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Doc. 109.-Colonel Mix's expedition into North-Carolina.

Newbern, N. C., January 22, 1863.
The Third New-York cavalry, Colonel Simon H. Mix, returned to this point last night, after having accomplished a successful five days raid into Onslow, Trent, and Jones counties. They left here on last Saturday morning. The command consisted of eight companies, namely, A, B, C, F, G, K, L, and M, divided into two battalions, commander by Majors Garrard and Cole, and the howitzer battery of the regiment, commander by Lieutenant Allis, the whole under command of Colonel Mix, seconded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis.

As the regiment passed through the town en route for their destination, they rode in columns of fours; every man wearing a smiling countenance, as if going on a holiday parade. They crossed the river at a point near this town, and followed the road on the margin of the river to Pollocksville. They took five days rations in the wagons, with the usual ambulances and other necessary equipage. On reaching Pollocksville, twelve miles distant from here, they found the bridge across Mill Creek, a tributary of the Trent, destroyed. This bridge was forty feet long, and was destroyed by the rebels last summer. From this place to Pollocksville the road, although sandy and level, is skirted by dense pine woods, here and there interspersed by swamps; yet it was considered in good order, for this part of the country. Here and there, as the regiment proceeded, was seen an old plantation owner's home, and the usual concomitants in the distance, the frail negro huts.

After reaching Pollocksville, to continue the route of the regiment, it was necessary to rebuild the bridge destroyed near this town. For this purpose the regiment was accompanied by a detachment of contraband negroes, who were styled “native pioneers.” The work was at once commenced, and after the expiration of six hours hard labor, a good deal of sweating and considerable swearing, the work was accomplished.

The regiment then proceeded through Pollocksville. On reaching a point about one mile distant from the bridge, on the road to Trenton, and turning an angle in the road, the troops marching in close column, with an advance-guard fifty yards in front of the main body, the latter were fired upon by a small body of the enemy in ambush. The direction of the fire was so well concealed that nothing was known of it but the peculiar whizzing of the bullets. This fire from the rebels, fortunately, wounded none of our men. The column was halted. Small parties of observation were sent forward, on the return of which, they reported the road blockaded with felled timber as far as they could observe, extending over a mile. This was about four o'clock in the afternoon. Colonel Mix then ordered his auxiliary corps of contrabands to proceed in the advance, and, with the use of their axes, to clear the road of obstructions. In a few minutes the woods on either side resounded with the music of axes, the melody of which was interrupted with the quaint sayings of the dusky axmen, and the commands of their white superiors. By the time the obstructions were removed, it was deemed unadvisable to move farther during this day, and the regiment encamped to remain through the night. Pickets were thrown out, and every precaution taken to prevent a surprise by the enemy. The troops bivouacked in the woods, and enjoyed themselves as best they could over the blaze of the camp-fire.

At daylight the troops were in saddle, having previously discussed their ante-march meal. All were in good spirits, and hilarity and jocundity prevailed along the column. Whenever Colonel Mix, Lieutenant-Colonel Lewis, or the gallant Majors Garrard or Cole would pass the column in conveying orders, they were received with hearty cheers. Their presence seemed sufficient to fire the men with enthusiasm.

Midway between Pollocksville and Trenton, on approaching a gorge in the wood, timber obstructions were found along the way. The contraband auxiliaries were again brought to the front, and [395] the music of the axes was soon heard. At times the working party was fired upon, but no material damage was done. The obstructions being removed, the regiment dashed along in fine style, the men full of ardor and enthusiasm.

At eleven o'clock A. M., the village of Trenton (on the Trent) was reached, the inhabitants therein, with a few exceptions, fleeing the town. Trenton is a village of eight hundred inhabitants, with about seventy houses. It has the usual appendages of a small town — has a dilapidated appearance. It is the county-seat of Jones County. The natives that were left when our troops entered, said their confreres had “gone up country,” (to Dixie.) The Registrar of the county, a fellow of corpulent dimensions and a jolly red nose, received our troops, acknowledged himself a “secesh,” deprecated the war, and swore like a trooper. He was too old for consideration, and his carcass not worth the expense or trouble of making him a prisoner.

