Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Battle At Newbern, North Carolina-1862.

The capturing of Newbern, North Carolina, in 1862 was a joint operation of the Navy and Army, this battle was full of action as the following four battle reports will show.


Sin: I have the honor to report the capture of all the rebel batteries upon the Neuse river, the complete defeat and rout of the enemy’s forces in this vicinity, and the occupation of the city of Newbern by the combined forces of the army and navy of the United States, on yesterday (Friday) at noon. The incidents of the expedition, briefly stated, are these:

The fleet under my command, and that of the army, left Hatteras inlet at 7.30 on Wednesday morning, the 12th instant, and arrived, without accident or delay, at the point which had been selected for disembarking the troops, and within sight of the city of Newbern, at sunset on the evening of the same day, where we anchored for the night.

On Thursday morning I hoisted my pennant on board the steamer Delaware. At 8.30 a. m. our gunboats commenced shelling the woods in the vicinity of the proposed place of landing, taking stations at intervals along the shore to protect the advance of the troops. At 9.30 a. m. the troops commenced landing, and at the same time six naval boat howitzers, with their crews, under command of Lieutenant It. S. McCook, of the Stars and Stripes, were put on shore to assist the attack. The army commenced to move up the beach at about 11.30 a. m., the debarkation of troops still continuing. In the mean time our vessels were slowly moving up, throwing shell in the woods beyond.

At 4.15 p. m. the first of the enemy’s batteries opened fire on the foremost of our gunboats, which was returned by them at long range. The troops were now all disembarked and steadily advancing without resistance. At sundown the firing was discontinued, and the fleet came to anchor in position to cover the troops on shore. At 6.30 a. m. Friday, the 14th instant, we heard a continuous firing of heavy guns and musketry inland, and immediately commenced throwing our shells in advance of the position supposed to be held by our troops.

The fleet steadily moved up and gradually closed in towards the batteries. The lower fortifications were discovered to have been abandoned by the enemy. A boat was dispatched to it and the stars and stripes planted on the ramparts. As we advanced the upper batteries opened fire upon us. The fire was returned with effect, the magazine of one exploding. Having proceeded in an extended line as far as the obstructions in the river would permit, the signal was made to follow the movements of the flag-ship, and the whole fleet advanced in order, concentrating our fire on Fort Thompson, mounting thirteen guns, on which rested the enemy’s land defenses. The army having, with great gallantry, driven them out of these defenses, the forts were abandoned.

Several of our vessels were slightly injured in passing the barricades of piles and torpedoes which had been placed in the river. The upper battery having been evacuated on the appearance of the combined forces, it was abandoned and subsequently blew up. We now steamed rapidly up to the city. The enemy had fled, and the place remained in our possession. Upon our approach several points of the city were fired by the enemy, where stores had been accumulated. rf we small batteries, constructed of cotton bales and mounting two guns each, were also fired by them. Two small steamers were captured, another having been burned.

A large raft, composed of barrels of pitch and bales of cotton, which had been prepared to send down upon the fleet, was fired, and, floating against the railroad bridge, set it on fire and destroyed it. In addition to the prizes, a quantity of cotton, pitch, tar, a gunboat, and another vessel on the stocks, several schooners afloat, and an immense quantity of arms and munitions of war fell into our hands. At about 4 p. m. I sent several of our vessels to the right bank of the Trent river to carry General Foster’s brigade to occupy the city of Newbern.
I am, respectfully, &c., S. C. ROWAN, Commanding U. S. Naval Forces in Pamlico Sound.

To: Flag-Officer L. M. GOLDSBOROUGH, Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Hampton Roads, Virginia.

Detailed report of attack upon Newbern, North Carolina, by Commander S. C. Rowan.

UNITED STATS STEAMER PHILADELPHIA, Of Newbern, North Carolina, March 20, 1862.

Sir: I beg leave to submit the following detailed report of the attack upon Newbern and its approaches:

I left Hatteras inlet on Wednesday, March 12, at 7.30 a. in., with the following naval force under my command: Philadelphia, my flag-ship, Acting Master S. Reynolds commanding; Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant Commanding R. Werden; Louisiana, Lieutenant Commanding A. Murray.; Hetzel, Lieutenant Commanding H. K. Davenport; Delaware, Lieutenant Commanding L. P. Quackenbush; Commodore Perry, Lieutenant Commanding C. W. Flusser; Valley City, Lieutenant Commanding J. C. Chaplin; Underwriter, Lieutenant Commanding A. Hopkins; Commodore Barney, Acting Lieutenant Commanding R. T. Renshaw; Hunchback, Acting Lieutenant Commanding B. R. Colbonn; Southfield, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant Commanding C. F. W. Behm; Morse, Acting Master Commanding Peter Hayes; Brincker, Acting Master Commanding J. B. Giddings; and Lockwood, Acting Master Commanding G. W. Graves. By 8 a. m. the naval fleet, together with the army transports, were steaming rapidly up the sound.

