Macon Daily Telegraph – 25 April 1862
“Further from the Fight at South Mills”
From the Norfolk Day Book of the 22d
The steamer Arrow arrived here last night, bringing a couple of our wounded, and two Yankee prisoners, members of the 89th New York Regiment. She also brought 1100 pounds of ammunition and some ten or twelve boxes of 12 lb. howitzer shot, captured by our forces.
We gathered the following particulars from several aboard the boat, who were engaged in the fight.
The action began at 12 o’clock at a point two miles north of South Mills, whither our forces had proceeded for the purpose of attacking the enemy.
Our force consisted of six companies of the 3d Ga. Regiment and McComas’ Artillery. The companies were not full and the whole number of men on our side may be set down at from three to five hundred.
The enemy’s force, by their own admission, through the prisoners captured by us, consisted of five regiments, namely the 9th New York (Zouaves,) 89th New York, Col. Hawkins, 4th Pennsylvania, 31st Massachusetts, and a New Hampshire Regiment, in command of Brig. Gen. Reno.
The battle lasted until 5½ o’clock P.M. when our forces were ordered to fall back on their entrenchments at South Mills, which they did in good order. The enemy encamped on the ground, but during the night became panic stricken and hastily decamped.
They made a regular stampede, and so fearful were they of our prowess, that as they fled, they burned the bridges after them to prevent a successful pursuit.
The casualties on our side are few, consisting of six killed, and about twenty five wounded. The enemy’s loss is very great, but cannot be arrived at with certainty. On the field were a number of graves, and among them one with a headstone marked “Adjutant.”
There is reason to believe from the statements of the prisoners that they lost many of their officers; and from all we have been able to gather, it is probable that the statement we gave yesterday of their loss, namely, eight or nine hundred will prove correct.
From South Mills: - We learn that on yesterday the Federals sent a flag of truce to South Mills for the purpose of recovering their dead, when lo and behold! Nobody was found there save an old Negro man.
Whether they entered negotiations with the Negro, or if so, whether he granted their request, has not yet transpired.
We further learn that when the fact became known to the Feds that the foe they so much dreaded was not at South Mills, they very suddenly took it in their heads that it would be a capital move to take possession of the place. They accordingly started out, but it appears that the move was anticipated by our forces, and now defy them to take the place.
This affair, though apparently trivial, we conceive to have been one of the most successful efforts on the part of our troops to repel the invaders, that has taken place during the war. Here we see a small force of about 500 determined men attacking and driving off and enemy of about 5000.
All honor to the 3d Georgia. This is twice that they have set an example for our rulers, of the true policy of conducting this war to a successful termination, and according to the wishes of the army and the people. Their attack and chase after the Indiana Regiment on Chickamacomac Beach sometime since, gave this gallant regiment a reputation for dash and courage, that caused the Yankees to attempt their capture at South Mills by coming after them in overpowering number. But it appears our gallant leader, Col. Wright, had no idea of giving them an opportunity to carry our their design.
Macon Daily Telegraph – 28 April 1862
“Battle of South Mills”
Col. A. H. Wright and The Third Georgia
Company Bivouac, South Mills, N.C. April 24th, 1862
Our monotonous life was somewhat enlivened last Saturday by an engagement with the enemy, who, confident of the success which greatly superior numbers ought to secure, attempted to capture the hated 3d. As you will probably have seen before this reaches you, they did not quite succeed in carrying out their well-laid scheme, and the Bloody 3d (as they term it) is still able to do some service for Mr. Jeff Davis and the Southern Confederacy.
Our regiment was stationed at intervals along the road from South Mills to Elizabeth City, a distance of fourteen miles, with only three companies at South Mills. On Friday night, we, the lower companies, received orders from Colonel Wright to return to South Mills to act in conjunction with the companies there, and a little after sunrise the next morning we started to that place, the Yankees commencing to shell the city as we left, throwing their shell with such precision that one of them passed through a house in which a company of cavalry were quartered, thereby hastening their departure. Learning that they intended coming up the Pasquotank river, which the road crosses eleven miles above the city, for the purpose of cutting off our return (not retreat) the order to "double quick" was given and the boys "struck a trot," which in the space of two hours carried them over the fourteen miles. Here let me say that arriving at our entrenchment eight miles from the city, we were drawn up in line and waited for the approach of the enemy, Captain McComas' artillery supporting our little battalion. The enemy not appearing, however, we resumed the march, having halted about thirty minutes, and arrived at our allotted position, about 10 o'clock A.M.
Col. Wright having learned that the enemy had landed at Camden Court House, in force, and were marching towards South Mills, determined, although he had a greatly inferior numerical force, to give them battle. Choosing his position, he disposes his forces and stationed the artillery, three pieces, according to the advantage offered by the ground - the artillery commanding a straight lane, up which the Yankees were expected to advance. A narrow belt of woods skirted the fields on either side of the lane, running across and at right angles with it, and in this the advanced companies (three in number) were drawn up in line - the others being held in reserve on the other side of the woods in some fields. Finding that a large house about three hundred yards from the end of the lane would likely afford the enemy protection, it was burned to the ground, and a fence on the edge of a deep ditch, running parallel to our line was torn down, thrown into the ditch and on their approach set afire, to prevent their using the ditch as a cover against us.
