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IV. Burnside in North Carolina.

Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside and Com. L. M. Goldsborough led an expedition, which had in good part been fitted out in New York, and which left Fortress Monroe at the opening of the year;1 and, doubling Cape Henry, moved southward to Hatteras Inlet, whose defenses had been quietly held by our troops since their capture by Gen. Butler and Com. Stringham five months before.2 The naval part of this expedition consisted of 31 steam gunboats, mounting 94 guns; the military of about 11,500 men, mainly from New England, organized in three bridges, under Gens. Foster, Reno, and Parke, and embarked with their material on some 30 to 40 steam transports. The van of the expedition reached the entrance of the Inlet on the 13th; when it was found that, though care had been taken to select or obtain gunboats of such draft as could readily be worked over the bar at high water, yet a large proportion of the transports, through the incompetence or dishonesty of those employed to procure them, were of such draft as rendered them totally unfit for this service. Of these, the propeller City of New York, 600 tons, heavily laden with rifles, ammunition, tents, bedding, and forage, and drawing 16 feet water, when the greatest depth attainable on the bar was but 13 grounded, of course, in attempting to pass it;3 when the sea broke completely over her stern, every breaker lifting her, and causing her, as it subsided, to settle still deeper in the sand, until she became a perfect wreck — her masts and smoke-stack cut away, her crew, with life-preservers tied about them, lashed to the rigging to save themselves from being washed overboard by each succeeding billow; and at last, after an endurance of 12 to 15 hours, the raging sea began to lift the deck from the hull with every surge. Ere this, her fires had been extinguished, her boats, all but one, filled or stove, and her men utterly exhausted by long fasting and exposure to the cold waves which broke over them continually; while no attention was paid from the fleet to their signal of distress, or even their hail to the S. R. Spaulding, which passed out to sea. At length, two mechanies, W. H. and Charles A. Beach, of Newark, N. J., launched the yawl, and, aided by engineer Wm. Miller, steward Geo. Mason, and Hugh McCabe, fireman, pulled successfully through the surf, over the bar, to the fleet, whence boats were at once dispatched to take off the remainder of the crew, who were speedily rescued. The vessel and cargo were totally lost; as were the steam gunboat Zouave, the transports Louisiana and Pocahontas, and two or three others. Col. J. W. Allen and Surgeon S. F. Weller, 9th New Jersey, were drowned4 by the upsetting of their small boat in the breakers, as they returned to the transport Ann E. Thompson from reporting the arrival of their regiment to Gen. Burnside. [74] The National loss in precious time, as well as life and property, by the villainy which palmed off on the Government vessels totally unfit for this service, can hardly be overestimated. Two or tree weeks of desperately hard work were expended on getting over such of the craft as were not wrecked; giving the alarmed Rebels the amplest time to concentrate and fortify.

At length, every thing being in readiness, our fleet moved slowly up Pamlico and Croatan Sounds;5 the gunboats in advance and on the flanks of the transports, formed in three columns, each headed by its flagship, every large steamer having one or two schooners in tow, with the spaces between the columns kept carefully clear, and all moving at the regulated pace of four miles per hour. The fleet consisted in all of 65 vessels, covering a space about two miles square; some 50 transports, mainly schooners, having been left at the Inlet. Tile day was beautiful; the distance made about 28 miles, when they halted, near sunset, still 10 miles from the southern point of Roanoke Island, and lay undisturbed through the bright, moonlit night.

