three regiments and he withdrew across the country bridge to this side of the river. The artillery of the enemy was playing upon the railroad bridge, and Evans' bridge had at last to move forward by the county road and cross,if at all, the bridge half a mile above the railroad.
About 2 o'clock in the afternoon one hold and daring incendiary succeeded in reaching the bridge, and covered by the wire wall of the abutment, lighted a flame which soon destroyed the superstructure, leaving the masonry abutments and pier intact. At that time re-enforcements which I had ordered from Richmond were hourly expected. It was very important for us now to save the country bridge, the only means remaining of crossing the river in this vicinity. Evans' and Clingman's brigades were ordered to cross, supported by Pettigrew's brigade, and the Mississippi brigade, just coming in, was ordered to move forward at once.
The enemy were driven back from their position on the line of the railroad, but on account of the lateness of the hour, the nature of the ground, and the fact that our artillery, cavalry, and a large portion of the re-enforcements had not yet arrived, it was not advisable to attack their strong second position that evening. During the night the enemy made a hurried retreat to their fortifications and gunboats, moving with such celerity that it was useless to attempt pursuit with any other arm than cavalry, of which at that time, unfortunately, we had none. I passed over the railroad from the Neuse Bridge to Wilmington on the 24th and returned last night. The bridge is fast being repaired. At present we are subjected to the temporary inconvenience of transshipment across the county bridge, but in a very few days this will be remedied and everything restored to the former condition.
I regret that this grand army of invasion did not remain in the interior long enough for us to get at them. As it is, they burned the superstructure of two brigades, which cost originally less than $10,000 and can be replaced at once, and have utterly failed to attempt to take advantage of the temporary and partial interruption of our railroad line for the purpose of striking a decisive at any important point before we could thoroughly re-establish our communication with it.
I beg leave to call your attention to the reports of Lieutenant Colonel [W. H.] Stevens, C. S. Engineers, and of Lieutenant-Colonel Pool, as well as to those of the three brigadier-general previously named.
Our loss is reported at 71 killed and 268 wounded,and about 400 missing. Most of the latter were taken prisoners at Kinston Bridge, and have since been returned paroled.
I am, general, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
G. W. SMITH,
General S. COOPER,
Adjutant and Inspector General, Richmond, Va.
No. 34. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Walter H. Stevens, C. S. Engineers, of operations December 16-17.
HEADQUARTERS, Goldsborough, N. C., December 19, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit the following report:
On the morning of Tuesday, the 16th instant, by your direction. I posted Lieutenant-Colonel Pool's battalion of North Carolina Troops