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was discovered posted in a strong position with infantry and artillery and a few cavalry. In front was a plain broken and cut by ditches, in the rear a forest, and on the left an "open piney wood.”
Our howitzers, that were in advance, first received the enemy's fire from his field pieces. Colonel Howard put his own pieces in position and returned the fire with spirit. General Reno quickly made his dispositions. He sent the 21st Massachusetts and 51st Pennsylvania of Lieutenant Colonel Bell's brigade, through the woods upon the enemy's left to turn that flank of the position. He deployed the 9th and 89th New York to the right to support Lieutenant Colonel Bell's attack, and held the 6th New Hampshire upon the left of the road in reserve. The leading brigade slowly made its way through the wood while the troops in front occupied the attention of the enemy. The engagement now became sharp and even bloody. Our troops, wearied as they were, stood well up to the work. The enemy was obstinate in holding his ground. General Reno, becoming impatient for the development of the attack upon the right, rode over to that part of the line to hasten forward the movement. Meanwhile, Colonel Hawkins, ambitious to repeat the success of the attack at Roanoke Island, ordered the New York regiments to charge the enemy's line. It was gallantly but ineffectually done. Across the broken plain the men went with their wonted enthusiasm. But the ditches, with the enemy's fire, proved a serious obstruction. Men fell, officers were unhorsed, Colonel Hawkins was wounded. Some were killed. The troops were broken and compelled to retire.
to retire. But now the regiments on the right had entered into the action and delivered their fire vigorously. At the same time, the 6th New Hampshire advanced silently till within short musket range, when, at the word of command, the men poured in a terrific and destructive volley, still advancing. Elated at the prospect of success our men charged furiously forward, and the enemy, pressed in front and flank, at once gave way, broke and fled up the road, carrying with him his artillery. He had received a severe chastisement and had been made to believe that the entire “ Burnside Expedition was marching upon Norfolk." A thunder storm that had been gathering during the fight now burst forth, and amid peals and flashes from above and torrents of rain the battle ended. The opposition with which General Reno had been met, though not altogether unexpected, was yet more, severe than had been anticipated. It was thought at the time that the enemy had retired to a new and stronger position a few miles in the rear, where he had defensive works. The advantage had clearly been on our side, and a decisive defeat had been inflicted upon the enemy's troops. But General Reno decided not to follow
his success. His orders distinctly were not to risk a disaster, and as the greater part of the object of the movement had been accomplished, he thought it best to return to his transports. The troops were allowed till night to rest, the dead were buried, the slightly wounded were put into the extemporized ambulances, and the severely wounded were left in charge of Chaplain T. W. Conway of the 9th New York, and Dr. Warren, Assistant Surgeon of the 21st Massachusetts, under a flag of truce. The line of retreat was taken at ten o'clock, P. M.-leaving camp fires burning brightly--the troops arrived at the landing early the next morning, and the expedition returned to Roanoke Island and Newbern. The entire loss was fourteen killed, ninety-six wounded and two missing. Among the former was Lieutenant Chas. A. Gadsden, Adjutant of the 9th New York, who fell during the charge at the head of his Tegiment. "He was a kind, considerate man,” says Colonel Hawkins in his report of the battle, “and a most excellent soldier, and died greatly lamented by all his companions." He had been but five days in the service, having just arrived from New York as the expedition was preparing.
It was afterwards ascertained that the enemy was more badly defeated than was at first supposed. Had General Reno's men been more fresh, and had the design of the movement been to go further towards Norfolk, there is no doubt that the road was laid open by the enemy's hasty retreat. He had even abandoned a formidable battery a few miles beyond the scene of the engagement, and had made the best of his way to the neighborhood of the defences of Norfolk. A naval expedition under Lieutenant Flusser, with the gunboats Lockwood, Whitehead and General Putnam, succeeded a few days afterwards in obstructing the mouth of the Canal.
During the month of April, reënforcements, to the number of four regiments and two batteries of light artillery, arrived from the North. The need of cavalry had been sorely felt. It could only be supplied by using the horses of the Rhode Island battery, which had been brought over to Newbern after the capture of that place. Scouting and patrolling were done by the members of the battery, and were sometimes the occasion of covert attacks from the lurking videttes of the enemy. Among the reënforcements now arriving, was the 3d New York cavalry, under Colonel S. H. Mix, an excellent officer. The 17th Massachusetts, Colonel Thomas J. C. Amory, 1030 New York, Colonel F. W. Von Egloffstein, and 2d Maryland regiments of Infantry, and two batteries of New York Light Artillery completed the contingent.
