Skirmishes at

Indiantown and Sandy Hook








Col. Alonzo Draper

2nd NCCV




2nd NCCV flag






The following report was filed by Col. Draper:


                                                Head Quarters 2d. N.C. Colored Vols.

                                                Portsmouth, Va, Dec 24, 1863




I in accordance with instructions from Brig. Gen. Edward A. Wild, commanding an Expeditionary Force sent – one from Norfolk and Portsmouth, I left Elizabeth city on the morning of December 17th (Thursday) with a battalion of four hundred men detailed from the 1st and 2d N.C. and the 5th U.S. Colored Troops, to collect recruits and contrabands in the Counties of Camden and Currituck. We reached Shiloh in Camden County, at sunset the same day, and after building fires, and cooking rations in the open air, left our fires burning to amuse guerrillas, posted pickets, and withdrew into the church, where we passed the night without lights.


At about eleven o’clock P.M., our pickets were driven in by a force of about seventy men, who fired at our camp fires for a few minutes, doing no damage; receiving in return the fire of our reserve guard, they immediately fled.


I dispatched two companies into the woods in pursuit, but the darkness of the night, and our ignorance of the paths, enable them to escape.


The next morning, we resumed our march towards Indiantown, taking every precaution against surprise, keeping out an advance guard and skirmishers where the nature of the ground would permit.


At the little settlement called Sandy Hook, situated at the fork of the Indiantown and Dog Corner Roads, our advance guard encountered the enemy’s scouts. On our right, at a distance of five or six hundred yards, was a wooded swamp, impenetrable for our skirmishers; we were therefore under the necessity of advancing under great disadvantages, or of retracing our steps. We chose to advance and were directly attacked by a force in ambush behind a thicket in the edge of the swamp, at a distance of four hundred yards. This force numbered probably one hundred and fifty, possibly two hundred men, and was composed of Capt. Sanderlin’s, Capt Walston’s and part, if not all of Capt. Grandy’s companies, all belonging to the so-called 66th N.C. Vols., with perhaps reinforcements from the guerrilla companies that have lately been hunted out of Virginia.


We immediately returned their fire, aiming at their smoke, as we could seldom see a man. I ordered the men to lie down while loading.


The woods in which the enemy lay, curved around toward our left touching the road at about seven hundred yards in front of our column. I immediately ordered Capt. Smith of the 2d N.C., to move with his company across the fields to our left, to reach the woods in front, and skirting the woods, as a shelter to his men, to turn the enemy’s right flank; and then I directed Lieut. Longley of the 2d N.C., to move with his company down a lane at right angles to the road, until he should reach the edge of the swamp on the enemy’s left, when, following the edge of the wood for the protection of his men, he was to attack the enemy with the bayonet, and drive him from his position.


Capt. Smith advanced with his company until directly opposite the thicket, when misapprehending his orders, he sheltered his men, and recommenced firing.


Lieut. Longley had by this time reached the shelter of a log building half way to the woods, where he halted his men.


I therefore sent Capt. Cutler with a company of the 5th U.S., to reinforce him, to take command of the detachments, and make the charge, and I went myself to the log building and started them on the double quick. As long as they were passing over open ground the enemy continued to fire upon them; but the moment the assaulting party gained the edge of the swamp, they precipitately abandoned their position, and could be distinctly seen rushing out of the thicket. Before we could overtake them, they had escaped into the swamp, by a path familiar to them, but at that time invisible to us. I had been ordered to  join Gen. Wild at Indiantown that evening, and the lateness of the hour, the necessity of providing for the twenty-four wagon loads of women and children in our train, and the danger that the bridge over which we must pass to Indiantown, might be destroyed, rendered it inexpedient to pursue the enemy at this time into the mazes of the swamp, which extended for miles before us, with a breadth of two miles and a half.


This fight lasted for fifteen or twenty minutes, the enemy keeping up a continuous fire. We lost three men killed, and eight wounded.


The enemy’s loss was afterwards stated by the neighbors at thirteen killed and wounded. One person who passed the night at the house where the wounded lay, stated their loss to Capt. Blood of the 5th U.S., at thirteen killed and wounded, which statement was confirmed by another neighbor. We marched that evening to Indiantown, leaving the rear guard to watch the bridge. Shortly before dark, the rear guard was attacked, losing one man killed. Reinforcements coming up, the enemy again retreated. The next day, having been sent back to burn the house of certain guerrillas, and their supporters, we came twice within sight of a considerable force, and pursued them at a run with fixed bayonet, but could not induce them to stand.


That evening, we marched to Currituck Courthouse, and on Sunday evening, in pursuance to orders, I proceeded with one hundred and twenty men to the camp of Capt. Grandy’s company, situated on Crab Island in the midst of a dense swamp, accessible only by means of a pathway of logs laid lengthwise for a distance of about half a mile.


There we burnt their quarters, consisting of nine log buildings, captured a small quantity of arms and equipments, some commissary stores, and a quantity of new uniform clothing.


In all the encounters in which they were engaged the colored troops showed the utmost courage and determination, desiring nothing better than to be led into the presence of the enemy.


Though lame from two weeks of incessant marching, they disputed for the privilege of going on any expedition of danger.


I am certain now, of what I always firmly believed, that the colored troops can be relied upon, in any situation of difficulty or danger.


                                                            I have the honor to be

                                                            Very respectfully,

                                                            Your Obedt. Servt.


                                                            Alonzo G. Draper, Col.

                                                            Cmdng, 2d N.C. Colored Vols.