War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0321 Chapter XX. ENGAGEMENT AT SOUTH MILLS, N. C.

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The rebels had one light battery stationed on the main road behind the burning buildings, and another one about 50 yards to the right of the first, upon a road running in that direction. The batteries were supported by two regiments of infantry, numbering about 1,800 men, and 200 cavalry. The Third Georgia Volunteers was formed in line of battle in a grove of young pines some 300 yards behind and to the left of the burning buildings, and their skirmishers were thrown far into the swampy forest on their left to prevent us from getting in their rear.

By command of General Reno I advanced with my regiments as rapidly as the greenbrier and tangled underbrush would permit, marching by the flank toward the line of the Third Georgia until fired upon by their skirmishers. Two companies were taken then ordered into line and to fire several volleys into the swamp from which the bullets came, when the rebels retired. My regiment was now entirely in the rear of the batteries and very near the Third Georgia, whose traitorous flag was distinctly seen through the pines.

Company K, Under Captain Davis, was sent forward into the swamp to follow up the rebel skirmishers and prevent any attack upon our rear. Company G, commanded by Lieutenant Wheeler, was then ordered to advance to the force between the woods and the cleared field and open fire upon the Georgians. This difficult task was performed in the most admirable manner amid a perfect storm of bullets, and the company gallantly formed along the fence and drove out the skirmishers of the enemy, some of whom fired upon them from a distance of not more than 20 yards. The entire regiment was now ordered to form in line behind the fence and commenced firing as rapidly as possible, and the battle was fairly opened.

The position of my regiment was all that could be desired, as we were well protected by the fence and bushes were in the rear of the batteries and immediately upon the left of the Georgians, our line being at right angles to theirs, so that our fire was constantly right-oblique. Upon our left was the Fifty-first Pennsylvania, then the Ninth New York, and then the Eighty-ninth New York. About half an hour after the firing commenced the Ninth New York (Hawkins' Zouaves) charged across the open field toward the enemy, but were repelled by a destructive volley from the Third Georgia Volunteers. The Twenty-first Massachusetts, being thus temporarily relieved from their fire, immediately sprang over the fence into the open field and killed the color sergeant, who was defiantly waving his rebel flag several yards in front of his regiment.

Our entire line now advanced from the woods and charged with shouts and cheers across the cleared ground, while the Sixth New Hampshire, which had supported our howitzers in front of the enemy's position, poured in a tremendous volley by command of General Reno, who happened to be with them at the moment. The rebels fled precipitately to the woods and were seen no more.

As it was now nearly night and our forces were quite exhausted and as we had no cavalry, it was impossible to pursue them. The Twenty-first was at once formed in line, and having stacked arms, sat down upon the battle ground to rest. Squads were now sent out from each company to pick up the killed and wounded and their weapons. Our hospitals was established in a house near by, and the regiment prepared to bivouac on the very spot in the forest which they had occupied

21 R R - VOL IX