HEADQUARTERS DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA,
Roanoke, February 14, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to transmit a more detailed report of the events that have transpired in this command since my last dispatch to the General-in-Chief, on the 4th instant, from Hatteras Inlet, stating that I was about ready to move upon Roanoke Island with a portion of this command---of about twelve regiments and a half--the hasty dispatch of the 10th instant only giving the general result of the movement spoken of above.
The difficulty of watering, coaling, and provisioning our vessels in the midst of the gale, after they had crossed the swash, was scarcely less than that of getting our vessels into the sound, owing to the necessity of having to lighten every supply vessel over the bulkhead.
On the evening of the 4th instant I reported to Commodore Goldsborough my readiness to start on the following morning, and accordingly we weighed anchor (the naval fleet leading) at 7 o'clock on the morning of the 5th instant, and arrived without accident off Stumpy Point, some 6 miles from the entrance to Croatan Sound, at 5.30 p.m., when the signal to anchor was given. On the following morning (the 6th) we again weighed anchor at 6.30 a.m., but could proceed no farther than to the entrance of the sound in consequence of a thick fog which had set in. The fleet of the enemy, anchored in line of battle, was discovered off Pork Point before the fog came on, which convinced us that the first battery was probably at that point. The remaining part of that day was used in consultation and arranging the vessels for a general movement on the following day. Five of my armed propellers were lightened of their troops to one company each, and were sent forward with the Picket to anchor in line of battle with the naval fleet, under the direction of Capt. S. F. Hazard, of the Navy. The remaining two propellers I ordered General Parke to anchor some half mile below, as a rear guard to the transport fleet, which consisted of armed and unarmed steamers and sailing vessels.
We weighed anchor early next morning and passed through the narrow channel at the entrance to Croatan Sound in single file, the head of the naval fleet arriving off Pork Point Battery at five minutes past 9 o'clock a.m., when the first gun was fired. By 10.30 o'clock the action became general, the attack continuing in most gallant style until 6.30 p.m. One of the two propellers forming the rear guard, having on board three companies of troops, moved forward and joined Captain Hazard's division. <ar9_76>
At 1 o'clock p.m., after ordering preparations to be made for landing, and sending a small boat with Lieutenant Andrews, of the Ninth Regiment New York Volunteers, and six of the Rhode Island Battalion, into Ashby's, to make soundings and examine the landings, I proceeded to the naval fleet, and after consulting with Commodore Goldsborough I determined to attempt a landing before night. After visiting my armed propellers and finding them doing good service, on my return to the troops' fleet I received Lieutenant Andrews' report, which satisfied me that the decision to land at Ashby's Harbor was correct. In leaving the landing Lieutenant Andrews and crew were fired upon by the enemy, wounding one of the crew, Charles Viall, of Company E, Fifth Rhode Island Battalion, in the jaw. The reconnaissance of Lieutenant Andrews was such as reflects great credit upon him as an officer. I accordingly ordered General Foster, who was ready with his first detachment, to attempt a landing at some point in the harbor. I had before ordered General Reno, who was also ready with his first detachment, to halt until the naval-boat howitzers, under Midshipman Porter, could be brought up and placed in position. They were soon taken in tow by General Reno, and in a very few minutes General Foster's boat and his had reached the shore, and were soon after joined by the boats carrying the first detachment of General Parke's brigade. I had before ordered the Picket down to the mouth of the harbor to cover the landing of the troops, and Captain Rowan had also brought his flag-ship, the Delaware, under command of Captain Quackenbush, down for the same purpose. The immediate point of landing at Ashby's Harbor in the original plan was Ashby's Landing, but on approaching it General Foster discovered an armed force in the woods in the rear of the landing, and very wisely directed his leading vessel to another point in the harbor, opposite Hammond's house. This armed force was soon dispersed by a few shell from the Delaware and Picket. In less than twenty minutes from the time the boats reached the shore 4,000 of our men were passing over the marshes at a double-quick and forming in most perfect order on the dry land near the house; and I beg leave to say that I never witnessed a more beautiful sight than that presented by the approach of these vessels to the shore and the landing and forming of the troops. Each brigadier-general had a light-draught steamer, to which were attached some 20 surf-boats in a long line in the rear. Both steamers and boats were densely filled with soldiers, and each boat bearing the national flag.
