Burnside Biography: Chapter Six

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 VI. The Department of North Carolina. (pp. 76-97)

THE boundaries of General Burnside’s jurisdiction as commander of the Department of North Carolina, were necessarily defined by the limits of the conquests which our arms should make. After the battle of Newbern, the pursuit of the flying foe into the interior would have been an easy task, had the victorious army been appointed and equipped for an aggressive campaign of such importance. But General Burnside had no cavalry. He had also no reserves. All his forces had been put into the battle after a wearisome march, and they were too much exhausted to do more than drive the enemy out of his defences. The orders for the expedition pointed to the immediate reduction of Fort Macon. General Burnside, therefore, was obliged to content himself with the administration of affairs, and with strengthening Newbern and putting it in condition for defence, that it might become a suitable base for future military operations. His instructions contem plated no movement at present beyond the reoccupation of Fort Macon. On Sunday, March 16th, public services of Thanksgiving to God for the victories of our arms were held in the churches of Newbern, and on Monday, the serious civil work of the Department began.

General Burnside found that he had by no means an easy task to perform. While the siege of Fort Macon was in progress, affairs at Newbern demanded almost constant personal supervision. There were questions of property to settle, the em ployment and care of large numbers of “contrabands” who had been abandoned by their masters, the subsistence of many poor persons who had no visible means of support, and a thousand other matters of greater or less importance, which required perpetual attention. The Department had been constituted upon the arrival of the expedition at Hatteras Inlet. While it included within its boundaries only Hatteras Inlet and its neighborhood, its civic duties were not arduous. But as its limits enlarged, its labors increased. It had been supposed that North Carolina was a State which had been reluctantly dragged out of the Union. There must be a strong loyal sentiment somewhere latent among the people. It was not the least of General Burnside’s duties to seek, to find and to develope this sentiment. Could it be done best by diplomacy or by arms General Burnside did not think that, while the rebels had a large army in the field, any State could be allured from its subjection to the rebel government. It would be use less for any number of people to declare themselves independ ent of the authority at Richmond, while that authority could command the arms of half a million of soldiers. A State must be conquered, or its professed allegiance was of small value. It was the duty of the Commander of a Department to show to all the people within the boundaries of his authority, that the government which he served was more powerful than the usurping government, and that he had ample means for protecting those persons who would renounce their allegiance to the enemy and declare themselves loyal to the Union. The policy of the United States was not only to conciliate, but to subdue and to defend. If there should be any considerable numbers of loyal persons on the shores of North Carolina, it would be cruel to leave them exposed to the hatred and hostility of their enemies. As a military movement, it was also necessary to hold certain points upon the coast, to manifest the supreme authority of the government of the United States, and to prove that the attempts making to restore that authority all over the South were made earnestly and with an eye to success.

With some such object in view, General Burnside sent out detachments of his troops to visit, examine, and, if thought necessary, to occupy certain portions of the coast. While General Parke’s brigade was busy at Beaufort and Fort Macon, the command at Newbern was not suffered to lack employment. Colonel Hartranft, with the 51st Pennsylvania Regiment, made a reconnaissance into the interior of the coast counties, acquiring considerable valuable information, and picking up a few prisoners.

A somewhat important expedition, under the command of General Foster, was sent to Washington, at the head of the Pamlico river. On the 19th of March, eight companies of the 24th Massachusetts, under Colonel Stevenson, were embarked on board the steam transport Guide, and on the 20th, they sailed, under convoy of the gunboats Louisiana, Delaware, and Commodore Perry. The steamers anchored in the Pamlico river the same night, and on the 21st, proceeded up the river. At a distance of five miles below the place, obstructions were found in the channel, to prevent the ingress of any hostile force. One or two deserted batteries were observed upon the shore. The gunboats broke through the obstructions, but owing to the shallowness of the water, the transport could not approach the town. Two companies were transferred to a boat of lighter draft, were landed, and marched into the place without hindrance.

