Burnside Biography: Chapter 4

Excerpted from:
Major-General Ambrose E. Burnside and the Ninth Army Corps:
A Narrative of Campaigns in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee, During the War for the Preservation of the Republic.
Augustus Woodbury, 1866
Available on Google Books: http://goo.gl/1xx3Qq

Chapter IV: Roanoke Island, and its Capture (pp. 29-50)

WHEN a coastwise expedition was first projected, General McClellan’s plan was to operate with about ten thousand men, “in the inlets of Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac, in conjunction with a naval force operating against points on the sea coast.” This expedition was to be composed mostly of New England regiments, as it was thought that the men of these regiments would be conversant with boat-service, the management of steamers and sailing vessels, barges, launches, floating batteries, and the like. These regiments were “to be uniformed and equipped as the Rhode Island ” troops were — an expressive testimonial to the sagacity of General Burnside, who had first suggested the pattern of the Rhode Island uniform. The expedition thus prepared was to form an integral part of the Army of the Potomac. General Burnside was conversant with General McClellan’s plan, and when he was first selected to lead the enterprise, it was with the understanding that the force would not pass beyond the Virginia capes. The plan was submitted to the War Department on the 6th of September. On the 1st of November, General Scott was relieved of his command, and General McClellan was appointed in his place as General-in-Chief of the Armies of the United States. After General Burnside had proceeded, to a considerable extent, in perfecting his arrangements, the plan of operations was very essentially changed. General McClellan, late in the autumn, decided to increase the force to be sent, and to order it to the coast of North Carolina. A change in the plan necessitated considerable delay. A larger naval force, an augmentation of supplies, more transportation became needful. Thus it happened that the remarkably fine weather that characterized the autumn and early winter of 1861, slipped away, and that the expedition did not start till so late a period as to be caught by the wintry storms which howl around the “ship breaking” Hatteras. Escaped from these, General Burnside set himself to obey the further instructions of his general-in-chief.

Those instructions contemplated, in the first place, the formation of the Department of North Carolina, carrying with it, of course, the command of the garrison of Hatteras Island. Afterwards, General Burnside was to make Roanoke Island and its dependencies his first point of attack. It was presumed that the navy could reduce the batteries on the shore, and cover the landing of troops on the main island, by which, in connection with a rapid movement of the gunboats to the northern extremity, it was hoped that the entire garrison of the place would be captured. Roanoke Island was then to be fortified, and a sufficient force left to guard its defences. Immediately subsequent to these operations, the naval force cooperating, a descent was to be made upon Newbern, “having gained possession of which, and the railroad passing through it,” General Burnside was “to throw a sufficient force upon Beaufort, and take the steps necessary to reduce Fort Macon and open that port.” The railroad west of Newbern was also to be seized “as far west as Goldsborough, should circumstances favor such a movement.” Raleigh was also to be threatened, if not occupied ; but in this last named movement, “great caution” was advised. “Having accomplished the objects mentioned, the next point of interest would probably be Wilmington, the reduction of which” might require additional means. Surely here was work enough for a long campaign and a large number of troops. To penetrate to Goldsborough and Raleigh with a few thousand men, one battery of light artillery, and an amphibious kind of force of a few hundred men — the Marine Artillery — which had been added to the expedition, was madness. The rebels had large armies in the field, and Goldsborough was an important railroad junction. To support such a movement, it was General McClellan’s intention to send an army, under General Buell, by rapid marches upon Cumberland Gap and Knoxville, in East Tennessee. General Butler was to reduce the forts on the lower Mississippi, capture, and occupy New Orleans. General T. W. Sherman was to bombard Fort Pulaski, compel its surrender, and “to study the problem” of capturing Fort Sumter and Charleston. Meanwhile, it was hoped that these movements would distract the attention of the rebel leaders, and scatter their forces in an attempt to prevent the occupation of the various points by our armies. Then the Army of the Potomac would move with overwhelming force upon Richmond. General McClellan was a man of large plans, but with little facility of execution. In connection with the movement upon Goldsborough and Raleigh, those upon Knoxville and Richmond were most import ant and necessary. General Buell was entrusted with the one, but succeeded only partially. A portion of his forces marched through Kentucky and seized Cumberland Gap. But the occupation of this point was only temporary, and no advance was made beyond it. The dispositions of the enemy during the summer of 1862, soon forced its evacuation. General Mc Clellan undertook the other movement, and the Peninsular campaign of 1862 has become the synonym of delay and disaster. It is a curious fact in the history of the war, that, two years after the date of the present operations, upon General Burnside himself was devolved the duty of occupying Knoxville, and performing a movement which should have been cooperative with his campaign in North Carolina. Had as much zeal and energy been displayed in other quarters as in this, the year 1862 would have borne a glorious record of victory. But after the first temporary success, an unaccountable apathy seems to have vitiated the counsels and checked the action of government, army, and people. Was it that the defeat of our material forces was needed to prepare the country for the moral triumphs of the war?