About 10 o'clock the enemy were seen advancing up the lane, apparently unconscious of the presence of a foe and they were allowed to march quietly until within about five eighths of a mile, when our artillery opened upon then dealing death and spreading confusion among them. They soon recovered, and bringing their artillery to the front, returned out fire, their shot and shell going wide of their mark, and flying over the tops of the pines, beneath which our men were stationed. Finding they were getting the worst of it with artillery, the 9th N.Y. Fire Zouaves were ordered to charge our battery, and foolishly enough, the regiment in four ranks advanced up the narrow lane to the charge, until within seventy five or eighty yards, when a round from the artillery and a well directed volley from the infantry cut a lane from one end of their line to the other, sending then back in confusion. The soon recovered, however, and advanced to the charge again and again, but each time with the same result. Instead of taking the battery, many of them too leave of the world. The other Yankee regiments, five, making six in all, had deployed soon after we fired the first gun, and were in line across the open fields, pouring volley after volley into the woods, but the wind being favorable to us, blew the smoke of our guns towards then, and this, with their bad shooting, rendered their fire useless and ineffectual. Time and again they attempted to drive us from our position, and letting then come up to within thirty to fifty years, we would by a well directed discharge, send them reeling back with heavy loss. Once an officer was seen advancing, sword in hand, on horseback, at the head of his column, cheering and urging his men on. On they came - on, nearer and nearer, until within half musket range, when some of our boys singled him out and took deliberate aim. They fired and a black horse was seen riderless galloping from the spot. We have since learned that this was Gen. Reno. Col. Hawkins, our old Hatteras friend, and commander of the Zouaves, had his arm shot off, and several other officers, an Adjutant among them; who was buried on the field, attested the precision of our aim.
About 3 o'clock P.M., Col. Wright finding that the enemy were attempting to flank us, ordered the men to fall back about a mile to an entrenchment, expecting the enemy would follow. Our company, the Wilkinson Rifles, and the Governor's Guards, were ordered to cover the retreat, which we did under a galling fire from the enemy's artillery. Having fallen back on the entrenchment we awaited the approach of the enemy, but hey had already had enough of it, and we having waited some time, laid down on the wet ground (the rain fell heavily during the night) and slept.
Capt. McComas, of the Artillery, fought his men most gallantly and did terrible execution among the enemy. One wheel of a gun was shot off by the enemy, and in turning to order another to be brought up, he was shot through the breast with a Minnie ball, which instantly killed him. All honor to his name! which the 3rd Georgia will ever hold in grateful remembrance.
During the regular engagement none of our men were killed, but as we began to fall back on our entrenchments, our regiment lost five. W. Milton Deese, of our company, (Rifles,) was killed by a ball through the head, while fighting gallantly. We lost four others, (five in all) killed, and about twenty wounded - none of them supposed to be mortally. Lieut. Wilson, of the Dawson Grays, was shot in the knee, and left on the field of battle, but was afterwards recovered. The Yankees acknowledge to have lost between 300 and 500 in killed and wounded, besides some 35 to 40 prisoners, against four prisoners on our side. They buried about forty on the battle field the night of the battle, and sent off the others on their boats. About midnight one of our men accidentally discharged his musket, which they heard, and supposing it to be the signal for the renewal of the fight, they fled precipitately, leaving their stolen fowls uncooked as an evidence of their haste.
Now to sum up: In the main part of the engagement we had about 325 men, and at no time more than 500 were engaged on our side, not including Capt. McComas' 80 or 90 artillerist. In all, say 910, against an admitted number on their side of from three to five thousand, with artillery equal if not superior to ours
Our entire loss is six killed and about twenty wounded, and four taken prisoners - making our total loss 30, against our estimate of 500 on their side total loss. We took prisoners from six different regiments, proving conclusively that that had between 5,000 and 6,000 men in the field against us, with whom we successfully contended seven hours, and then scared off the battle field, where a portion of their dead now lie buried.
When you put this with the capture of the Fanny and the Chicamacomico race, I do not think our friends will feel ashamed of the Third Georgia. We, in all our fighting, have been in a country where running is fashionable, and we have done all we could to contribute to the fashion - the only difference between us and the people here-abouts being that we ran after and they run from the enemy.
