The ammunition of the navy howitzers being nearly exhausted and one piece disabled, the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts were ordered to march by the flank and form so as to support the guns, leaving the Twenty-fourth on the extreme right. About twenty-five minutes from this time the head of General Parke's column, the Fourth Rhode Island, had reached the breastwork at the railroad crossing, and after a brisk fire pushed on and entered the breastwork in an opening left for the railroad track, and where the enemy's fire had much slackened in consequence of the steady and constant ire of the Twenty-third Massachusetts and Tenth Connecticut. This position of affairs being discovered, I ordered an advance along the line, which was promptly obeyed, the enemy retreating with great precipitation.
On entering the breastworks sharp firing was still heard to the right of the enemy's position, and hearing from General Parke that he was engaged with the enemy's forces in their works to the right of the railroad, I led the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts to his support, and received the surrender of Colonel Avery and 150 men.
The breastwork we had entered was similar in construction ot the abandoned one, running from Fort Thompson at the river to the railroad track, a distance of 1 1/4 miles, and from the railroad track rifle pits and detached intrenchments in the form of lunettes and redans followed each other for the distance of 1 1/4 miles and terminated by a two-gun battery.
Fort Thompson, a flanking bastion, mounted thirteen guns, all 32-pounders (two rifled), four of which were turned so as to bear upon our line. the breastwork was mounted by two complete field batteries, besides several pieces of heavy artillery, and manned by about 6,000 men. The force in men and artillery of the other defenses I am unable to give, they not coming under my observation.
Pressing forward then with my brigade, I reached the railroad bridge a New Berne, I rested the men on a field on the east bank of the Trent. By order of General Burnside, who had continued up with me, I shortly after crossed with my brigade over the river and encamped he regiments, with the exception of the Twenty-fifth Massachusetts, in the camp of the enemy (at the Fair Ground), the enemy having left all his camp equipage, and from appearances must have fled very precipitately, the Twenty-fifth being quartered in the town for police duty.
The fatigues and hardships of the march from Slocum's Creek I need not mention; the horrible state of the roads, the waring labor it cost to drag for 12 miles the howitzers, the severity of the storm, and the wet ground of the soldiers' bivouac for the night, you well know.
I must mention in my brigade, where all behaved bravely, with particular praise the Twenty-fourth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers and the Tenth Connecticut Volunteers. The former, under a severe fire from musketry in the front and exposed to a flanking fire off grape and canister from Fort Thompson, unprotected by the trees, behaved with marked coolness and steadiness. The latter advanced close under the enemy's fire in line of battle, fired with the most remarkable steadiness, and stood steadily up, giving and taking the most severe fire.
The naval howitzers, under command of Lieutenant McCook, Acting Masters Daniels and Hammond, Captain's Clerk Meeker, Captain Rowan's Clerk Gabaudan, Lieutenant Tillotson, Union coast Guard, and Lieutenant Hughes, Union Coast Guard, were most admirably served during the day, and when the ammunition was exhausted they laid down by their pieces rather than to withdraw from their position.