Immediately upon the arrival of General Burnside at Hatteras Inlet, he issued an order assuming command of the newly constituted Department of North Carolina. General Thomas Williams had command of the troops at Hatteras, which had been stationed there to hold the point against the enemy’s forces which had concentrated at Roanoke Island. The importance of General Butler and Flag Officer Stringham’s operations during the preceding season had now appeared. Two regiments of infantry, the 9th New York and 48th Pennsylvania, and one company, C, of the 1st United States Artillery, occupied Forts Clark and Hatteras and the neighboring parts of the island. Beyond this, the Department of North Carolina was only upon the decks of the vessels which had cast their anchors in Pamlico Sound. General Burnside’s first care was to enlarge the boundaries of his command, and establish himself securely upon the land. Losing not a moment, after getting his transports and gunboats through the swash and over the bulkhead, he prepared to obey his instructions, which contemplated an attack upon the enemy’s works on Roanoke Island and the neighboring shore. There were known to be several forts on the island, both near the Sound and in the interior. It was also known that the enemy had a small fleet of gunboats in those waters, cooperating with his land forces in the defence of the island. To our navy was intrusted the work of reducing the shore batteries and scattering or destroying the rebel fleet, while the army should land, push into the interior of the island, and carry the enemy’s works wherever they could be found.

How could the troops be landed? Where was the best point for debarkation? These were questions that demanded considerable thought and discussion. They were happily solved by an unexpected reenforcement of intelligence from Roanoke Island itself. A short time before the expedition arrived at the inlet, a negro boy, sixteen or seventeen years of age, came into the camp of our troops at Hatteras. He proved to be a bright, intelligent lad, had escaped from his master, a Mr. Robinson who lived on Roanoke Island, and sought protection from our forces. His name, he said, was “Tom.” General Williams chanced to hear of him, and, wishing for information, questioned him and ascertained that he had something of real value to communicate. When General Burnside arrived, General Williams sent Tom on board the flagship. General Burnside had a long interview with the escaped slave. Tom knew all about Roanoke and the forts and forces there. There was one strong battery about in the centre of the island. There were two or three others at different points. There were infantry and artillery on the island. There were the “Overland Greys,” “Yankee Killers,” “Sons of Liberty,”. “Jackson Avengers,” “O. K. Boys,” from North Carolina, and some, with a more respectable name, from Virginia — altogether a pretty formidable array. Did Tom know of a good landing place? “Oh, yes; at Ashby’s Harbor, about two miles below Pork Point.” Tom knows all about it, has lived not far from the harbor, has been there many a time, and will gladly go there with the troops and show them the way. Up from the harbor is a pretty good road to the place where the rebel battery is. The troops will march up there, drive the enemy out, and take the shore batteries in reverse.

Here was an important auxiliary. Tom’s information was particularly valuable. The boy was immediately taken care of, and made to feel that he was no longer a slave. Captain Richmond took charge of him, and found him, during the campaign, faithful and true in every respect. The very important facts which he imparted were of the greatest service, and most materially aided in accomplishing the success of the movement. He was a quick-witted and bright boy, and he was observed afterwards in the general’s quarters at Falmouth, conning over a spelling-book of which he had possessed himself, and steadily engaged, at every leisure moment, in learning to read.

Roanoke Island, which was the object of General Burnside’s first attack, is an island about twelve miles long from north to south, and three miles broad, occupying a commanding position in the dividing waters between Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds. Of Pamlico, we were already in possession, and could, at any time, have occupied any of the towns upon its shores. But to do this, leaving Roanoke Island in our rear, would have manifestly been a useless and very dangerous work. Roanoke Island, moreover, commanded the approaches to Norfolk from the North Carolina side. It was an outpost of Norfolk, indeed, and had been fortified by the rebels with considerable care and skill. A long narrow spit of sand lies beyond Roanoke, breaking the waves of the Atlantic. Between this and the island is a narrow, shallow sound, not navigable by gunboats of any great size. Across this spit, at a point about opposite the middle of Roanoke Island, the sea had at some time broken through and formed an inlet, which had afterwards closed. A little hillock of sand, marking the place, is called Nag’s Head. Further to the northern extremity, the sea had forced another passage, which is called Currituck Inlet. Beyond this was still another long, narrow neck of land, which, at the north, opens upon the mainland, and thence to Norfolk the way was comparatively unobstructed. Roanoke Island was, then, a position of the utmost importance to the enemy. Its reduction and occupation would give us the undisputed command of Albemarle Sound, and would be a perpetual menace to Norfolk. The occupation of the debouches, and the entire line of the Dismal Swamp and Albemarle and Chesapeake Canals, which was contemplated by the instructions of General McClellan, would give to our army an easy communication with Hampton Roads.

