No. 37. Report of Brigadier Ten. Thomas L. Clingman, C. S. Army, commanding Brigade, of engagement at Goldsborough Bridge, December 17.
HEADQUARTERS CLINGMAN'S BRIGADE, December 21, 1862.
CAPTAIN: Before detailing the particulars of the affair of the 17th (Wednesday) I ought perhaps to state that I arrived at Goldsborough early on Tuesday morning, the 16th, accompanied by only the Eighth North Carolina Regiment, commanded by Colonel [H. M.] Shaw. From Major-General Smith orders were received to pass to the south side of the Neuse River and take a position intermediate between Goldsborough and Dudley's Depot, on the line of the railroad. I selected a point where the railroad is crossed by the road from White Hall, along which the enemy were expected to approach, and which is about 1/2 miles south of the railroad bridge. During the day I was re-enforced by the Fifty-first North Carolina Regiment, of my brigade, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel [William A.] Allen, just up from Wilmington. In the course of the night following the Fifty-second North Carolina Regiment of Pettigrew's brigade, commanded by Colonel [J. K.] Marshall, arrived with orders to report to me, but to be held in reserve in the rear of the other two regiments.
On the morning of the 17th, being informed by one of General Smith's staff that he desired particularly to hear from, me I returned with him on the locomotive to Goldsborough,and was instructed by General Smith to report to Brigadier-General Evans and with my brigade to accompany him in making a reconnaissance in force to ascertain the position and strength of the enemy. Within a few moments after receiving this order a dispatch was placed in my hands from my adjutant-general stating, that the enemy were reported by our scouts as being in 3 miles of my position. This war read to General Evans while he was in the presence of General Smith, and he at once ordered me to go on and fight the enemy, having that he would follow with his brigade to support me. On returning to my command I found that the enemy in heavy force, both of infantry and artillery, were advancing from the southeast across the open fields and also from the south along the line of the railroad, while their cavalry were seen approaching along the county road which passed in my rear. It ought to be stated that the county bridge is about half a mile above that of the railroad, and that the road crossing it was nearly parallel with the railroad. Between the two is a swamp, but infantry can pass along the bank of the river without much difficulty, and 1/2 miles from the river the two roads are connected by a cross-road through a plantation. It being impossible with only three regiments to hold both the bridges and at the same time fight a large army, Colonel Marshall with the Fifty-second Regiment was stationed in front of the railroad bridge and Colonel Shaw with the Eighth, supported by a section of Starr's battery, was placed in the field in front of the county bridge; Colonel Allen with the Fifty-first was between the two to support either in case of need. The enemy soon opened heavily, both with artillery and musketry, against Colonel Marshall, evidently with a view of reaching the railroad bridge. I therefore carried the Fifty-first Regiment to his support and placed it on his right flank. So heavy, however, was the fire from the large force of the enemy that