As the steamers approached the shore at a rapid speed each surf-boat was "let go," and with their acquired velocity and by direction of the steersman reached the shore in line. Capt. Lewis Richmond, assistant adjutant-general, with Mr. W. H. French, one of my secretaries, landed with the Fourth Rhode Island, and Lieut. D. A. Pell, my aide-de-camp, with the Fifty-first New York, Colonel Ferrero. I then went on shore, where I met General Parke, and received from him his report of the disposition of the forces for the protection of the landing of the remainder of the division, which disposition I entirely approved of. Soon after I met General Reno, whom I left in command, General Foster having returned to his vessel to bring up his second detachment.
A position on land having thus been secured, I went on board the commodore's vessel to consult with him in reference to the work of the next day, leaving Captain Richmond, Lieutenant Pell, and Mr. French on shore. The battery at Pork Point was very formidable, and had not been entirely silenced; but when I informed him that the entire <ar9_77> force would probably be landed that night, and that we proposed to adhere to the original plan of making an advance early in the morning upon the inland fort in the center of the island, taking it, if possible, and proceeding rapidly up the main road, thus getting in the rear of all the shore batteries, he remarked that it would be dangerous to ourselves for him to renew his attack on the next morning, as his people might fire into our own troops, and I left him with the understanding that the attack would not be renewed without a signal from me.
By 12 o'clock that night the entire division (except the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Stevenson, detained below by the grounding of the steamer), together with Porter's battery of Dahlgren howitzers, had been landed. During the night a careful reconnaissance was made by my three brigade generals and their troops most judiciously posted, the leading regiment, the Twenty-first Massachusetts, Lieutenant-Colonel Maggi, occupying a position at the forks of the road above Hammond's house.
Early the next morning, in pursuance of the plan of action, General Foster ordered an advance. I arrived on the ground after the first three regiments of the brigade had filed through the woods, the other regiments being in line ready to move forward as room was made for them. General Reno's and Parke's brigades were also in readiness for a forward movement.
On reaching a point some mile and a half by the road from Hammond's house, General Foster came upon the battery across the road which, from information received, we had been led to suppose was there, and immediately commenced the disposition of his forces for his attack; and I here beg leave to say that I must refer you almost entirely to the reports of my brigadier-generals for an accurate knowledge of their movements during the day, as the face of the island precluded the possibility of any general oversight of operations on the field. The road from the opening in front of Hammond's house to the battery, some mile and a half, was very narrow and winding, leading through a deep marsh, covered with small pines and thick undergrowth, presenting the appearance of being impenetrable. The battery is not visible until a point some 600 yards from it is reached, when the road takes a turn to the left, and the timber in front is cleared away, that the guns may have full sweep. For more accurate information I beg leave to refer you to the accompanying map of the road.(*)
Soon after the attack was commenced I ordered General Parke to place a regiment in the woods to the north of Hammond's house and extending up to the main road, to prevent the possibility of the enemy's turning our left. The Eighth Connecticut, Colonel Harland, was detailed for this service. The Fifth Rhode Island Battalion, Major Wright, had been ordered to occupy Ashby's house. I then ordered Captain D'Wolf, with a boats crew kindly loaned me by the Delaware, which way lying off the shore, to move down and land, and carefully reconnoiter the ground south and east of Ashby's, thus ascertaining that there was no force in the rear or on our right flank. Soon after this the firing indicated that General Foster was very warmly engaged with the enemy. General Reno's brigade was forcing its way up to his relief and General Parke's brigade was ready to follow. I had ordered General Parke to have the Ninth New York, Colonel Hawkins, land their Dahlgren howitzers from their floating battery on the shore, but as the marshy ground would have made it a half-day's work, I countermanded <ar9_78> the order, which was most fortunate, as the regiment moved forward in time to take a most important part in the action.
General Foster commenced the attack by putting six Dahlgren howitzers in position in front of the enemy's battery, supporting it with the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, Colonel Upton. This regiment was supported by the Twenty-third Massachusetts, Colonel Kurtz, also in line. After the Tenth Connecticut, Colonel Russell, came up, General Foster ordered the Twenty-third Massachusetts and Twenty-seventh Massachusetts, Colonel Lee, to pass into the swamp on the right, for the purpose of getting on the left flank of the enemy. Soon after this the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts exhausted its ammunition, and the Tenth Connecticut advanced to its position. All these movements were performed by the regiments under lead of their respective commanders with the most commendable efficiency. The skill with which the Dahl-gren howitzers were handled by Midshipman Benjamin Porter and Acting Master J. B. Hammond is deserving the highest praise, and I take great pleasure in recommending them to the favorable notice of the Navy Department. At this time the number of wounded arriving on litters indicated that the engagement was serious, and two hospitals were established by my brigade surgeon, Dr. W. H. Church, one at Hammond's house and the other at Ashby's, where the wounded were well cared for.
