but the ground was broken into hills separated by deep ravines, and the timber was of oak, "white wood," and other deciduous trees, and of the largest description. The First Brigade, under General Foster, having advanced on the highway, came first upon the enemy, and the battle was now raging fiercely upon our right along the whole line of the earthworks from the river to the railroad. The smoke from the rapid firing of more than thirty cannon and several thousand muskets was driven down upon us by the wind, and mingling with the dense fog, so completely shut out the light of day (never more anxiously longed for) that it was impossible to derive any information respecting the position of the rebels except where it was indicated by the noise of battle.
Our skirmishers now reported that we were opposite the right flank of a battery resting at this point on a deep cut in the railroad, and upon several buildings and brick walls in Wood's brick-yard, which was across the road from our position a few hundred yards distant. The regiment was at once formed in line of battle facing the railroad, and Company C, Captain J. M. Richardson, was ordered forward to reconnoiter. As rapidly as the difficult nature of the ground would allow the other companies formed on the right by file into line, and as soon as the remaining companies of the right wing were ready I moved forward with the colors to the support of Company C, who were already engaging the rebel riflemen in the trench upon the opposite side of the deep cut on the railroad.
At the moment of their arrival at the cut the enemy were busily engaged in removing ammunition from the cars, which had just come in from New Berne with re-enforcements. At the first volley from Company C the enemy, in great astonishment, fled from the road and the trench to a ravine in the rear of the brick-yard. General Reno now ordered the color-bearer, Sergeant Bates, to plant his flag upon the roof of a building within the enemy's intrenchments. He immediately rushed forward several rods in advance of his company, and, amid a perfect shower of Minie balls clambered to the roof and waved the Star-Spangled Banner presented to the regiment by the ladies of Worcester.
At this moment the noblest of us all, my brave, efficient, faithful adjutant, First Lieutenant F. A. Stearns, Company I, fell mortally wounded, the first among the 25 patriotic volunteers of the Twenty-first who laid down their lives for their country at the battle of New Berne. As he was cheering on his men to charge upon the enemy across the railroad he was struck by a ball from an Enfield rifle fired from a redan on the right and rear of the central breastwork, on which we were advancing. The fatal missile entered his left side, and passing through his lungs went out just below the collar-bone on the right breast. Corporal Welch, of Company C, noticing his fall, returned and remained with him during the battle. He lived about two and a half hours, nearly unconscious from the loss of blood, and died without a struggle a little before noon.
General Reno, with Company C, A, B, and H, of the right wing, dashed across the railroad, up the steep bank, and over the rifle trench on the top into the brick-yard. Here we were subjected to a most destructive cross-fire from the enemy on both sides of the railroad, and lost a large number of men in a very few minutes. The general, supposing we had completely flanked the enemy's works, returned across
15 R R-VOL IX