To protect this important place, the enemy had erected no less than five earthworks of different size, and defended, for the most part, by heavy ordnance. Three of these were built at different points upon the western shore of the island most suitable for defence. One was built in the interior of the island upon rising land — the highest point — and was the key immediately within range of the heavy guns mounted upon the lower forts. The batteries on the shore were to be silenced by the navy, while the troops were landing. But the barricade might prove to be a very serious obstruction to the naval operations. Lurking behind the barricade in the channel, the enemy had a fleet of eight small steamers. The names of the earthworks, beginning with that on Pork Point — the first encountered — are mentioned as Forts Bartow, mounting ten guns, in casement; Blanchard, four guns, en barbette; Huger, at Weir’s Point, about three miles above Bartow, thirteen guns, in embrasures ; Shallowbag Bay Fort, a small earthwork, mounting two guns on pivot ; the Centre Redoubt, command ing the causeway through the marshy land to the solid ground of the island, three guns, en barbette, and Fort Forrest, eight guns, at Redstone Point, on the main land of North Carolina. The barricade of piles and sunken vessels extended from Fort Bartow to Fort Forrest, entirely across the Sound. The forts were armed mostly with smooth bore 32-pounders. The island was held by three regiments, reenforced on the day of battle by two regiments and two battalions — among which was the company once famous in the annals of the Virginia Militia, as the “Richmond Blues,” under the command of Captain O. Jennings Wise. The entire garrison was under the command of Brigadier General Henry A. Wise, with headquarters at Nag’s Head, who acted under the orders of Major General B. C. Hill, commanding the Department. At the time of the action, General Wise was not upon the island, and the command devolved upon Colonel Henry M. Shaw, of the 8th North Carolina Volunteers. That the garrison was brave, even to desperation, was amply proved by the gallant but unavailing resistance which they made to our determined troops.

Early in February, signs of immediate action were visible. The 6th New Hampshire, the 11th Connecticut, and the Rhode Island battery had been landed on the 17th of January, and with the 48th Pennsylvania and the 9th New York, (Zouaves,) had formed the command of General Williams on Hatteras Island. Of these, the 9th New York, Colonel R. C. Hawkins, was selected to accompany the expedition to Roanoke. The others remained at Hatteras. The 53d New York Regiment (the D’Epineuil Zouaves) had been ordered back to Fortress Monroe, after the arrival of the expedition at Hatteras Inlet. With these exceptions, the force designed to attack Roanoke Island was the same that had sailed from Annapolis. On the evening of the 4th of February, General Burnside announced to Flag Officer Goldsborough that the army was ready to move, and orders were accordingly issued to the fleet to get under way on the following morning. All hearts beat high with expectation. A seven days’ moon shone softly down upon the now placid waters of Pamlico, and the air was vocal with song and cheerful talk that passed from ship to ship as the vessels swung idly at their anchors. General Burnside with his brigade commanders sought the flagship, and in consultation with Flag Officer Goldsborough and his officers, arranged the details of the morrow’s enterprise.

The morning of the 5th is clear, with a fresh, cold breeze from the north. At seven o’clock, the army transports begin to move, and by eleven o’clock, after considerable manouvering for stations, the entire armada is on its way. Disaster, shipwreck, and storm are left behind, the sun shines brightly, flags, pennants, signals are floating gaily on the morning air, hope animates every heart, and victory, glory and a nation’s gratitude are in the near and now brilliant prospect. During that day, the fleet slowly makes it way along through the waters of Pamlico, until, in the middle of the afternoon, it approaches the narrow channel of Croatan Sound. At half past four o’clock, the outline of Roanoke Island is in sight, and soon after five, the fleet anchors at the appointed rendezvous, about five miles below the “Marshes.” All the arrangements of the day have thus far been carried out with complete success, and the leading officers of the expedition meet and exchange congratulations. A boat’s crew went on shore upon the main land during the night, and brought off a pilot for the Philadelphia.