In the mean time, General Reno, coming up, sent word to General Foster that he would try to penetrate the dense wood to the left and thus turn their right flank, which movement was approved by General Foster and was carried out by General Reno, the Twenty-first Massachusetts, Lieutenant-Colonel Maggi, leading, followed by the Fifty-first New York, Colonel Ferrero; Ninth New Jersey, Lieutenant-Colonel Heckman, and Fifty-first Pennsylvania, Colonel Hartranft, each most gallantly led by their respective commanders, and resulting in a complete success. When it is remembered that in addition to the obstacles of thicket and underbrush the men were more than knee-deep in mud and water, it seems a most wonderful feat. Immediately after General Reno's brigade had cleared the road General Parke came up with his brigade, and was ordered by General Foster to support the Twenty-third Massachusetts and Twenty-seventh Massachusetts Regiments, which had by direction of General Foster most gallantly initiated under their colonels a movement to turn the left flank of the enemy, when he at once turned his brigade to the right, the Fourth Rhode Island in advance, gallantly led by its colonel and Capt. Lewis Richmond, my assistant adjutant-general, meeting with obstacles equal to those on the left.
Just as the Ninth New York was entering the woods to follow the Fourth Rhode Island Generals Foster and Parke, discovering that the appearance of General Reno on the enemy's right had staggered him, they decided to order the Ninth New York to charge the battery in front, which was instantly done, and at once the road was filled with a sea of red caps, the air resounding with their cheers. The charge of General Reno's leading regiment, the Twenty-first Massachusetts, and Fifty-first New York was simultaneous with the charge of the Ninth New York, when the enemy broke and ran in the greatest possible confusion, while the cheers of our men indicated to every one on the island that we had carried the battery. The merit of first entering the fort is claimed by the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first New York, a few men from each regiment entering 'at the same time, one regiment hoisting the regimental flag and the other the national flag on the parapet. <ar9_79>
Just before the charge the steamer Union arrived with the Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, which I hastened forward, with the exception of three companies, detailed to carry up ammunition. It must be remembered that up to this time there had not been a single horse landed, owing to the impossibility of getting them through the marsh on the shore. All the ammunition and stores had to be transferred by our soldiers, and the general and field officers had to perform their duties on foot. On moving up the road toward the battery I met my aide-de-camp, Lieutenant Fearing, whom I had sent to the front to report progress, when he informed me that an advance was made by General Reno's brigade immediately after the battery was taken, thus anticipating my order sent by Lieutenant Anderson. I had learned from an officer of the Richmond Blues, taken prisoner and brought to me by Capt. William Cutting and Lieut. D. A. Pell, that there were no more batteries on the road.
The Twenty-fourth Massachusetts, Colonel Stevenson, coming up fresh, General Foster pushed on, followed by General Parke. On arriving at the road leading to Pork Point Battery I detailed the Fourth Rhode Island and the Tenth Connecticut from General Foster's brigade, sending them under General Parke down this road to take the battery in the rear, but on their arrival it was found to have been just evacuated. The pursuit was continued by Generals Foster and Reno to the head of the island in rear of Weir's Point Battery, where the entire force on the island had concentrated in two camps. A slight engagement ensued, in which the enemy lost four men killed, after which they surrendered to Generals Foster and Reno at discretion. The entire force of the enemy on the island, in the batteries, and stationed as sharpshooters was about 4,000. Gov. H. A. Wise had a force in reserve at Nag's Head, with which he left as soon as he heard of our victory. Their troops were well posted for defense and their inland battery well masked, so that our Inert were really fighting against an enemy almost entirely concealed. The force that surrendered to Generals Foster and Reno consisted of 159 officers and over 2,500 men. Among these are two colonels, two lieutenant-colonels, and three majors.
