HEADQUARTERS,
Roanoke Island, N. C., April 21, 1862.

 

SIR: In accordance with orders from department headquarters I, on the 18th, at about 11 a.m., embarked on board of the transports about 2,000 men of my brigade from the following regiments: Ninth New York Volunteers, 727; Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers, 625, and Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers, 600. In this force was included two boat guns belonging to Company K, Ninth New York Volunteers.

 

About 11 o'clock the same evening my brigade commenced landing at a place opposite Cobb's Point, about 4 miles below Elizabeth City, on the Pasquotank River.

 

By 2.30 o'clock on the morning of the 19th the landing of my brigade had been completed, including two field pieces from the steamer Virginia; this through the water where it was more than knee-deep, which the men were compelled to wade.

 

At 3 a.m. the whole brigade was on the march, and continued for the next twelve hours on its weary way through a long, circuitous route of 32 miles, beneath the terrible heat of the sun, amid the constantly-rising dust.

 

At about 3 p.m. I succeeded in arriving in sight of the enemy's position with about one-half of the men who had commenced the march, when we were immediately ordered into action, the Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers going to the left of the enemy's position, the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York going to the right through the woods to outflank the enemy on each side. Up to this time the part of a battery from the Ninth New York, worked by Lieutenant Herbert, assisted by 5 men(the rest having been worn out by fatigue), received and sustained the whole fire of the enemy's battery.

 

After marching about 2 miles through a swamp covered with thick undergrowth I arrived within about three-eighths of a mile of the enemy's position, where they were concealed in the woods. After a short tour of observation I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to outflank them on the right the undergrowth and swamp being almost impenetrable. A charge through an open field directly in front of the enemy's position was thought to be the only way in which they could be dislodged. I then returned to where I had left the Ninth New York and found them lying on the ground completely exhausted. I stated to the regiment what I proposed to do, and asked the men if they felt equal to the task. Their answer was, "We will try, colonel, and follow wherever you may lead us." Immediately the command, "Forward!" was given, the Ninth New York taking the lead, followed by the Eighty-ninth New York. We had proceeded to within about 200 yards of the enemy's concealed position when the Ninth New York received the full and direct fire from the enemy's infantry and batteries. This completely staggered the men, who were before completely exhausted, and the order was given for the regiment to turn to the right, where it would be partly sheltered from the fire. This order was executed, but slowly. Soon after the Eighty-ninth New York commenced to move forward, supported by the Ninth New York, when the enemy retreated. When this commenced the Sixth New Hampshire poured a volley into the right wing of the Third Regiment Georgia Volunteers, which completely cut them to pieces. The troops then bivouacked on the field, where they remained until 10 p.m., when they were ordered to fall in and return to their transports.

 

It is seldom, if ever, that men have been called upon to perform so much in so short a time as those were who composed the Fourth Brigade under my command. Marching 50 miles and fighting a battle all in twenty-six hours you will admit is no small undertaking, and yet this was done without a murmur or a complaint.

 

In the charge of the Ninth New York that regiment lost 9 killed and 56 wounded. Among the former was Lieut. Charles A. Gadsden, adjutant, who fell at the head of his regiment. He was a kind, considerate man and a most excellent soldier, and dies greatly lamented by all of his companions.

 

Colonel Howard, of the steamer Virginia, who was in command of the artillery, has not yet made his report, consequently I am unable to give any particulars concerning his part in the engagement, but believe that he behaved with great coolness and bravery, as well as all of the men and officers under him.

 

Soon after the troops had returned to Roanoke Island the Rev. T. W. Conway, chaplain of the Ninth New York Volunteers, returned, bringing with him about 50 stragglers and some of the wounded left behind on the field of battle. He remained to bury the dead and to assist the wounded. On the morning of the 20th he started out to find the rebel pickets, and after going some distance he was informed that the rebels had left the night before--re-enforcements which they had only a few moments before received includedó for Suffolk, thinking that our forces were by a flank movement getting in their rear to cut them off; returned to the hospital by the way of the battle-field, where he counted 30 of the enemy's dead. After the dead were buried and the wounded who could not be brought away cared for, all the stragglers who could be found armed themselves and started for the place of debarkation and arrived here in safety the next morning.

