War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0211 Chapter XXX. SIEGE OF WASHINGTON, N. C.

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Numbers 1. Reports of Major General John G. Foster, U. S. Army, commanding the Department of North Carolina.


Washington, N. C., April 5, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report that hearing of an approaching attack on this place by D. H. Hill's corps d'armee, I started from New Berne at 2 o'clock on Sunday, March 29, ordering re-enforcements to follow at once.

In consequence of the transport getting aground at the mouth of the river the troops did not arrive before the enemy succeeded in investing the place by placing batteries on the river banks and on the roads leading from the town.

I found here a garrison of only sixteen companies of infantry, one company of artillery, and 25 cavalry-1,200 men in all. The enemy opened fire on our advance posts on Monday night and on Wednesday morning at daybreak opened from batteries of rifled guns on the opposite side of the river.

One gunboat, the Commander Hull, received ninety-eight shots from a battery of Whitworth guns. I put up batteries on this side of the river to reply to and draw the fire of three guns from the gunboat; at the same time I sent word to General Palmer to send troops to take the batteries on the river by landing and attacking the batteries, while the gunboats (also to be sent) attacked them in front.

Owing to the lack of transports-the most of our vessels being absent at Hilton Head-the force brought and which arrived under General Prince on Tuesday and Friday, below the Hill's Point Battery, was not sufficient to cope with the enemy's force supporting the battery. I therefore directed him to send a regiment or two through the blockade in boats and then return to New Berne and march across to this place, attacking the enemy in the rear and raising the siege. I am, however, anxious lest the disposable force now left in New Berne may not be sufficient to effect this object, and therefore ask, respectfully but earnestly, that re-enforcements be sent immediately to New Berne in force not less than 5,000 men. It will also aid me very much to have General Dix and a force from Suffolk to join two regiments at Plymouth and make a demonstration from that place. This should not, however, interfere with the rapid sending of troops to New Berne, as their want is very urgent. I am quite confident that I can hold out here till the place is relieved. I shall not leave until that time, as I consider my presence absolutely necessary. The firing on both sides has been continued at intervals since Wednesday, but without material injury or effect.

I would most respectfully but earnestly renew my application to have the detachment of the Eighteenth Army Corps now at Hilton Head returned to this department to replace the troops that now may be sent from General Dix's department to meet the present emergency. I can effect more with those men than with superior numbers of other troops, and their discipline and efficiency are fast being impaired by the inactivity and unfortunate circumstances surrounding them at Port Royal.

I am confident that heavy operations will be necessary in this State, and that the most desperate efforts are and will continue to be made to drive us from the towns now occupied. I trust therefore that you