The work assigned for the 9th was the engagement of the navy with the rebel batteries, and the landing of the army. The entire force started early in the morning to work up towards the shore. But the sky was clouded, and though, at nine o’clock, the weather cleared a little, there was but little prospect for a fair day. At half past ten, rain set in, and the wind rose. No great progress was made, the fleet came to anchor, and in the afternoon, a heavy gale blew for several hours. The morning of the 7th opened with better signs, and at nine o’clock, the sky had cleared, and the sun was shining. The Flag Officer within the next quarter of an hour signalled to get under way, and ran up the inspiring motto: “The country expects every man to do his duty.” The gunboats immediately dashed forward to their appointed work. The leading vessels threaded the narrow channel of the Marshes, and passing beyond into the more open waters of Croatan Sound, approached the shores of Roanoke. The heavy armed gunboats closed up around the flagship after passing the Marshes, prepared for a strong attack. At eleven o’clock, the Underwriter reconnoitered the shore near Sandy Point, just above Ashby’s Harbor, threw a shot or two on shore without drawing a response, and Lieutenant Jeffers signalled . “No battery on Sandy Point.” The enemy’s fleet, under the command of Captain W. F. Lynch, drawn up behind the barricade, was now observed to be preparing for action, and to fire a signal gun to notify the troops on shore that the hour for action had come.

At half past ten o’clock, the army division of gunboats — the gaging the enemy’s fleet and Forts Bartow and Forrest. By noon, all the vessels had come up, and the action became very lively and general. The barracks in the rear of the earthwork on the shore of the island were set on fire, the enemy’s fleet driven off beyond the range of our heavy guns, and the enemy’s guns on shore silenced. Just before sunset, Forts Bartow and Blanchard opened once more, and the enemy’s fleet ventured forth again and put in a few shots. But in forty minutes, the vessels had been driven off a second time, one of them in a sinking condition, another disabled, and the guns from the forts slackened a little in their fire. As the darkness came on, our fleet ceased firing. The garrison on shore had made a very creditable resistance. The forts had maintained a fierce contest, and showed no signs of surrender. Above the parapets, the rebel flag still flew defiantly. The navy had done a good day’s work, but the island was not yet in our possession. The casualties had not been very great on either side. The Louisiana had been struck by an 80-pound rifled projectile, which had exploded in the forehold, and set the vessel on fire. But no one was injured, and the flames were soon extinguished. On board the Hetzel, one of our own 80-pound rifles burst, and wounded six men. The magazine was set on fire, but was extinguished in time to prevent an explosion, by the intrepidity of Lieutenant Charles L. Franklin. Master’s Mate Charles Harris, a gallant officer, was killed by a fragment of an exploded shell from one of the enemy’s vessels. The Valley City was struck in the foremast. The Hunchback was hit eight times, but without injury to her crew. The Southfield had a shot through her upperworks. The Morse was struck several times, and lost one man killed. The Ceres received a shot from the enemy which passed through the upper and lower decks. The Commodore Perry was hit seven times, but suffered no material injury. The Seymour had one man killed and one wounded. The Delaware and Picket covered the landing of the troops. The Flag Officer sent ashore a party, composed of officers and men selected from different vessels of the fleet, from the Naval Brigade— or more properly the Union Coast Guard — and the 9th New Jersey, to assist the army in holding the road from the harbor. The party filled six launches carrying six howitzers, and was under the command of Midshipman Benjamin H. Porter, of the Hunchback.

