N. C. He reports they advanced on him in strong force (estimated by him at 5,000) and commenced the attack at 11.45 a. m. He had in a strong position, with an open space in front of some 600 yards over which they had to advance, some 400 men and four pieces of artillery. The enemy were held in check till 5 p. m.
At 4 p. m. Captain McComas who commanded the battery, was killed. Colonel Wright speaks of his gallantry and good conduct in high terms.
The ammunition in the limber-boxes was exhausted and the caissons not at hand. There was some confusion and the pieces went after the caissons, and at 5 p. m. Colonel Wright retired a mile or so.
Early yesterday morning he moved all his forces back to Northwest Lock (about half way on the Dismal Swamp Canal), at which point Brigadier-General Blanchard joined him yesterday with the Thirty-second North Carolina and First Louisiana Regiments.
Lieutenant Sloan, aide-de-camp, returned from Northwest Lock last night. Up to 3 p. m. they had heard of no movement of the enemy.
Colonel Wright reports his total loss of killed, wounded, and missing at 73. He does not give other numbers. I make out from the wounded who have arrived at the hospital that the number killed was 7 or 8; wounded, 20; only 10 severely enough to be sent to the hospital. Colonel Wright mentions that he fears Lieutenant Wilson is killed. He was wounded and is missing.
Whether the enemy intend to occupy Elizabeth City and neighborhood or whether this was only an expedition to capture the troops there, I cannot yet tell.
Colonel Wright estimates the killed and wounded of the enemy as very large. At all events, he did not pursue our troops at all.
Since writing the above I have received the inclosed letter from General Blanchard, covering copy of one from Brigadier-General Reno, from which it appears it was Reno's brigade, of Burnside's army, which made the attack, and they were evidently severely handled and defeated.
I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant,
General R. E. LEE, Commanding General.
[Inclosure Numbers 1.]
SOUTH MILLS, N. C., April 20, 1862.
GENERAL: In inclose a copy of a letter from General Reno, U. S. Army, relative to wounded men, by which you will see that he recognized a defeat. It appears that the enemy were entirely defeated, and if our forces could have pursued them we could have been made many prisoners. Two are sent with this dispatch. Our people are gathering many guns, &c., left on the field by the fleeing foe. A return will be made of the property captured.
I am in doubt what answer to make about the wounded enemy (about 14), now in hospital, under charge of their surgeon. Please advise me without delay, as I am not sure it is not a plan to find out where we are. I shall send troops down the country toward Elizabeth City early to-morrow.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
A. G. BLANCHARD,
Brigadier General, Prov. Army C. S., Commanding Third Brigade.
General B. HUGER, Commanding Department.