MAY 27-31, 1862.-Reconnaissance form Norfolk, Va., to Edenton, N. C.
Report of Colonel Charles C. Dodge, First New York Mounted Rifles.
HEADQUARTERS MOUNTED RIFLES,
Norfolk, Va., May 31, 1862.
SIR: In accordance with instructions from general headquarters ordering a reconnaissance of the roads running south from Portsmouth and in the general vicinity of the Elizabeth City road, the surrounding country, &c., I started at daybreak on the morning of Tuesday, May 27, with 140 men, in the direction ordered, taking the road through Deep Creek, a village of about 500 inhabitants, eight miles from this city, at the junction of the Dismal Swamp Canal and Deep Creek River, passing thence by the canal road, and having met with no incident of importance on the march, we bivouacked for the night at South Mills, a small town of about 250 inhabitants, thirty miles from Portsmouth. The canal, locks, &c., seemed to be in good order until reaching a point some six miles above South Mills, where a break in the bank was discovered, causing an overflow of considerable land lying to the westward. Thirteen schooners ready for use were lying at different points of the canal, deserted, no one being able to inform me of the where-abouts of their owners. Wednesday morning I moved on to Elizabeth City, fourteen miles from South Mills, and a place of some 2,000 inhabitants, for the purpose of opening communication with the forces of General Burnside there, and gaining what information they might have in regard to the country about, and the general feeling of the people, &c., believing it to be of great advantage in carrying out the object of the reconnaissance. Just beyond South Mills a small earth-work was passed, which had been thrown up at the fork of the road to oppose the approach of troops from the south. Apparently no guns had been mounted there. Just below this point deep cuts in the canal banks had been made, causing so extensive an overflow of the road as to render it impassable, obliging a detour of about two miles. About five miles farther on, at Richardson's Mills, a somewhat extensive intrenchment was found, with embrasures for six guns, four on the right and two on the left of the road, a work strong on account of its position, being flanked on one side by a deep swamp and on the other by woods almost impenetrable; to the front was a ravine and one arm of the swamp, obliging an approach by but one narrow road or causeway, the entire opening in the woods and the road being well commanded by any guns which may have been mounted on the work. Some 24-pounder shot were found in the vicinity. On our arrival at Elizabeth City, the flags of the gun-boat Morse (General Burnside's fleet), lying in the harbor, were raised, and we were warmly received. I immediately went on board the gun-boat to communicate with Captain Hays, commanding the naval force there, assuring him of my purpose, merely desiring to obtain what intelligence he might have as regards the state of the country, the condition of the roads, feeling of the people, &c. He informed me that there were many residents of the neighborhood who were strongly attached to the Union, but feared to express their loyalty, owing to the constant oppression by the leading secessionists there of any loyal subjects. Already numerous arrests of these oppressors had been made, and Captain Hays strongly urged my marching through a district of the country more interior than that as yet visited by the forces from the gun-boats, to encourage any Union feeling which might