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Doc. 33.-General Wild's expedition.


A national account.

Norfolk, Va., Monday, January 4.
The success which crowned the late expedition of Colonel Draper, of the Second North-Carolina (colored) regiment, to Princess Anne County, resulting in the enlistment of a large number of recruits, the release from bondage of hundreds of slaves, the discomfiture of the guerrillas and the capture of their chief, induced General Wild, the commander of the colored troops in this department, with the approbation of Major-General Butler, to plan a raid of a similar character, but on a much more extensive scale, beyond our lines into North-Carolina. This plan was in one respect entirely original. The success of a raid is usually made to depend upon the secrecy with which it is undertaken, and the rapidity with which it is executed — a dash into the enemy's country, rest nowhere, and a hasty return. But General Wild resolved to be absent a month, to occupy and evacuate towns at his leisure, relying upon a novel species of strategy and the bayonets [298] of his sable braves to recross our lines in safety when his work should be accomplished.

Collecting his available forces — about one thousand eight hundred men — at two points, the intrenched camp four miles from Norfolk, and a point conveniently distant from Portsmouth, the columns marched at daylight on the fifth ult., leaving so secretly that your correspondent was the only representative of the press aware of the movement, and a week later the public first learned, through the Times, that the main object of the raid had been accomplished.

The column, commanded by General Wild in person, consisting of the Second North-Carolina and the Fifth United States, encamped the first night at Deep Creek, nine miles from Portsmouth. Following the tow-path of the Dismal Swamp Canal, which commences here, a march of eighteen miles was accomplished the next day, the men encamping at night on Ferrebee's farm. A halt was made here until the middle of the following day, boats with rations and forage being expected to arrive. These not appearing, General Wild determined to advance, trusting to Providence and the country for the subsistence of his men.

Encamping that night at South-Mills, the column was started the next morning in the direction of Camden Court-House. The region abounded in agricultural wealth, was thickly settled, and contained many slaves. All visible contrabands were invited to “fall in,” and parties were detailed to search the houses of the planters. In many instances the slaves were found locked up, when the doors were broken open, the teams of their masters impressed, and they were taken along with their household property. In this way the train was hourly extended, until by night it was half a mile in length. The inhabitants being almost exclusively “secesh,” the colored boys were allowed to forage at will along the road. Returning to South-Mills, General Wild sent his train of contrabands, numbering seventy-five wagons, under guard to Portsmouth. A battery of artillery and two companies of cavalry, from General Getty's division, reinforced him here.

Arriving at River Bridge the next day, it was found to have been destroyed by the guerrillas, nothing of it remaining visible but the charred tops of the piles. Learning that a house and barn near by belonged to one of the guerrilla band, General Wild adopted a novel means to restore the bridge and punish the bushwhacker at the same time. In ten minutes, a thousand men were engaged in demolishing the house and barn; suitable portions of the timber were selected and drawn to the creek, and in six hours the whole force was across and pushing on to Elizabeth City.

Intelligence having reached me that Elizabeth City had been occupied by General Wild, without opposition, a few hours after forwarding my despatch to that effect to the Times, in company with Colonel Draper, of the Second North-Carolina, who had been detained in Norfolk by the trial of the guerrilla chief, whom he had lately captured, I was in the saddle and on my way thither — a dismal, lonely ride before me of nearly fifty miles. We left the camp near Portsmouth about nine o'clock in the evening, and, dashing into the darkness, arrived in an hour at Deep Creek, where a regiment of General Getty's brigade is now stationed. A brief delay here, caused by the countersign differing from the one in our possession, and we entered the tow-path of the Dismal Swamp Canal, which commences at this point. Passing several picket-fires, at each of which a cavalryman cried, “Dismount one; advance, and give the countersign!” we came at length to the reserve. This consisted of some twenty men, belonging to the Fifth Pennsylvania cavalry, who were seated around a blazing fire of fence-rails, near a deserted house, with several prisoners that had been brought in. This we learned was the last of our picket-posts, that it was twenty-five miles to Elizabeth City, and that there were plenty of guerrillas ahead. It was about midnight when we bade our friends good-by, and entered the enemy's country. We were now in the dreariest and wildest part of the Dismal Swamp; the darkness was dense, the air damp, and the ghastly silence was broken only by the hooting of owls and the crying of wildcats. For two hours we rode through the Stygian blackness of the forest, when we arrived at South-Mills — a collection of about twenty houses — where we stopped to rest our horses. Here we left the canal and descended into another swamp of Hades. The narrow, crooked road was flooded with water, and crossed innumerable little rickety bridges, over which our horses picked their steps with great caution and reluctance. A mile of this road to Jordan, a suspicion I had expressed that we had missed the way, strengthened every minute. Turning a bend, a picket-fire, with four men standing by it, appeared ahead, while further on a large camp-fire lighted up the forest. What could this mean? We knew General Wild to be in Elizabeth City. Were our friends the guerrillas on the war-path? or had a rebel force come down from the Blackwater? Turning our horses aside, after a brief consultation, we decided to advance, come what might. In a moment we were challenged. Colonel Draper dismounted, and led his horse toward the picket. Presently we heard exclamations of welcome, and then a call of “All right-come on!” Riding up, we found that the picket was from Colonel Draper's own regiment, and learned that General Wild had left a considerable force behind to guard the bridge he had built. I need not say that this was an agreeable surprise. In a few moments we reached the camp, which presented a scene of singular picturesqueness. All about were strewn timbers, boards, joists, shingles, and the miscellaneous debris of the buildings torn down, among which, under shelter of every imaginable device, the sable soldiers were stretched upon beds of corn-stalks, while a hundred blazing fires threw their glare upon the sleeping figures, and lighted up the green cedar swamp around. [299]

