No. 38. Report of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen D. Pool, C. S. Artillery, of engagement at Goldsborough Bridge, December 17.
GOLDSBOROUGH, N. C., December 19, 1862.
COLONEL: Soon after daybreak the morning of the 16th instant my command, consisting of Companies B, G, and H, Tenth North Carolina Troops, Company F, Fortieth North Carolina, and Starr's battery of artillery, took the position assigned them on the north side of Neuse River commanding the immediate approaches to the railroad and county bridges.
Everything remained quiet until about noon of the 17th, when the enemy, occupying the south side of the river and east of the railroad, opened fire with evident design of destroying the bridge. To effect this their batteries employed for about two hours shell and solid shot, occasionally discharging shrapnel along the north bank of the river to dislodge any force there. The south bank of the river west of the railroad was occupied by a portion of Brigadier-General Clingman's brigade, the left of the Fifty-second North Carolina Troops, Colonel Marshall, resting against the bridge. Orders were sent me by Colonel Marshall not to open fire with the section of Starr's battery, commanding the bridge, until his troops retired. About 2 p.m. the Fifty-second broke and in confusion retired from the bridge, leaving the south of that important structure entirely undefended except by the forces on the north bank of the Neuse. Orders were immediately sent by me to Captain Starr to open fire with shrapnel of the mouth of the bridge to prevent the enemy if possible from entering and destroying it. The order was immediately obeyed. While the left of the Fifty-second was retiring I saw a small force of the enemy running down the railroad bank, shouting and yelling as if in pursuit. Suspecting their design to be to enter and destroy the bridge, I cautioned my men to be on the alert and as soon as they came within range to pour their fire into them. This was done so effectually that two were instantly killed; the others fled precipitately. Our fire having disclosed our exact position, the enemy opened upon us with a most severe fire of canister, shell and shrapnel for about half an hour, our guns replying with rapidity and effect. During this fire my men on the banks of the river remained perfectly quiet, receiving the enemy's fire unflinchingly. Thinking they had dislodged us, the enemy sent forward 2 men to effect the destruction of the bridge by fire. I cautioned my men of the approach of the men, and as soon as they broke cover for the bridge fire was opened upon them. One fell back wounded, the other succeeded in reaching the projecting brick-work, where he was enabled to complete his work in perfect security from any fire from the north bank of the river. No effort was spared by my men to reach him with their fire. Different points of the bridge were selected, and shot after poured in in the vain hope of killing him. His work proved successful, and in less than ten minutes the entire southern and eastern faces of the bridge were in flames. Seeing the destruction completed, I gave orders to retire to the rear of the section of Starr's battery posted on the railroad. Subsequently my entire command was ordered to the county bridge; two pieces of the battery were placed in position. Companies B and F were posted on the west side of the bridge, while Companies G and H took position on the east - all on the north bank of the river. Here we remained during the night and until ordered to this point next day.