Battle of Roanoke Island.
（our own Correspondent.
Monument Hotel, Richmond, Feb. 27, 1862.
The night of February 7th was dark and rainy.
The bombardment was over.
By eight o'clock the war-ships were but dimly seen, their black sides looming up against the dusky sky beyond.
A little later their positions were only designated by the signal lights, which, for fear of accidents, were hung in the rigging.
Our gunboats when last seen were near the channel barricade, still in line of battle and still presenting a bold front to the formidable enemy.
Finding there was no more ammunition on the fleet, or not enough for another day's fight, Commodore Lynch
was forced to leave the field.
He sent a boat on shore to communicate the fact to Col. Shaw
, but received no reply.
As dark as the night was, the boats made their way up the channel towards Elizabeth City
where a final stand was to be made.
The command of Commodore Lynch
was upon Albemarle
founds, and he therefore felt bound to fight there as long as possible, to assist in the defence of Elizabeth City
, and then to blow or burn up his vessels if overpowered and liable to be captured.--By running through the canal to Norfolk
all the vessels but the Sea Bird
might have been saved, but he considered it his duty as an officer to defend his command to the last, even to the sacrifice of the last boat and the last man. The obligations of the officer triumphed over the feelings of the man. And he was right.
Running up to the Pasquatank he there awaited the approach of the enemy, when morning dawned, prepared to make a desperate struggle.
The night being exceedingly dark, it was with difficulty that the boats were taken up, but they all arrived safely, and throughout the night busy preparations for the events of the following day were going on.
On shore the men were soundly sleeping in the face of the enemy, lying on the cold, damp ground, recruiting tired nature for renewed exertions on the morrow.
Long before daylight every body was stirring, and when the first hues of day appeared in the East
our little force was drawn up in battle array.--The command of the island devolved upon Col. Shaw
The second in command was Lieut. Col. Frank Anderson
, of the 59th Va., The force consisted of the 8th N. C., Colonel Shaw
; the 31st N. C., Col. Jordan
; the 59th Va., Col. Anderson
, and two companies of the 17th N. C., (the remnant of the regiment captured at Hatteras
,) under Major Hill
These all amounted to thirteen hundred and sixty men. After establishing the proper guards pickets, sentinels, and manning the batteries, only eight hundred were left at that time to meet the force landed by the enemy during.
the evening and night.
Ten men from the ‘"Blues,"’ and ten from the ‘"McCulloch Rangers," ’ were sent on picket duty, under Capt. Wise
, to watch the course of the Federal
Soon in the morning, about 5:30, the ‘"Blues"’ and ‘"Rangers"’ were sent out on a reconnaissance, and met the enemy, some eight hundred yards below the battery, cautiously approaching.--Previous to this, Col. Anderson
had sent out Capt. S. M. Williamson
, a bold and dashing scout, to ascertain what was being done.
He ran up to the Federal
pickets, shot one and brought in his gun, a fine Enfield rifle, and gave information regarding the approach.--The two companies met the enemy and commenced firing, at the same time slowly skirmishing to the rear towards the battery.--They then took their places on the extreme right and commenced a rapid fire.
A few words as to the topography of the field.
lies between Albemarle
and Pamlico Sounds
, about fifty miles from Hatteras
, and is separated from the mainland by Croatan Sound
Stretching along the coast of North Carolina
is a harrow strip of sandy land, varying from half a mile to one and two miles in width.
The farthest projecting point is Cape Hatteras
, near which is the inlet which gave entrance to the Federal fleet.
The island is twelve miles in length, and, in its broadest part, about two miles across, with many indentations to its shores.
About half way down, there are two marshes and swamps coming very near over to each other, leaving only about seventy-five yards of solid ground.--The swamp on the right was represented impassable, and the islanders said that a ‘"duck could hardly go through it with safety,"’ The marsh on the left was protected by two companies of flankers.
Across this narrow place, from swamp to swamp, an ordinary field fortification, had been erected, eighty feet in length, with three embrasures as large as barn doors, with three guns--one 24-pound howitzer, one 18, and one 6-pounder.
Only twenty-five rounds of ammunition were on the spot for these guns.
Trusting to the statements of the residents on the island, that the swamp on the right was impassable, the fortification had not been extended into it — much to the amusement of the Federal
officers, who afterwards examined the field.
It was about seven o'clock when the enemy came up within range of the battery and commenced their volleys upon it. The fire was returned rapidly by the 59th and portions of the 46th, doing serious injury to the 25th Massachusetts, which we supposed the regiment to be which opened the fight.
