War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0331 Chapter XX. ENGAGEMENT AT SOUTH MILLS, N. C.

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HEADQUARTERS,

Richmond, Va., April 20, 1862.

Major General B. HUGER, Commanding Dept., Norfolk, Va.:

GENERAL: I have received this morning your telegram of the 19th instant, reporting the landing of the enemy at Elizabeth City and his attack upon the Third Georgia Regiment near South Mills. It is presumed this is but a feint or predatory excursion made from his reserve at Roanoke Island. Not knowing the advantages of the position at South Mills, it seems to me to be too far removed from your line of operations and calculated to invite an attack of the enemy, inasmuch as the strength of your party would be reported by the disaffected, and they would reasonably hope to cut it off. A corps of observation would seem only to be necessary for such an advanced point, and your force should be stationed nearer to you, at some strong point behind the Dismal Swamp, which could be more readily re-enforced. By pursuing this system on other points your troops could be more rapidly concentrated to strike a blow whenever the enemy showed himself within your reach.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,

General.

HEADQUARTERS,

Richmond, Va., April 22, 1862.

Major General B. HUGER, Commanding &c., Norfolk, Va.:

GENERAL: I am directed by General Lee to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st, with its inclosures, reporting the result of the attack by the enemy at South Mills and his subsequent action concerning his captured wounded, and to say in reply that he is much gratified at the determined resistance made by Colonel Wright to so largely superior force, but regrets the loss of Captain McComas, whom he knew to be a gallant officer. As regards the wounded prisoners of the enemy, he is under the impression that General Burnside has generally pursued the course indicated in the letter of Brigadier-General Reno, and sees no objection to releasing the wounded prisoners on their parole as an offset to some of our men liberated under similar circumstances.

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

W. H. TAYLOR,

Assistant Adjutant-General.

HEADQUARTERS,

Richmond, Va., April 24, 1862.

Major General T. H. HOLMES, Commanding, &c., Goldsborough, N. C.:

GENERAL: General Huger reports that Colonel Wright, with 400 men and four pieces of artillery, was attacked near South Mills by the enemy on the 19th instant. Colonel Wright estimates the enemy's force at about 5,000 men, it appears from a letter received by Colonel Wright from Brigadier-General Reno, U. S. Army, asking permission to remove the body of an officer and that his wounded might be released on parole, that attacking force was composed of the Second Brigade. A letter and diary written by a soldier, which were picked up on the field, show that his force consisted of five regiments and eight pieces of artillery, and that it left New Berne on a short ex-