Battle of Roanoke Island.
（our own Correspondent.
Richmond, Feb. 26, 1862.
In commencing a slight account of the capture of Roanoke Island
, with the forces there, I wish to say that, so far as my opinion goes, the place was entirely indefensible, without the aid of a naval force strong enough to cope with the Federal
In these days of diving bells and sub-marine batteries, the ordinary channel obstructions are of little avail unless protected by ships-of-war, for they can be readily removed at night after a day's fight is over.
With a clear channel, and no batteries within a mile, a gunboat will put on a full head of steam and pass the shore fortifications with chances of more than two to one in favor of going by them without serious injury.
Taking all things into consideration, I believe that, had no force been landed upon Roanoke Island
, it must have fallen inevitably in the course of a few days by cutting off communication with the main land.
It is evident to any one who will study the position of the island and the surrounding waters, that so soon as the Federal
ships passed Roanoke
it was literally in the hands of the enemy, and that the more men there were upon the island the sooner must it have capitulated.
In a subsequent letter, I will give my reasons for this statement more fully, and will endeavor to convince every one that, with the present resources of the Confederacy
, it is impossible to hold such a point as Roanoke Island
, where a large hostile fleet can be brought, into action.
On the 6th of February, Commodore Lynch
received intimation that Burnside
's fleet was slowly feeling its way up Pamlico Sound
.--He at once sent the Curlew
down to make a reconnaissance, and Capt. Hunter
reported the fleet at anchor some six miles below the island.
The evening was cloudy, misty, and very dark.
Judging that the fleet would advance immediately upon the approach of clear weather, Commodore Lynch
sent word to Col. Shaw
, the commander of the island, to be ready for an engagement, on the morrow.
The next morning, also, was dark and misty, but our fleet was drawn up in line of battle, the flag-ship on the right and the others according to rank on the left, waiting for the approach of the enemy, when the fog cleared away.
After a time the sun lighted up the dense masses of clouds that hung over the sounds, and soon after the wind lifted them in air, and sent them drifting seaward.
This was at half-past 10, and at that hour the fleet of the enemy got under way and advanced slowly up the channel.
Some twenty gunboats came up in line of battle, with two black steamers on either side, as flankers, some distance in advance.
At 11.95, they arrived within about two miles of our fleet and commenced firing with rifled guns of long range and heavy calibre.
Gradually falling back to bring the ships within range of the guns in the ‘"Pork Point
"’ battery, our ships finally made a stand, and at 12. 40, commenced the fight.--Then the engagement became general, and rapid firing was kept up on both sides.
Our steamers joined the battery in sending defiance to the thunder of the enemy's guns.
Meanwhile preparations were going on to make a defence on land, and word was sent to Gen. Wise
to send over reinforcements immediately from Nag's Head
As soon as possible the 59th Virginia regiment, under Col. Frank Anderson
, with two companies of the 46th Virginia, under Captain O. J. Wise
, were embarked on barges for the island.
The fight had begun before the troops reached the point of Roanoke
, and as the upper portion was rounded the whole scene burst upon the eye. Ah!
what a beautiful sight it was!
Below, some three or four miles away, was our little fleet in line, and beyond was the enemy, rapidly pouring out shot and shell at them or at the batteries.
Still farther on, just gleaming through the sunlight, was the forest of masts and the white sails of the transports, kept far in the rear out of the reach of danger.
The Federal gunboats fired rapidly and with great precision, the shell exploding with admirable accuracy around our little boats.
They replied spitefully and effectively, and made a most gallant and determined fight, skirmishing to the right and left to destroy the range and aim of the enemy.
The guns of Fort Bartow fired slowly, but steadily, and seemed waiting for a nearer approach before turning lose all the heavy ‘"dogs of war"’ that, shotted and aimed, crouched in readiness to spring upon the foe.
The barges containing the soldiers, towed by a small steamer, ran around the point of the island towards the engagement.
The channel at that point was tortuous and narrow, and, there being but one approach to the landing place near Fort Huger--the upper battery--it was necessary to proceed with great caution to prevent being grounded on the shoal.
It became necessary to approach nearer the fight than was anticipated, and, almost before the fact became known, the barges were within range of the guns of the ships, and the shells began to explode around them at a furious rate.
About that time Commodore Lynch
determined to skirmish to the rear behind the channel barricade, in order to draw the enemy on within a fair distance of Fort Huger.
At the first intimation of retreat the enemy's ships started forward and our boats huddled together as much as possible to protect the barges, at the same time signaling them to retire.
That moment was a fearful one for all. The shells came one after the other with terrible force and rapidity, their explosion ringing through the air, scattering the fragments in every direction over the water.
Occasionally a large one hundred and twenty pounder thundered across the waves, and sent its ponderous shot in the midst of the flotilla.