In the meantime, the army was busily engaged in preparing to land and occupy the shore of the harbor and the road into the interior. The transports were anchored off the mouth of the cove, and the soldiers were rapidly transferred to boats and light draft steamers — one of which, the Cadet, drew but two feet of water. About ten o’clock P. M., a boat load of volunteers from the 5th Rhode Island battalion, guided by Tom, and under the command of Lieutenant Andrews, detailed from the 9th New York to act as Engineer on General Burnside’s staff, was sent up the harbor to take soundings and reconnoitre the landing place. The duty was performed with great coolness and intrepidity by the party. The men landed and remained a short time. Just as they were leaving, they were fired upon, and one man was seriously wounded. At a little past four o’clock in the afternoon, all being ready, the signal to land was given. The steamers started, each towing several boats filled with men. The landing was effected in a most gallant and brilliant manner. The scene was animated and striking beyond description. The boats dashed up to the shore, each vieing with the other, the men jumped overboard as the boats grounded, waded to the land, and, amid cheers of exultation, planted the stars and stripes on Roanoke Island. A detachment of General Foster’s brigade had the advance, and the 25th Massachusetts was the first regiment to land. By five o’clock, four thousand men were put on shore. Midshipman Porter’s battery was dragged up through the mire, and out on the road, and posted in advance. Two pieces were placed at a fork of the roads, a short distance from the landing. Two pieces were posted about half a mile in advance on the left fork, and two about the same distance on the right. Detachments from the brigades of Generals Reno and Parke followed that of General Foster so rapidly, that the landing was almost simultaneous. As soon as the troops reached the land, they marched up the island through the swamps and along the causeway, pushing out on the double quick. The remainder of the command was put on shore before ten o’clock. As the night came on, those in the rear lighted their camp fires and made themselves comfortable. Those in front were not so fortunate. They were obliged to be very cautious, as it was not known how near the enemy was. Indeed General Foster had already discovered an armed party in the woods, and the Delaware and Picket had thrown a few shells for the purpose of dispersing them. The 21st Massachusetts, in support of the battery, passed a wearisome and disagreeable night. No fires could be built, and the discomfort was increased by a heavy rain which continued to fall at intervals through the gloomy hours. A cold and dismal morning succeeded the cheerless night. But the troops were in the highest spirits, and when the word “Forward!” was given, every man sprang at once, and with the utmost alacrity, to the performance of his duty. General Foster’s brigade led the way, and marched with steady step up the narrow causeway. Midshipman Porter’s battery fell into the line of march, the men dragging the cannon, following immediately the rear of the 25th Massachusetts. The skirmishers of the advancing column soon came in close contact with the enemy’s pickets, who promptly gave the alarm and retired bfore our approach. A mile and a half further on, the enemy’s earthwork was discovered, completely covering and commanding the road, and flanked on either side by a morass, in which every standing place was covered with vines and briars. General Foster deployed his troops, posted his battery, and engaged the enemy with his musketry and howitzers. Little effect was produced, and it was deemed impossible to carry the enemy’s battery without reinforcements. The enemy was strongly posted, his artillery was superior to our own, and his infantry had the advantage of fighting behind breastworks. His sharpshooters were scattered through the swamp, and did good execution. The 27th Massachusetts sought them out in their lurking places and dislodged them.

Meanwhile, General Reno, with all the ardor of his nature, was hurrying up his brigade. If there was any man who felt “the rapture of battle,” it was the brave commander of the 2nd Brigade. His men felt the influence of his enthusiastic spirit, and were eager to join the fray. General Reno ordered his troops to the left, with the intention of turning the right of the battery. The movement was accordingly made as well as it could be, considering the state of the ground. The troops found themselves entangled in a morass, where the water and mud were waist-deep, and in which almost the only firm places were the clumps of bushes, briars, and coarse grass that were scattered through the swamp. The advance in this difficult movement was taken by two companies of the 21st Massachusetts, led by Colonel Maggi and Adjutant Stearns, the latter of whom gives the following account of the attack: “General Reno came to Colonel Maggi, and, pointing to a dense, almost impenetrable cypress swamp, said: ‘Colonel, you must flank the battery.’ Colonel Maggi led the way, I followed, then Captain Foster leading his company. After an hour of almost superhuman effort, cutting bushes with our swords, and wading to our middle in bogs and water, two companies got on to the flank of the battery and began the fire.” Three companies of the 51st New York, under Lieutenant Colonel Potter, followed this movement, and took position to the left of Colonel Maggi’s force. The enemy, not anticipating the advance of our troops in this direction, was somewhat surprised at their appearance. It was but for a moment. He quickly trained his guns upon the men in the swamp and on the cleared ground immediately around his works. A fearful storm of grape and canister fell around our men. But they pushed steadily on, and finally reached a position where they could turn and possibly capture the battery, by a steady, well supported charge. General Reno coolly formed his line amid the heaviest of the enemy’s fire. Colonel Ferrero brought up the remainder of the 51st, and formed on the left. Major Clark brought up the remainder of the 21st, and formed on the right, relieving the two companies that had been engaged in the unequal conflict with the enemy’s battery. It was now about half past one o’clock in the afternoon. The troops had been struggling through the swampy ground for two or three hours, but were ready for the further duty of the day.

While these movements were making on our left, General Foster was occupying the attention of the enemy immediately in front. The troops had advanced within short range, the naval battery steadily keeping its place in the line. The 25th Massachusetts, which had suffered quite severely, was now withdrawn, and the 10th Connecticut took its place. The 23d and 27th Massachusetts skirmished through the woods and the morass upon the right, coming full upon a battalion of the enemy and forcing it back. The 51st Pennsylvania was held in reserve. The 24th Massachusetts, which arrived from Hatteras and landed during the forenoon, was hastened up from the landing to take part in the engagement. The 23d and 27th Massachusetts succeeded, after great exertion, in penetrating the swamp and woods on our right, and in reaching, with some loss, the cleared ground upon the enemy’s left. The 9th New York, of General Parke’s brigade, under Major Kimball, pushed its way slowly through the underbrush to the right, then deflecting towards the road again, advanced along the edge of the causeway.