An account of the occupation given by the correspondent of the Boston Journal, presents a very good view of the expedition and its results : “Washington is a village of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, some two-thirds of whom have seen fit to leave for the interior. It is a pleasant, inviting locality. Our troops landed at a wharf, and visited the village about two o’clock in the afternoon, where they were received by the remaining inhabitants with every expression of welcome. In passing through the streets, one lady appeared at her door and displayed the stars and stripes, which she had long kept secreted from the rebels. She seemed overjoyed at the sight of our troops. The line of march extended to the Court House, where was a flagstaff, and upon this was run up the national flag. The people gathered wonderingly about, and seemed to enjoy the sight, though they refrained from any strong expression of their feelings. It was ascertained that the principal portion of the rebel force here had left immediately after Newbern was taken, and that a squad of Cavalry, which lingered behind, had recently left the place.” Our naval forces found that two gunboats had been building at this place. One of them, pierced for six guns, was launched and carried up the river a short time before the arrival of our forces. It was burnt on the night of the 20th, by the enemy’s hands. The other boat was not yet completed, and was destroyed by our seamen, assisted by some of the inhabitants of the town. After a short stay, our troops were reembarked, and on the next day returned to Newbern. Other small bodies of troops were sent into the country upon reconnoitering expeditions. They returned with reports of a not very encouraging nature. The loyal sentiment of the people of North Carolina was not so strong as had been supposed. The people had at first, doubtless, beeen overawed by the superior power of the rebel government. But they had also, to a very great extent, willingly entered into the war against the Federal Government. North Carolina had also profited largely, and was destined to profit still more by the blockade-running, for which Wilmington afforded unusual facilities. The people were not yet ready to break away from the yoke of the insurgent power. They had not felt its heavy burden as they were destined to feel it a later period. Still, our own government did not despair of bringing the State back to its allegiance.

Roanoke Island was also the base of some operations which kept the troops employed, though they accomplished no extraordinary results. Before the army had started for Newbern, on the 8th of March, a force of six companies of the 6th New Hampshire had been sent to Columbia in search of a regiment of rebels which was said to be gathering recruits at that place. General Foster led the expedition. The troops landed, marched into the village, but could find no enemy. The population of that section of the State was so sparse, that the game was not worth the candle. The village was very small, and the inhabitants of slight account as to either character or courage. Nothing more formidable than the public whipping post was found, and that was speedily destroyed.

A rather more brilliant affair was conducted by Lieutenant Colonel Griffin of the 6th New Hampshire with four companies of his own regiment and two companies of the 9th New Jersey, about six hundred men in all. Receiving information that a rebel camp was pitched for recruiting purposes near Elizabeth City, Colonel Griffin proceeded thither under convoy of the gunboats Virginia, Ceres, General Putnam, Commodore Perry, and Stars and Stripes, on the night of the 7th of April. Colonel Griffin landed his forces the next morning near the designated place. The two companies of the 9th New Jersey disem barked at Elizabeth. The 6th New Hampshire proceeded about three miles above the city to cut off the enemy’s retreat. The attack was gallantly made. The camp was surprised, one of the enemy killed, two wounded and seventy-four captured. The remainder took to the woods, leaving three wounded and fifty stands of arms and a considerable quantity of ammunition and public stores to fall into the hands of our victorious troops. The command returned to Roanoke Island without loss.

