War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0242 OPERATIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA. Chapter XX.

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the river batteries, is a distance of 6 miles of river shore, on any part of which the enemy could land and take the Croatan work in reverse. It is obvious that the breastwork was useless if I had not sufficient force to hold it and at he same time guard 6 miles of river shore. I have at no time been able to place 4,000 men in the field at New Berne, and at the time of the battle had been seriously weakened by the re-enlistment furloughs.

Coming up the river from the Croatan work you reach the Fort Thompson breastwork. This had been constructed from Fort Thompson to the railroad, about 1 mile, before I assumed command. Finding that, from inadequate force, the Croatan work might be of no avail to me, I determined to extend the Fort Thompson work about one mile and a fourth and rest its right on a swamp. This is the work I was engaged on when the enemy appeared. In order to make the line as short as possible and to avail of a small branch by throwing it in front the line was thrown back about 150 yards on the railroad, and thence a series of small breastworks, conforming to the features of the ground, ran off in the direction of the swamp, making on obtuse angle with the older portion of the line on the other side of the railroad. To guard this gap I directed that the old brick-kiln on the railroad should be loo-holed, and the evening before the battle had ordered two 24-pounder guns to be brought from New Berne and place in battery there. The enemy's skirmishers drove the laborers from the battery when an hour more would have enabled them to get the guns in position. Of course I lost all the benefit I expected from it. The line of small breastworks from the railroad to the swamp was partially finished for about half the distance.

Running parallel to the river and to each other, and crossing the line at right-angles are, first, after leaving the river, the old Beaufort road and then the railroad; still farther on and near the swamp the Weathersby Road. The railroad and the Beaufort road intersect about 2 miles behind the breastwork, the former crossing the river on a bridge 1,840 feet long at the town of New Berne and the latter at an indifferent private bridge about one mile and a half above New Berne. Both these bridges are accessible to gunboats, so that when we stood at the Fort Thompson breastwork, fronting the enemy, we had Neuse River on our left, Bryce Creek (an impassable stream) on our right, and the Neuse and Trent in our rear, the only possible mode of escape in case of defeat being across the two bridges I have described, 5 miles in our rear.

I hope this description, with the aid of the map inclosed, will put you in possession of our situation at the opening of the battle.

I omitted to state that the timber had been felled in front of the breastwork for about 350 yards, and the space was swept by ten field pieces, besides three navy 32-pounders, discharging grape and canister from the rear face of Fort Thompson.

It is useless to describe the river defenses, on which the largest amount of labor had been bestowed, as the enemy prudently refrained from attacking the batteries in front and the gunboats did not come within range of their guns until they had been silenced from the rear.

I now proceed to detail the incidents of the battle.

On Wednesday, the 12th, at 4 p. m., the approach of the enemy's fleet was reported to me, and at dark I learned that twelve vessels had anchored below the mouth of Otter Creek and about forty-five were ascending the river in their rear.

Orders were issued to Colonel Sinclair, Thirty-fifth Regiment, to