We were delayed an hour here, while the men were relaying the planks of the bridge, when we mounted our horses and posted on. We had now ten miles to Elizabeth City, and the road ran in dangerous proximity to a guerrilla camp. A half an hour of swamp and black darkness and we emerged from the forest at Hintonsville, which consists of a church and a single dwelling-house. Welcome dawn at length appeared, revealing a pleasant, open country, with spacious corn-fields on every side. Smoke began to curl from the chimneys of the farm-houses; here and there an early riser was drawing water from the well, or opening the doors of the barn, while hundreds of larks were singing in the groves and orchards.

As we rode into Elizabeth City, a little after sunrise, I was surprised to see how its appearance had been changed by the war. Three years ago it was a busy and beautiful little city, noted for the number of its stores and manufactories, the extent and variety of its trade, for its enterprise and the rapid increase of its population. Now most of the dwellings were deserted; the stores all closed; the streets overgrown with grass, its elegant edifices reduced to heaps of ruins by vandal Georgian troops; the doors of the bank standing wide open, and a sepulchral silence brooded over the place. We found General Wild at his headquarters — the fine residence of Dr. Pool--standing on the piazza with a portion of his staff, and received a cordial welcome.

I found that the attention of the General, after occupying the city, had been first turned to the guerrillas who infested the neighborhood, and that he had just sent out a force of one thousand two hundred men, under command of Colonel Holman, of the First United States, in the direction of Hertford, where there was reported to be a large camp of these villains. The expedition returned the next day, without accomplishing its object, all the bridges having been found destroyed, and the guerrillas keeping themselves concealed. They were not far away, however, for a man who straggled from the column was taken prisoner by them.

On Sunday morning the steamer Frazier arrived, with the intelligence that the gunboat North State, which had been sent from Old Point with orders to report to General Wild, had burst her steam-pipe, and was lying disabled in Currituck Sound. This disaster promised to a prove a serious blow to the success of the expedition, which contemplated cooperation by water. Besides, it was not improbable that a formidable rebel force might be sent hither from the Blackwater, in which case it would be impossible to retreat or to hold the city for any length of time without the aid of a gunboat. As no other vessel could be procured from Fortress Monroe in less than a week, General Wild determined to send to Captain Flusser, commanding the naval force at Plymouth, for assistance.

Accordingly, a sail-boat and a loyal pilot having been found, near sunset I set sail for Plymouth, seventy-five miles from Elizabeth City. A few miles down the river I encountered the privateer Three Brothers — a little stern-wheel canal-boat, used by General Wild to procure wood, and as a transport. Quartermaster Birdsall, of the First United States, who had been installed commander of this formidable craft, elated by his good fortune in capturing that day two stranded sloops, which he maintained were blockade-runners, and thinking to obtain a still nobler prize, put after me at full speed, (two miles an hour,) and it was for a time uncertain, in the darkness of the evening, whether I would not be towed back in triumph, lashed to the stern of his victorious “wheelbarrow.” I afterward almost regretted that this had not happened, for the wind being dead ahead, we were the whole night beating to the mouth of the river. The Sound reached, with daybreak a furious wind arose, threatening my frail craft with destruction. In fact, the pilot pronounced the voyage impracticable, and we were crossing to the rebel shore, where I had determined to land and attempt to reach Plymouth on foot, when a steamer was descried through the fog. Tacking and steering for her, she proved to be the Whitehead, and I learned that Captain Flusser was on board the Miami, at the mouth of North River, whither the Whitehead was also bound. My boat was taken in tow, and in an hour we were alongside the Miami. Captain Flusser at once acceded to the General's request, and we were soon under way for Elizabeth City, before which we came to anchor about noon.