An expedition on a somewhat larger scale than any that had yet been undertaken, was sent to Camden County for the purpose of ascertaining what force of the enemy, if any there were, had become established in the neighborhood of the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal, and what opportunity existed for obstructing the canal itself. The troops engaged in the enterprise were the 21st Massachusetts, Lieutenant Colonel Clark, – – 5lst Pennsylvania, Major Schall, the 9th New York, Lieutenant Colonel Kimball, 89th New York, Colonel H. S. Fairchild, and 6th New Hampshire, Lieutenant Colonel Griffin. The 9th New York had with them two howitzers, and two other pieces of artillery manned by the Marines and commanded by Colonel Howard, accompanied the expedition. The first two regiments and Colonel Howard’s command were from Newbern and formed a brigade under Lieutenant Colonel Bell. The remainder of the troops were from Roanoke Island and formed a brigade under Colonel Hawkins. The gunboats Commodore Perry, Delaware, Lockwood, Picket, Southfield, Stars and Stripes, Underwriter, General Putnam and Whitehead escorted the expedition. The land forces were under the command of General Reno. The work of disembarkation at a point about four miles below Elizabeth City commenced about midnight of the 18th of April. Colonel Hawkins had his command landed about two o’clock a. m. on the 19th. The other troops were delayed by the transports getting aground and did not reach the shore until about seven o’clock. Colonel Hawkins was ordered to march his brigade to South Mills, where was a bridge which the enemy would be obliged to cross in retreating. The guides which he had were either incompetent or treacherous, and led him in a long, circuitous march through the country, but not into the enemy’s rear. He came out upon the road upon which General Reno was leading the remainder of the command, about twelve miles from the landing place, and there about noon the two columns made a junction. This was not precisely according to General Reno’s instructions and somewhat disturbed his arrangements. The only thing to be done, however, was to push forward as rapidly as possible.

The march had told very severely upon all the troops, particularly upon Colonel Hawkins’s brigade. The day was very hot; the roads were very dry and dusty. The men had had little or no experience in marching and sensibly felt the debilitating influence of the weather. Many suffered from slight sun strokes and fell out from the line of march exhausted by the unaccustomed hardship. The surgeons and chaplains in the rear were obliged to impress wagons and other vehicles, with mules and horses that were found in the barns along the road, to relieve the weary soldiers.

About three o’clock in the afternoon, at a point near Camden, about twenty miles distant from the landing, the enemy 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 has ten 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. 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 up 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 regiment. “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, reenforcements, 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 reenforcements now arriving, was the 3d New York cavalry, under Colonel S. H. Mix, an excellent officer. The 17th Massachusetts, Colonel Thomas J. C. Amory, 103d 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 reenforcements, 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 reinforcements to the threatened point as would make an attempt to capture it a very doubtful, as well as hazardous experiment. Naval cooperation 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 a 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 reenforce 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 and muddy plains, rendered almost impassable by the continuous rain. The enemy was sullen and defiant even in retreat, giving back only step by step, and under the pressure of superior numbers. General McClellan proved himself to be slow and unready in all his enterprises, preferring to fight defensive battles, instead of pushing the enemy away from his front by determined attacks. Even in success, he did not seem to understand the proper method of pressing an advantage. Another condition was the occupation of the enemy’s attention at Charleston and in its neighborhood. But in the Department of South Carolina, little was doing towards a speedy termination of the attempt upon the stronghold of secession. In fact, the movement of our armies on the Atlantic seaboard seemed to depend altogether upon the success of General McClellan’s movements. The plan of the commanding general of the Army of the Potomac evidently was to have the armies at Newbern and Port Royal set in motion to cut off the enemy’s retreat, when he should be driven out from Richmond. Until that most desirable consummation should be reached, the other movements were not to be expected. General McClellan and the Secretary of War had already written to General Burnside from Yorktown, that no offensive movement was to be made into the interior of North Carolina until the issue of the operations on the lower peninsula had been determined. When Yorktown was abandoned by the enemy, General McClellan hoped that the way would be opened to Richmond, and that he would have to fight but one decisive battle in front of the coveted point. The sharply contested fight at Williamsburg showed him that the enterprise was more difficult than he had supposed. He then began to feel that there were largely superior forces before him, and that they must be beaten before any successful operations could be made farther to the South. The most that could by any means be done would be simply a diversion, and the authorities in the field and at headquarters were undecided as to whether Winton, Weldon, or Goldsborough should be the objective point. In fact, the irresolution and delay which prevailed in regard to affairs in Virginia, had their natural effect upon affairs in North Carolina, and General Burnside was in consequence restricted within the narrow limits of his conquests along the coast. But the chief condition of moving into the interior was a supply of transportation and cavalry for a march of sixty miles. General Burnside had thus far marched his troops and fought his battles without baggage or cavalry. There was scarcely a wagon in the Department, and, without means of transportation for his supplies and his sick and wounded soldiers, the march to Goldsborough could not be made. Colonel Mix’s cavalry relieved the mounted artillery men in their picket duty, and supplied the deficiency which had previously existed in that arm of the service. It was not till nearly the middle of May, that cavalry, wagons, ambulances, cars and locomotives arrived in the De partment for the purposes of a long campaign.

