War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0153 Chapter XX. BATTLE OF ROANOKE ISLAND, N. C.

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the morning. The general directs that you will fight until retreat becomes a necessity that cannot be resisted. The very great importance of preventing the enemy from getting possession of the island requires that the most desperate and determined resistance be made, and that you continue to fight as long as there is a possibility of repelling them. If you are compelled to retreat, you will do so in good order, guarding your rear by a sufficient number of your coolest and most reliable men, detailed for that purpose. You will also feel the enemy at Ashby's, and if they are not too strong you will attack them.

The general further directs that you will have provisions conveyed to some point near the breastworks in the morning, and direct that they be cooked, so that the men may refresh themselves during the progress of the anticipated fight.

Lighters will be sent to the battery on Roanoke Sound to facilitate the withdrawal of the troops from the island should the necessity therefor arise.

A re-enforcement of four companies will be sent you in the morning. Keep a vigilant watch on your flanks, and strengthen the breastworks as much as you can.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Assistant Adjutant-General.


Camp at Nag's Head, N. C., February 8, 1862.

Major-General HUGER, Commanding, &c.:

SIR: The dispatch sent you yesterday afternoon announced that a fight was in progress between the enemy's fleet and our batteries at the Croatan Sound. A brief pencil note from Colonel Shaw, dated 7.15 p.m.., received during the night, states that the fight commenced at Pork Point Battery, no other batteries being engaged; that at no time could more than four guns of that battery be brought to bear upon the enemy, and that when he left, at 4 p.m.., two of the guns there had been disabled. The firing commenced, as announced in my previous dispatch, at 11.16 1/2 o'clock, and ceased only with the approach of night, having continued six hours and thirty-eight minutes, rapidly as unremittingly, from guns of heavy caliber. It is estimated that about three thousand discharges from cannon took place during the time mentioned, yet our loss at the batteries, so far as ascertained, is only two killed. Nothing is known of the damage sustained by the enemy.

Certain information has been received at these headquarters that the enemy landed on Roanoke Island yesterday afternoon. Colonel Shaw reports that they landed above Ashby's, up a small creek, and it is expected that they will get their field artillery on shore during the night. Orders were given to Colonel Shaw to resist their landing; to fight at the water's edge every inch of ground as long as prudence would permit, and, if compelled, to fall back fighting to Suple's Hill, and there make a stand. Why the enemy were allowed to land without resistance has not been satisfactorily explained by Colonel Shaw. Our forces are now posted at the breastworks at Suple's Hill to receive the attack of the enemy, and orders have been sent to Colonel Shaw to make a most determined and desperate resistance.

There are now about 1,350 infantry on the island to protect the batteries and meet the enemy at the breastworks, who will in all probability advance with from 3,000 to 5,000 men and field artillery likewise. This number of infantry is so entirely insufficient for these purposes that four other companies have been sent to the island, leaving only three small companies at this post, comprising in all about 130 men to guard the commissary stores and construct a ferry for our forces on which to retreat from the island should that necessity occur. Lighters have been collected and will be sent to the redoubt on Roanoke Island this morning to transport our troops across should we be beaten and compelled to retreat. Arrangements have been made to remove to some place of security as much of the stores and equipage as there is transportation for. It is confidently anticipated our men will fight most bravely; yet the very great disparity of numbers renders the result exceedingly doubtful.

The loss of the island, or the passage by the enemy of the Croatan Sound, will enable them to ravage the whole of the Albemarle country, and subject the people there residing to the most terrible of disasters.

The general further directs me to say that a very large additional force is necessary for the successfully defense of the district assigned to him. Prostrated by disease, and issuing orders from his sick bed, he is striving with the very limited means at his command to arrest the advance of the enemy. The fleet of Flag-Officer Lynch, doing all that it can, can be of no use to us in the expected conflict. Should the enemy, landing above our breastworks at Suple's Hill take our batteries in the rear, it would prove a most lamentable want of men for the defense of the island. If they defeat us in the anticipated fight at Suple's Hill, or pass the island unless very speedily or strongly re-enforced, he can do but little toward giving protection to the people of the counties on the Albemarle Sound and its tributaries.