Foster determined to assume the offensive in his turn. Besides the advantage of intercepting any reinforcements which might be destined for Lee, he was influenced by another consideration for himself. The unhealthy season had passed, and at that period of the year an active campaign was more advantageous to his troops than an idle camp-life around Newberne. He resolved to scour the country watered by the Tar River with his division, and to come up, if possible, with the forces of the enemy, supposed to consist of three regiments which had attacked Plymouth and Washington. These forces were believed to be massed at Tarboroa; if the Federals should succeed in taking possession of this point, they could easily advance as far as the Richmond and Wilmington Railroad, and destroy the bridge over which this important line crosses the Tar River.

One brigade proceeded by land to Washington, the other two being conveyed there by water; and on the 3d of November the expedition, numbering six thousand men, started for Williamston, on the Roanoke, across the interminable pine-forests which abound in that region. Its march was delayed by the mud, into which both horses and vehicles sank at every step. On the evening of the same day the expedition finally reached a stream, behind which a detachment of about seven hundred Confederates sought to stop it. But the latter were dislodged from their position after a brief skirmish, and on the 4th Foster reached Williamston, where Captain Davenport, who had come up the Roanoke with five gun-boats, had preceded him. The Confederates were at this moment preparing for a new attack upon Plymouth. They

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