I should have stated, that before reaching Trenton, a body of rebel cavalry was seen by our advanced-guard. On observing our troops, they cut the mill-dam, which flowed into the road this side of Trenton. The water rose to about two feet, but this did not impede the advance of our troops. The rebel force, observed at this point, consisted of two companies of cavalry and one of infantry. These rebels got behind one of the blockades near Trenton, but when the howitzer-battery of the cavalry commenced playing upon them, they retreated pell mell. They did not appear to relish the grape and canister compliments.

The rebels burned the bridge across the Trent River, to impede our advance. This bridge was about one hundred feet long. Colonel Mix again ordered the contraband pioneers to the front, planted his howitzers so as to command their operations, and the rebuilding of time bridge was commenced. The bridge completed, the troops crossed, and followed the road leading to Whitehall, distant from Trenton about seven miles. The route was through a dense wood, at times flanked by swamps. They then came up to another bride, which the rebel runaways had just commenced to destroy. The last rebel, while attempting to move one of the planks of the bridge, was shot dead by one of our carbineers. The attempted destruction of the bridge by the rebels was a failure; it was a success when our troops fired it. This being completed, our troops pursued their route to a point within seventeen miles of Kenansville, on the Wilmington and Goldsboro Railroad, but learning that the enemy were in force at that town, changed our course to a more southerly or circuitous route. The road leading to Kenansville was heavily blockaded with felled timber. The regiment was then countermarched, and returned to Trenton, where it encamped for the night.

The night previous was cold, damp, and chilly. The troops bivouacked in the open air, but not a murmur was heard in the whole command — officers and men sharing the same exposure. The command left Trenton at daylight, proceeding en route of march back to within four miles of Pollocksville, the same road the regiment passed over the day previous. From this point they made a detour to another road, marched eight miles, and again reached Young's Cross-Roads, seventeen miles from Irenton. The country in this vicinity was well scoured, farm-houses and barns searched, but nothing in the shape of armed rebels were found. The houses were nearly all deserted, and here and there were observed the ruins of houses destroyed by rebel hands. A bridge, laid down in the military map as crossing a creek was sought, but nothing but ruins were discovered. The regiment having marched thirty-five miles, the Colonel ordered a halt. The troops bivouacked in a lovely piece of woods, and the men, as they discussed their improvised evening meal, forgot the fatigue of the day and made no murmurs, except their regrets for not getting “a fair show at the rebs.” On reaching this point, and before coming to a halt, six rebel cavalrymen were discovered, but they retreated on observing our advance. At Young's Cross-Roads the bridge crossing the stream to Onslow Court-House, or Jacksonville, was found destroyed. It was forty feet long, over a deep, rapid stream. On the opposite side the river bank was heavily stockaded and pierced for rifles. On this point the howitzer-battery was brought into use, and for five minutes a brisk interchange of shots was had ; but the grape from the battery of the Third regiment soon drove the rebels. At this point the rebel officer in command was shot dead at the first discharge. His body was pierced in three places. During the night the bridge across this stream was partially rebuilt, and was continued until eleven o'clock A. M. the next day, when it was completed.

At eleven o'clock in the forenoon the regiment crossed the bridge, and started in the direction of Onslow Court-House, twenty-five miles distant from Young's. They had proceeded but five miles when they came upon a rebel cavalry camp. It was in plain sight before the rebels were aware of our approach. Major Cole, of the Third battalion, was in advance, and at once ordered a charge on the rebels, which he did with his squadron, the troops moving at a gallop. The rebels were on the alert and scrambled to their saddles. The charge was amusing. From the first time they saw our troops to the time when we reached the rebel camp, the rebels commenced throwing away their arms, equipments, guns, sabres, haversacks, coats, hats, etc. It was a regular John Gilpin chase, the rebels being the fleetest of foot. In the chase the rebels were fired upon whenever the nature of the ground would permit, at times emptying saddles. When our troops reached a point about six miles from the place where the chase commenced, numerous rebel wagons, loaded with forage and army stores, were overtaken and their contents captured. The rebels attempted to empty the wagons and escape with them, but in this they were frustrated. Our troops next reached a gorge heavily wooded on both sides, a creek running through [396] the centre, and a bridge crossing the creek. The bridge was prepared in such a manner that, after the retreat of the rebel troops over it, it could be destroyed before our troops could get over it. Colonel Baker, the rebel officer who had charge of the destruction of this bridge, did it skilfully after his retreating troops had passed it. The last rebel crossing this bridge sprung a trap, and the bridge was rendered untenable. On the opposite side of the river the rebels had a splendid redoubt, with just room enough for one horse to enter at a time. From this work the rebels opened a brisk fire of musketry on our troops, which fire was as promptly returned by ours. At the first fire of the rebels, private Charles Morey, of company C, Third New-York cavalry, was shot dead. He was struck in the head by a buckshot. The same volley wounded private Archibald McCarty, of the same company. He was shot in both hands, in the head, and in the leg. His wounds are not considered serious, and he will recover. Several horses were shot dead or wounded.