The air was filled with heavy reports, and the sea was disturbed in every direction by fragments of shell.
Several exploded near the barges, and pieces were thrown upon the decks, but fortunately doing no serious injury.
One by one the gunboats came up and crowded around to receive the fire, all the time replying rapidly with their rifle guns, whose shells ricocheted into the enemy's ships.
Immediately in front was the ‘"Fanny
,"’ with the gallant Taylor
, actively working his gun, and beyond the ‘"Beaufort
,"’ Captain Parker
, and the ‘"Sea Bird,"’ the flag-ship of Commodore Lynch
, and the others whose names I could not distinguish at the time.
All acted nobly.
All fought like veterans and heroes, as they are. As the boats neared the barges, the officers, amid a perfect shower of shot and shell, came out on the decks, and, swinging their hats, gave hearty cheers of encouragement to the soldiers.
I do not remember a moment in the history of the Confederacy
— not even when the ‘"stars and bars"’ were first hauled upon the Capitol
amid the enthusiastic shouts of an earnest people, when my heart has so swelled with emotion, and when I have been so willing to sacrifice my life, my all, in the defence of the right and my country.
Finding it impossible to proceed further, Col. Anderson
ordered the boats to return to the upper and of the island, in order to effect a landing there.
Covered by the gunboats, the barges retreated and were soon out of reach of the fire.
Running as near in shore as possible, Col. Anderson
ordered the barges grounded, and then proceeded to land the men as rapidly as possible.
The disembarkation was conducted by Col. Anderson
and Capt. O. J. Wise
, in an orderly manner, and in less than two hours the men were formed
in column, on the beach, and were prepared to march down the island to the point where it was supposed an attempt to land would be made.
All the time the naval battle continued, and despite the heavy odds our little fleet of seven gunboats could not be silenced, and continued the fight as actively as in the morning. --At fifteen minutes past two, the Curlew
received a shot which soon after sunk her. She was run up to the opposite shore and her ammunition taken off by the ‘"Fanny
,"’ which boat immediately returned into the fight.--At 4 o'clock a small steamer was run ashore below the Pork Point battery, and the landing of troops begun.
Only one gun in Fort Bartow could bear upon the point, and it was kept engaged by a gun boat which ranged itself alongside about a mile distant.
Soon after this it began to grow dark, and the firing on both sides was about to close.
Our boats fired until the course of the shells could be traced through the air and its explosion marked by a fierce red flash.
At 5:45 the firing ceased, owing to the darkness, and soon after our fleet retired.
They were, however, nearer the enemy than in the heat of the engagement, and with one or two exceptions were little injured.
deserves the thanks of the nation for the skillful manner in which he conducted the battle, and the officers under him also merit a country's gratitude for their bravery and gallant conduct.
Collecting his forces, Colonel Anderson
marched down the island some five or six miles and bivouacked near the barricade constructed across the island at the marshes.
In going down he passed under the fire of the ships, but the men marched through it with the greatest coolness and determination.
The guns in Fort Bartow were very skillfully used, and did good service throughout the day. The battery was manned by two companies of the 17th North Carolina, under Major Hill
, the ‘ "State Guards,"’ and the ‘"John Harvey Guards,"’ but only the former company was brought into immediate action, as the guns were ranged rather too much up the channel.
Only three guns could be used during the fight, a rifle and a howitzer, en barbetts,
and one embrasure gun. These three, however, were so well manned that no one of the hostile ships passed up far enough to come within range of the second embrasure gun. The men fought with great coolness and intrepidity, and showed conclusively what they could do under experienced and skillful officers.
From the time the battle commenced until darkness put a stop to the scene, the enemy threw over three thousand shot and shell, and used every conceivable kind of projectile.
Still the battery was but little injured, and the casualties only amounted to one man killed and three wounded. It seems almost a miracle that no more damage was done; for hour after hour the ponderous shell were thrown into it, sending up huge jets of sand and stone from the outer angles, and from the turf and sand revetments of the embrasures.
None of the guns were injured to any extent; and when the sun rose on the ensuing morning the fort was in as good repair for defence as on the first day.
Immediately back to the fort were the quarters of the 17th North Carolina.
These were set on fire early in the action by the explosion of a shell, and long after dark they were still burning, the lurid flames lighting up the sky, the light flashing for miles across the flickering waves.
When morning dawned there was but a mass of smouldering embers.
In these huts was the baggage of the regiment, and about two hundred stand of arms; all of which was destroyed.
Late in the evening it began to rain, and throughout the night it was dark and stormy.
I was in the hospital near by attending to the wounded men, in company with other surgeons.
Every attention possible was given them, and every effort made to relieve their sufferings.
Towards morning, owing to frequent use of opiates and anodynes, they became easier, and I went down to the battery to see the result of the bombardment.
It was after two o'clock in the morning.