The arrival of these troops induced a change in the organization of the command, which was effected early in May. The promotions of the brigade commanders would necessarily imply an increased command. Their brigades were accordingly subdivided, and, with the, additions of the reënforcements, formed three divisions. General Foster's division was organized in two brigades, the first under the command of Colonel Thomas G. Stevenson, of the 24th Massachusetts ; the second under the command of Colonel T. J. C. Amory, of the 17th Massachusetts. General Reno's two brigades were under the command of Colonel Edward Ferrero, of the 51st New York, and Colonel James Nagle, of the 48th Pennsylvania. General Parke's division was not so compact a command as that of his brother officers. The garrison of Beaufort, Fort Macon and neighborhood was brigaded under General Rodman. The garrison of Roanoke Island was similarly organized, under
Colonel Hawkins. General Williams retained command at Hatteras.
Thus organized, General Burnside was prepared to hold Newbern against any force which the enemy might bring. Indeed, the enemy was even rash enough to believe that he could reoccupy the place. Having fled as far as Kinston after the battle of Newbern, and finding that he was not pursued, he began to take heart again. Concentrating a considerable number-some reports mentioned fifteen thousand men-in the neighborhood of Kinston, he began to make threatening demonstrations upon General Burnside's position. But he soon ascertained that it was too strong to be forced by direct attack, and that General Burnside was too wary an antagonist to be surprised. All that he could do, therefore, was to place an army for the purpose of observing the movements of our forces, without making any serious attempt to dislodge them. The defences of Newbern were perfected, and its commander prepared to carry out the residue of his original instructions.
But the movements contemplated by those instructions depended upon certain other movements which were then making in a different quarter of the vast field of action. The capture of Wilmington would unquestionably have been a very serious blow to the rebel cause. The city is situated upon the Cape Fear river, and its approaches were then defended by formidable works. Through it passed the important line of seaboard communications uniting Virginia with the Gulf States. It was the most difficult port on the coast to blockade, and it thus became the enemy's greatest entrepot for smuggled goods. Were our troops in possession of that point, the enemy's communication with the extreme South would be severed, and his supplies stopped. Its importance was clearly appreciated by the rebel government, and a garrison held the defences sufficiently numerous to make an obstinate resistance. The enemy also held all the interior, and could thus, in a short time, transport such reënforcements to the threatened point as would make an attempt to capture it a very doubtful, as well as hazardous experiment. Naval coöperation was also a decided desideratum. But, at that time, no vessels could be spared for an attack upon the fortifications along the banks of Cape Fear river. The iron-clad monster that lay in the harbor of Norfolk effectually neutralized any independent naval operations along the North Atlantic coast. The fear of its emergence à second time from its retreat, to scatter devastation and ruin along Hampton Roads and the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, and the imperative necessity of guarding that avenue of communication and supplies for General McClellan's army, then operating on the peninsula, prevented the Flag Officer of the North Atlantic Squadron from detaching any of his vessels. The gunboats already in the North Carolina waters were not armed heavily enough for an encounter with the works that protected Wilmington. The forces that General Burnside had at his command were not more than large enough to reduce the place, even if the help of the navy could be assured. Without the aid of the fleet, nothing could be done. Wilmington, therefore, could not at that time be added to the territory within the jurisdiction of the Department of North Carolina.
Was it possible to penetrate into the interior of the State, and, moving upon Goldsborough and Raleigh, cut the enemy's communications at either or both of those points? It was possible under certain conditions, but not otherwise. If those conditions did not exist, a movement into the interior was hazardous, even to the extent of foolhardiness. One condition was that General Buell should operate towards Knoxville and East Tennessee. But General Buell at that time was needed to reënforce General Grant, struggling desperately forward towards Corinth and West Tennessee, by way of Fort Donelson and Pittsburg Landing. Another condition was the triumphant advance of the Army of the Potomac up the Peninsula between the James and York rivers. But General McClellan, in command of that army, had encountered obstacles which rendered his advance anything but triumphant. The season was especially unpropitious. The route chosen was through swamps