Doc. 148.-capture of Hamilton, N. C.
Newbern, N. C., July 15.An engagement of no little importance took place on the morning of the ninth instant, on Roanoke River, some sixty miles from its mouth, between three of our gunboats, the Commodore Perry, Ceres, and Shawsheen, and a company of Hawkins's Zouaves, under Capt. Hammell, on our side, and a regiment of rebel cavalry, supported by a strong force of infantry and artillery, and a rebel fort which commanded the river. The particulars are as follows : On the eighth instant Capt. Flusser, of the Commodore Perry, who is commanding officer of the naval forces in Albemarle Sound, decided to make a reconnoissance up the Roanoke as far as Hamilton, where he understood a rebel steamer was anchored, and also that the enemy were erecting a fortification and collecting a large force, with the intention of resisting all approaches to Weldon by the river. After taking on board Captain Hammell's company of Zouaves, which are stationed at Plymouth, (a very important point at the mouth of the Roanoke, and also the headquarters of the naval force in the Albemarle Sound,) the fleet proceeded up the river at a rapid rate, meeting with no difficulties until they arrived at a point some six miles above Williamston, where a barricade of rafts and piles were chained together, reaching transversely up and across the river. Just before the fleet arrived at the barricade, a deadly fire from infantry in an ambush was opened upon the Ceres, which was in the advance, killing one seaman, John H. Bridges, of Danvers, Mass., and wounding several more. The Ceres immediately responded with grape, which, with some timely and well-directed shells from the Perry and Shawsheen, soon dispersed the cowardly assassins with heavy loss, who then pushed on to the fort at Hamilton, to assist their comrades in resisting us at that point. On arriving at the barricade Capt. Flusser proceeded at once to blow up and destroy the obstructions in his usual dashing way. It was not long before he succeeded in cutting his way through this difficult blockade, which was considered by the enemy quite as strong as the barricade in the James River. On went the fleet up this narrow river, darkened by a dense forest on each side, through a continuous storm of bullets and grape from the innumerable masked batteries which lined both banks of the river on the bluff commanding the approach to Hamilton. Hamilton is situated upon an eminence, back some distance from the river, and separated from this important stream by a thick growth of heavy timber, which sheltered the hidden foe, who were raining down an incessant fire upon our gunboats, which were unable to elevate their guns sufficiently to do all the execution they desired. However, they continued to advance, when suddenly the rebel fort on the eminence, which was concealed from view, opened a terrific fire on the approaching fleet. In the thickest of the fight, and when the result was very doubtful, Capt. Flusser discovered a large rebel steamer, loaded with rebel sharpshooters, coming down upon our fleet. Suddenly she turned a short bend, and before the enemy were aware of the near approach of our fleet, she was in good musket-range. Captain Flusser and all his men were in readiness for the new foe. A shell from the Ceres raked the decks of the Wilson — for that was the name of the rebel craft — and bang again went a hundred or more Union rifle-bullets among the sharp-shooters on the rebel steamer, who, being astonished at the rapid advance of Flusser's fleet, leaped from every side of the Wilson into the water, leaving their deserted craft to drift into our possession. As soon as our fleet got beyond the enemy's batteries, the Zouaves, under Captain Hammell, were landed, with a howitzer, and with fixed bayonets commenced the advance on Hamilton, accompanied with a strong company from each of our gunboats, armed in the same manner, making four companies in all, who were ordered by Capt. Flusser “to flank the rebel fort and take Hamilton,” while the gunboats were again to advance and silence the rebel batteries in front. Again the gunboats went into action, and such an unearthly sound — owing to the peculiar situation of the country — as the echo from their heavy ordnance in this dense forest was never before heard. Soon there was a response from the rear of the enemy, which was the rapid report of the howitzers, and deafening cheers from our brave mariners and Zouaves, who had been led in a successful charge against the fort, which they took, despite a strong opposition, together with the village of Hamilton, over which the Stars and Stripes were raised, with an additional outbreak of enthusiasm. The shouts of our land forces were soon responded to by a shout still more deafening, which was given by the crews of the three gunboats as they drove the rebels out of their masked batteries by three well-directed broadsides; leaving our forces in possession of the highly important port of Hamilton, with all its steamers, schooners, and a large amount of commissary stores and cotton, which the rebels had no time to destroy. The rebel steamer captured is exceedingly valuable to this department, for the purpose of transporting troops through these shallow waters.  She was not crippled or injured in the least, strange as it may appear, by our shells, which raked her decks. She is a stern-wheel steamer, of very light draught, and capable of carrying a regiment of troops. In this engagement every officer and man behaved in the most heroic manner. Capt. Flusser, of the Commodore Perry, Capt. Macdiarmid, of the Ceres, Captain Woodward, of the Shawsheen, have been through all the important battles in this department, and are now well known to the country. Lieut. Green, of company F, with a portion of the Zouaves, was on the Ceres, lending valuable assistance with his dashing followers all through the action. He was wounded in the leg, and was brought to the deck, where he lay during the remainder of the action, loading guns for his men, and speaking words of good cheer to them. The following are the names of the killed and wounded on board the Ceres: John H. Bridges, killed; Manuel Sylvia, seriously wounded in the chest; John J. Dennison, seriously wounded in left breast; George Waterman, in the leg; Nicholas Waysen, in the leg; Edward B. Perry, in the arm; Timothy Dacey, in the arm; Thomas Rodgers, in arm and hand; Henry G. Rose, shoulder. Of the Zouaves none were killed, though many slight wounds were received. On the Shawsheen, Thos. Smith was seriously wounded through the head, and a few others on the same boat received some slight wounds. On the Perry, one powderboy — a contraband, named Stephen Jones — was killed, while bravely performing his duty, and Daniel Donovan, a seaman on the same boat, was wounded, and Mr. Coleman, the executive officer of the Ceres, had his pants torn by a rebel bullet while in the act of fixing a shell for the enemy, and a splinter sent into his throat from a ball which struck the deck near his head. Captain Woodward, Capt. Macdiarmid, and Capt. Flusser each had very narrow escapes. This victory is of great importance, inasmuch as it clears the way to Weldon. It is impossible to estimate the loss to the enemy, who, it is said, left some forty or fifty dead on the field. Since the departure of Gen. Burnside with a part of his army for Virginia, Acting Major-Gen. Foster, the wheel-horse of the Burnside expedition, is chief officer in command of this department. This is said to be a permanent arrangement, as it is understood that Gen. Burnside will be continued hereafter in a more active field of labor.