On the tenth of May, General Wool, stimulated by the presence of the President and the Secretaries of the Treasury and War, advanced from Fortress Monroe on Norfolk. The city surrendered, the rebel General Huger having withdrawn his command. On the eleventh, the rebels set fire to the Merrimac, and she was blown up and sunk near Sewall’s Point. This event opened the James River as far as Drury’s Bluff, the Elizabeth River and the canals between North Carolina and Norfolk to the undisputed possession of our naval and military forces. Had General McClellan immediately transferred his base of operations from the York River to the James and made an attack upon Petersburg, he would have changed the entire character of his campaign and indeed of the whole record of the summer of 1862 in Virginia. The perils of the Chickahominy swamps, the disastrous and bloody battles around Richmond, and the terrible scenes of the retreat to Harrison’s Landing would have been avoided. Then General Burnside could have made a successful demonstration on Goldsborough, and it is safe to presume that the most brilliant and satisfactory results would have followed. Indeed, while General McClellan was at Harrison’s Landing, General Burnside suggested an attempt upon Petersburg. But then the opportunity had passed, and the baffled Army of the Potomac was not equal to such a movement.

During the military operations in North Carolina the Government had steadily kept in view the political pacification of the State. With this end, communications had passed between the authorities at Washington and the Hon. Edward Stanley, once a member of Congress from North Carolina, and a popular and influential man there, but at this time resident in California. The correspondence culminated in his appointment as Military Governor of North Carolina. He arrived at Newbern on the 26th day of May, and General Burnside at once turned over to him the jurisdiction of all civil and political affairs, assuring him of the most cordial cooperation on the part of the military officers. It was a manifest relief to the commanding general, and whatever was the subsequent success of the experiment, it had the merit of having originated in a humane spirit and was conducted with good and patriotic intentions.

With the exception of Governor Stanley’s arrival, the month of May was a comparatively quiet season in the Department. On the 14th the naval expedition visited Plymouth. The newly arrived troops were engaged in short expeditions into the neighboring country, in which Colonel Mix’s cavalry bore a conspicuous part. The enemy made occasional dashes upon our outposts with indifferent results upon either side. Political events were of unimportant significance. The life of the camp was somewhat monotonous and dull. The most pleasing event of the month was the release of several hundred Union prisoners, in accordance with the cartel at Roanoke Island. Among these, General Burnside was glad to recognize and welcome several members of his old command, the First Rhode Island. The great exploits that were performing elsewhere — at New Orleans, on the Mississippi, in Tennessee — had no parallel on the Atlantic seaboard. Finally “Stonewall” Jackson’s discomfiture and pursuit of General Banks down the Shenandoah valley and across the Potomac disturbed the plans of General McClellan to such an extent, as to make the Peninsula cam paign a decided and manifest failure. General Jackson’s movements threatened Washington, caused considerable consternation at the War Office, shook General McDowell’s position at Fredericksburg, and, at a later period, recoiled on General McClellan with disastrous effect. Our officers in North Carolina awaited the course of events — since they could do nothing more — with as much patience as was compatible with the circumstances of the case.

