Page images

the resources of the enemy were available for any exigency. Under such circumstances, there was no resource but to remain at Harrison's Landing, and, by seeming to threaten Richmond, keep the enemy employed until time was gained for a new combination. Such were the arguments he employed, and such the dangers he imagined, to excuse him for remaining week after week at his intrenched camp on the James, with no enemy of importance nearer than Richmond. The Government had, on the first of July, promptly called for three hundred thousand men, and this was followed by a demand of three hundred thousand more. Time was required, however, for the enrolling and equipping of these new troops. To abandon the Peninsula before they were ready, would have been to release the victorious army of Lee from Richmond, and let it rush forward upon the troops which were about to be combined under Pope, thus placing the National Capital in very great danger. By continuing to hold Harrison's Landing, therefore, McClellan pleased himself with the idea that he had saved Washington, although he did it at an immense loss of life. The mortality from the malaria of the swamps was frightful, and a stream of troops continually poured off into the hospitals of the Northern cities. The troops of General Burnside, arriving from North Carolina, did not ascend the river to the camp of McClellan, but landed at Fortress Monroe, where they remained until August 1st, when they got the order to proceed to Aquia Creek, which they reached August 2d. The difficulty of extricating the army from the Peninsula first occupied the attention of General Halleck, as we have seen, when he reached Washington to assume command, July 22d. On the 24th he left Washington, in company with General Burnside, for McClellan's head-quarters, to consult on the position of the army. McClellan required fifty thousand fresh troops to make an advance, but Halleck assuring him there were but twenty thousand to spare, McClellan agreed to make the attempt with that number. It is worthy of note that the Army of the Potomac then numbered over one hundred thousand men fit for duty. General Halleck returned to Washington on the 27th, and received a telegram from McClellan that thirty-five thousand men would be required. This was more than could be spared in the judgment of General Halleck, and the evacuation was ordered on the 3d of August, against the strong protestation of McClellan. It was apparent that without celerity of movement after starting, the enemy could crush Pope before McClellan could reach him; but to move a hundred thousand men with their material required time, and it was calculated that by commencing the movement early in August, the greater part of the army could be transferred to the Potomac before the middle of the month. Halleck, after his return to Washington, immediately conferred with the President and Secretary of War. General Pope, after a long conference, left for Warrenton to put his troops in motion, and at the same time, Burnside's troops embarked from the Peninsula and landed at Aquia Creek.

Meantime, on the 4th of August, Hooker's and Sedgwick's Divisions, with four batteries, all under Hooker, moved forward to attack Malvern Hill. This was duly proclaimed as the new forward move

ment. The position was occupied by two of the enemy's regiments of infantry, which retired upon Richmond. The enemy immediately began to concentrate his forces round Malvern Hill, where Hooker remained until Sunday, the 6th, when he fell back to the encampment, and Butterfield's Brigade crossed to the south side of James River.

But although the order for the withdrawal of the army had been issued at the beginning of the month, and was peremptory, McClellan, seemingly unaware of the precious time he was wasting, instead of actively promoting the movement, began to expostulate against it. Finally, on the 10th of August, he received a dispatch, saying, "They are fighting General Pope to-day-there must be no further delay in your movements. That which has already occurred was unexpected, and must be satisfactorily explained." To this he replied with excuses about a want of transportation, which, from the evidence given before the Committee on the Conduct of the War, do not appear to be altogether well founded. Finally, on the 14th, Porter's Corps marched for Yorktown, and by the 17th the position at Harrison's Landing was reported to be entirely abandoned. Between the 19th and 21st, the Corps of Heintzelman and Porter were embarked, and, as we have seen, they arrived in time to render assistance to Pope's army. Sumner's and Franklin's Corps were several days later, and, after their arrival at Alexandria, were delayed so long on one pretext or another, that Pope became very near overwhelmed by the enemy. Had they been on the field as early as the 28th, or even the 29th, which, in the opinion of General Halleck, was perfectly practicable, what was substantially a reverse, might have been changed into a brilliant triumph for the Union arms, notwithstanding the bad feeling among the officers which Pope complained of in his dispatch of September 1st, above quoted. The corps of Keyes was left to garrison Williamsburg, Yorktown, and other points of the lower part of the Peninsula.

General McClellan reached Fortress Monroe on the 19th. All day the roads were filling up with the immense fleet of transports, presenting, as it turned the point of Newport News, a grand though melancholy sight. Melancholy, because it filled the mind with the recollection of the great and profitless events and scenes since the Potomac Army, the grandest the continent_ever beheld, landed there in the spring, and commenced its proud, confident, even defiant march up the Peninsula; because it brought to mind the bloody contests it had seen, the tens of thousands slain, the tens of thousands more wasted by disease; because it overwhelmed the mind with the contrast of what that army was, with its promises, its hopes, and the expectations reposed in it, and what it had become, what it had done, and what it had failed to do-returning with less than half its numbers, along the route by which it advanced, almost every mile of which was marked by unenumerated graves of fallen heroes. So ended the campaign of the Peninsula-so returned the Army of the Potomac !


The Expedition of Burnside.-Capture of Newbern.-Beaufort Captured.-Operations on the Southern Coast.-Siege of Fort Pulaski.—James Island.

THE expedition of General Burnside to the coast of North Carolina, the successful landing of which was described in a previous chapter, was designed, in its inception, to have aided the movement upon Richmond, by approaching that point from the southeast, on the line of the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad. After landing at Roanoke Island, and occupying the adjacent shores-Edenton and other points -preparations were made to extend the occupation of the North Carolina coast. The events on the Potomac resulting in the evacua tion of Manassas, and the concentration of the enemy at Richmond, changed the aspect of affairs for Burnside, for whom fears were entertained, as he proceeded northward. The Governor of North Carolina had ordered a draft of citizens, for the re-enforcement of the Confederate army. The citizens of Tyrrel County, who were opposed to the draft, invited the occupation of Columbia, which is on the north side of Albemarle Sound, supposing that, if captured and paroled, they would be enabled to remain passive during the contest. Accordingly, General Foster, with two thousand men, left Roanoke Island for Co lumbia. Meantime, however, the order for draft had been countermanded, and when the expedition arrived, it found Columbia deserted, and the expedition returned to Roanoke Island on the following day. While this operation was being executed, preparations for the whole force to move upon Newbern, North Carolina, had been completed, and on the 10th of March, the same day on which Centreville was evacuated, the whole force sailed for Pamlico Sound. Newbern is a flourishing city, on the Neuse River, at the confluence of the Trent, where the Neuse widens into a broad arm before discharging itself into Pamlico Sound. It is connected with Raleigh, ninety miles distant, by the North Carolina Railroad. The expedition at Hatteras was joined by the fleet, under Commodore Rowan, and the whole reached the Neuse on the 12th, when the fleet began shelling the point which had been selected for landing. At thirty minutes after eleven the disembarkation was effected, and the troops began to advance, under Reno, without meeting the enemy. After a march of four miles, the army encamped for the night, and at daybreak of the 14th resumed the forward movement in three columns, under Gener als Foster, Reno, and Parke.

The advance under Reno soon encountered the enemy, who held a line of intrenchments extending about a mile from the river at Fort Thompson, where it was protected by a battery of thirteen guns. The force of the enemy was eight regiments of infantry, five hundred cavalry, and eighteen guns, under Brigadier-General L. O. Branch. Foster's Brigade was ordered up the main country road, to attack the