Meanwhile, detachments were sent in all directions through the neighborhood to “canvass” the plantations for contrabands. One of three hundred men, under command of Major Wright, was landed by the Frazier on Wade's Point, at the mouth of the Pasquotank, with orders to scour the Peninsula between the Pasquotank and Little Rivers up to Elizabeth City, bringing in all the slaves that could be found. Major Wright returned with a train of thirty-eight ox, mule, and horse carts, containing the personal property of two hundred and fifty slaves that followed him into town. Almost hourly officers sent out on this service would report to the General the return of their commands, with the number of teams taken and slaves liberated. In addition to this, slaves belonging to isolated plantations were constantly coming to headquarters and asking the General to protect them in the removal of their families. Seldom did such a request fail to insure the necessary detail of men. The lately deserted streets of the city were thronged with liberated slaves that came pouring in from the country in every direction with their household furniture. As rapidly as possible the women and children, and such men as were physically unfit to serve as soldiers, were shipped to Roanoke Island, where a large negro colony has been founded under the care of Horace James.

Although the suppression of the guerrillas was considered by General Wild subordinate to the great object of his raid, which was to clear the country of slaves and procure recruits for his [300] brigade, still as those highwaymen, calling themselves the Sixty-sixth North-Carolina volunteers, and the “State defenders,” were constantly lurking in the neighborhood and nightly firing on our pickets, and as they had not returned the colored soldier they had taken, a “gorilla” hunt was determined upon. Accordingly, a force of five hundred men, under Colonel Holman, was sent against Captain Elliott's band of robbers, whose camp was known to be located near the town. Following the Hertford road six miles, to what is called the “Sandy cross-road,” and following this three miles, the men were deployed and ordered to advance through the swamp. In half an hour the discharge of musketry and shouts from the colored boys proclaimed that the camp of the Sixty-sixth had been discovered. The valiant “State defenders” fled in confusion at the first fire, leaving their arms and several fine horses behind. The camp was burned, with two large buildings, containing their winter store of forage and provisions. In the neighborhood, the dwelling-house and barns of William T. Wright, their Commissary, were also burned, as were subsequently the house and barn of Lieutenant Munden. Having carried out his orders, Colonel Holman then returned to Elizabeth City with his trophies and one guerrilla as prisoner. The next morning General Wild received a letter from the guerrilla chief, stating that the colored soldier had been sent to Raleigh, but that he would set out at once for that city, see Governor Vance, and have him returned. At the commencement of the war General Wild was practising medicine in Brookline, Massachusetts. That he understands the guerrilla pathology, and can give a prescription that will cure every time, I think the Pasquotank bushwhackers will acknowledge.

On the fifteenth instant, Brigadier-General Wessel arrived from Plymouth on the steamer Massasoit. The two Generals remained an hour in consultation, when the Massasoit left for Roanoke Island. General Wessel's district comprises the territory adjacent to the Albemarle Sound, and his command consists of the One Hundred and First and One Hundred and Third Pennsylvania, and the Eighty-fifth and Ninety-sixth New-York. His headquarters are at Plymouth.

The General's headquarters are besieged from daylight until dark by persons desiring passes to and from the country, to reclaim horses and carts taken for the removal of the effects of the slaves; to have guards stationed at their houses; to take the oath of allegiance, etc., etc. The General imposes very little office work on the members of his staff, doing nearly all the writing himself. Having but one arm, this is especially laborious, but it is his way. Nothing, however trivial, escapes his notice, and he personally superintends every thing.

The money in circulation here is confederate treasury notes and State currency. The day after my arrival, I saw some of our officers purchasing confederate notes of the citizens to send home as souvenirs of rebeldom. The price paid in United States postage currency was ten cents for a dollar. Corn, of which the country is full, costs in rebel shinplasters, four dollars a bushel; in State currency, two dollars; in United States money it could probably be bought for twenty-five cents. Ordinary women's shoes cost in the money of the Southern Confederacy, one hundred dollars a pair. As I have before remarked, there is not a store open in the city, and the inhabitants depend exclusively for the few necessary articles they obtain upon smuggling through our lines from Norfolk. Coffee and tea are unknown luxuries.