 

In this enterprise you have received another evidence of the courage and enterprise of the troops under your command. Although the results of this expedition may seem disastrous on account of the loss of life, still the reconnaissance cannot fail to be of great value to you when connected with future operations.

 

In justice to other regiments I cannot say what I should like to about the officers and men of my own, consequently would only say that all alike did their duty faithfully and well.

 

I regret to add that, owing to our limited transportation, we were compelled to leave behind 14 of our wounded in care of Dr. Warren, of the Twenty-first Massachusetts, 2 or 3 of which were brought away by the chaplain of the Ninth. I have to-day sent a flag of truce by Major Jardine, who was accompanied by the surgeon, chaplain, and 10 privates, of the Ninth New York, for the purpose of bringing back the wounded and the bodies of Lieutenant Gadsden and our dead who were buried on the field.

 

Herewith you will find a complete list of the killed, wounded, and missing of the Fourth Brigade in the action of the 19th.

 

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

RUSH C. HAWKINS,

Colonel, Commanding Fourth Brigade and Post.

Maj. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE,

Comdg. Dept. of North Carolina, New Berne, N. C.

 

[Indorsement No. 1.]

 

HEADQUARTERS,
New Berne, N. C., May 1, 1862.

Respectfully referred to General Reno, to whom it should have originally been addressed.

By order of Major-General Burnside:

LEWIS RICHMOND,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

 

[Indorsement No. 2.]

 

HEADQUARTERS SECOND DIVISION,
May 2, 1862.

I beg to inclose the following indorsement.

J. L. RENO,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Division.

 

[Indorsement No. 3.]

 

HDQRS. SECOND DIVISION, DEPT. OF NORTH CAROLINA,
New Berne, N. C., May 1, 1862.

 

Capt. LEWIS RICHMOND,
††
Assistant Adjutant-General:

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to indorse upon the report of Colonel R. C. Hawkins, Ninth New York Volunteers, which you this day caused to be referred to me, the following remarks and statements, viz:

 

In the first place I beg leave to call your attention to the fact that this report was rendered by Colonel Hawkins directly to you instead of to me, his immediate commanding officer, which is in violation of the Army Regulations and Rules of Service, as also that the spirit of the report indicates a disposition to ignore me, the commanding officer of the expedition, as well as the rest of my command not embraced in Colonel Hawkins' brigade. No mention is made by Colonel Hawkins in his report of the orders received on the march and during the engagement from me personally and through my aides. He gives no explanation of the way in which my orders were carried out, nor why some of the orders given him were not obeyed. To be more explicit, I will state in detail that the whole force under my command, consisting of the Sixth New Hampshire, Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers (which three regiments composed the brigade of Colonel Hawkins), the Fifty-first Pennsylvania, and Twenty-first Massachusetts, set sail from Roanoke Island by my orders, and debarked near Elizabeth City by my order and under my personal direction, and that the march toward South Mills was executed by though not according to my express orders, as Colonel Hawkins took his brigade by a most circuitous route. The orders I gave Colonel Hawkins on landing were to proceed directly to the bridge across the Pasquotank, about a mile this side of South Mills, and to occupy it. This order he did not obey promptly, and I sent two aides in succession to order him to proceed, and finally was obliged to go in person to force obedience to my order. Four hours after this I landed with the remaining two regiments, which had been delayed in disembarking by the steamers Northerner and Guide getting aground at the mouth of the river. We passed Colonel Hawkins' brigade about 12 miles out and before he had got upon the direct road, he having marched some 10 or 12 miles out of the way. The road to South Mills was open, plain, and perfectly direct, known to every resident in the country, and nothing but design or negligence could have caused him to miss the road. With respect to the statement in Colonel Hawkins' report to you that "at about 3 p.m. I succeeded in arriving in sight of the enemy's position with about one-half of the men who had commenced the march, when we were immediately ordered into action, the Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers going to the left of the enemy's position, the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers going to the right through the woods to outflank the enemy on each side," I have to state that at about 1 o'clock I arrived with my whole command in front of the enemy's position, the Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, followed by the Twenty-first Massachusetts Volunteers, with Colonel Howard's artillery, being in advance, the brigade under Colonel Hawkins following. I immediately sent the, Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers and Twenty-first Massachusetts Volunteers to the right with orders to turn the enemy's left, and at once sent orders to Colonel Hawkins to move forward with his whole brigade. This order not being promptly obeyed, I went back and found that he had halted his command and had not prepared to move. I immediately ordered him forward, with directions to follow(with two regiments) the Twenty-first Massachusetts Volunteers and Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers, to aid in turning the enemy's left. I then went forward and placed the two latter regiments in proper position, and, returning, met Colonel Hawkins, and again giving the orders above named, I pointed out to him the position of the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers. The way was through an open pine wood, which had already been passed over by the above-named regiments. It is thus shown that the time at which the engagement commenced was before the time which the said report would lead one to suppose, and that the time consumed by Colonel Hawkins in coming under fire was due to unnecessary delay on his part, and that the studious avoidance of the mention of orders received by him from me was calculated to cover this delay and convey the impression that he acted by his own authority.

