Georgia Journal & Messenger – 30 April 1862

“The Battle at South Mills”


A participant in the battle of “Sawyer’s Lane,” (this is the name given to it by Col. Wright,) on the 19 of April, furnishes the following to the Norfolk Day Book:


The battle commenced at 45 minutes after 11 o’clock A.M., and continued until 5 o’clock P.M.  Our forces consisted of six companies of the Third Georgia regiment, (314 men,) and a section, (two pieces,) of McComas’s artillery. The enemy’s force, as ascertained from the prisoners taken, and by the names and corps marked upon the graves on the battle field was, Hawkin’s brigade, three regiments, 9th, 21st, and 39th New York volunteers, and Reno’s brigade, (second of Burnside’s expedition,) consisting of the 21st Massachusetts, 9th New Hampshire, and 51st Pennsylvania regiment, making their whole force of infantry, six regiments at least 5,000 men. The enemy had five pieces of artillery, three rifled 12 pounders and two 12 pounder howitzers. We disabled two of their pieces so badly that they were left behind on the field. Our loss is five killed, seventeen wounded, and nine missing, supposed to be killed. The enemy’s lost as far as can be ascertained, was over three hundred, including nineteen officers. We captured 1000 pounds of gunpowder, a large quantity of camp equipage, blankets, etc., twelve boxes of fixed ammunition for artillery, over three hundred stand of small arms, principally rifles, a large coil, about 1,000 yards, of wire, (a piece of which I send you,) supposed to be for telegraphic purposes, and a quanty of spades, picks, shovels, and entrenching tools. The object of the enemy seemed to be to take possession of this place and destroy the locks of the canal. From letters found on the battle-field, it appears they had heard we were building, and had nearly completed, two small irn-clad gunboats to run through this canal and destroy their fleet in the waters of Albemarle Sound. They have been effectually checked, and will not be anxious to repeat the experiment.


On the morning after the battle, Gen. Reno sent in by flag of truce, a letter requesting permission to send to the battle-field for the purpose of bringing off his dead and wounded. In his letter he says: “Owing to want of sufficient transportation, I was forced to leave a few of my wounded on the battle field yesterday,” &c. We know he had a large number of carts, wagons, and other vehicles, which he stole along the whole line of his route up to the battle-field, and consequently his loss must have been very large as he left 22 wounded on the field.



Georgia Journal & Messenger – 30 April 1862

“The Fight at South Mills, N.C.”


We are indebted to a gentleman in Portsmouth for the subjoined account of the fight at South Mills, N.C., on Saturday last. – We learn from a passenger that Capt. McComas of Henningsen’s Artillery, who was killed in the fight, fought with the most determined bravery, cheering his men on and exposing himself with apparent indifference to danger.


     Portsmouth, April 21.

I have just seen an intelligent member of Col. Wright’s 3d Georgia Regiment, who was wounded in the battle at South Mills, and I will give you a hurried sketch of his statement concerning the fight. Three militia men deserted to the Yankees and gave information of our numbers, situation, &c.  They landed Friday night large forces and commenced the march. Col. Wright failed to get information of the advance until Saturday morning. He then hurried forward with three companies of infantry , an artillery company, and one cavalry company. Reaching a very large field, skirted by woods, he sent some men and burnt the houses destroying the fences, &c.  The enemy variously estimated at from 5,000 to 8,000 soon approached unconscious of the force awaiting them.


As soon as they came within long range, the artillery opened with terrible effect upon them, and after silencing their battery our guns ceased firing, that we might induce them to charge. Thinking that our battery was disabled, they made a furious charge, not knowing there were infantrymen waiting to receive them. When about 250 yards from us, our men were ordered to fire, and after firing about fifteen rounds, loading on the ground and rising on the knee to fire, the enemy fled off to the right and broke for the woods.


Col. Wright, fearing a flank movement, and not having the wagon containing the ammunition, retired in good order to our entrenchments. We hear that the enemy have now retreated to their gunboats. Reinforcements have been sent to Col. Wright. He and his men fought with the most determined courage. On our side the loss was from eight to twelve killed, and about thirty wounded. The enemy’s loss is estimated at from 300 to 500. All of our wounded were brought off the field but Lieut. Wilson.

-         Richmond Dispatch

-         T.W.H.