A grand expedition to Husford, in conjunction with Captain Flusser's gunboats, having been abandoned through a misunderstanding, the surrounding region having been cleared of slaves, the guerrillas effectually chastised, General Wild's mission in Elizabeth City had been fulfilled, and preparations were made to evacuate the place, the steamer Coleman and three schooners were loaded with contrabands and their effects, and a final contribution sent to the flourishing colony on Roanoke Island. Two hundred men, under command of Captain Frye, were sent to a point near the mouth of the Pasquotank, with orders to scour the country to Currituck Sound. The long train of wagons to accompany the main column was ordered to be in readiness by daylight the next morning, and lastly a courtmartial was convened to try the prisoners in our possession, now numbering about twenty. Of these, eight were found guilty of various offences, and ordered to be taken to Norfolk; two were retained as hostages; the guerrilla was sentenced to death, and the rest were ordered to be discharged. The following morning the pickets were called in, and the column moved, and in the midst of a drenching rain the place was evacuated, having been held six days.

About noon, the sun coming out, a halt was ordered. The General and his staff rode forward to a small, unfinished building, designed for a post-office, standing upon a knoll at a cross-roads. Sufficient boards and laths were knocked off to afford an unobstructed view of the proceedings from two sides; when one of the officers, producing a cord, tied a hangman's knot at one end of it, and, standing upon the head of an empty cider-barrel, made the other fast to one of the joists overhead. After considerable experimenting, the barrel was made to serve for both the scaffold and the drop, being ingeniously balanced upon one of the floor-timbers, and held in place by a wedge which could be instantly removed. From this to one of the windows a board was laid, and thence another to the ground outside, forming an inclined plane. Meanwhile, most of the officers had riden forward, and tied their horses to the fence of an adjacent farm-house, whose inmates had closed all the window-blinds, and a crowd of colored soldiers encircled the building, watching in silence these ominous proceedings. Lieutenant-Colonel Shurtliff, of the Fifth United States, was appointed spiritual adviser to the [301] criminal, and went back with a guard to bring him to the place of execution. When informed that he had but a few minutes to live, and was counselled to improve this time in making his peace with God, he dropped upon his knees in the road and prayed: “O merciful Father! look down upon me! O merciful Father! look down upon me!” These words alone he repeated a hundred times, until the acting chaplain stopped him. He then rose to his feet, walked up the inclined board with a firm step, at the point of the bayonets of the colored guard, advanced quickly to the head of the cider-barrel, and stood under the noose. This being placed around his neck, Colonel Shurtliff invoked the throne of grace in behalf of the guilty wretch. As the word “Amen” dropped from his lips, the General, who had taken charge of the drop, pulled the wedge — the barrel tipped, the guerrilla dropped. He was a man of about thirty, a rough, stout fellow, was dressed in butternut homespun, and looked the very ideal of a guerrilla. He died of strangulation, his heart not ceasing to beat for twenty minutes. Then a slip of paper was pinned to his back, on which the General had previously written: “This guerrilla hanged by order of Brigadier-General Wild. Daniel Bright, of Pasquotank County.” And the body was left hanging there, a warning to all passing bushwhackers.