General Burnside, at the landing, now sent forward General Parke’s brigade to the support of the forces combining for the grand final attack. General Parke, immediately upon his arrival, ordered the 4th Rhode Island to follow the 23d and 27th Massachusetts in the demonstration upon the enemy’s left. With the utmost toil, through mud and water half-leg deep — sometimes nearly waist-deep — the men struggled through the morass. The 8th Connecticut occupied the woods to the north and east of the landing, guarding the main road to prevent any movement of the enemy in our rear. The 5th Rhode Isl and guarded Ashby’s house, now occupied as a hospital. Such was the state of affairs when General Reno prepared, soon after one o’clock in the afternoon, to charge the enemy’s battery upon its right flank. It had required hard fighting and persistent struggling through a swamp and wood, that the enemy had considered impenetrable, to reach this point. The artillery of the enemy’s battery had been well served, and his infantry had shown great pluck and determination. But our men had been gradually enveloping his position, attacking him in front and on both flanks, and his time had come.

General Reno, having got his brigade into position, ordered the charge. Away went the 21st Massachusetts and the 51st New York, followed closely by the remainder of the brigade. They advanced most gallantly and with great enthusiasm. The courage of veterans could not have been more conspicuous as these brave men rushed forward to storm “the deadly breach.” Onward they went. Adjutant Stearns describes the charge as “magnificent.” “As our noble men advanced with bayonets fixed, at a short quick step, a low, involuntary cry burst from their lips. It was no war cry; it was a cry of exultation, of joy, which came leaping from a thousand hearts, swelling into a perfect storm of cheers.[1. Adjutant Stearns, p. 02.] The troops moved rapidly over the ground in front, leaped down into the ditch, struggled through, clambered up the parapet, poured through the embrasures, drove out the enemy at the point of the bayonet, and, with thundering shouts of triumph, planted the colors of their respective regiments and the national flag upon the captured works. Generals Foster and Parke, observing from their position in front that the enemy was somewhat embarassed by General Reno’s appearance upon his right flank, ordered the 9th New York to charge. Then almost at the same time the enemy was taken upon his front and flank. The Zouaves rushed forward with their peculiar cry of “Zou! Zou!” — their red caps filling the road — an exciting scene. They mounted the parapet and scattered the garrison. The two victorious columns met in the centre of the work and congratulated each other on the happy result. At the same time, the head of the column that had passed through the swamp upon our right appeared on the left of the enemy’s position, and was received with hearty and exultant shouts. The 24th Massachusetts also came up the road to share in the general joy.

A halt of half an hour was allowed to refresh the men and to replenish the partially exhausted cartridge-boxes, and then the troops were once more put in motion to pursue the retreating enemy. General Reno with his brigade marched up the central road, and then down to the right upon the eastern shore of the island. General Foster pursued over the central road, and General Parke went to the left. As the troops advanced in pursuit, the evidences of the total rout of the enemy were observed on every side. The way was strewn with guns, bowie knives, blankets, canteens, knapsacks, and everything that could have impeded the flight of the defeated foe. The 21st Massachusetts was in advance, and as the troops, after marching about three miles, came out upon the beach, they descried a few boats filled with the enemy’s wounded and other fugitives, attempting to cross the narrow channel to Nag’s Head. A few well-directed shots brought to the rearmost boat, which returned to land. It had on board Captain O. Jennings Wise and another wounded officer, who had been among the bravest defenders of the enemy’s battery. In a large farmhouse upon the beach, other wounded officers and soldiers were found. The troops scoured the beach right and left, and picked up numerous scattered parties of prisoners. General Foster had pushed on to the northern end of the island, and, after a march of four or five miles, the advanced companies of skirmishers were fired upon from a belt of woods. The line was immediately formed, and the men prepared for a charge. The enemy then sent forward a flag of truce. The officer bearing it, on being received and led to General Foster, asked what terms of capitulation would be allowed. General Foster replied that the surrender must be unconditional. There was no escape, and the officer, upon a further conference with his superior, returned with Colonel Henry M. Shaw, of the 8th North Carolina Volunteers, the commandant of the post, who surrendered all the forces on the island. The number of prisoners was two thousand six hundred and seventy-seven, fifty of whom were wounded. These were tenderly cared for, and with our own wounded, received every attention. Captain Wise was mortally wounded, but was defiant to the very last. He died on the next morning after the battle, expressing with his latest breath, his deep regret that he could not live longer to fight against the Union. The surrender to General Foster included all the defences and material of war on the island. General Parke, with the 4th Rhode Island and the 10th Connecticut, marched down to the Pork Point battery, found it abandoned, and at once occupied the work. The navy had engaged the attention of the garrison during the day by occasional firing. As soon as the central battery had fallen, the enemy had given up the contest, and sought only the means of escape.

