War of the Rebellion: Serial 088 Page 0653 Chapter LIV. CORRESPONDENCE, ETC.-UNION.

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Newport News, Va., September 1, 1864.

Brigadier General G. F. SHEPLEY,

Commanding District of Eastern Virginia:

SIR: I have the honor to report that some Government employes (colored) came up here from Fort Monroe and Hampton hospitals, having been allowed a short leave of absence for the purpose of getting their families, if possible. I told them I had no boats, but would help them with men. They reappeared the next day with sail-boats. I sent with them a captain and fifteen men (dismounted cavalry). The families were in and about Smithfield. I gave them strict instructions to abstain from plundering; to injure no one, if possible; to get the women and children merely, and come away as promptly as possible. They were to land in the night. They followed these directions closely, but became delayed by the numbers of women and children anxious to follow, whom they packed in extra boats picked up there, and towed along. They also had to contend against a head tide and wind calm, so that their progress down Smithfield Creek in the early morn was exceedingly slow. The inhabitants evidently gathered in from some concerted plan of alarm or signals. For three miles below the party were intercepted by a force of irregular appearance, numbering about 100, having horses and dogs with them, armed variously with shotguns, rifles, &c., and posted behind old breast-works with some hurried additions. They attacked the leading boats, killed a man and woman, and wounded another woman therein. The contrabands then rowed over to the opposite bank and scattered over the marshes. How many more have been slaughtered we know not. Two men have since escaped to us singly. When the rear boats, containing the soldiers, came up, the captain landed, with the design of attacking the rebels, but then the firing revealed their full numbers. He found they outnumbered him more than six to one, and that the revolvers of our cavalry, in open boats or on the open beach, would stand no chance against their rifles behind breast-works. He embarked again, and they made their way past the danger by wading his men behind the boats, having the baggage and bedding piled up like a barricade. They then had a race with three boats, which put out from side creeks to cut them off. But for the coolness and ingenuity of Captain Whiteman, none would have escaped. None of the soldiers are known to have been severely wounded, but three are missing in the marshes and woods. We have since learned that there are signal stations in that neighborhood, which ought to be broken up. I would also earnestly recommend the burning of a dozen or twenty houses, in accordance with your General Order, Numbers 23.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

NEW BERNE, N. C., September 1, 1864.

Major General B. F. BUTLER,

Commanding Department of Virginia and North Carolina:

GENERAL: The negroes will not go voluntarily, so I am obliged to force them. I have sent seventy-one and will send this afternoon about