 

With respect to the statement that "after marching about 2 miles through a swamp covered by thick undergrowth I arrived within about three-eighths of a mile of the enemy's position, where they were concealed in the woods, I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to outflank them on the right, the undergrowth and swamp being almost impenetrable," I have to state that the route pursued by the command of Colonel Hawkins did not lead through a swamp or almost impenetrable undergrowth, as is shown by the fact that two regiments (the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first Pennsylvania)had already passed over this ground, and that I had been over the ground myself and found it dry and perfectly practicable for passage.

 

As to the statement that "a charge through an open field directly in front of the enemy's position was thought to be the only way in which they could be dislodged," I have to state that if the intention be to convey the idea that I, the commanding officer, thought so, it is untrue, as it was directly contrary to my opinion. If the intention be to convey the idea that he or other officers thought so and that he acted upon that conclusion, it was an act of insubordination, as it was contrary to my orders.

 

As to the statement that "soon after the Eighty-ninth New York commenced to move forward, supported by the Ninth New York, when the enemy retreated," &c., I have to state that it is calculated to give the false impression that this movement caused the retreat of the enemy, when in reality it was caused by the enemy's flank being turned by the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first Pennsylvania Volunteers.

 

In conclusion, I have to state that Col. R. C. Hawkins, in making his report directly to you instead of his commanding officer, has been guilty of a breach of military usage and discipline, and that the spirit of said report is calculated to ignore my presence as commanding officer, to ignore orders received from me, as well as to ignore the presence of those regiments which principally fought the engagement, and that the report tends to convey a false impression of the circumstances arising during the engagement and of the part which he played in it, and that it contains a perversion of truth in the statements concerning the obstacles to his progress in moving to turn the enemy's left. I beg leave also to state that the principal loss in killed and wounded is due to the unauthorized and unnecessary charge made by the Ninth New York, under the immediate command of Colonel Hawkins.

 

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. L. RENO,

Brigadier-General, Commanding Second Division.

 

-----

 

HEADQUARTERS,
Roanoke Island, N. C., April 21, 1862.

 

SIR: In accordance with orders from the department headquarters, and under your immediate orders I, on the 18th, at about 11 a.m., embarked on board of the transport about 2,000 men of my brigade from the following regiments: Ninth New York Volunteers, 727; Eighty-ninth New York Volunteers, 625, and Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers, 600. In this force was included two boat guns belonging to Company K, Ninth New York Volunteers.

 

About 11 p.m. the same evening my brigade commenced landing at a place opposite Cobb's Point, about 4 miles below Elizabeth City, on the Pasquotank River.

 

By 2.30 o'clock on the morning of the 19th the landing of my brigade had been completed, including two field pieces from the steamer Virginia; this through the water where it was more than knee-deep, which the men were compelled to wade.

 

At 3 a.m. the whole brigade was on the march, and continued for the next twelve hours on its weary way through a long, circuitous route of 32 miles, beneath the terrible heat of the sun, amid the constantly-rising dust.

 

At about 3 p.m. I succeeded in arriving in sight of the enemy's position with about one-half of the men who had commenced the march, when we were immediately ordered by yourself into action, the Sixth New Hampshire Volunteers going to the left of the enemy's position, the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York going to the right through the woods to outflank the enemy on each side. Up to this time the part of a battery from the Ninth New York, worked by Lieutenant Herbert, assisted by 5 men (the rest having been worn out by fatigue), received and sustained the whole fire of the enemy's battery.

