War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0305 Chapter XX. ENGAGEMENT AT SOUTH MILLS, N. C.

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Numbers 2. Report of Brigadier General Jesse L. Reno, U. S. Army, with congratulatory order.


New Berne, N. C., April 22, 1862.

CAPTAIN: I have the honor to report that, in obedience to the order of Major-General Burnside, I proceeded from New Berne with the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first Pennsylvania regiments to Roanoke, and was there joined by part of the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York and Sixth New Hampshire.

We proceeded directly to Elizabeth City and commenced disembarking on the 19th instant at midnight, at a point about 3 miles below, on the east side. By 3 p. m. Colonel Hawkins'' brigade, consisting of the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York and the Sixth New Hampshire, were loaded and ready to move. I ordered Colonel Hawkins to proceed at once with his brigade toward South Mills for the purpose of making a demonstration on Norfolk. I remained to bring up the other two regiments, they having been delayed by their vessels getting aground at the mouth of the river. They came up at daylight and were landed by 7 a. m. O proceeded directly toward South Mills, and about 12 miles out met Colonel Hawkins' brigade, who, it seems, lost his way, either by the treachery of incompetency of his guide, he having marched some 10 miles out of his way. As his men were very much jaded by their long, march, I ordered them to follow the Second Brigade.

Proceeding about 4 miles farther, to within a mile and a half of South Mills, the rebels opened upon us with artillery before my advance guard discovered them. I immediately reconnoitered their position, and found that they were posted in an advantageous position in a line perpendicular to the road - their infantry in ditches and their artillery commanding all the direct approaches, their rear protected by a dense forest. I ordered the Fifty-first Pennsylvania immediately to file to the right and pass over to the edge of the woods to turn their left. I also ordered the Twenty-first Massachusetts to pursue the same course, and when Colonel Hawkins came up with his brigade I sent him with the Ninth and Eighty-ninth New York to their support. The Sixth New Hampshire were formed in line to the left of the road and ordered to support our four pieces of artillery.

Owing to the excessive fatigue of the men they could not reach their position for some time. In the mean time the enemy kept up a brisk artillery fire, which was gallantry responded to by our small pieces under charge of Colonel Howard, of the Coast Guard, who during the entire engagement displayed most conspicuous gallantry and rendered very efficient service both during the action and upon the return, he bringing up the rear. As soon as the Fifty-first Pennsylvania and Twenty-first Massachusetts had succeeded in turning their left they opened a brisk musketry fire, and about the same time the Ninth New York, also coming in range and being too eager to engage, unfortunately charged upon the enemy's artillery. It was a most gallant charge, but they were exposed to a most deadly fire of canister, grape, and musketry, and were forced to retire, but rallied immediately upon the Eighty-ninth New York. I then ordered both regiments to form a junction with the Twenty-first Massachusetts. In the mean time the

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