None of the men of the land forces knew anything of the road upon which they were traveling.
They did not know what was in front of them or how many of the enemy they might encounter before they reached the goal the government at Richmond
seemed to be so desirous of possessing.
The forces had traveled three days and had not obtained sight of a single man decked out in blue.
On the night of the third day there was a halt, orders were quietly issued that there were to be no camp-fires, and all talking must be done in a very low tone.
The guns stood in line in the middle of the road with the horses still hitched to them, and the men lay on the ground to get, if possible, a few minutes' rest; for they fully realized that they were in the enemy's country, and knew not what was in store for them on the next day, or how severe a struggle they might have to go through.
The morning broke with a thick fog or mist hanging low, and the
men could not see a great distance ahead of them.
A forward movement was ordered, the men again being reminded to be as quiet as was possible.
Probably not more than half a mile had been traversed before another halt was ordered, the command given to unlimber the guns, and for the third time was the company reminded to be very quiet in executing orders.
After the guns had been unlimbered, to the surprise of the cannoneers and the non-commissioned officers, the command was given to move the guns forward by hand.
All orders were executed to the letter, but in carrying out the last command (to move the guns by hand) the distance proved very short, for the men found themselves on the crest of an incline which led down to a small stream of water, which was afterwards learned to be Bachelor's creek.
After the guns had been planted, orders were given to prepare for action; the guns were loaded and their fire directed on a block-house or fort on the opposite side of the creek, the outlines of which could barely be distinguished, owing to the fog or mist.
The firing was very rapid, solid shot and canister being used, which made it very hot for the Federal
soldiers who held the fort.
Finding that the enemy still held on in spite of the heavy fire, and would neither vacate nor surrender, a movement was made by the Fayette artillery which had never been attempted before during the war, nor was it done by this company afterward, or by any other, so far as has been ever known.
A charge was made on this block-house or fort by the artillerists, they moving the guns down the incline and across the creek by hand, stopping occasionally to fire a shot at the fort and loading as they advanced.
As the company crossed the creek and secured a position within about seventy-five feet of the fort, and before they could fire a shot, a section of artillery was driven out and started rapidly down the road toward New Berne.
The horses of the Fayette Artillery were brought up, hitched to the guns as quickly as possible, and the battery started in pursuit of the enemy, which was kept up for six miles ahead of the infantry.
During this pursuit neither party fired a shot.
The horses of the Fayette Artillery having to be brought from the hill where the battery first went into position, and the guns having to be limbered up, this and the good condition of the enemy's horses gave the Federals
great advantage over the Confederates
The flying section reached the junction of the railroad and country road running to the town several minutes ahead of the pursuers,
went into position, fired upon us, limbered up, and fairly flew to New Berne, the Fayette Artillery not having a chance to reply to their shot.
In running and chasing between the block fort and the railroad Sergeant-Major Robert I. Fleming
, of the Fayette
Battery, succeeded in capturing Colonel Fellows
and his adjutant and orderly.
On the right of the county road and several hundred feet from the railroad the trees had been cut down, leaving stumps about knee high.
In this place, with hardly room to move a gun, the commanding officer
of the artillery ordered the guns into battery, it having been learned through some source that a train was approaching loaded with troops destined for the town to reinforce the garrison.
A few minutes after the guns had been placed in position the Confederate infantry came up, and, moving to the right and to the left, formed a line of battle near the railroad.
The infantry had not been in battle array more than half an hour when the noise from the approaching train was heard.
All hands were on the qui vive
. The artillerists quickly came to their post to the guns, and patiently waited the turn of events.
The train soon came into sight, and, as it got in range of the guns firing was opened upon it, but, being protected by an embankment, no damage, so far as could be seen, was done to the cars, nor were any of the soldiers killed or wounded.
As the train thundered by, going at a rapid rate of speed, the infantry on board opened fire on the Southerners, and although the bullets flew thick and fast, not an artillerist or horse received a wound.
Just at this point it may not be out of place to say that, had the officer in command (as he was requested to do) permitted one or two of the guns to have taken up position in the road, where a fair sweep could have been had at the moving train, it is believed by survivors of that engagement that the train would never have reached New Berne, but would have been brought to a standstill, and the train, with its load of infantry, particularly the latter, brought back as prisoners.