Encamping that night near River Bridge, the next morning the prisoners and the long contraband train, with the cavalry and artillery, were sent forward to Norfolk, when General Wild started with the remainder of his brigade for Indiantown, fifteen miles distant, in Camden County, at which point Colonel Draper had been ordered to join him. At first, the country was poor, and the houses were mean and far apart. But about noon we struck another road, and entered a region of great beauty and fertility, reminding one of the scenery of Indiana. Vast fields of corn, often a mile in extent, stretched away into tall, green forests — the fences were in good repair, and the houses large, with numerous out-buildings. In no portion of the South had I seen more magnificent plantations. Here the work of “canvassing” began in earnest, and the march of the colored troops was that of an army of liberation. The first plantation to which we came belonged to a man named Ferrebee. Fourteen slaves were found in the negro quarters. “Would they go with us?” “Yes.” A squad of men, detailed for the purpose, found a cart under the shed, to which a horse, caught in the pasture, was harnessed; the furniture belonging to the slaves was piled into it, the women and children were placed on the top, and the first team of the contraband train took its place in the procession. Meanwhile, detachments were sent ahead to every visible farmhouse to repeat this operation, and have the slaves ready to fall in by the time the rear-guard should come along. Once a soldier came running to the General in breathless haste. He belonged in the neighborhood, and wished permission to go to the house of his former master, a half a mile from the road, and get his son. The General sent a lieutenant and twenty men along with him. A number of horses were seen feeding in a corn-field. A squad of men were sent to take two or three of them. A horse and a mule stood looking over the fence by the roadside. The horse “fell in,” when the mule leaped the rails and also came along. Wherever a team could be found, it was borrowed or taken for the benefit of such slaves as should not be fortunate enough to have masters owning any. Sometimes, to save their teams, the planters would volunteer to bring their slaves along, which proposition the General invariably accepted. While this was going on, the farms were foraged to some extent. Geese, chickens, and turkeys everywhere abounded, and the inhabitants being all “secesh,” the men were permitted to help themselves. On arriving at a house, the front-windows and doors would invariably be found closed, when the men would rush at once to the rear, and overrun the premises like so many ants, bringing away canteens full of milk, bridles for the spare horses, and a few similar articles. Thus the march continued, the train of contrabands growing in length continually, when an incident occurred worthy of a special paragraph.

Toward the middle of the afternoon, our road skirting a densely wooded swamp, two horsemen suddenly appeared ahead in the distance, slowly approaching us. Some of the General's staff, riding forward to overhaul them, they wheeled their horses and retreated at full speed. Upon this all the mounted men, including the General, put spurs to their horses, and an exciting chase commenced. Along the road fast and furious dashed the pursued and the pursuers, the mud and water flying as if a hurricane were sweeping along. At length the two men, still some distance ahead, turned into the forest and disappeared, when the chase was abandoned. We soon came upon the house of one of these bandits, which was given to the flames.

A mile ahead we encountered a party of Colonel Draper's men, which had been sent out to meet us. The Colonel had just reached Indiantown, after a severe skirmish with the guerrillas, in which he had lost several men. In a few minutes we reached the stately mansion of Dr. McIntosh, of which alone the village now consists, the rest of the houses having been burned. For convenience as well as security, Colonel Draper had encamped his men on the Doctor's premises, which, in addition to the large dwelling-house, comprised a spacious farm-yard and twenty or thirty outbuildings. Into the grounds our columns soon poured, and a scene at once novel and picturesque presented itself. The garden fences were speedily demolished, and fires sprang up in all directions under the trees, while a large fire of fence-rails was burning in the road. A hundred horses were tied to every available post and tree; a maze of carts, with their loads of contrabands, inclosed the stables and extended out into the adjoining corn-field; officers were riding to and fro; squads of men were marching [302] hither and thither, detailed on various duties; the doors of the outbuildings had been forced open and they were occupied for every imaginable purpose. In the Doctor's office a lieutenantcolonel and a captain had taken up their quarters, and saddles, bridles, blankets, swords, pistols, were mingled with pill-boxes and bottles of physic. The neighboring kitchen was filled with women and children from our contraband train. The creaking pump-handle was unceasingly worked — horses were neighing and kicking — servants were bringing armfuls of fodder from the barn. Here were soldiers plucking the feathers from poultry of which they had despoiled the secesh on the march, there a group was listening to the details of the fight with the “grillas,” while near by three or four happy darkeys were singing over their boiling camp-kettle. These mingled sights and sounds, blended in rich confusion, composed a scene I shall not soon forget. But in one corner of the yard there was a different spectacle. Hither the wounded men were brought in carts and carefully removed into a small building, where they were placed upon beds of corn-fodder and attended by three surgeons. Many of the wounds were slight, but some were pronounced fatal, and one man died while I was present.