At 8 A. M., the signal to weigh anchor was given. At 11, progress was arrested, near the south point, by a storm; and the fleet again lay at anchor till next morning, when, at 10 A. M., the order was given to move forward, and the gunboats led the way through the narrow passage known as Roanoke Inlet, into Croatan Sound, driving 7 Rebel gunboats before them. At noon, our gunboats were under fire of the chief Rebel battery on the Island, known as Fort Bartow, when the Rebel gunboats halted and added their fire to that of the fort. A line of piles driven across the channel was evidently expected to obstruct our advance, but proved inadequate. Soon, our soldiercrowded transports were seen swarming through the Inlet, and preparations were made for landing at Ashby's Harbor, two miles below the fort, which had now been set on fire by our shells. The flames were soon checked, however, and the cannonade on both sides continued; while the Rebel gunboats, which had retreated up the Sound, again appeared and engaged our fleet, till the Curlew, their flag-ship, was struck by a 100-pound shell from the Southfield, and soon enveloped in flames. The firing was continued on both sides till night, without serious loss in men on either. The Rebel barracks in the rear of the fort were destroyed by fire, and their remaining gunboats compelled to withdraw from the contest. All our transports had passed through the Inlet and anchored by 4 P. M., when debarkation commenced under the fire of our gunboats; and 7,500 men were ashore, and most of them in bivouac, before 11 P. M.

The Rebel forces in that region were commanded by Brig.-Gen. Henry A. Wise,6 whose head quarters were at Nag's Head, across Roanoke Sound, and whose forces numbered from 3,000 to 4,000; but hardly 1,000 of them were on the Island prior to the approach of our fleet, when reenforcemnents were hurried over, raising the number of its defenders to about 3,000. Col. Shaw, 8th North Carolina, was in immediate command. Fort Bartow, otherwise [75] Pork Point battery, was a substantial earthwork, strengthened by abatis and a moat, and mounting 10 guns; battery Huger, on Weir's Point, farther north, had likewise 10 guns; battery Blanchard, midway, but 4. The swampy nature of the approaches, covered with thickets of shrubs and buses, was counted on to bar access to Fort Bartow, save by a causeway road completely commanded by its fire.

After crouching through a rainy night, some of them in miry bogs, our soldiers were formed and led on at an early hour of the morning.7 A large portion of the Rebel force was deployed as skirmishers, and contested our floundering advance through the bog with spirit and effect until near 10 A. M., when our leading regiments were close under the fire of the fort. They had by this time found it impossible to obey the orders which

Roanoke Island.

[76] directed them to flank the enemy on either side of the swamp — the abatis proving at most places impassable; and it was resolved to charge over the causeway directly in front. This was done by the 9th New York (Zouaves), Col. Rush C. Hawkins, the 51st, Col. Edward Ferrero, the 23d Massachusetts, Col. John Kurtz, and 21st, Lt.-Col. A. C. Maggi. The 25th and 27th Massachusetts, and 10th Connecticut, Col. Russell, were honorably distinguished in the attack. Col. R. was killed; as was Lt.-Col. Viguier de Monteuil, 53d New York, who was serving as a volunteer with Hawkins's Zouaves. Lying down to receive a fire of grape from the Rebel batteries, part of the 51st New York, with Hawkins's Zouaves and the 21st Massachusetts, instantly rose and rushed over the Rebel breast-works, chasing out their defenders and following them in their retreat; securing, by their impetuosity, the capture of the larger number, as no time was given for their escape from the Island. Their loss in killed and wounded was but 55; but among the former were Capt. O. J. Wise, son of the General, and other valuable officers; while their loss in prisoners was not far from 2,700, including Cols. Shaw and Jordan, Lt.-Cols. Fowle and Price, Majors Hill, Yates, and Williamson. Our loss in the bombardment and assault was about 50 killed and 250 wounded. All the cannon, small arms, munitions, provisions, etc., on the Island, were among the spoils of victory.

Com. Rowan, with 14 gunboats, was dispatched next evening up Albemarle Sound and Pasquotank river in pursuit of the Rebel gunboats. He found them, 7 in number, at Elizabeth City; where, after a smart fight, they were set on fire by their crews and abandoned. One of them was captured, the others destroyed. Tile city itself was likewise set on fire, and in good part destroyed. Four of the gunboats were sent thence to Edenton, on the west end of Albemarle Sound, where eight cannon and a schooner were destroyed, and two schooners, with 4,000 bushels of corn, captured.

Com. Rowan's flotilla next moved8 five miles up the Chowan river to Winton, Hereford county, upon assurances that its citizens wished to return to and be protected by the Union. Their reception was even warmer than they had expected. On reaching the town, they were saluted by a hailstorm of bullets, which constrainled them to fall down the river for the night; retiring next morning, the village was shelled by them until abandoned, and then burnt.

