forces and compelled to yield the breastwork. The evacuation of the river batteries, thus taken in reverse, of course, followed and the enemy is now in possession of New Berne.
From the nature of the position my troops were much scattered in the retreat, and I am rapidly concentrating them at this place.
I have given orders to my chief engineer, aided by Captain Meade, to make an examination into the best means of defending some point which will check the advance of the enemy to the railroad at Goldsborough. I am satisfied that it cannot be done without a large increase of force.
My command is entirely destitute of camp equipage of every description, and can on that account be kept together only with great difficulty.
At an early day I will report more in detail the operations of the two days.
Yours, very respectfully,
L. O'B. BRANCH,
Brigadier-General, C. S. Army.
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION,
In the Field, March 26, 1862.
GENERAL: My report of the battle of the 14th below New Berne has been withheld until I could get a report from Colonel R. P. Campbell, who commanded my right wing on that day. It is now submitted, with reports from the commanders of all the regiments on the field.
A brief description of the artificial defenses of New Berne, together with the inclosed sketch, will enable you to comprehend the movements of the day, which were few and simple.
The defensive works were located and constructed before I assumed command. The troops under my command had performed a large amount of work, but it was mainly on the river defenses, which were not assailed by the enemy. They had been originally planned for a force much larger than any ever placed at my disposal, and I was for six weeks engaged in making the necessary changes to contract them, but the failure of all my efforts to obtain implements and tools with which the troops could carry on the work prevented me from making satisfactory progress. I had circulated handbills over the State, calling on the citizens generally to assist me, and received from two counties a small party of free negroes without implements. I then inserted in the newspaper and advertisement calling on the slave owners to hire their slaves, with implements, for a few days, and I got but a single negro.
During all this time I continued the troops at work, and when the enemy came into the river 500 per day were being detailed to construct breastworks, with less than half that number of worn and broken shovels and axes, without picks or grubbing-hoes. If the fate of New Berne shall prevent a similar supineness on the part of citizens, and especially slave owners, elsewhere, it will be fortunate for the country. Ten miles below New Berne, on the south side of the Neuse, is the mouth of Otter Creek. From this creek, 1 mile above its mouth, the Croatan breastwork runs across to an impracticable swamp about three-fourths of a mile. This is a well-planned and well-constructed work, which 2,000 men and two field batteries could hold against a very large force. But from the mouth of Otter Creek to Fort Thompson, the lowest of
16 R R-VOL IX