brought to the rear, and the enemy, concealed by the wood and posted behind an almost impassable swamp, maintained his position with stubborn obstinacy. At this time, and on my application to the major-general commanding, I was re-enforced in succession by the Seventeenth, Twenty-third, and Forty-fifth Massachusetts Volunteers. These fine regiments took their positions with the coolness and precision of veterans, and the whole line was then directed to advance and push the enemy at every point. The major-general commanding having arrived on the ground made further disposition of the troops and conducted the affair to a rapid and successful termination.
Under my orders to advance, the whole brigade, supported on the left by other regiments, moved gradually forward, converging toward the enemy's line of retreat, driving him from the church and throwing him back toward the bridge, over which the main body escaped, leaving several hundred prisoners in our hands.
The retreat of the enemy was closely followed by the Eighty-fifth and One hundred and third Pennsylvania Volunteers on the left (the latter suffering severely in crossing the open field), while the Ninety-sixth and Eighty-fifth New York and One hundred and first Pennsylvania Volunteers charged from the right; the Ninety-second moved along the road in support of the battery. The bridge was fired in several places by the enemy and exposed to a destructive fire of artillery and musketry from the opposite bank, but every regiment, including those from other brigades, seemed to vie with each other in emulation, and pressed forward with unflinching determination.
That gallant officer, Colonel Gray, Ninety-sixth New York Volunteers, with his face to the foe and the colors of his regiment first on the bridge, fell mortally wounded in the hour of victory.
The flames were extinguished without serious injury to the bridge, and my brigade being reformed on the opposite bank of the river continued its march through the village of Kinston and bivouacked for the night on the Goldsborough road.
The steadiness of the troops during this short conflict gave me full confidence of success, and the conduct both of officers and men, with rare exceptions, merits the highest praise. For special acts of gallantry and good conduct I have the honor to refer you to the reports of regimental commanders herewith inclosed. Captain Stewart, assistant adjutant-general; Captains Webster and Hall, brigade quartermaster and commissary, and my aides, Lieutenants Beegle and Foot, rendered most important service. My orders were conveyed by these officers to every part of the field in the thickest of the fight with the most gratifying coolness and intelligence. Acting Brigade Surgeon Rush also deserves the highest commendation for the prompt and efficient manner in which the onerous duties of his department were conducted.
A list of casualties accompanies this report.*
My brigade, having recrossed the Neuse, accompanies the expedition toward Goldsborough, and its object having been fully accomplished by the destruction of the railway and bridge, the whole command returned to this station, arriving at New Berne on the 21st instant.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
H. W. WESSELLS,
Brigadier-General of Volunteers, Commanding.
Major SOUTHARD HOFFMAN,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Dept. of North Carolina.
*Embodied in revised statement, p.60.
7 R-VOL XVIII