I omitted to mention that the Ninth New York was diverted to the right of the main road by General Reno, where they captured some 60 prisoners in their attempt to escape through Shallow Bag Bay. Among these prisoners was Capt. O. Jennings Wise, who was severely wounded and has since died. The loss of the enemy is unknown, as many had been removed, but it will not exceed 150 killed and wounded.
By this victory we have gained complete possession of this island, with five forts, mounting thirty-two guns, winter quarters for some 4,000 troops, and 3,000 stand of arms, large hospital buildings, with a large amount of lumber, wheelbarrows, scows, pile-drivers, a mud dredge, ladders, and other appurtenances for military service, of which a careful inventory will be made and sent on, with an accurate list of prisoners, by our next dispatches.
Fort Forrest, on the main-land, opposite Weir's Point, was burned by the rebels on the evening of the 8th instant. It contained eight guns, thus making their loss forty guns in all. The Navy has recovered nearly all from this fort in good condition.
When it is remembered that for one month our officers and men had been confined on crowded ships during a period of unusual prevalence of severe storms, some of them having to be removed from stranded vessels, others in vessels thumping for days on sand banks and under constant apprehension of collision, then landing without blankets or <ar9_80> tents on a marshy shore, wading knee-deep in mud and water to a permanent landing, exposed all night to a cold rain, then fighting for four hours, pursuing the enemy some 8 miles, bivouacking in the rain, many of them without tents or covering, for two or three nights, it seems wonderful that not one murmur or complaint has been heard from them. They have endured all these hardships with the utmost fortitude, and have exhibited on the battlefield a coolness, courage, and perseverance worthy of veteran soldiers. The companies left on board the armed propellers during the naval engagement rendered most efficient service, and are highly spoken of by the different brigade commanders. There had been placed on these propellers, by the brigadier-generals, aides-de-camp, who rendered marked service daring the action., as did also the officers and men of the Marine Artillery in charge of the guns, headed by Col. William A. Howard.
I desire to tender my thanks to Capt. S. F. Hazard, U.S. Navy, commanding division of armed vessels, for his efficient management of the division. The vessels comprising this division were the Picket, Capt. T. P. Ives; Vedette, Captain Foster; Hussar, Captain Crocker; Lancer, Captain Morley; Ranger, Captain Emerson; Chasseur, Captain West; Pioneer, Captain Baker. The Picket was particularly serviceable in covering the landing of the troops.
I must express to Commodore Goldsborough and the officers of his fleet my high appreciation and admiration of their gallantry, and my thanks for the kind assistance rendered us from time to time in our joint labors.
I have to thank my personal staff for their efficient aid in the work through which we have passed. They are as follows:
Dr. W. H. Church, brigade surgeon; Capt. Lewis Richmond, assistant adjutant-general; Capt. William Cutting, assistant quartermaster; Capt. James F. D'Wolf, assistant commissary; Lieut. D. W. Flagler, ordnance officer; Lieut. D. A. Pell, aide-de-camp; Lieut. G. R. Fearing, aide-de-camp; Lieutenant Andrews, topographical officer. All of these officers have rendered most efficient service in their several capacities.
Mr. D. R. Larned, my private secretary, accompanied me to the shore, and, with Mr. W. H. French, my other secretary, were very serviceable in communicating with the vessels and forces, doing the duty of volunteer aides. I beg leave to refer you to the report of. Dr. W. H. Church, brigade surgeon, for list of casualties, which amount to 41 killed and 181 wounded.(*) Among the killed I regret to record the following officers: Col. Charles L. Russell, Tenth Connecticut; Lieut. Col. Viguer De Monteil, of Fifty-third New York; Second Lieut. John H. Goodwin, jr., Company B, Twenty-third Massachusetts; Lieutenant Stillman, Tenth Connecticut; Capt. Joseph J. Henry, Ninth New Jersey. I refrain from mentioning special cases of heroism in the brigades, as it would be wrong to make distinctions where all behaved so gallantly.
In closing this report I beg leave again to call your attention to Brigadier-Generals Foster, Reno, and Parke, who throughout the action showed the greatest gallantry and directed the movements of the troops with skill and energy. From the moment they joined me I have given them large discretionary powers, and the sequel has shown that I have acted wisely. I especially recommend them to the favor of the Department. <ar9_81>
I have the honor to be, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. E. BURNSIDE,
Brigadier-General, Commanding Department North Carolina. Brig. Gen. LORENZO THOMAS,
Adjutant-General U.S. Army, Washington, D.C.