Another month of inaction followed. The monotony of life in North Carolina was somewhat varied by a smart engagement which took place at Tranter’s Creek about ten miles from Washington on the 5th of June. Eight companies of the 24th Massachusetts under Lieutenant Colonel F. A. Osborn, a squadron of Colonel Mix’s cavalry and a battery of two steel Wiard guns under Lieutenant William B. Avery, manned by twenty-five men of the Marines, constituted our force. The enemy had cavalry and infantry, was attacked boldly and received a severe punishment. The affair was of short duration but was very creditable to the officers and men engaged in it. On the 10th, General Burnside visited General McClellan at his headquarters in front of Richmond. This visit gave to General Burnside some explanation of the inactivity of the Army of the Potomac. One cause at least existed in the condition of that section of the country. The roads were found to be in horrible condition. The almost continuous rains of the preceding months had made almost the entire Peninsula like a vast morass. Even an enterprising general would have found it difficult, amid such circumstances, to satisfy the hopes of the country.

Another event of more personal than general interest was the presentation of the sword, voted by the General Assembly of Rhode Island, to General Burnside in recognition of the services rendered by him at the commencement of his campaign. The weapon and its appurtenances were exceedingly elegant in design and finish, and happily illustrated the good taste of the manufacturer and the generosity of the State. Adjutant General E. C. Mauran was designated by the Governor of Rhode Island to present the sword, and he, in company with Captain Henry Bedlow, left Providence on the 2d day of June for Newbern. The presentation was made on the 20th, and the pageant is described by those who witnessed it in enthusiastic terms. The garrison of Newbern, all the Rhode Island troops in the Department and others that could readily be spared from their posts, were concentrated at Newbern. About eight thousand were in attendance. A grand review took place; and amidst the waving of banners, the inspiriting notes of martial music, and in the presence of a large multitude of spectators, the ceremony of presentation was performed. Congratulatory and very felicitous addresses were gracefully and eloquently pronounced on both sides, and a banquet, attended by all the officers present in the city, closed the festivities of the day. The honor, thus worthily conferred and modestly received, found readiest response in the hearts of the officers and men of the army in North Carolina, who attested, by long continued cheering and other demonstrations of joy, their appreciation of the compliment thus paid to their beloved commander.

But this concentration and review of troops had other purposes than those of display and compliment. General Burnside, weary of his long enforced quiet, had determined upon a movement into the interior. His supplies had been collected, his means of transportation prepared, his cavalry well trained for service, and his troops eager for marching orders. He proposed to strike at Goldsboro’. The most encouraging accounts had been received of General McClellan’s operations towards Richmond, and hopes were entertained of the triumphant close of the campaign — and the war. With the communications cut, and the line of retreat obstructed, it was expected that the rebel Army of Northern Virginia would fall an easy prey to the victorious Army of the Potomac. The last days of June therefore were devoted to the work of final preparation, and, on the 30th, orders were issued for the immediate movement of the troops. But the next morning, an order was received to reenforce General McClellan without delay. The order occasioned some surprise and considerable apprehension for the safety of the Army of the Potomac. It was immediately obeyed, and the troops were embarked. But now came another sudden turn of affairs. Colonel Hawkins at Roanoke Island had heard, through certain sources of information which he deemed trustworthy, that General McClellan had achieved a magnificent success, had driven out the enemy from Richmond and had occupied that city with his army. On the 2d of July, this information was transmitted from Colonel Hawkins to General Burnside, who at once stopped his contemplated voyage to the James River, expecting to receive orders to resume his land movements.