Gen. Burnside next concentrated his forces at Hatteras Inlet, for an attack on Newbern, at the junction of the Neuse and Trent rivers, near Pamlico Sound, and the most important seaport of North Carolina. Corn. Goldsborough having been relieved, Commander Rowan directed the fleet. Leaving Hatteras in the morning,9 the expedition came to about sunset at Slocum's creek, on the south side of the river, 18 miles below Newbern, where a landing was effected next morning, and the troops pushed forward, so fast as ready, to within a mile and a half of the Rebel defenses; the gunboats moving up the river in advance of the troops, and shelling the road [77] whereon they marched. No resistance was encountered by land; but the fleet found the channel of the Neuse obstructed, half way up, by 24 vessels sunk in the channel, several torpedoes, and a number of iron-pointed spars firmly planted in the bed and inclined down stream, under water, after the manner of the snags of the Mississippi. These obstructions were speedily removed or surmounted; while two or three batteries along the bank were successively silenced by a few shots from our flag-ship Delaware. The fleet halted for the night nearly abreast of the army; which had had a hard day's work, dragging its guns through the deep clay of the roads, sodden with several days' rain; and the men sank on the ground at night around their pitchpine fires to enjoy a drenching from the freshly pouring skies.

A dense fog covered land and water next morning,10 as our fleet, having safely passed the obstructions, steamed up past Forts Thompson and Ellis; which, after firing a few shots, were hastily evacuated, a shell from one of the gunboats having exploded the magazine of the latter. Fort Lane, the last and strongest defense of Newbern on the water, was more carefully approached, in expectation of a sanguinary struggle; but it had by this time been likewise evacuated, in deference to the successes of our army; and our fleet steamed directly up to the wharves, shelling the depot and track whereby the Rebels were escaping from the city.

The Rebel defenses consisted of a well constructed breastwork, running a mile and a half from the Neuse across the railroad to an impenetrable swamp which connects Newbern with Morehead City, with a battery of 13 heavy guns next the river, several redoubts, all of them well mounted, 3 batteries of field artillery, and 8 regiments of infantry, numbering about 5,000 men, commanded by Gen. Louis O'B. Branch. Our guns were few and light, because of the difficulty of landing and dragging heavier.


Gen. Burnside was on the alert at 6 A. M., and by 7 had his forces in motion. Moving up to within sort range of the enemy's intrenchments, his men were formed in order of battle, and opened fire along their entire front; the ground being swampy on the left, and elsewhere cut up by [78] gullies and ravines which opened toward the enemy, affording no protection from his fire. The naval battery was in our center, Gen. Reno's brigade on the right, Gen. Parke's in the center, and Gen. Foster's on the left; and the regiments most effective at Roanoke were all honorably distinguished here, as were the 4th and 5th Rhode Island, the 8th and 11th Connecticut, 9th New Jersey, and 51st Pennsylvania. There was, of course, a great disparity of numbers — probably three to one--but this was in effect a contest wherein infantry were required to charge and carry strong intrenchments, well provided with artillery. The loss was naturally much the greater on our side. After an hour's sharp fighting, the 21st Massachusetts, Col. Clark, accompanied by Gen. Reno, was ordered forward on a double-quick, and went over the Rebel breastworks. It was immediately charged by two Rebel regiments, and repulsed; when Capt. Fraser, being wounded, was taken prisoner, but soon captured his guard and escaped. The 4th Rhode Island, disliking its position in front of a Rebel battery of 5 guns, well backed by a fire from rifle-pits, next attempted a charge, and carried the battery at double-quick; finding an entrance between a brick-yard and the parapet. Once inside, the Colonel formed his right wing in line, and charged down upon the guns at full speed, capturing the entire battery, routing its supports, and planting his flag on the parapet. The 5th Rhode Island and 8th and 11th Connecticut immediately rushing up, our triumph at that point was secure.