The fruits of this splendid achievement, besides the prisoners captured, were “five forts, mounting thirty-two guns, winter quarters for some four thousand troops, three thousand stand of small arms, large hospital buildings, with a large amount of lumber, wheelbarrows, scows, pile drivers, a mud dredge, ladders, and various other appurtenances for military service.”[2. Burnside’s Report] The enemy had received a severe chastisement. Among the prisoners was a battalion of North Carolina Militia that had come over from Elizabeth City that morning to take part in the fight, but had been obliged to surrender without firing a gun. The names of the captured forts were changed, and received the names of the successful generals. Fort Bartow was called Fort Foster, Fort Blanchard received the name of Fort Parke, and Fort Huger that of Fort Reno. Our losses amounted to forty-one killed and one hundred and eighty-one wounded. The enemy’s loss was considerably less, as he fought behind defences.

Among our killed were several valuable officers. Captain Joseph J. Henry, of the 9th New Jersey, was a good officer and brave man, and fell gallantly fighting in front of the enemy. Second Lieutenants Stillman and John H. Goodwin, Jr., of the 10th Connecticut, were both steady and unflinching in the discharge of their duty, and willingly yielded their lives for its sake. The 10th Connecticut suffered a severe loss in the death of its Colonel, Charles L. Russell, who fell a short time before the final charge, while watching the progress of our men upon the left. Colonel Russell was a native of Northfield, Connecticut, and was thirty-three years of age at the time of his death. He left a wife and family of small children to mourn his death. He had long been associated with the militia of his native State, and had taken great interest in its welfare. Upon the breaking out of the war, he was commissioned as Adjutant in the 2d Connecticut regiment, and fought bravely at the battle of Bull Run. He was appointed Captain in the 8th, and afterwards to the command of the 10th, and marched with the latter to the seat of war in November, 1861. His regiment was distinguished for its soldierly bearing and discipline, and reflected great credit upon its brave and faithful commander. He died in the performance of his duty, and as a brave officer should, at the head of his troops. Lieutenant Colonel De Montiel remained, after his regiment had been ordered back to Fortress Monroe, and was permitted to join the Hawkins Zouaves as a volunteer. He was killed while charging with the regiment Doo upon the enemy’s battery. General Parke had offered him a position upon his staff for the day, but this he declined, preferring to take a rifle and fight by himself. He displayed conspicuous courage until picked off by one of the enemy’s sharp shooters. General Burnside paid handsome tributes to the memory of these brave men in General Orders. In their honor, the enemy’s captured work in the centre of the island was called Battery Russell, and one of those taken on the eastern shore Battery Monteil. One of the victims of the battle, though not shot in action, was Dr. Meinis, of the 48th Pennsylvania regiment. He was detached from his own regiment, and appointed to accompany the 9th New Jersey, then going into action. He lost his life by disease brought on by his untiring devotion to the wounded during and after the action of the 8th, and ending fatally on the 10th. “To his forgetfulness of self,” says the commanding general in an order issued at the time, “which kept him at his post at the hospital, regardless of rest or sleep, the Department owes a debt of gratitude.”

