Early on the morning of the 10th the enemy's squadron, hove in sight, and opened fire on battery, schooner, and steamers, and, as if aware of the helpless condition of all, steamed, after a few minutes, past the battery right up to the city.
Commodore Lynch told me in the battery that he was informed that the enemy had landed below, and a naval officer, galloping up, reported, after I left the battery, that the enemy in large force had landed and formed about a mile below. There were no militia, no one whatever to support the artillery, who have neither fire-locks of any kind nor side-arms. Two pieces were placed to keep the enemy as long as possible at bay, but in a few minutes the Federal Steamers were perceived rapidly advancing past the battery toward the city, which they reached before the artillery (now ordered back) had got half way.
As the enemy, after reaching the wharf, had the town at their mercy. I detached Sergeant Scroggs, of Captain McComas' company, with a detail, to aid the citizens in destroying the place by fire,as I had been requested to do by some of the most prominent of them. They only partially succeeded, two blocks only having been burned and a few isolated houses in the suburbs. I retreated with the artillery by the old Edenton road, and halted on the night of the 10th at Newby's Bridge, 2 miles from Hertford, accompanied and guarded by General Mann, of the militia. I opened communication with Edenton and Hertford and sent for some of the transportation of the Fifty-ninth Virginia Volunteers, which was unprotected at the former place. The militia had not been embodied at either place, though the next day I received a dispatch from Colonel Moore, of Edenton stating that on the requisition of any Confederate general he was ordered to call out his regiment, and could assemble 200 men, armed with muskets and shot-[guns] and with 10 rounds of ammunition each. In this region the militia will not assemble until the enemy is dangerously near. Then it becomes impossible to assemble them until they have attended to the moving of family and property. After that the they show a disposition to come out if there is any force to support them.
Generally the population appear to be very true; there are, of course, some traitors, but far less disloyalty than in Western Virginia. A painful instance of the latter occurred a few miles from Elizabeth City on our march to Newby's Bridge. A man by the name of Lester deliberately shot a private who rode into his yard, and then barricaded himself in the upper rooms of his house, refusing to surrender. Captain Webb, quartermaster of artillery, went up to him unarmed and pledged himself to protect him from violence if he came out. After appearing to consent he suddenly and treacherously attempted to fire at the captain, and did fire afterward several times at the men. I ordered the house to be fire. He was driven by the smoke to the window and shot by one of the artillery. The man shot, Private Bransford, is in a very critical condition. Lester, it appears, was a very violent Union man, and had been waited on a month previous by a vigilance committee.
On the morning of the 11th I received a communication from Colonel Wright, of the Third Georgia Regiment, stating that he was 5 miles from Elizabeth City, with 400 of his regiment at South Mills, that 500 more were expected, and that he would wait to hear from me.
I marched on the 11th by what is called the Desert Road to this place with the artillery and a company of the Seventeenth North Carolina Volunteers, which (40 strong), under Lieutenant Lyons, reported to me the preceding night, being part of the force escaped from the naval battery opposite Roanoke Island.