The information received, however, had no foundation in fact. Colonel Hawkins had been deceived. What was really true was, that General Lee’s entire army had fallen upon General McClellan with great fury, and had forced him from his position in front of Richmond. The army of the Potomac was struggling in the memorable and disastrous “seven days’ fight,” and at last succeeded, on the night of the 3d of July, in reaching Harrison’s Landing. Vague reports of these disastrous days reached General Burnside on the 4th. The enemy was careful to put them in exaggerated and discouraging forms. But General Burnside, still hopeful, was not willing to believe that the brave Army of the Potomac was yet annihilated. He knew that that could not be, and he did not entirely credit the intelligence even of the enemy’s decisive victory. What he did believe is best expressed in the language which he used, in addressing the Secretary of War, on the 5th: “We have Richmond papers giving information, or rather their version of the events up to ten o’clock of the night of the 1st. After making due allowance for the exaggerations, we are led to believe that General McClellan has made a successful retreat to some point on the James River nearly opposite City Point, thereby securing a new and better base of operations, in which case he can, I imagine, after resting his army and receiving proper reinforcements, work his way up the James to Richmond.” In this communication to the Secretary, General Burnside submits three propositions for the disposal of his own command, which sufficiently indicate his ideas of the situation: “First, we can move with 7,000 Infantry (which were started the other day for the James River) at once; — at the same time holding with tolerable security all the points now in our possession, together with the railroad from this place to Beaufort. Second, or we can send 8,000 Infantry and hold all these points, but cannot protect either the railroad or Beaufort. The latter, however, can be protected by the navy, while we hold Fort Macon. This move will require two days’ notice. Third, or we can move from here with from three to five days’ notice with the entire command, except the garrisons for Hatteras Inlet, Fort Macon and Roanoke Island, placing our sick at the latter place and leaving this place to be protected by the navy. This would involve the dismantling of the two very strong forts on the outskirts of the city. We can thus add to the Army of the Potomac a force of 11,500 Infantry, one regiment of Cavalry, 20 pieces of light Artillery, and, if necessary one hundred wagons and a supply of ambulances, all in good condition. All these propositions presuppose that the rebel army at Richmond is still occupied at that place by the establishment of the Army of the Potomac at some point on James River near City Point. If such is the case, General McClellan would, I imagine, cut off the enemy’s communications with North Carolina by taking Petersburg, thus rendering it unnecessary for the present to cut the two lines in the interior of the State.”

The first proposition was evidently that which seemed most feasible to General Burnside himself, and also to the Secretary of War; for on the very day upon which the communication above referred to was dated, the troops — eight thousand in number — began to leave Newbern for the James River. They all arrived and were landed at Newport News on the 8th. In the course of the next two weeks, this force was joined by a small division from Hilton Head and its neighborhood, under the command of Brigadier General Isaac I. Stevens. Not far from twelve thousand men were thus collected at Newport News, available for a reenforcement of the Army of the Potomac, and for further operations against Richmond, if such were deemed advisable by the Government. But this force was without cavalry, artillery, wagons, or teams, and had for means of transportation by land only a few ambulances and the officers’ horses. General Burnside’s headquarters were on board the small steamer Alice Price.

This departure from Newbern terminated, in effect, General Burnside’s connection with military operations in North Carolina. He still retained a nominal authority there, but he never returned to a personal supervision of affairs in that quarter. He finally relinquished all jurisdiction in the Department on the 26th of August, and General Foster succeeded to the vacant command. General Burnside’s farewell order was dated from Fredericksburg, and bore witness to the harmony and reciprocal good will which had so eminently characterized the conduct of affairs in North Carolina, and which had contributed so fully to the brilliant successes which had been there achieved.