 

After marching about 2 miles through a swamp covered with thick undergrowth I arrived within about three-eighths of a mile of the enemy's position where they were concealed in the woods. After a short tour of observation I came to the conclusion that it would be impossible to outflank them on the right, the undergrowth and swamp being almost impenetrable. A charge through an open field in front of the enemy's position was thought to be the only way in which they could be dislodged. I then returned to where I had left the Ninth New York, and found them lying on the ground completely exhausted. I stated to the regiment what I proposed to do, and asked the men if they felt equal to the task. Their answer was, "We will try, colonel, and follow wherever you may lead us." Immediately the command forward was given, the Ninth New York taking the lead, followed by the Eighty-ninth New York. We had proceeded to within about 200 yards of the enemy's concealed position when the Ninth New York received the full, direct, right-oblique, and left-oblique fires from the enemy's infantry and batteries. This completely staggered the men, who were before quite exhausted. The order was then given for the regiment to turn to the right, where it would be partly sheltered from the fire. This order was executed, but slowly. Soon after the Eighty-ninth New York commenced to move forward, supported by the Ninth New York, when the enemy retreated. When this commenced the the Sixth New Hampshire poured a volley into the right wing of the Third Georgia Volunteer Regiment, which completely cut them into pieces. The troops then bivouacked on the field, where they remained until 10 p.m., when they were ordered to fall in and return to their transports.

 

It is seldom, if ever, that men have been called upon to perform so much in so short a time as those were who composed the Fourth Brigade, under my command. Marching 50 miles and fighting a battle all in twenty-six hours you will admit is no small undertaking, and yet this was done without a murmur or complaint.

 

In the charge of the Ninth New York that regiment lost 9 killed and 60 wounded. Among the former was Lieut. Charles A. Gadsden, adjutant, who fell at the head of his regiment. He was a kind, considerate man and a most excellent soldier, and dies greatly lamented by all of his companions.

 

Colonel Howard, of the steamer Virginia, who was in command of the artillery, has not yet made his report, consequently I am unable to give any particulars concerning his part in the engagement, but believe that he behaved with coolness and bravery, as well as all of the men and officers under him.

 

Soon after the troops had returned to Roanoke Island the Rev. T. W. Conway, chaplain of the Ninth New York Volunteers, returned, bringing with him about 50 stragglers and some of the wounded left behind on the field of battle. He remained behind to bury the dead and to assist the wounded. On the morning of the 20th he started out to find the rebel pickets, and after going some distance he was informed that the rebels had left the night before--re-enforcements which they had only a few moments before received included--for Suffolk, thinking that our forces were by a flank movement getting in their rear to cut them off. He returned to the hospital by the way of the battle-field, where he counted 30 of the enemy's dead. After the dead were buried and the wounded who could not be brought away cared for, all the stragglers who could be found armed themselves and started for the place of debarkation, and arrived here in safety the next morning.

 

In this enterprise the commanding general has received another evidence of the courage and enterprise of the troops under his command. Although the results of this expedition may seem disastrous on account of the loss of life, still the reconnaissance cannot fail to be of great value to him when connected with future operations.

 

In justice to other regiments I cannot say what I should like to about the officers and men of my own, consequently would only say that all alike did their duty faithfully and well.

 

I regret to add that owing to our limited transportation we were compelled to leave behind 14 of our wounded in care of Dr. Warren, of the Twenty-first Massachusetts, 2 or 3 of which were brought away by the chaplain of the Ninth New York. I have to-day sent a flag of truce by Major Jardine, who was accompanied by the surgeon, chaplain, and 10 privates of the Ninth New York, for the purpose of bringing back the wounded and the bodies of Lieutenant Gadsden and our dead who were buried on the field.

 

Herewith you will find a complete list of the killed, wounded, and missing of the Fourth Brigade in the action of the 19th.

 

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

RUSH C. HAWKINS,

Colonel Ninth New York Volunteers, Comdg. Fourth Brigade.

Brig. Gen. JESSE L. RENO,

Comdg. Second Div., Dept. of North Carolina, New Berne, N. C.