Tuesday morning we all went out the battle field to see the effect of our fire on the enemy. The sun as shining beautifully, and the birds, were singing merrily amidst the shining apple blossoms in the orchard, where but a short time before, whizzing balls and bursting bombs were scattering death. Here and there is a dark crimson spot marked the place where some misguided breathed his life away; while now and then a small pile of brains showed where some poor wretch was hurried into eternity without time to say farewell to those around him. In one place eleven Zouaves lay buried side by side, with their names and company on "head-boards/" In another lay six or seven, and in another some graves had two tenants. None of them were buried more than a foot deep, owing to the haste and the swampy nature of the ground.
The Yankees' artillery made sad, havoc with the tops of the pines, and their infantry galled them severely around the artillery position of Captain McComas.
The field was strewn with various mementoes of the battle, in the form of grape and canister shot, and fragments of shot, and the curious in such matters might have gathered any number of these "souvenirs of friendship."
Returning from the battle field, we, at 5 o'clock P.M., proceeded to pay the last sad tribute to our failed comrades. The regiment formed in line with arms reversed, and as the ambulance moved its head, the band commenced playing, and we slowly marched to the village burial ground, where five graves, side by side, were ready for the gallant dead. I thought, as we slowly defiled through the almost deserted village, that it was hard for the poor fellows to be placed in the earth without a tear to wet their graves. Men are, at best, callous in their natures, and the army tends greatly to blunt our finer sensibilities, so I expected no display of emotion, but in this I was mistaken. Woman is the same the world ever keenly alive to the sufferings of others and even in this out of the way place there were those who kindly dropped a tear upon the soldier's grave and heaved a sympathizing sigh for the sorrowers at home,. Our chaplain feelingly performed the usual ceremonies, and the whole regiment having been divided into three divisions, fired the customary salute. After which we were marched back to the parade and dismissed.
The day after the battle reinforcements were sent down consisting of the 22d Ga., with eight companies of N.C. volunteers, so that we now have a force here of about 3000 infantry, one company of Artillery and two companies of cavalry which General Blanchard commands in person, much to our regret - he is too slow. Col. W., sent up before the battle for the 22d and 4th Ga, and he (the General) promised that he should be here by 10 A.M., Saturday. He failed to start them until that time Sunday, and if it had not been for the gallantry of Col. W, and his men, we would all probably be on our way to Fort Warren. Fortunately, Gen. Loring came over from Suffolk today and informed us that if we had another fight, he would command us, and bring 4000 to our assistance from Sandy Cross, at which place he had left those with whom he had started to aid us.
Col. Wright has just said he intended to leave for home in six days. He is the idol of both men and officers and could be unanimously reelected. Loring says there will be no more fighting here. I am broken own on the march ever since the fight, otherwise well. S.
Macon Daily Telegraph – 28 April 1862
“South Mills, 3d Reg’t Ga. Vols.”0
April 20th, 1862
Editor Telegraph: - At last we have had the long wished for fight, and can say, we have seen the Yankees, felt them, and shot them.
On Friday evening, Col. Reed dispatched to the Companies stationed at and about Elizabeth City, that the enemy, ten thousand strong, had landed at Camden Court House, with the intention of cutting us off, and that we should make all preparation for an early start in the morning; therefore there was no more sleep that night.
About half past four, everything was in readiness, and we were upon the point of starting, when boom went a cannon, and a shell went whizzing through the tree tops, giving us fair warning that it was time that we were off; and off we went, with shot and shell flying thick as hail around us, fired from the Gunboats, which were some mile and a half from our Camp.
The house of Mr. Burgess, where the Cavalry were stationed was fired into doing considerable damage, also hastening the movements of both horse and man. Some started off without putting the bits in their horses mouth, who thereby becoming unmanageable, ran away with them, some without their blankets, others without hats or caps, so for a time there was considerable commotion.
The house of Mr. Black, in which the Gov. Guards and Wilkinson Rifles stopped, was fired into a number of times – no one hurt.
We proceeded on our march at a good pace, accelerated no doubt by the continued noise behind us, when about half the distance to South Mills, we were met by one of the Videttes, with a dispatch to hurry on, as the enemy had advanced within five miles of the Mills. The morning was very warm, and the heavy loads upon our backs, bore us down considerably, but we spurred up and reached the canal bridge where we rested. Col. Wright in the mean time advanced with five companies, on the Camden Road, to meet and check the enemy; they proceeded slowly and cautiously on for two or three miles, when they met, and with little ceremony commenced operation. We opening with our artillery making sad havoc, they replied but with too high a range for any execution. The fight lasted three hours. They were driven back three times, and had our Regiment been reinforced no doubt but that we should completely routed them, and driven them to their boats; although the numbers were greatly against us, they fighting between three and four thousand, and we eight hundred. Our men done nobly, and ably sustained the reputation of the 3d Ga. On our side there was six killed, and sixteen wounded. The enemy’s loss, as near as could be ascertained, was between three and four hundred killed and wounded. Col. Wright acted gallantly, and is entitled to much credit, as is Lieut. Col. Reed and Maj. Lee. The weather is wet, cold and uncomfortable. It is supposed that we stall fight again to-morrow.
Yours with respect,