enemy's left; Reno up the railroad, to attack their right; and General Parke was directed to follow General Foster, and attack the enemy in front, with instructions to support either or both brigades. As General Foster's Brigade advanced up the main road, the Twentyfourth Massachusetts was sent into the woods to the right of the road, and, opening a heavy fire on the enemy, commenced the action. The Twenty-seventh was sent to their left to support them, and news being received that the enemy were trying to outflank us on the right, the Twenty-fifth was sent out to resist the movement. The Twentythird being moved to the front next in line of battle, opened fire upon the enemy, which was replied to by very heavy volleys, and a cannonade from a park of field-pieces behind the breast work. The Tenth Connecticut moved to the extreme right, where the ground was very marshy, and had a difficult position to hold. The line of battle was completed by Parke's Brigade, which, following up the main road, was placed in line between the, Tenth Connecticut and Twenty-first Massachusetts, the Fourth Rhode Island holding the right of line, the Eighth Connecticut the next place, the Fifth Rhode next, and the Eleventh Connecticut on the left. The guns of the enemy played upon this line with great effect, and the Twenty-first suffered so severely that Colonel Clark determined upon storming the battery in his front. The regiment leaped forward at the doublequick, and won the breast work upon the railroad. The colors were immediately planted upon a frame house, and the sight of them threw the enemy's gunners into panic, and they fled. The regiment now charged upon the guns, but were taken in flank by a re-enforcement of the enemy, and escaped over the parapet. Meantime the Fourth Rhode Island had been ably sustaining its ground against a battery of five guns. They got the order to charge, went at the double-quick directly up to the battery, firing as they ran, and entered the right flank between a brick-yard and the end of the parapet. When fairly inside, the colonel formed the right wing in line of battle, and at their head charged down upon the guns at double-quick, the left wing forming irregularly, and going as they could. With a steady line of cold steel, the Rhode Islanders bore down upon the enemy, and, routing them, captured the whole battery, with its two flags, and planted the stars and stripes upon the parapet. The Eighth Connecticut, Fifth Rhode Island, and Eleventh Connecticut coming up to their support, the rebels fled with precipitation, and left us in undisputed possession. General Reno finally ordered a charge, which was led by the Fifty-first New York, up an acclivity over brushwood and abatis into the redan. The Fifty-first Pennsylvania, for a long time held in reserve, was ordered up to participate in the decisive charge of the whole brigade upon the line of redans, and passing through the Fiftyfirst New York, as it was lying on the ground, after having exhausted all its ammunition, came under the heaviest fire, and without flinching or wavering, moved to its place, and rushed, with the other regiments, upon the defences of the enemy. This movement was sup ported by the Fourth Rhode Island from the captured batteries, and the enemy, already demoralized by the breaking of their centre, fell

[ocr errors]

back before the grand charge upon the left and front of their position, and fled in confusion. The Union loss was ninety-one killed, four hundred and sixty-six wounded. By this victory our combined force captured eight batteries, containing forty-six heavy guns, and three batteries of light artillery, of six guns each, making in all sixty-fourguns; two steamboats, a number of sailing-vessels, wagons, horses, a Large quantity of ammunition, commissary and quartermaster's stores, forage, the entire camp equipage of the rebel troops, a large quantity of rosin, turpentine, cotton, &c., and over two hundred prisoners.

The enemy, after retreating in great confusion, throwing away blankets, knapsacks, arms, &c., across the railroad bridge and country road, burned the former, and destroyed the draw of the latter, thus pre venting further pursuit, and causing detention in occupying the town by our military force.

The fleet continued its way to the city, which was found abandoned. The enemy fired the railroad bridge and the county road bridge over the Trent, a number of cotton batteries, and also the city in several places. The army, in the mean time, had arrived in front of Newbern, but, the bridge being burned, it encamped on the outside. With the aid of two small steamers that the enemy had abandoned, the corps of General Foster were ferried over and took possession of the town. General Foster having appointed a provost-marshal, before nine o'clock in the night perfect order prevailed throughout the city. Citizens applied for protection to their property in many instances, and when real danger existed it was afforded. The negroes were the most difficult to control. Relieved from the strict rule which prohibits a negro from being abroad at night, they roamed about the streets until a late hour, but were quiet about ten o'clock.

On the 15th the following order appeared :—

[blocks in formation]

"4. Brigadier-General J. G. Foster is hereby appointed military governor of Newbern and its suburbs, and will be obeyed and respected accordingly.

"5. Brigadier-General J. G. Foster, military governor of Newbern, will direct that the churches be opened at a suitable hour to-morrow, in order that the chaplains of the different regiments may hold divine services in them. The bells will be rung as usual.

"By command of Brigadier-General A. E. BURNSIDE.

"LEWIS RICHMOND, Assistant Adjutant-General.”

The enemy retired for some distance, and General Branch was superseded by General Ransom, who had been an officer of the United States army.

The town of Beaufort, having a population of six thousand eight hundred and nine, has the best harbor on the North Carolina coast, and is situated to the southeast of Newbern, on Onslow Bay. The harbor is commanded by Fort Macon, and the Nashville steainer was then in port. General Burnside, at the close of the march, dispatched a force

« PreviousContinue »