 

[Indorsement.]

 

HDQRS. SECOND DIV, DEPT. OF NORTH CAROLINA,
New Berne, N. C., May 15, 1862.

 

This amended report of Colonel Hawkins, made to me in obedience to your express orders, exhibiting the same inconsistencies and misstatements as the first or original report, is not deemed satisfactory, and I can see no reason for altering or suppressing my original remarks or indorsement;. I therefore recommend that his original report, with my indorsement, be forwarded.

J. L. RENO,

Brigadier-General.

-----

HEADQUARTERS,
Roanoke Island, N. C., April 23, 1862.

 

SIR: Doubtless the unfortunate occurrence of the 19th has been brought fully to your notice. No one can regret the result more than myself. First, because of the loss of life; second, the object of the expedition not being accomplished after all the obstacles in our way had been removed. It seems that both parties were badly frightened. The enemy ran like quarter-horses toward Norfolk, and we' as fast as our weary legs would carry us toward Roanoke, leaving quite a number of our wounded and destroying the bridges behind us. In this connection I will only add our retirement was discretion, our valor having been wholly spent on the field of battle. There is one satisfaction, that we whipped them in their own well-chosen position like the devil. They acknowledged to have had three companies of the Georgia Third completely cut to pieces, and from this acknowledgment it is but fair to infer their loss was much greater. Their force, as near as I can ascertain, was the Georgia Third, 1,165 strong; a battery of Henningsen's artillery of four pieces, and some North Carolina Militia, number not known, and a full squadron of Suffolk and Southampton cavalry. This statement of the enemy's forces I believe to be very nearly correct.

 

I most cordially join in the recommendations of the surgeons that the wounded be removed North as soon as possible, and that a steamer, made comfortable by the necessary beds, &c., be sent here for that purpose at the earliest moment. They can be of no service here and will recover much more rapidly at the North, besides relieving our surgeons, who are already worn-out by their arduous labors. Owing to the little wound received in my left arm in the affair of the 19th I am compelled, by the advice of surgeons, to lay up in ordinary for repairs, much against my desire or inclination. They say it will be eight weeks before I am fit for service. Under such circumstances, being forbidden to perform any labor, I would ask for leave of absence until such time as I am able to return to duty, which will be at the earliest possible moment. But still, if you cannot spare me, I will remain and render such service as I am able to perform lying on my back. I know and can dictate what ought to be done.

†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

I should be very happy to see you here, as I have much to say to you that I cannot write.

 

Most faithfully, your friend and servant,

RUSH C. HAWKINS,

Commanding Post.

Maj. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE,

Commanding Department of North Carolina.

-----

NEW BERNE, N. C., April 24, 1862.

 

MY DEAR GENERAL: Foster showed me the letter of that infernal scoundrel Hawkins, and he and other rascals have been circulating reports concerning my conduct and the command at the recent battle of Camden which are calculated to do me and the gallant men with me great injustice. You remember that my orders were not to risk any disaster, and that I did not go prepared to remain absent more than two days. After ascertaining that the Navy could not make a junction with me at the bridge, and hearing from a variety of sources that I considered reliable that re-enforcements were on the way, I deemed it for the best to retire, and no man more highly approved that course than the rascal Hawkins. In fact, it was his bad conduct in placing his regiment in a position to get whipped and demoralized that principally induced me to change my first intention, which was to remain on the field and proceed to South Mills in the morning. The commanding officers of both the Twenty-first and Fifty-first came to me to urge that course, stating that they had not sufficient ammunition to risk another battle. The doctors also stated that the wounded could be moved more easily then than at any other time, and not being able to divine the future or imagine that they would abandon a 32-pounder battery, which I knew they had at South Mills, I believed I was carrying out your wishes in returning. If such was the fact, I think that out of justice to me and the command you should publish an order to that effect. You have no idea how industriously some scoundrel has been spreading reports that we were badly whipped, and how dissatisfied the officers and men of the Twenty-first and Fifty-first are that no official contradiction of such lying reports has been made.

 

All well here. We will keep up a sharp lookout for our secesh friends. I think that I will send the One hundred and third New York to Parke. My love to him, yourself, and others.

 

Yours, truly,

J. L. RENO.

General AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE.