Roanoke Island, N. C., February 10, 1862.
DEAR SIR: I had the honor to write you last from Camp California, Va. Since then the Fourth Rhode Island has been detached from Howard's brigade and assigned to that of General John G. Parke, Third Brigade, Burnside's division, and reported for duty at Annapolis, Md., on the 3d of July [January]. Embarked on the steamer Eastern Queen for Fort Monroe; sailed [January] 9th; arrived the 10th, and sailed for Hatteras Inlet the 11th; arrived the 12th and entered the inlet the 13th, where we were obliged to lay until the 28th before all the fleet had passed over the Bulkhead. The Pocahontas, on which our horses were embarked, was lost on the cape, and all the horses, except 19, perished. I am happy to say that none of the teamsters that were with them were lost, but all succeeded in getting on shore and joining the regiment.
On July [February] 5 the fleet sailed for Roanoke and arrived in sight the same evening.
The gunboats, having completed their preparations, commenced the bombardment of Forts Bartow, Huger, and Blanchard (mounting eight 32s and one 7-inch rifled Parrott on Bartow; six 32s and three 7-inch Parrotts on Huger, and one 7-inch rifled Parrott on Blanchard) on Friday morning at 11.30 a.m., and continued through the day. The troops from different transports were landed the same evening without opposition, with the exception of a small party firing on the sounding party of the Fifth Battalion Rhode Island Volunteers, wounding 2 slightly; the gunboats of the enemy not approaching near enough to do us any damage, of which there were ten in all, with from two to three guns each.
On the morning of the 8th the First Brigade (General Foster's) was put in motion, followed by General Reno's (the second), ours (the third, General Parke) remaining for a short time in reserve. The Fifth Rhode Island Battalion having been deployed on our right and the Eighth Connecticut held in reserve on our left to prevent flank movements, we (that is, the Fourth Rhode Island and Ninth New York) were ordered forward. When the head of General Foster's column had proceeded about 1 mile on the road they were suddenly met by a sharp volley of musketry and the contents of a Dahlgren (12-pounder brass field piece) from behind a masked battery, called by the enemy Fort Defiance, across and commanding the only road for 400 yards, on each side of <ar9_109> which was a hitherto-impassable cypress swamp. The First Brigade advancing was supported by Reno, who threw two regiments on their right flank. The Fourth Rhode Island was ordered to follow part of Foster's brigade in turning their left flank, Parke holding the Ninth New York in reserve. Our men at once plunged into the swamp, nearly waste-deep with mud and water, and after almost incredible exertions succeeded in forcing our way through briers, cypress, and a dense mass of birch, &c. When we had nearly succeeded in turning their flank on the left and right General Parke ordered the Ninth New York to charge in front, when the enemy, finding that they were flanked, fled up the island, followed by regiments of Foster and Reno in pursuit, General Parke ordering the Ninth New York to cut off their retreat by the Nag's Head, which they did, taking O. Jennings Wise prisoner, and capturing the battery at that point, with three heavy columbiads. The enemy retreated to Weir's Point, where they did not make any fight, but surrendered to Generals Foster and Reno, about 3,000 all told.
General Burnside ordered the Fourth Rhode Island to proceed to Pork Point and take possession of Fort Bartow, giving us the Tenth Connecticut for our support. We immediately marched for the point and took possession of the place, planting the banner of the Fourth Rhode Island on the ramparts. The Eighth North Carolina was within about half a mile of us, advancing to take possession of it, the battalion of Seventeenth North Carolina having evacuated it about two hours before we took possession. When they saw our flag on the fort they fell back and surrendered to General Reno. The larger fort on the main-land was fired about ten minutes after our arrival and consumed.
We have taken thirty-five to forty pieces of artillery, about 4,000 stand of arms, and camp equipage and stores of four regiments of infantry.
The gunboats of the enemy have escaped up the sound. Four hundred to 500 of the enemy got off the island, and a regiment from Norfolk that were coming to re-enforce the rebels did not land, but got away. The enemy had sunk hulks and driven piles into the channel, which, with their masked batteries and natural advantage of the island, they supposed had made their position impregnable to any force we could bring against them. How we ever got through that swamp I can hardly conceive of now; as it was, we were full two hours in it. Half the time the regiment was under fire, but the distance---300 to 400 yards off the battery-- and the enemy being obliged to take uncertain aim from the constant firing of Foster's advance, preserved us from loss.
I don't think we have lost a man, all but one (Corporal Perkins) having joined the regiment, and I think he will be found. A number of our men in the Fourth had balls through their coats and blankets. Our flag being half rolled up, did not present much surface to the fire, and we only got one bullet-hole through it; shall do better when we have a chance. The Fourth was cool and did well. All our force behaved well and gave satisfaction to the commanding officer of the division.
I must now close this hasty and imperfect sketch, hoping it will give you some idea of the battle of Roanoke. Our regiment is again embarked on board the Eastern Queen, and is to proceed to --, I suppose. The blank I am unable to fill,
And remain, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
I. P. RODMAN,
Colonel Fourth Rhode Island.
GOV. WILLIAM SPRAGUE.