At 1 p. m. we made Brant island, distant about twelve miles. At 2.10 p. m. the advance divisions of the gunboats having entered the mouth of Neuse river, and being some miles in advance of the flag-ship, I made signal to stop, that the fleet might be concentrated. At this time General Burnside came alongside the flag-ship, and requested that one of our gunboats might be sent to the mouth of Pamlico river, intelligence having been received that two steamers were in that river. To guard against the possibility of an attempt by the enemy to cut off any of our transport vessels which might remain unprotected in the rear of the fleet, I dispatched the Lockwood to lay off the mouth of that river during the night.

At 3.40 p. a., having come up with the advance, signal was made to “form line ahead,” and the fleet again moved on, having now fairly entered Sense river. At 5 p. m., the gunboats being now far in advance of the army transports and in sight of the obstructions placed by the enemy in the river opposite to their batteries, a small steamer was discovered about six miles ahead, apparently reconnoitring. The Delaware was dispatched in pursuit. Failing to overtake the chase, but having driven her under the guns of the batteries, she returned. At 6.10 p. m. the naval fleet came to anchor in three columns off Slocum’s creek, the point decided upon for the debarkation of troops, and about fifteen miles distant from Newbern. Early the following morning (13th) I hoisted my pennant on board the Delaware. The Stars and Stripes and Louisiana were placed on the west side of the creek, and the Hetzel and Valley City on the east. At about 8 a. m. the troops started from the transports, and at the same time the gunboats, stationed as above, opened with grape and shell on the point selected for landing, the fire ceasing as the first brigade landed. At 9 a. m., six naval boat howitzers, commanded, respectively, by Acting Master C. H. Daniels, United States steamer Hetzel; Mr. E. P. Meeker, United States steamer Philadelphia; Acting Master J. B. Hammond, United States steamer Hetzel; Mr. E. C. Gabandan, United States steamer Delaware; Lieutenant Tillotson, Union Coast Guard, and Lieutenant J. W. B. Hughes, Union Coast Guard—all under the command of Lieutenant H. S. McCook, of the Stars and Stripes were landed to assist in the attack.

The Perry was moved up opposite the position of the battery in the interior near the railroad, with directions to open fire and unmask it. The Southfield was ordered to follow and take a position near the Perry. The Underwriter was soon directed to join them and use her rifle gun only. The Morse was stationed a mile below these vessels, and the Commodore Perry and Hunckback below the Morse.

As soon as the last brigade was embarked for landing I went up the river with the Delaware to make a reconnoissance of Fort Dixie. As I approached, the battery opened fire, which was returned, and the Perry coming up, a spirited and very effective fire was kept up by that vessel until dark, I having returned, at the request of General Burnside, to communicate with him.

Having dispatched the Delaware on special service, 1 returned to the South- field, after having communicated with the general, and proceeded iii that vessel to the Perry, which vessel was ordered to cease firing, as the night had set in with a heavy fog. The Southfield and Lockwood were anchored two miles below Fort Dixie, and, as near as I could judge, abreast of the advanced position of our forces, the Delaware joining me during the night.

At daylight on the morning of the 14th the report of a gun, supposed to be field-piece, was heard. The Delaware, Hunckbaek, and Lockwood were immediately ordered to get under way. The fog being too dense to signalize, the Lockwood was directed to trace the land down and order up the vessels that had been stationed along the shore from our position to the point of debarkation. The Delaware and Southfield were ordered to move up and open fire on Fort Dixie. They were soon joined by the heavy ships from below, followed by the more distant vessels that had been guarding Slocum’s creek. Receiving no response from Fort Dixie, a boat was sent ashore, and the American flag raised on the ramparts. I then passed on up and opened fire on Fort Ellis, which was returned until the fort blew up. At this time our troops were pressing on the enemy’s intrenchments in the rear of Fort Thompson. I made signal “Advance in line abreast,” closed op toward the barriers, and opened fire on Fort Thompson and in direction of the sound of the enemy’s fire in the interior. At this juncture an officer from General Burnside came down to the beach and informed me that our shells were falling to the left and near our own troops. Changed direction and continued to fire, and advanced closed to the barriers.

