I take this early
opportunity of informing you of some of the military events which have occurred
near this place within the last three days, and particularly of the engagement
of the Third Ga. Regt. with the Federals, which took place on Saturday last,
the 19th inst.
Most of our
regiment had been posted near Elizabeth City- Col.
Wright making his headquarters, with a reserve, at South Mills. Saturday
morning, which gave promise of a beautiful Spring day, the report of a cannon was heard in the direction of ElizabethCity. This was about
sunrise. Other guns followed in quick succession while it became evident that
the enemy was bombarding the town. While this demonstration was being made, the
enemy was landing troops on the opposite side of the Pasquotank, in Camdencounty. They had been debarking all the previous night. Col. Wright being
convinced that the demonstration at Elizabeth City was only a feint, for the
purpose of drawing his regiment down to that place, ordered the six companies,
and the artillery and cavalry, first back to our intrenchment,
four miles below S. Mills, on the ElizabethCity road.
Afterwards being informed that a strong force of the Federals were marching on
South Mills, through Camden county, Col. W.
ordered the whole force at the intrenchment
immediately back to S. Mills, while he advanced with the four companies at that
place, to meet the approaching column. Our forces marched rapidly, and about 12 M. the artillery and two companies of
infantry joined Col. Wright, and
were marched forward and posted in battle-line, occupying a piece of woods,
while the enemy had to advance through a field in front of our line. In the
meantime the Athens Guards and
“Young Guards,” were posted on the right wing of our line, about a mile distant
from the force engaged. Our forces were ordered to remain in position, to
oppose any advance from Elizabeth City, and to burn the bridge over the
Pasquotank, about two miles below South Mills. Our orders were executed and we
waited impatiently the command to join the balance of our regiment and go into
Shortly after 12 M. our artillery opened fire on the
approaching foe. For nearly three hours the cannonading continued, three pieces
of ours being opposed to three, at least (it is said five) in the Federal column.
Our artillery, a Virginia battery
formerly attached to the Wise Legion, was skillfully managed and did terrible
execution in the ranks of the enemy. Our infantry, during the engagement,
advanced and occupied a ditch, awaiting the near approach of the enemy. About they came within range
, and a fierce and rapid fire of musketry ensued, lasting about one
hour. During this time the 9th Regt., N.Y. Zouaves
approached our lines by a flank movement through a piece of woods on our left;
then, suddenly appearing on the field in front of our battery, charged our
lines, endeavoring to capture our battery. Our infantry in the ditch reserved
their fire until the Zouaves came within fifty yards,
then opened upon them with deadly effect, and completely repulsing their
charge. As the N. Y. Zouaves debauched from the
woods, our men heard distinctly the command of the N. Y. Colonel, “Charge that
battery!” He rode on, waving his sword, but in a moment an unerring shot
brought him to the ground. The colors of the same regiment were shot down, and
those of another regiment.
About , Capt. McComas, of the Virginia battery, was
killed by a Minnie ball. This unfortunate disaster caused his men for a moment
to waiver; the gun carriage, too, was disabled by a solid shot from the enemy,
so that it became necessary to take it from the field. At this time the enemy
were pressing our flanks and likely to overpower us with numbers. Col. Wright
ordered a retreat to our intrenchments Our line fell
back about half a mile, across open fields. Then the Athens Guards and
Young Guards, who had been impatiently held in reserve, were ordered up. The
enemy had occupied the first position of our forces as they retired, but did
not pursue our men. Our reserve was put in position awaiting the enemy, but he
did advance. About 4 ½ P.M. men were seen advancing on the left of our reserve,
apparently endeavoring to outflank us . Our company
was immediately sent out as skirmishers, and commenced firing at long range on
the seeming foe. A field piece, at the same time, fired rapidly on the same
body of men. To foil the purpose of the enemy, we fell still farther back, and
were in readiness, expecting him to debauch from the swamp. It was raining at
this time, and the atmosphere hazy, but through the mist a white flag was
discovered. Firing then ceased, all awaiting in
suspense and with various conjectures as to the mission of the flag of truce.
The man came up and was discovered to be one of our regiment, (of the Clarke
Rifles). We had been firing on a detachment of Capt. Hendon’s company, which
had become separated from our line. Fortunately none of our men were killed or
hurt by this mistake.
mistake was discovered our reserve, with artillery and cavalry, were ordered
forward to the position we had just left. There we awaited the enemy till dark,
but as he did not come pickets were stationed and our forces ordered into
quarters for the night.
As large numbers
were opposed to us, and sufficient reinforcements had not come up, it was
deemed expedient to fall back to the canal locks, 13 miles from this place. The retreat commenced
about of Sunday. We
halted at the locks, all the forces being brought off in good order. At that
point reinforcements soon came up and we were yesterday marched back to this
place. The enemy have gone off to their gunboats.
Some of the
fruits of this victory are the capture of a large quantity of powder, about 150
stands of arms, cartridges, blankets, etc. We have also taken about 40
prisoners, including about 20 wounded and the surgeon attending them. The loss
of the enemy cannot be accurately known to us, but from the best information we
have, is not less than 500 killed and wounded. Our loss is 6 killed, and about
20 wounded and missing. Our force was less than 400. About 20 Federal officers
were killed, among them Col. Hawkins.