As before stated, a force of four hundred men had been sent from Elizabeth City, under command of Colonel Draper, of the Second North-Carolina, to scour the lower districts of Camden County for contrabands, with orders to unite with the main column at Indiantown. The region was found to abound with fine plantations, and the result of the first day's “canvass” was twenty teams. Encamping that night at Shiloh — a village of about twenty houses and a church — fires were built at a cross-roads near the church, while the men were quartered in the church, and pickets posted on all the approaches. About midnight the pickets were driven in by a force of guerrillas, supposed to number about one hundred men, who discharged their rifles at the camp fires, where they supposed the men to be sleeping. This was what Colonel Draper had anticipated, and thanks to his shrewdness, not the least harm was done. The fire being returned by the reserve-guard, the guerrillas fled into the swamp. The next day, resuming the march to Indiantown, at a place called Sandy Hook, where the road crossed a swamp, they were attacked by a large body of guerrillas in ambush. Colonel Draper ordered his men to lie down while loading their guns, and sent two detachments to attack the bushwhackers with the bayonet on both flanks, skirting the woods for protection. Executing this order, exposed to a sharp fire, the detachments had reached the wood in which the guerrillas were posted, when, perceiving they were flanked, they took to their heels and escaped by a path which the Colonel's men could not find at the time. The fight lasted about half an hour. Colonel Draper's loss was eight killed and seven wounded. The loss of the guerrillas, as was subsequently ascertained, was thirteen killed and wounded. Entering Indiantown, his rear-guard was fired upon and one man killed.

The Pasquotank guerrillas had fought shy of the armed “niggers,” invariably “skeddadling” at their approach; but as these of Camden seemed more bold and numerous, General Wild determined to return to Sandy Hook, and ascertain if the “State defenders” were really spoiling for a stand — up fight with an equal number of his colored boys. Accordingly, the next morning — leaving behind a sufficient force to protect the camp — the General started for the “Hook,” taking with him about four hundred men. A half a mile from the Indiantown Bridge the guerrillas were descried ahead. Colonel Draper, who commanded the advance, at once started his men on the “double-quick” for them, when, firing a few shots, they turned and fled. The main column, led by General Wild on foot, immediately joined in the chase, and a singular spectacle for Jefferson Davis to contemplate was presented; his unconquerable chivalry — any one of whom used to be called equal to six or eight picked Yankees, running for dear life from the bayonets of despised niggers! O Jeff! At length the fleetfooted guerrillas filed off into a forest path, the colored boys some distance behind, filling the air with eager shouts. A half a mile through the wood, across a corn-field, into a second wood, the pursuit was continued, when the path ended, and all traces of the “State defenders” were lost at the edge of an impassable swamp, densely wooded and flooded with water. Search was made in every direction for the secret path they had taken. At last the embers of a recent picket-fire were discovered, near which the trunk of a felled tree was found to be worn with footsteps; Following this, another tree was found felled, and then another, and another, their trunks forming a zigzag footpath through the mire and water of the swamp. Colonel Draper, at the head of the entire force, in single file, penetrated the swamp in this novel manner for half a mile, when a small island was reached.

Here, surrounded by gloom and savage wildness, was spread the camp of the guerrillas, consisting of log-huts and a number of tents. Fires were found burning, Enfield rifles scattered over the ground, and every thing indicated a hasty evacuation of the place. Between fifty and sixty rifles, a drum, a large quantity of ammunition of both English and rebel manufacture, clothing, a tent full of provisions, and; lastly, the musterroll of the company, fell into our hands. The huts were soon in flames and the camp of Sanderlin's land-pirates vanished into smoke, which rose in a vast black volume above the forest. Pursuit of the guerrillas was then resumed. They had fled by a path similar to the one by which they entered, leading across the swamp in another direction. Following this, a large farmhouse was reached belonging to Major Gregory. It having been ascertained that Sanderlin obtained here a considerable portion of his supplies, the house and barns, containing several thousand [303] bushels of corn, were fired, and the Major was carried away prisoner. Guided by the captured muster-roll, all the dwellings belonging to guerrillas within four miles were burned, when General Wild returned to Indiantown, not so well satisfied with his morning's work as he would have been had the villains dared to face his colored troops.

By three P. M., the column was in motion toward Currituck Court-House, followed by an immense train of contrabands, more than a mile in length. We pushed on rapidly, sending scouts ahead to notify the slaves to be ready to “fall in” when the train should pass.

The country through which we passed was as level as a floor, with vast corn-fields stretching away into the forest. Many of the fields, however, were overgrown with weeds, showing where the slaves had run away before the spring-work was done. The houses were generally closed, and a Sabbath silence brooded over the land. It was evidently one of the richest agricultural regions in the State, and even now was filled with plenty. But next year, with their slaves all gone, these wealthy planters must starve, or else put their own shoulders to the wheel.

Some time after dark we came in sight of Captain Fry's picket-fires, and half an hour subsequently entered Currituck, having marched sixteen miles in five hours. The weather was exceedingly cold, and camp-fires were speedily blazing about the three houses constituting the village.