Passing by the quarters of Major Hill
, we found the gallant officer already up and preparing for the forthcoming fight.
By him was Capt. Taylor
, C. S. A., the officer in general charge of the ordnance on the island, and also Lts. Talcott
, all of whom fought nobly and bravely during the engagement.
The night was intensely dark and misty.
The light of the burning huts reflected its red glare upon the ramparts of the fort, and showed us where the enemy's shots had taken effect.--Just below us was the beach, up which the little waves washed musically, and far beyond the lanterns hung in the rigging of the ships indicating where they lay at anchor.
We went through the work examining every embrasure, the magazine, parapet, gun carriage and traverse--Lieut. Talcott
at the time giving directions to guide the artisans and laborers in their repairs.
At three we returned, and I was soon after dreaming of — not battle scenes, but of happy hours with dear, good friends.
Want of space forbids me to give an account of both days' fight at this time; but I will continue this to-morrow up to the hour I was so unfortunate as to be made a prisoner-- (what a humiliating thought.) After that time I feel at liberty to say but little, owing to the terms of my parole.
To relieve public anxiety as to the result of the fight, I will premise a little, and give the list of killed and wounded on our side to-day, although it properly belongs to the succeeding letter.
The casualties were as follows:
- Capt. O. Jennings Wise, 46th Va.; shot in several places.
- Capt. Coles, Company I, 46th Va.; shot in breast.
- Lieut. William B. Selden, C. S. A.; shot in head.
- Lieut. Neill T. Monroe, Company E, 8th N. C.; shot in breast,
- James D. Horn, 8th N. C.
- Corporal Lane, 8th N. C.
- R. W. Cameron, 8th N. C.
- Thos. P. Mulleneaux, 2d N. C.
- Johnston Williams, 2d N. C.
- Serg't John H. Talley, 2d N. C.
- S. J. Claiborne, 2d N. C.
- Alfred B. Scott, 2d N. C.
- John S. Turpin, 2d N. C.
- Wm. Bennett, 46th Va.
Wilson, N. C. State Guards.
- Chas Bailey, N. C. State Guards.
- Total killed....16
, slight, in the leg; Geo. Collin
, severe, in elbow; Thos. Robbins
, Co. B, severe, in knee; William David
, severe, in thigh and abdomen; John Ray
, flesh wound, in hand; Lt. Edgar Miller
, slight, in shoulder; John Lawson
, in arm; Jas. A. Snell
, in arm; Dennis Cussick
, finger shot off; John smith, severe, left eye; Wm. E. Quigley
, in head; Lt. Isadore Potier
, in leg.
Forty sixth Virginia.
, Co. A, wounded in leg; Frank Johnson
, Co. A, wounded in leg; Henry Adler
, severe fracture, thigh; G. W. Jarvis
, flesh wound, in foot; Lt. Fred. Carter
, slight wound, arm; Wm. Nute
, slight, in leg; Robert Thomas
, Co. I, slight, in neck; Chas. H. Thompson
, slight, head; Benj. Burgess
, right knee; David Bishop
, right shoulder, with fracture.
31st North Carolina.
--J. W. Wardsworth
, in lungs, probably mortal; Wm. H. Werner
, right arm.
8th North Carolina.
--Corporal J. H. Anderson
, finger shot off; James W. Haney
, flesh wound in thigh; William Sikes
, severe, right arm; Edward Russ
, severe in head;
Captain Jos. W. Whitson
, slight in leg; James Snowden
, Company B, in hand; Martin Etheridge
, in hand; J. J. Sloin
, in arm; Jos. Jarvis
, in head.
2nd North Carolina.
--W. H. Wolford
, Company D, in arm; William L, Wilson
, Company A, in leg; Jacob P. Jarrett
, in head; G. W. Graves
, in forehead.
17th North Carolina, (in Fort Barton.)
, severe in shoulder; Wm. Groves
, severe, in thigh.
Generally the wounds are very slight, and with few exceptions, are rapidly recovering.
All are now in a hospital at Elizabeth City
, but will be removed to Norfolk
as soon as proper transportation can be provided Medical supplies and medicine have been sent down from Norfolk
, and every possible attention given to relieve their sufferings.
And now, my dear friends, I beg your congratulations and ask some sympathy for my self and companions in captivity.
Do not judge any of us harshly until I have told the whole story, and then you may say what you please.
Not all the men captured were in the fight, but the few who were — some $60 in number — kept back nine full regiments for four hours and a half, until their guns were clogged and their ammunition on exhausted.
Our friends, the ‘ "Blues"’ fought with great bravery, and could the public fully understand their course of action, they would receive some decided demonstration of approval.
The same can be said of Captain Coles
's company, Captain Dickenson
's, the ‘"McCulloch Rangers,"’ and other companies — but I am forestalling my letter of to-morrow.
And now, ‘"Good night."’