War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0267 Chapter XX. BATTLE OF NEW BERNE, N.C.

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No. 30. Report of Colonel H. J. B. Clark, Special Battalion North Carolina Militia.


Kinston, N. C., March 17, 1862.

SIR: In compliance with your instructions, received at New Berne 9 p.m. March 13, to report to Colonel Campbell at his headquarters, at Fort Thompson breastworks, I respectfully report that I repaired forthwith to that place, accompanied by Major Joseph N. Jones, but did not find Colonel Campbell.

Major Jones called at Colonel Vance's encampment and was informed there that Colonel Campbell had gone in the direction of New Berne.

Proceeding thence to New Berne, by way of Colonel Lee's encampment, went to Colonel Campbell's encampment, and reported, in his absence, to Lieutenant Colonel E. G. Haywood, who directed me to report for duty at the depot of the Atlantic and North Carolina Railroad in New Berne on the following day, 5 a.m. The company was promptly reported and left New Berne at 8 a.m., and arriving at the breastworks was assigned position.

On the following morning, March 14, my command was placed in line of battle, numbering 264,20 having been detailed for hospital duty and 45 to aid Lieutenant Hawks in mounting cannon on the right of the breastworks. These last were forced from the works by the enemy's sharpshooters and came to the ranks after the action commenced.

As soon as the firing commenced the ground in front of me was so obscured by smoke that I could see but a short distance, and as firing had commenced on my left with guns of longer range, as soon as I thought the enemy within reach of my guns commenced the fire by file, which order was promptly obeyed with coolness and determination. After firing three rounds I commanded the fire to cease. Soon after the smoke cleared away and the enemy were plainly seen drawn up in force on our right, and a company of sharpshooters commenced pouring a fire into our rear, doing considerable execution and causing confusion in my ranks, but an order to rally and take position was promptly obeyed, and calmness restored by the assurance that you would soon send re-enforcements; but the fire was continued on us and with redoubled energy, while they (the enemy) crossed the railroad, took possession of the rifle pits on our right and rear, and planted the Stars and Stripes.

Previous to this, however, they had fire upon a reconnoitering party I sent in that direction and upon the quartermaster and teamsters I had sent to recover the ammunition.

I at once time intended to leave the breastworks and charge upon the enemy, and for this purpose caused bayonets to be fixed; but when I saw the sharpshooters were supported by so large a force of the enemy, concluded that such attempt would result in great loss of life to my command without being able to effect corresponding good to our cause, and just as Colonel Vance poured his first fire into the enemy, a panic seized my command and part of them broke ranks.

Believing it impossible to reform under the fire of these sharpshooters at this moment of confusion I commanded a retreat in order, which was succeeded by a stampede of most of command. As soon as they had reached a small brush-wood, perhaps 60 yards distant, I