The next day Colonel Draper obtained permission from the General to attempt the capture of Captain Grandy's guerrilla camp, concerning the location of which he had obtained reliable information. Taking with him one hundred and sixty men, he proceeded back on the road travelled last night as far as Sligo. Here, turning into the woods, and following an obscure country road four miles, with his revolver he impressed a farmer to act as guide the rest of the way. The camp was finally found on an island in the interior of a dense swamp, the path to it for a long distance leading over felled trees, as in the case of Sanderlin's. It consisted of nine loghuts, containing bunks for seventy-five men. These were burned, together with a quantity of pork, beef, and tea. Several muskets, a large quantity of bayonets, cartridge-boxes, belts, shoes, and rebel army clothing were brought back as spoils. On the way home Colonel Draper burned two distilleries where the guerrillas were accustomed to procure their whiskey.

The same day the gunboat Flora Temple arrived here. The captain had been ordered to report to General Wild at Elizabeth City; but, on landing there, he found that the place had been evacuated, and received such a reception from the inhabitants as induced him to leave instanter; two transports also lay at anchor off the village. These the General loaded with contrabands and sent them to Roanoke Island. The next day Colonel Draper was sent with two hundred men across Currituck Sound to Knott's Island, with orders to burn all the houses of guerrillas he could find, and to destroy if possible the camp of the company existing in that neighborhood. As the men were much fatigued, it was not proposed to hurry home, but, starting the next day, to march very slowly toward Norfolk, “canvassing” the country on the way. This plan, however, was destined to be suddenly changed. About the middle of the afternoon, Major White, of the Eighty-first New-York, stationed at North-West Landing, with a cavalry escort, arrived in haste at the headquarters of General Wild, with a despatch from General Ledlie, in charge of the district of Currituck, containing the information that a large rebel force had been sent down from the Blackwater to intercept the return of the colored troops, and that he was very solicitous for General Wild's safety. Under these circumstances, General Wild deemed it imprudent to remain any longer here. In half an hour the column was in marching order, and at four P. M. was under way. As we left the village, smoke was seen rising from several points on Knott's Island, showing that Colonel Draper was carrying out the order of the General, “to burn pretty freely.” Our train consisted of nearly a hundred teams, and the men were worn out and foot-sore, but under the circumstances we marched very rapidly. Flanking parties were sent out at all suspicious points, and no straggling was permitted. When a halt was made, the men would drop upon the ground and instantly fall asleep. Thus pushing on, about ten o'clock we encountered the pickets of the Eighty-first New-York, a half a mile from North-West Landing, and an hour later the whole train was over the bridge, the Union line was crossed, and we were safe. Three days subsequently the entire expedition returned to Norfolk, having been absent just three weeks.

The material results of the raid may be summed up as follows: Between two thousand and three thousand slaves were released from bondage, with whom were taken along about three hundred and fifty ox, horse, and mule teams, and from fifty to seventy-five saddle-horses, some of them valuable animals. The guerrillas lost thirteen killed and wounded; ten dwelling-houses, with many thousand bushels of corn belonging to them,were burned, besides the two distilleries; four of their camps were destroyed, and one of their number was hanged; and one hundred rifles, uniforms, infantry equipments, etc., fell into our hands as spoils, with a loss on the part of the brigade of twelve killed and wounded and one man taken prisoner. Beside this, fourteen rebel prisoners and four hostages were brought in. A comparatively small number of men were enlisted — not more than one hundred in all — a large proportion of the able-bodied slaves having previously left their masters, the facilities for escaping being especially great in the region visited.