After the first volley from the rebels, the cavalry howitzer-battery was brought to the front, and a shower of shrapnel sent into the rebel works. It was subsequently learned that the rebel loss in this affair — which was a success to our side — was heavy, including the rebel commander, who was killed. Three horses were seen on the rebel side galloping off without riders.

Under cover of the fire of our howitzers the bridge was rebuilt, before the completion of which the rebels had retreated. This bridge was across what is known as the North-east River, four miles distant from Onslow Court-House. The rebels had got well off in the retreat, and had crossed the bridge of the New River before our troops could overtake them.

When the last of the rebels reached the eastern bank of the river, they were only in time to set the Jacksonville bridge, three hundred yards long — a fine structure — in flames. The rapidity with which the torch was applied to this work, among the best public works of North-Carolina, shows that the rebels had anticipated our movements in that direction, and prepared for the destruction of this bridge. So far as the actual damage to us goes, it is a mere trifle; to the rebels the loss will be severely felt. Should it become necessary for our army to cross this stream at any time, our pontoons can soon be thrown over it. The destruction of this bridge ended for the present the pursuit of the rebels. Late in the afternoon Colonel Mix counter-marched his regiment, and returned to Young's Mills with three rebel prisoners and a numerous staff of contrabands, who joined the rear of our troops to escape from their masters. Some of these negroes had been living secreted from their masters in the woods for upward of five months, and sustained life only with what scanty food they received from friendly negroes. Our troops travelled fifty-two miles in ten hours on this, the fourth day. The regiment reached camp at eleven o'clock P. M., after being exposed to a most pitiless, cold, drenching rain-storm, the horses sinking hoof-deep at every step. The rebel troops opposed to ours in this raid were Rheinhart's cavalry, Perkins's cavalry, Nethercoate's Partisan Rangers, Oglesby's cavalry, and Ned Wade's cavalry. These troops wear no uniforms. They wear common homespun of various hues, and seem to eschew attempts to appear like soldiers.

The return home was ordered to-day, and the regiment marched from Young's Cross-Roads to Newbern, twenty-one miles, bringing with them the prizes. They entered Newbern with flags flying and trumpets sounding, and, although somewhat bespattered with mud, yet every man bore a cheerful countenance, and seemed ready for another dash at the rebels. From some of the prisoners it was learned that Stonewall Jackson is in command at Wilmington, and Longstreet, each with their respective corps, at Goldsboro. Among the trophies captured at Trenton, were two American regimental standards, one belonging, to the Twenty-first brigade North-Carolina militia, and the other to the Eighteenth brigade. Both these regiments held themselves loyal until the pressure of public opinion made them give way. Another important capture by the gallant Third was a numerous pack of blood-hounds, belonging to Mr. McDaniel, which were used for catching runaway negroes. An old negro, the trainer, had charge of them when the capture was made. In reply to a question relative to the leading dog, the old negro replied: “Dat he would fotch a nigger from a swamp quick enough, if he only smell his heel.” The result of this raid was, that three counties of North-Carolina--Onslow, Trent, and Jones — on which our troops have never been before, were secured, and the rebels driven out; prisoners, arms, negroes, mules, and colors captured, and much valuable information obtained.

Colonel Mix, Lieut.-Col. Lewis, (recently promoted,) the gallant soldiers Garrard and Cole — both of whose names belong to the history of the battles of Kinston, Whitehall, and Goldsboro — were on this occasion ever on the alert, and were prepared at all times for a desperate opposition to the rebels.

The Government should send to this point without delay at least two additional cavalry regiments. There is a wide field for them here to operate upon, and this measure would afford some relief to the Third cavalry, which have been hard at work for the last year.

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January 22nd, 1863 AD (1)
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