The casualties in the navy proper, during the engagement of the 7th, amounted to three killed and eleven wounded. One of the latter was a private of the 4th Rhode Island, who was serving temporarily on the Commodore Perry. In Midshipman Porter’s battery, three men were killed, six wounded, and two were missing. They belonged to the Union Coast Guard and the 9th New Jersey infantry. On the 8th, the navy was engaged at intervals with the shore batteries, the Flag Officer governing his action according to the condition of things onshore. During the afternoon of the 8th, the barricade across Croatan Sound was removed sufficiently to allow a free access to our naval forces into the waters where the enemy’s fleet had sought escape. Of this fleet, one vessel, the Curlew, had been disabled on the previous day, had been reduced to an almost sinking condition, had retreated under the guns of Fort Forrest, and was now set on fire and blown up to prevent her falling into our hands. The fort itself also shared her fate. Captain Lynch, with his seven remaining vessels, steamed away for Elizabeth City. Thither the Flag Officer directed Commander Rowan to proceed, and capture or destroy the enemy’s vessels. A flotilla of fourteen vessels, mounting thirty-four guns, was placed under his command. With this force, Commander Rowan left the anchorage off Roanoke Island on the afternoon of the 9th, and making directly for the mouth of the Pasquotank river, entered and steamed slowly up to a point about fourteen miles below Elizabeth City, where, at eight o’clock in the evening, the flotilla came to anchor. Ten miles above, was Cobb’s Point, where the enemy had a four gun battery. Opposite to this was anchored a schooner — the Black Warrior — armed with two heavy guns. At daylight the next morning, the vesels moved up in order, the Underwriter in advance, and at half past eight o’clock, the enemy’s fleet was descried drawn up in the rear of the batteries, in line of battle, “diagonally across and up the river.”[3. Commander Rowan’s Report] As our vessels came within long range, the enemy commenced firing. Our own vessels did not reply, but continued silently and steadily to advance. When within three-fourths of a mile of the rebel fleet, Commander Rowan signalled “Dash at the enemy!” The order was enthusiastically received and eagerly obeyed. The vessels were at once put to the top of their speed, pressed up the river, ran past the batteries, and immediately engaged the enemy. The onset was daring and desperate. The fight was short and decisive. The Commodore Perry made for the enemy’s flag ship, the Sea Bird, ran her down and sank her. The Ceres lay alongside the Ellis and captured her. The Underwriter and Shawsheen chased the Beaufort and another steamer up the river and canal, but could not overtake them. The Lockwood made for the Black Warrior, which the enemy soon deserted, first setting her on fire. The Shawsheen attacked the Fanny, which the enemy also set on fire and abandoned. The Forrest, which was lying near the wharf of the city, repairing injuries suffered in the fight at Roanoke, and a new gunboat not quite completed, were destroyed. The battery was deserted, and the guns captured. In fifteen minutes, the entire action was finished, and in half an hour, the fleet was lying quietly at anchor off Elizabeth City. The garrison and crews that escaped, in flying through the town, set it on fire in several places. In this engagement a notable incident took place, which was very creditable to a quarter-gunner on board the Valley City, by the name of John Davis. A shot from the enemy had passed through the Valley City’s magazine and exploded in a locker beyond. Lieutenant Chaplin went into the exposed part of the ship to provide for extinguishing the flames, and found Mr. Davis coolly seated on an open barrel of powder, covering it with his person as the only means of keeping out the fire.[4. Commander Rowan’s Report] Secretary Welles recognized the importance of the service, and at once appointed Davis acting gunner in the navy of the United States. Commander Rowan, on the 11th, sent Lieutenant Murray with the Louisiana, Commodore Perry, Underwriter, and Lockwood, to Edenton, where our forces destroyed eight cannon and a vessel on the stocks, and captured two schooners. Immediately on the return of this expedition, another was sent, under the same officer, to obstruct the Currituck canal. Lieutenant Murray effectually accomplished this important duty.

In the cooperative movements of the army and navy, the signal corps attached to the expedition was found to be of great service. This corps was composed of twenty officers and fifty men, under the instruction and command of First Lieutenant Joseph Fricker, of the 8th Pennsylvania. Twenty-four Second Lieutenants, selected mostly from Massachusetts regiments, formed the complement of officers. Two officers and four men were assigned to each brigade, army and naval division headquarters, and their services were gratefully acknowledged by the officers of both arms.

The intelligence of the brilliant victories won by our land and naval forces was received at the North with feelings of grateful exultation. The winter had been one of inaction and almost despondency. The disasters at Hatteras Inlet had not conduced to raise the public mind. News of the most cheering character had been received from the West of the movement of Flag Officer Foote upon Fort Henry, and of General Grant upon Fort Donelson. But in the East nothing had been done as yet in the campaign of 1862, to arouse the public enthusiasm, and the victory of General Burnside and Flag Officer Goldsborough was accordingly welcomed as the beginning of a splendidly successful campaign. Appreciative letters were sent from the President and the War and Navy Departments to the triumphant leaders. The Mayor of the city of New York issued a proclamation of congratulation. The Legislatures of Massachusetts and Ohio passed votes of felicitation. The General Assembly of Rhode Island, upon the recommendation of Governor Sprague, voted its thanks and a sword to General Burnside. Salutes were fired in the principal northern cities. The successes of our arms were accepted as the auguries of future and more decisive triumphs.