On the 14th Lieutenant Cushing U. S. Navy, was hotly engaged for several hours with a large force at the mouth of the West Branch. His loss was severe, but the enemy suffered much and had some artillery dismounted. The enemy opened a ten-gun battery near the Norfleet house for the purpose of destroying the gunboats and of covering a crossing. Lieutenant Lamson, with the Mount Washington, West End, and Stepping Stones, engaged the battery for some hours in the most gallant manner, but was compelled to drop down to the West Branch. The mount Washington, completely riddled and disabled, grounded, as did the West End, and both towed off by the Stepping Stones. The rudder of the Alert was broken. Several batteries on the river were opened with fine effect and others were pushed with all dispatch toward completion. More or less skirmishing and artillery fire on all portions of the lines. In the night the Smith Briggs, lying near my headquarters, was attacked, but Captain Lee and the guns-of the draw-brigade repulsed the enemy.
On the 15th the between Suffolk and West Branch was reported by the best authorities at 10,000, with a pontoon train under the immediate command of General French. About noon our batteries, under the direction of General Getty, below the mouth of Jericho Creek, were warmly engaged with the Norfleet battery. Four of the rebel 20-pounder rifles were dismounted and the battery was silenced. A party sent out on the Edenton road captured the camp equipage of one regiment. Fear of an ambuscade prevented taking of many prisoners.
On the 17th Major Stratton, with a force of cavalry, held South Mills, which is the key to nearly all the approaches from North Carolina on the south side of the Dismal Swamp. There was much skirmishing on all the avenues of approach with some field artillery. General Terry's front was much annoyed from the first day by the near approach of riflemen. Under his orders the enemy was signally punished.* General French's engineer was taken prisoner by Lieutenant Cushing's pickets. He was laying out works and had a map of Suffolk, which he tore to pieces.
On the 18th the enemy was very active in throwing up new batteries and rifle-pits along the river. A heavy one was in progress near the mouth of West Branch of Hill's Point. Admiral Lee, U. S. Navy, ordered all the boats out of the Upper Nansemond, lest they should be destroyed, leaving the whole defense of the river to the land forces. The admiral was urged whole defense of the river to the land forces. The admiral was urged to reconsider his orders. Upon my representation the order was temporarily suspended.
On the 19th, about dusk, General Getty and Lieutenant Lamson executed most successfully a plan which had been agreed upon for crossing the river and capturing Battery Huger at the mouth of the West Branch. The Eighty-ninth New York and Eighth Connecticut were taken over on the Stepping Stones. Five pieces of artillery, 9 officers, and 120 soldiers were captured. It was well conceived and ably conducted, and reflects great honor on the combined arms. Lieutenant Lamson suggested the enterprise, landed with four of his howitzers, and played a brilliant part. Captain Stevens was conspicuous for his gallant conduct in this affair and deserves mention; also Lieutenants McKechnie and Faxon, aides of General Getty.
McKechnie and Faxon, aides of General Getty.
On the 20th Major Stratton visited Elizabeth City, N. C., and found
* Return of Terry's brigade, First Division, Seventh Army Corps, for April, 1863, gives the following casualties in this affair of the 17th: Three privates killed and 10 wounded.