Gen. Reno, on our right, seeing that he was losing heavily from the Rebel battery in his front, called up his reserve regiment, the 51st Pennsylvania, Col. Hartranft, and ordered a charge, in which the 21st and 24th Massacllusetts, 51st New York, and 9th New Jersey participated. Its success was complete; and the whole line of Rebel works was very soon in our hands.

The enemy were now in full flight; and Gen. Burnside ordered an advance on their track, which was led by Gen. Foster; but the speed of the fugitives was inimitable, and, when our van reached the bank of the Trent, opposite Newbern, they found that city on fire in seven different places; the splendid railroad bridge over the Trent a sheet of flame, having been fired by a scow-load of turpentine, drifted against it; and the Rebel troops, with all the locomotives and cars in and about Newbern, on their way inland toward Goldsboroa. The wind suddenly lulling, the fires were soon extinguished by sailors from our fleet; but the railroad bridge, market-house, and about a dozen other structures, were burned. Our captures at the Rebel intrenchments and in the city included 69 cannon, two steamboats, large quantities of munitions and stores, with some 500 prisoners. Our total loss was about 100 killed and 500 wounded: the former including Lt.-Col. Henry Merritt, 23d Massachusetts, Adjt. Frazer A. Stearns, of the 21st, Maj. Charles W. Le Gendre and Capt. D. R. Johnson, of the 51st, and Capt. Charles Tillinghast, of the 4th Rhode Island. The Rebel loss, beside prisoners, hardly exceeded 200, including Maj. Carmichael, killed, and Col. Avery, captured.

Gen. Burnside, having undisturbed [79] possession of Newbern, sent Gen. Parke11 with his brigade, 3,500 strong, southwestward to the coast, where he occupied12 Morehead City without resistance; as also the more important village of Beaufort, across the inlet known as Newport river; and proceeded to invest Fort Macon, a regular fortress of great cost and strength, seized by Gov. Ellis before the secession of the State.13 This work stands on an island, or rather ocean sand-bank, whence it looks off on the broad Atlantic, and commands the entrance to the Newport river. It is approached from the land with much difficulty, but was soon invested, and a regular siege commenced,14 its pickets driven in, and a good position for siege-guns obtained within fair distance, while the fleet menaced it on the side of the ocean. All being at length in readiness, fire was opened15 from a breaching battery at 1,100 feet distance, with flanking mortars behind sand-banks at 1,400 yards; the fleet also, consisting of three gunboats and a bark, steamed around in a circle, after the fashion inaugurated by Dupont at Port Royal, and fired as they severally came opposite the fort, until the roughness of the sea compelled them to desist. The land batteries were kept at work until late in the afternoon; when, 7 of the garrison being killed, 18 wounded, and most of the available guns dismounted, Col. White raised the white flag, and next morning surrendered his garrison of 500 men, with the fort and all it contained. Fort Macon was among the first of the important fortresses of the old Union, which, having been seized by the Rebels, was repossessed by the Republic.

Meantime, Washington, Plymouth, and some other towns on the coast, were quietly occupied by our forces, which ascended the Chowan river without serious resistance so far as Wilton.

Gen. Reno was dispatched by Gen. Burnside from Newbern to Roanoke Island, whence his brigade was conveyed up Albemarle Sound to within tree miles of Elizabeth City, where it was disembarked during the night16 and pushed northward, with intent to intercept a Rebel force known to be about leaving Elizabeth City for Norfolk; but Col. Hawkins of the 9th New York (Zouaves), who had the advance, mistook his road, and marched ten miles out of the way; so that, on retracing his steps, and gaining the right road, his men were intensely fatigued, and he in the rear of the main column. The anticipated surprise proved a failure; and, at a point nearly 20 miles inland, within a mile and a half of South Mills, our weary, overmarched men, who had been nearly 24 hours on their feet, were confronted by a less numerous Rebel force, very strongly posted in woods flanked by swamps, and with a large clearing in their front; upon entering which, they were saluted by a fire of grape, well supported by musketry, whereby a gallant but rashly ordered charge of the Zouaves was repulsed with considerable loss. The position was soon flanked by our superior numbers, and the Rebels compelled to draw off, leaving nothing on the field but a very few dead and [80] wounded. We lost 15 killed, including Adjutant Gadsden, of the Zouaves, and 98 wounded, which was probably more than the loss of the Rebels. Gen. Reno gave his men six hours much needed rest on the battle-field, and then returned to his boats, being under peremptory orders to do so. He was obliged to leave behind 14 of his more severely wounded. As Camden Court House was the only village traversed by Gen. Reno on his advance, this engagement has been sometimes designated the battle of Camden.