Fort Thompson having ceased to return our fire, I made signal “Follow my motions,” and advanced through the first row of obstructions in “line ahead.” As we passed the obstructions our troops appeared on the ramparts of the fort, waving the American flag. We threw a few shells into Fort Lane, but receiving no response, ordered the Valley City to raise the American flag on the remaining forts, and passed rapidly up the river in “line ahead.” As we passed up, and on opening Trent river, two batteries were discovered, mounting two guns each, on the wharves in front of the city; both, however, were deserted. Passed up the Neuse river, and opened fire from the Delaware on some steamboats that were attempting to escape up the river, one of them having in tow a schooner loaded with commissary stores. One of the steamers was run iu shore and burned; the other two, together with the schooner, were captured.

At about 12 m. I ran the Delaware alongside the wharf, and informed the in hbitants that we intended no injury to the town. At this time fires broke out in several portions of the city, it apparently being the intention on the part of the enemy to destroy it. Fire was also communicated to a floating raft in Trent river filled with bales of cotton saturated with turpentine, which had been prepared to send down to the fleet. This drifting against the railroad bridge, set fire to and burned it.

The Louisiana and Barney were sent to the Trent side of the town in order secure any public property that might be found there. Several hundred stand of arms and other munitions of war, and a large amount of naval stores, together with a large three mastered schooner, fell into our hands. At 2 p. m., our victorious troops appearing on the opposite side of the Treat, the work of transportation commenced, and at sundown the army was in fall occupancy of the city.

The obstructions in the river were very formidable, and had evidently been prepared with great care. The lower barrier was composed of a series of piling driven securely into the bottom and cut off below the water; added to this was another row of iron-capped and pointed piles, inclined at an angle of about 450 down the stream. Near these was a row of thirty torpedoes, containing about 200 pounds of powder each, and fitted with metal fazes connected with spring percussion locks, with trigger-lines attached to the pointed piles. The second barrier was quite as formidable as the first, although not so dangerous. This was about a mile above and abreast of Fort Thompson, and consisted of a line of sunken vessels, closely massed, and chevaux de frise, leaving a very narrow passage under the battery. In passing through these obstructions the Perry struck one of the iron stakes and carried the head of it off, sticking in her bottom. The Barney had a hole six inches long cut in her, and the Stars and Stripes was also injured; but fortunately the torpedoes failed to serve the enemy’s purpose.

The forts, six in number, (exclusive of those on the Treat,) were well-constructed earthworks, varying in distance apart from one-half mile to one mile and half, and mounting, in all, thirty-two guns, ranging from 32-pounders to 80-pounders, rifled, all en barbette, with the exception of one casemated fort, mounting two guns.

I forward herewith the report of Lieutenant McCook, commanding the naval battery in the battle of Newbern. The conduct of this officer, as also of the officers in command of the guns and their crews, is worthy of all praise. The list of killed and wounded in this little command, amounting to less than 50 all told, will show that where the hottest of the fire was there they were. It again becomes my pleasing duty to bear testimony to the gallant bearing of the commanders of the different vessels, their officers and crews. I must beg leave to express my grateful thanks for the able manner in which I have been supported by them. I am happy to add that no casualties occurred on board the vessels under my command during the engagement.
I have the honor to be, very respectfully, &c, S. C. ROWAN. Commanding United States Naval Forces, Sounds of North Carolina.

To: Flag-Officer L. M. GOLDSBOROUGH, Commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, Hampton Roads, Virginia.


Sin: I have the honor to submit the following detailed report of the operations of the battery under my command during the action near this place on the 14th instant.

In obedience to your order of the 13th, I took command of the naval battery of six howitzers, and on the morning of that day landed with the advance of the army at Slocum’s creek. I was placed in the brigade and under the orders of General Foster, and at once moved forward to join him. The roads were very heavy, and in some places almost impassable, and had it not been for the assistance which was cheerfully rendered me by the army, the pieces could never have gone forward. We marched steadily forward till 9 o’clock at night, and then halted to rest. At — a. m. of the 14th we again moved forward, and at 3 a. m. reported to General Burnside, who ordered us to halt.

At daylight we resumed our march. At about 7 a. in. General Burnside ordered me to take a position in front of the left of the enemy’s works. I moved the battery forward to the edge of the cleared space and deployed it to the left of the county road, opening fire at once with shell and shrapnel at a distance of about six hundred yards. Opposed to us and behind the breastworks was a battery of eleven field-pieces (six of which paid particular attention to us) and a number of riflemen, who annoyed us excessively whenever the smoke would lift clear of our guns. In attempting to drive these latter from the breastwork I advanced the battery some distance, firing canister, but was compelled to fall back to my original position, after having one gun disabled, an officer and several men wounded, and one killed.

