third Pennsylvania Volunteers, under orders to proceed to New Ferry, on the Chowan, near Gatesville, there to report to the commanding officer of the Department of North Carolina.
My command arrived at the point designated on the 6th instant, where it was met by Major-General Foster with transports for the brigade. The troops embarked on the following day, arriving at this station on the 9th. At expedition having been planned and organized to move in the direction of Goldsborough, the column was put in motion on the morning of the 11th, the advance taken by Heckman's Ninth New Jersey Volunteers, followed by my own brigade, to which was attached Morrison's battery Third New York Artillery.
No serious obstacles were interposed by the enemy until arriving at Southwest Branch, 6 miles from the town of Kinston, where it was found the main road crossing the creek was well watched and strongly guarded both by artillery and infantry. A skillful feint having been made toward this point, the main body moved by an upper road, crossing the creek about half a mile below on a mill-dam. The bridge was found to be partially destroyed and the enemy covering it with two guns and a force of infantry.
This position was at once reconnoitered by the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers with their usual intrepidity, and a crossing was effected by the mill, threatening the enemy's right. At the same time, by direction of the commanding general, I detached the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, Colonel Howell, with orders to force a passage below the bridge, by felling trees or fording, and engage him on the right. This difficult duty was handsomely performed. Howell's skirmishers, led by Captains Hooker and Phillips, pushed boldly through the swamp, engaged the enemy's battery under a shower of grape, and by a well-directed fire of musketry drove the cannoneers from the ground, and Heckman's advance appearing simultaneously from the left the enemy fled, leaving one of his guns in our possession. The brigade in the mean time crossed at the mill, and being joined by the Twenty-third Massachusetts Volunteers moved forward about 3 miles and bivouacked for the night, the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers with Morrison's battery taking up a position about 1 mile in advance.
On the following day (December 14) the line of march was resumed at an early hour and in the usual order. Heckman's skirmishers were soon engaged with the enemy's outposts, and to support him I directed the Eighty-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers to move through the wood on the left of the road with a view to act against the enemy's right. A section of Morrison's battery was also ordered forward, supported by the One hundred and third Pennsylvania Volunteers, Lieutenant-Colonel Maxwell, with directions to take a suitable position and open fire.
The Eighty-fifth New York, Lieutenant-Colonel Wellman, was then thrown forward and to the right of the road, with instructions to engage the enemy on the flank and press him vigorously toward the left. This regiment was soon followed by the One hundred and first Pennsylvania Volunteers, Major Taylor, and the Ninety-sixth New York Volunteers, Colonel Gray, with similar orders. In the mean time being informed that a portion of the Ninth New Jersey Volunteers were failing in ammunition I directed the Ninety-second New York Volunteers, Colonel Hunt, to move drown the road to relieve or support Colonel Heckman as circumstances might require. All these movements were executed by the several regiments with alacrity and precision, deserving the highest praise. My whole brigade was now in position before the enemy's line; the firing was heavy and almost incessant; the wounded were being rapidly