By this time, Burnside's division, which had at no time exceeded 15,000 men, had become so widely dispersed, and had so many important points to guard, that its offensive efficiency was destroyed; and very little more of moment occurred in his department, until he was ordered by telegraph from Washington17 to hasten with all the force he could collect to Fortress Monroe, where he arrived three days afterward.

Gen. Foster was left in command of the department of North Carolina, with a force barely sufficient to hold the important positions left him by Gen. Burnside, until late in the Autumn, when, having, been considerably reenforced by new regiments, mainly from Massachusetts, he resolved to assume the offensive. He led one expedition from Washington,18 through Williamnston to Hamilton, on the Roanoke, where he expected to find and destroy some iron-clads in process of construction ; but there were none. Pushing thence inland,19 in the direction of Tarboroa, he advanced to within ten miles of that place, expecting to surround and capture three Rebel regiments who had there been stationed; but by this time a far superior Rebel force had, by means of telegraphs and railroads, been concentrated at that point, and he wisely retreated without molestation or loss, other than that inflicted by the rain, sleet, and deep mud through which the retreat was effected. The liberation of several hundred slaves was the chief result of this expedition.

A few weeks later, Gen. Foster, with a considerably larger force — all that he could collect — set out from Newbern20 on a march directly inland, intending to reach and destroy the important railroad junction at Goldsboroa. He encountered no impediments, save from trees felled across the road, until he reacheed South-west creek, where the bridge had been destroyed, and a regiment was found posted on the opposite blank, supporting three pieces of artillery. These were driven off by a charge of tlhe 9th New Jersey, and 1 gun captured ; when, after two or three more skirmishes, Foster advanced21 to within a mile of Kinston; where he encountered a considerable Rebel force under Gen. Evans, strongly posted between the Neuse and a deep swamp, whence they were driven after a short but sharp fight, and the bridge over the Neuse saved, though it had been fired by the fugitives, of whom 400 were taken prisoners. Evans fled through and abandoned the town; but reformed two miles beyond it, and continued his retreat, before Foster could bring his artillery over the injured bridge land attack him.

Gen. Foster, having bewildered the [81] enemy by feints in different directions, advanced22 directly on Goldsboroa; but did not reach that point, because of a concentration in his front of more than double his force, under Maj.-Gen. G. W. Smith,23 with regiments drawn from Petersburg on the one hand, and Wilmington on the other ; but the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad bridge over the Neuse was fired by Lt. Geo. W. Graham, 23d New York battery, after several who attempted the daring feat had been picked off by the Rebel sharpshooters. The bridge being destroyed, Gen. Foster commenced a rapid retreat on Newbern, which he effected without difficulty. His total loss in this expedition was 90 killed, (including Col. Gray, 96th New York, while charging at the head of his regiment at Kinston bridge), 478 wounded, and 9 missing. Smith's official report admits a Rebel loss of 71 killed, 268 wounded, and about 400 missing. Gen. Foster paroled 496 prisoners. Thus closed the year 1862 in North Carolina.

1 Jan. 11-12, 1862.

2 See Vol. I., p. 599.

3 Jan. 13.

4 Jan. 15.

5 February 5.

6 Ex-Governor of Virginia.

7 Saturday, February 8.

8 Feb. 19.

9 March 12.

10 Sunday, March 14.

11 March 20.

12 March 23.

13 See Vol. I., p. 411.

14 April 11.

15 April 25.

16 April 19.

17 July 4, 1862.

18 Nov. 3.

19 Nov. 6.

20 Dec. 11.

21 Sunday, 14th.

22 Dec. 17.

23 Formerly of New York.

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