(special Correspondence of the Dispatch.)
Yorktown, June 11, 1861.
An engagement, lasting four hours, took place yesterday (Monday) between five regiments of the troops from Old Point
and 1,100 Confederate troops, consisting of Virginians
and North Carolinians, under General Magruder
, at Bethel Church, York county
Before telling you of the battle, I will give you some circumstances preceding it. About two weeks ago, a party of 300 Yankees came up from Hampton
and occupied Bethel Church, which position they held a day or two and then retired, leaving written on the walls of the Church
several inscriptions, such as ‘ "Death to the Traitors!"’ ‘"Down with the Rebels
!"’ &c. To nearly all of these the names of the writers were defintly signed, and all of the pansmen signed themselves as from New York except one, who was from ‘"Boston, Mass.
, U. S.
"’ To these excursions into the interior, of which this was the boldest, General Magruder
determined to put a stop, and accordingly filled the place after the Yankees
left with a few companies of his own troops.
In addition to this, he determined to carry the war into the enemy's country, and on Wednesday last Stanard
's battery of the Howitzer Battalion was ordered down to the Church
, where it was soon joined by a portion of Brown
's battery, of the same corps.
The North Carolina Regiment, under Colonel Hill
, was also there, making in all about 1,100 men, and seven howitzer guns.
On Saturday last the first excursion of considerable importance was made.
A detachment of 200 infantry and a howitzer gun under Maj. Randolph
, and one of 70 infantry, and another howitzer under Maj. Lane
, of the N. C.
, regiment, started different routes to cut off a party which had left Hampton
The party was seen and fired at by Maj. Randolph
's detachment, but made such fast time that they escaped.
The troops under Maj. Lane
, passed within sight of Hampton
, and as they turned up the road to return to Bethel
, encountered the Yankees
, numbering about 90, who were entrenched behind a fence in the field, protected by a high bank.
Our advance guard fired on them, and in another moment the North Carolinians were dashing over the fence in regular French
(not New York) Zouave style, firing at them in real squirrel hunting style.
fied for their lives after firing for about three minutes without effect, leaving behind them three dead and a prisoner.
The fellow was a stout, ugly fellow from Troy, N. Y.
He said that he had nothing against the South
, but somebody must be soldiers, and he thought he had as well enlist.
None of our men were hurt.
This bold excursion, under the very guns of the enemy, determined the authorities at Old Point
to put a stop to it and clear us out from Bethel
This determination was conveyed to us by persons who came from the neighborhood of the enemy.
On Monday morning, about 600 Infantry and two guns, under Gen. Magruder
, left the camp and proceeded towards Hampton
; but after advancing a mile or two, received information that the Yankees
were coming in large force.
We then retired, and after reaching camp the guns were placed in battery, and the infantry took their places behind their breastwork.
Everybody was cool, and all were anxious to give the invaders a good reception.
About 9 o'clock the glittering bayonets of the enemy appeared on the hill opposite, and above them waved the Star Spangled Hanner
The moment the head of the column advanced far enough to show one or two companies, the Parrot gun of the Howitzer Battery opened on them, throwing a shell right into their midst.
Their ranks broke in confusion, and the column, or as much of it as we could see, retreated behind two small farm houses.--From their position a fire was opened on us, which was replied to by our battery, which commanded the route of their approach.
Our firing was excellent, and the shells scattered in all directions when they burst.
They could hardly approach the guns which they were firing for the shells which came from our battery.
Within our encampment fell a perfect hall-storm of canister shot, bullets and balls.
Remarkable to say, not one of our men was killed inside of our encampment.--Several horses were slain by the shells and bullets.
Running that bombardment would not answer, the enemy, about 11 o'clock, tried to carry the position by assault, but met a terrible repulse at the hands of the infantry as he tried to scale the breastworks.
The men disregarded sometimes the defences erected for them, and, leaping on the embankment, stood and fired at the Yankees
, cutting them down as they came up. One company of the New York Seventh Regiment, under Capt. Wardrop
, or Winthrop
, attempted to take the redoubt on the left.
The marsh they crossed was strewn with their bodies.
, a fine-looking man, reached the fence, and, leaping on a log, waved his sword, crying, ‘"Come on, boys; one charge and the day is ours."’ The words were his last, for a Carolina rifle ended his life the next moment, and his men fied in terror back.
At the redoubt on the right a company of about 300 New York Zouaves charged one of our guns, but could not stand the fire of the infantry, and retreated precipitately.
During these charges the main body of the enemy, on the hill, were attempting to concentrate for a general assault, but the shell from the Howitzer Battery prevented them.
As one regiment would give up the effort, another would be marched to the position, but with no better success, for a shell would scatter them like chaff.
The men did not seem able to stand fire at all.
About one o'clock their guns were silenced, and a few moments after their infantry retreated precipitately down the road to Hampton
Our Cavairy, numbering three companies, went in pursuit, and harassed them down to the edge of Hampton
As they retreated many of the wounded fell along the road and died, and the whole road to Hampton
was strewn with haversacks, overcoats, canteens, muskets, &c., which the men had thrown off in their retreat.
After the battle, I visited the position they held.
The houses behind which they had been hid had been burnt by our troops.
Around the yard were the dead bodies of the men who had been killed by our cannon, mangled in the most frightful manner by the shells.
The uniforms on the bodies were very different, and many of them are like those of the Virginia
A little further on we came to the point to which they had carried some of their wounded, who had since died.
The gay looking uniforms of the New York Zouaves contrasted greatly with the paled, fixed faces of their dead owners.
Going to the swamp through which they attempted to pass to assault our lines, presented another bloody scene.
Bodies doted the black morses from one and to the other, I saw one boyish, delicate-looking fellow lying on the mud, with a bullet hole through his breast, His hand was pressed on the wound from which his life blood had poured, and the other was clenched in the grass that grew near him. Lying on the ground was a Testament which had fallen from his pocket, dabbled with blood.
On opening the cover I found the printed inscription, ‘"Presented to the Defenders of their Country, by the New York Bible Society."’ An U. S. flag was also stamped on the title page.
Among the haversacks picked up along the route were many letters from the Northern States
, asking if they liked the Southern
farms, and if the Southern
barbarians had been whipped out yet.
The force of the enemy brought against us was 4,000, according to the statement of the six prisoners we took.
Ours was 1100.
Their loss in killed and wounded must be nearly 200.
Our loss is one killed and three wounded. The fatal case was that of a North Carolinian who volunteered to fire one of the houses behind which they were stationed.
He started from the breast work to accomplish it, but was shot in the head.
He died this morning at the hospital.
The wounded are Harry Shock, of Richmond
, of Brown
's Battery, shot in the wrist; John Werth
, of Richmond
, of the same Battery, shot in the leg, and Lieut. Hudnail
, of the same battery, shot in the foot.--None of the wounds are serious.
The Louisiana Regiment arrived about one hour after the fight was over.
They are a fine looking set of fellows.
As there was force enough at Old Point
to send up to Bethel
and surround us, we took up the line of march and came up to Yorktown
, where we now are.
I hear to-day, that troops from Old Point
are now marching up to attack us, but cannot say whether it is so or not.
I should have written you more fully, but the boat was in sight when I commenced, and haste is the order of the day, as she leaves after merely touching at her wharf. T.