At that time the ‘"Blues"’ and the ‘"Rangers"’ were on the right, fighting behind trees and logs, while Colonel Frank Anderson
, with portions of the 59th, was immediately behind the breastwork.
The remainder of the regiment was in reserve, under Major Lawson
, and, as the position admitted only a few men to engage at one time, waited for orders to advance.
After the fighting had continued about an hour, Col. Anderson
sent to Major Lawson
for a reinforcement of three companies.
He chose Capt. Dickinson
's company under Lieut. Roy
, and a company from the 8th North Carolina, commanded by Lieut. Murchison
, and placing himself at their head, marched at double quick to the battery.
There the bullets flew as thickly as one could well imagine them, but, waving his sword, Major Lawson
called for three cheers, and, with hearty shouts, these brave men rushed to their post.
Several, however, fell in the attempt--two killed, and some half-a-dozen wounded.
The remainder of the 59th was then brought near the battery and ordered to shelter themselves as much as possible behind trees, and several of them were wounded there, without having the privilege of firing a shot.
The 8th North Carolina, under Col. Jordan
, and the 31st, were held in reserve far in the rear, out of the reach of harm.
Some of the men, however, like Capt. Whitson
, entered the engagement on their individual responsibility, and fought with the soldiers.
In this position the fight went on for four hours and a half, the enemy coming up by regiments, covered by a dense growth of pines and other trees, and fired by volley into the battery.
The bullets flew with fearful thickness over the parapet of the fortification behind which our men were hidden.
It was impossible to rise sometimes for five minutes without receiving a shot, and the men were forced to lay low until the fury of the enemy's fire was somewhat expended.
The centre gun, the 24th howitzer, was under the charge of Lieut Wm. B. Selden
, O. S. A., who fought as gallantly as any man could, and frequently drew cheers from the men around him. With the greatest coolness, he sighted his gun and watched his moment to give the command to fire.
Every discharge told well upon the ranks of the enemy, and there is no doubt but a very large majority of the killed were shot by this piece.
Occasionally it would be some moments before the piece could be loaded, for when the firing was continuous bullet after bullet struck the gun, rang down its bore, or glanced from its sides.
Early in the action the twenty-five rounds of ammunition were nearly exhausted, and more was sent for to the upper and of the island, But it never arrived.
About 8 o'clock the ships again commenced
the bombardment, and threw their shells into the Pork Point battery, as on the preceding day. The boats having gone up the channel further than on the day previous, the hospital was brought in line of the fire, and several shells exploded immediately beside it, the fragments falling upon the roof.
It was completely hidden from view, and the firing could not have been purposely directed towards it. All the time the heavy discharges of musketry could be distinctly heard below, mingling the echoes with the more distinct discharges of heavy artillery.
In about an hour the cannonading ceased, and the ships lay to, awaiting the result of the land fight.
As I have previously stated, the enemy came up to our battery by regiment and fired in a body, while our force behind the breast work only shot when a fair and single mark presented itself.
Every discharge told with fearful effect upon the Federal
was busily running back wards and forwards in giving orders and directing the fight.
was also under fire and displayed personal courage and coolness.--The only charge that can be made against him is that of inefficiency — and he makes no pretensions to military genius.
was killed in carrying an order from Col. Anderson
. Capt. O. J. Wise
, as brave and gallant a man as ever breathed, constantly exposed himself to protect his men, and finally fell mortally wounded.
His fall affected the ‘"Blues"’ seriously, and, sadly grieving over their loss, could ever be rallied again as before.
But they has fought bravely and well for hours before.
About half-past 12, the enemy was seen approaching on the right flank, wading waist deep through the morass pronounced Impassable.
The place that could not be traversed by a duck, was forded by a regiment.
So soon as the Federals
had gained a footing on the right, the day was lost, and a retreat was ordered.
With half a dozen regiments in front and one on either flank, nothing was left but to fall back, and Colonel Anderson
at once rallied his force for the purpose.--Then came a moment of terrible suspense.--Then came a moment when the metal of the men was thoroughly tested.
The reserve of the 59th rallied in perfect order, and protected the retreat, while not a man flinched or left his post.
To those who have busied themselves with criticisms and have been censorious, and have croaked of ‘"what ought to have been done,"’ I ask, ‘"What would you have done?"’ Some have said that every man ought to have been sacrificed for the moral effect.
I say, that when it was so well known the place would be finally captured, the men ought to have been preserved for future physical effect, instead of shooting them for a moral effect.
But delay judgment until you hear the story out.
My short space is filled.
I can say no more to-day.
A gentle touch at my elbow warns me to close.
What things next befell, I will endeavor to relate in my next.