These captured one of the vessels that came down with the ram, and after a severe fight drove the ram back into the river in a crippled condition.
At the same time a land force, consisting of three brigades, with about thirty pieces of artillery, made its appearance in front of this place. An attack was commenced on the north side of the town on the evening of the 4th, which I was convinced was a feint. On the 5th the communication by the railroad was cut off and some artillery was planted on it some 2 miles from town. The artillery was silenced by our railroad monitor and the gun-boats, but on the morning of the 6th an impudent demand was made for the surrender ;of the place, as the messenger said by command of General Hoke. this was of course refused, and the same day the whole force left for Kinston, and I have not heard from them since. They captured a small force of about 50 men of the Fifth Rhode Island Heavy Artillery at a station on the railroad, and that was the extent of the damage done by them. Their loss cannot be ascertained precisely, but they suffered considerably from our artillery fire.
It then became necessary to put my command into complete fighting shape. The North Carolina troops i considered useless unless they were placed at some point where they could consider themselves secure from capture, as the execution of the Carolina troops at Kinston had very much demoralized the whole of them. they would have been useless to General Butler, and I have placed them all in the Sub-District of Beaufort, where, as they feel secure, they will, I hope, become reliable. The immense amount of contrabands with the white refugees required attention, as they were a great drag upon me. They have been provided for as well as possible, and I am gradually getting everything "shook into shape." I shall very soon fell not only perfectly secure against any force that may be sent here, but I hope to also be able to worry the enemy by threatening points of the railroad in the interior.
The papers state that the Roanoke ram is destroyed. This is not so; she is still a most formidable foe, but I have every confidence in the naval force watching her. I have had quite a number of torpedoes placed in the mouth of the Roanoke, and a secret expedition to blow hr up is now being formed. To guard against the Neuse rem threatening this place from Kinston, I have had the river carefully blockaded, torpedoed, &c., and I shall made an effort to blow her up also. Both General Butler and Lieutenant-General Grant have expressed their entire approval of the evacuating of Little Washington. The fire that occurred there was an unfortunate affair. Every effort was made by the officers and men to extinguish it. I still hope to catch the villains that set fire to the buildings.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
I. N. PALMER,
NEAR SPOTSYLVANIA COURT-HOUSE,
May 16, 1864-8 a. m. (Received 3.40 p. m.)
Major General H. H. HALLECK,
Chief of Staff:
We have had five days' almost constant rain without any prospect yet of its clearing up. The roads heave now become so impassable