In regard to its moral and political results, however, the importance of the raid cannot be over-estimated. The counties invaded by the [304] colored troops were completely panic-stricken. Scores of families, for no cause but a guilty conscience, fled into the swamps on their approach. Never was a region thrown into such commotion by a raid before. Proud scions of chivalry, accustomed to claim the most abject obedience from their slaves, literally fell on their knees before these armed and uniformed blacks and begged for their lives. I was frequently asked how I, a citizen, dared to trust myself among such incarnate demons. “What shall I do to to be saved?” was the question asked on every side. No sooner would the brigade enter a neighborhood than General Wild's quarters would be besieged by those wishing to take the oath of allegiance and secure the protection of the Government. Their slaves might all go — they would give them up willingly — only let their lives and property be protected. Union meetings were held in several places, and delegations sent to General Wild, proposing to do any thing “to be saved.” One set of resolutions was signed by fifty-nine planters, and another by seventy-six, while the return of the expedition was preceded and followed by hundreds of North-Carolinians, hastening to Norfolk to obtain certificates of their loyalty. One hundred and twenty vehicles crossed Great Bridge in a single day, containing persons journeying thither for this laudable purpose. An army of fifty thousand blacks could march from one end of rebeldom to the other almost without opposition, the terror they would inspire making them invincible. Well might the inhabitants universally admit, as they did, that slavery was dead there, and that North-Carolina would rejoin the Union as a free State, for the march of the colored brigade over the soil consecrated it ever more to freedom. With regard to the guerrillas, I am reliably informed that they have left this part of the State. The severe chastisement they and their friends received from General Wild rendered a longer stay not advisable. Had every one of these scoundrels captured been hanged, and the house of every other one burned, such organizations would long ago have ceased to exist. To have driven the guerrillas from this section of North-Carolina, to have effectually extinguished slavery there for ever, to have induced all the inhabitants to take the oath of allegiance, is a trinity of results due to this raid.

In another respect this raid possesses historical importance. It is the first of any magnitude undertaken by negro troops since their enlistment was authorized by Congress, and by it the question of their efficiency in any branch of the service has been practically set at rest. Thoroughly obedient to their officers, during a march of three hundred miles their conduct on every occasion was truly admirable. It will have been seen that they performed in the enemy's country all the duties of white soldiers — scouting, skirmishing, picket duty, guard duty, every service incident to the occupation of hostile towns, and, best of all, fighting. Colonel Draper testifies to their excellent behavior under fire, and declares that he could wish to lead no better men into battle; that he feels perfectly secure with them, and can depend upon them at a critical moment with as much confidence as upon white troops less accustomed to obey the commands of superiors. Such testimony from an officer distinguished for courage and daring, a man who believes that fighting is the business of a soldier, possesses peculiar value. One incident in this connection, coming within my own experience, may be properly related here: On the morning after the fight at Sandy Hook, when General Wild had determined to return and attack the guerrilla camp, the men were drawn up in line to be reviewed, and all who wished to remain behind were asked to step out. Only thirty-five--and those foot-sore and lame — did so. I was instructed by the General to find a hundred for the camp-guard, and went down the line endeavoring to persuade more to volunteer, telling them that there would be a big fight — that the guerrillas would have them at great advantage down in the swamp — that they lost a number of men yesterday, and would lose a great many more to-day, and that they had better remain behind and help take care of the camp, where it would be perfectly safe, with little to do. I got but one man out of five hundred, all the rest replying: “No, no; I want to fight the grillas.” At last the General was obliged to order a detail from each company for this duty. The irregular service of such a raid as General Wild's is especially suited to the nature of colored troops; and, while I doubt not they will make as good regular soldiers as any, I am confident they will prove far better guerrilla-hunters than the whites. When the rebellion shall have subsided into partisan warfare, so far from lasting for ever, as Jeff Davis threatens, our colored troops will take care that its end is soon reached. It is an instructive turn of the tables that the men who have been accustomed to hunt runaway slaves hiding in the swamps of the South, should now, hiding there themselves, be hunted by them.



Rebel retaliation.

headquarters forces on Blackwater, Franklin, Va., January, 1864.
General Wild, Commanding Colored Brigade, Norfolk, Va.:
sir: Probably no expedition, during the progress of this war, has been attended with more utter disregard for the long-established usages of civilization or the dictates of humanity, than your late raid into the country bordering the Albemarle. Your stay, though short, was marked by crimes and enormities. You burned houses over the heads of defenceless women and children, carried off private property of every description, arrested non-combatants, and carried off ladies in irons, whom you confined with negro men.

Your negro troops fired on confederates after they had surrendered, and they were only saved by the exertions of the more humane of your white officers. Last, but not least, under the [305] pretext that he was a guerrilla, you hanged Daniel Bright, a private of company L, Sixty-second Georgia regiment, (cavalry,) forcing the ladies and gentlemen whom you held in arrest to witness the execution. Therefore, I have obtained an order from the General Commanding, for the execution of Samuel Jones, a private of company B, Fifth Ohio, whom I hang in retaliation. I hold two more of your men — in irons — as hostages for Mrs. Weeks and Mrs. Mundin. When these ladies are released, these men will be relieved and treated as prisoners of war.

Joel R. Griffin, Colonel.

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