The section of artillery from the block-fort and the train having got safely into the town, the next move of the Confederates
was to make a forward movement on that place.
The guns were limbered up and the infantry brought into column, and the forward movement begun.
The column moved down the county road, crossed the railroad, marched up a slight incline, reaching a level plateau.
left of the road was seen a small house, from which floated the yellow flag, a symbol of small-pox.
It is needless to say a wide berth was given this place by a quick movement to the right.
Just before reaching the top of the incline a member of the Fayette artillery fell in with ‘a ward of the nation,’ and wishing to learn something, if possible, as to the status of things at or around the town, plied him with a few questions.
‘Good morning, old man!’
‘Good morning, boss!’
‘Do you live in these parts?’
‘Ever been to New Berne?’
‘Yes, sir. Boss, you'ns going to that town?’
‘Don't know; may try it. Why do you want to know?’
With a smile, he replied: ‘You'ns can't get there.’
‘Is it heavily fortified?’
“Yes, sir,” he answered.
Being asked to describe it, from his description the questioner much preferred turning his face toward old Virginia
, and his back upon the town, than to be one of the number in making the attempt to capture it.
This description was as follows: ‘That around the town was a ditch fifteen feet deep, and as many, if not more, wide; that on the approach of an enemy, this could be quickly filled with water.
The breastworks, which were of the most improved kind, and running up on a line with the inside of the ditch, were mounted with heavy pieces of ordnance.
Not being supplied with necessary appliances for crossing such a ditch, or scaling such a wall of sand, it was well known that, even though the breastworks might be reached, and the soldiery get into the ditch, there was not a scintilla of hope for their escape.
Therefore, was it wonderful that the men, on learning such a state of affairs, much preferred turning back than advancing?’
It was not known whether the old darkey told the truth or not; but, however that may be, before the Confederates
could get in full view of the town, a puff of smoke was seen to rise, and ere the sound of the gun reached the ears of the soldiers a heavy shot whizzed over their heads, the same seeming to warn the boys in gray not to approach any nearer.
And they didn't either.
There was a sudden halt, and not many minutes elapsed when the command to countermarch was given, the Southern
soldiers retraced their steps, recrossed the railroad, and
went into camp among the stumps which they had left but a short while ago. Remarkable as it may seem, yet nevertheless it is true, that while they remained in that section they were not molested or harassed by the enemy.
As night approached there was a heavy guard mounted around the camp, and the men, feeling perfectly secure, wrapped themselves in their blankets, stretched themselves out on old Mother Earth, and soon fell asleep and enjoyed that which was so much needed to the body, a night of refreshing slumber.
The camp was aroused early the next morning, and the men being greatly refreshed from the labor and fatigue of the day before, started in to prepare their breakfast from such stores as were provided by the commissary department.
During the morning the general commanding had learned from some source that at a block-house at the junction of the Washing
and New Berne roads, a place called Beech Grove
, there was a section of artillery, and the Confederates
being between them and New Berne, there was no chance for them to get to that town.
Here an opportunity presented itself to get something as a trophy, beyond the capture of Colonel Fellows
, his Adjutant, and his orderly, for the trip to that section.
And it will be noted further on, that it was something beyond the ordinary, the extraordinary, that took place, and which was not down on the programme.
The general commanding was determined to have that section of the artillery, and to that end orders were hastily given to the Fayette Artillery, Stribling
's Battery, and the 30th Virginia regiment of infantry, to prepare to march.
In a short time all was in readiness, and the commands moved.
The march was in a different direction, and on a different road from that which they had moved in on the day before.
Having covered but a short distance from the camp, the infantry was directed to take the woods on the right and left of the road, while the artillery was compelled to traverse that thoroughfare.
After marching several miles, the artillery reached an open country on the right, which proved to be a very large farm.
There was a large farm house, and to reach this they had to march down a wide lawn.
Before the turn into this lawn was made, ahead of them was seen a fort; soldiers were observed walking about in it, and, as the Fayette Artillery turned to the right, driving down the lawn just mentioned, with their broadside to the fort, men were seen to rush to the guns in the fort, and it was then realized that an enemy was in sight.
As the Fayette Artillery drove through the lawn, not a
shot was fired from the fort, and we continued on, finally reaching the field, and obtaining a strategic position.