For an hour and a half we maintained our position under a heavy fire of shell, grape, and musketry, when a gallant charge by our troops cleared the enemy from the breastwork. I at once moved forward into the work with three of my pieces and all my remaining ammunition. General Foster then ordered rue forward with a portion of his brigad’. When we had arrived within two hundred yards of the railroad a detached body of the enemy appeared in sight; the guns were at once prepared for action, and pointed toward a cleared spot on the opposite side of the railroad, that the enemy seemed to be making fbr. As they came into this open space I gave the order to fire, but, before the order could be executed, Acting Master Hammond rashly dashed forward in front of the guns and demanded their surrender. This demand they complied with, by throwing down their arms and holding up their hands in token of submission. The prisoners proved to be Colonel Avery and a portion of his command, the 25th North Carolina regiment; they had been driven from thu rifle pits by our troops, and were endeavoring to make their escape. From this point I was oidered down the railroad to Newbern. Obtaining two cars, 1 placed my guns upon them, and reached the burning bridge to find our navy in possession of the city, and the gunboats transporting the troops across the river.

The cheerfulness with which the brave men under my command dragged their guns through the heavy roads, part of thc time exposed to a drenching rain, and the gallant manner in winch they sustained the heavy fire of the enemy, is worthy of all praise. I would especially call your attention to the gallant conduct of Orderly Sergeant J. Meudenhall, company B, Union Coast Guard; Seamen James Judge, George H. Mansell, John Williams, Charles Patterson, and Ordinary Seaman Duncan Douglass. These men, with the exception of Mendenhall, acted as captains of guns, and, from their intimate acquaintance with the howitzers, were of great service.

The conduct of my officers was all that I could wish. Acting Masters Daniels and Hammond, of the Hetzel, rendered me most valuable aid; one gun in each of their sections was in charge of E. P. Meeker, of the flag-ship, and E. C. Gabandan, of the Delaware. To their coolness and courage all can. testify. The gun in charge of Lieutenant Hughes, of company B, Union Coast Guard, suffered severely, and was finally disabled. During a portion of the engagement he loaded the gun himself, until carried away wounded. Mr. Daniels made an attempt to carry forward two of the captured pieces, but, after dragging them some distance, they stuck fast in the mud. Lieutenant Tillotson, of the Coast Guard, after firing away all his ammunition, left his section, and, I have since learned, was picked up 1y the retreating enemy. On going into action I discovered that some of the men had straggled off, leaving me about fifty men to fight the guns. Among these, I regret to report the following casualties:

Killed.-.—Privates Arthur McGinnis and John Sheehy, company B, Union Coast Guard.

Wounded.—Second Lieutenant T. W. B. Hughes, Orderly Sergeant J. Mendenhall, Sergeant James C. Freeman, Corporal Thomas Riley, and Privates J. McDougal, S. T. Fonda, and Nicholas Mertz, (yet missing,) company B, Union Coast Guard; Seaman John Williams, Ordinary Seaman Jeremiah Sullivan, George Bushee, and’ Thomas Simmons. Total: killed, 2; wounded, 11.

I have the honor to be, &c., R. SHELDON McCOOK, Lieutenant, United States Navy.

To: Commander S. C. ROWAN, Commanding U. S. Naval Forces in the Sounds of North Carolina.


Sin: I have the honor to report that the only casualties to the forces under your command in the engagement at this place, on the 13th and 14th instant, occurred in the naval howitzer battery, under the command of Lieutenant R. S. McCook, United States navy, co-operating with the forces on shore, and are as follows, Viz:

Killed.—Privates Arthur McGinniss and John Sheehy, company B. Union Coast Guard.

Wounded.—Lieutenant T. W. B. Hughes, severely; Second Lieutenant J. Mendenhall, slightly: Orderly Sergeant James C. Freeman, slightly; Sergeant Thomas Riley, slightly; Corporal J. McDougal, severely; Private S. T. Fonda, slightly; and Private Nicholas Mertz, missing—all of company B, Union Coast Guard. United Stated Steamer Roanoke: John Williams, seaman, severely. United States Steamer Morse: Jeremiah Sullivan, ordinary seaman, slightly. United States Steamer Valley City: George Bushee and Thomas Simmons, ordinary seamen, slightly. Total: killed, 2; wounded, 11.
I am, sir, very respectfully, &c., SAM’L J. JONES, Assistant Surgeon, United States Navy.

To: Commander S. C. ROWAN, Commanding United States Naval Forces, &c.

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