Major General John G. Foster, who succeeded General Burnside in the command of the Department of North Carolina, had already won for himself a brilliant reputation. He had been for a considerable time in the service of the country, and had always been found to be a faithful and skilful officer. He was born in New Hampshire, in the year 1824, and was appointed from that State to the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated from the Academy in 1846, the fourth in rank in a class of fifty-nine. Among his classmates were McClellan, Reno, Seymour, Sturgis and Stoneman, of the loyal service, and “Stonewall” Jackson, Wilcox and Pickett, of the rebel army. He was commissioned as brevet Second Lieutenant in the corps of Engineers, July 1, 1846. He bore a very active and distinguished part in the Mexican war, and his record of promotion is a sufficient testimony to his bravery and merit. “Brevet First Lieutenant, August 20, 1847, ‘for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battles of Contreras and Churubusco;’ severely wounded in the battle of Molino del Rey, September 8, 1847; Brevet Captain from that date, ‘for gallant and meritorious conduct in the battle of Molino del Rey;’ Second Lieutenant, May 24, 1848.” Such is the honorable record of his first two years of service. His gallant conduct and his proficiency in military knowledge attracted the attention of the authorities, and in 1854, promoted to First Lieutenant on the first of April of that year, we find him Assistant Professor of Engineering in the Military Academy at West Point. He was appointed in charge of the fortifications in North and South Carolina, April 28, 1858, and there acquired a knowledge that became serviceable for subsequent operations. He was commissioned as Captain in the Engineers, July 1, 1860, and was brevetted Major on the 26th of December of the same year. During the eventful winter of 1860-61, and the following spring, he was stationed at Charleston, South Carolina, and was one of the officers under Major Anderson in the defence of Fort Sumter. His loyal and fearless bearing on the occasion of the bombardment of Sumter, is fresh in the recollection of all. Returning North after the surrender, he was employed on the fortifications of New York. On the 23d of October, 1861, he was commissioned as Brigadier General of Volunteers, and was in command of the rendezvous at Annapolis previous to the arrival of General Burnside. After he assumed command of the Department of North Carolina, he was engaged in conspicuous services in his own Department and in the neighborhood of Charleston. Subsequently, as will be hereafter mentioned, he commanded the Department of the Ohio. After the surrender of General Lee, he was for a time in command at Tallahassee, Florida, and now enjoys the rank of Major in the Corps of Engineers, and Brevet Major General in the Army of the United States. As a genial companion, a skilful officer, and an honorable and brave man, General Foster holds a high place in the affections of his friends and the esteem of his fellow countrymen.

It must be with feelings of more than ordinary satisfaction, that General Burnside and his friends can look back upon the record of his campaign and his administration in North Carolina. From the moment of the inception of the plan until the time of departure from Newbern, the story is one of uninterrupted success. The terrible storm at Hatteras Inlet, which, at the outset, threatened the destruction of the expedition, could not appal the heart or lessen the hope of the earnest leader. The battle of Roanoke Island, so skilfully projected and so gallantly executed, was not only a source of grateful pride to the commanding general; it also gave new courage and satisfaction to the country, that had longed for some decisive success in the East. The battle of Newbern, following swiftly, and ending in the victorious assault upon a very strong and well-chosen position of the enemy, justified the expectations of those who had perceived the promise of the soldier whose reputation was now fairly won and firmly established. The reduction of Fort Macon added to the public joy and the public estimation of the officer under whose superintendence it had been accomplished. The undisputed occupation of the North Carolina coast and waters north of Wilmington, resulting from these achievements, was a gain to the cause of the Union not easily to be estimated. That it was not followed up by the capture of Wilmington and the occupation of Raleigh, was certainly due to other causes than those which had their seat within the limits of General Burnside’s Department.

But what was most especially gratifying to all concerned, was the extreme cordiality and even affection which existed among all ranks of the service — among all the officers and men towards one another and their commanding general. Jealousy, that bane of military service, was unknown. A hearty, cooperative spirit everywhere prevailed. Each one was proud ofthe other’s success and good fortune. “It was like a well-ordered and affectionate family at Newbern,” said a visitor on his return from North Carolina: “nothing like it has been known among us during the war.” It is possible that this was an overstatement of the case. But the spirit of mutual confidence and concord so fully prevailed, as to put out of sight all minor differences, and to impress all witnesses that, in the Department of North Carolina, discord, envy and ill-will were altogether unknown! General Burnside attributes his success to the prevalence in his command of the kindly and cordial feeling for which it was distinguished, and at all times bears the heartiest testimony to the gallantry, good conduct, and co operative zeal of the officers and soldiers with whom he was associated.