On Board Steamer Virginia, Croatan Sound, April 20, 1862.
GENERAL: I have the honor to report that in accordance with your instructions of the morning of the 18th instant I took the schooner Edward Slade, with Professor Maillefert and corps in her, and proceeded to the mouth of the Pasquotank River and anchored. On the arrival of the gunboats and troop ships I proceeded up the river and anchored with the fleet. Two launches, with boat howitzers and crews, under command of Lieutenants Gerard and Avery, of Marine Artillery-men, landed, and joined the advancing column, under command of Colonel Hawkins, Ninth (Zouaves) New York Volunteers. The launches were employed landing troops. The steamers Northerner and Guide, with the Twenty-first Massachusetts and Fifty-first Pennsylvania, not appearing, I dispatched by your orders the steamers Virginia, Ocean Wave, Massasoit, and Phoenix down the river to bring up the troops, which was done about daylight. The troops were landed, also two howitzers (one smooth, one rifled) belonging to the Ninth New York Volunteers, and were attached to the column under your immediate command, Lieutenant Herbert, with a detachment of the Ninth, in charge. By your orders I assumed command of the advance guard and guides and moved into the interior. Having marched several miles, it was observed that a picket of 8 horsemen were watching our movements, giving us, however, only one opportunity of firing upon them. We had marched about 14 miles when dense black smoke was seen to arise from burning buildings, and sweeping across the road concealed the enemy from our sight. On arriving at the line of smoke the advance was arrested by the unmasking of a battery of 12-pounders, which opened fire with shell and grape. Having examined their position as far as possible I reported to you, and was directed to bring up the howitzers, which was done. You had previously, however, directed a flanking movement made by your column. The column of advance, under Colonel Hawkins, not having made its appearance, it was evident we had been misled by his guide. It became necessary, therefore, to keep the enemy in play until its arrival. In forty-five minutes or thereabouts that brigade appeared. The two howitzers and men belonging to the Marine Artillery reported and asked for orders; also Lieutenant Morris, with 15 men of the Ninth New York, to serve with the guns, which were immediately run into position, the range and direction given them, when a very hot fire was opened and continued until the enemy withdrew his pieces, which I reported to you.
On the near approach, however, of the Ninth New York and Eighty-ninth New York on their left flank their guns were again run into position, and severe fire of grape and canister opened upon the charging troops. Our battery was immediately advanced and opened with grape and shell and continued until their final retreat. Our forces, having quiet possession of the field, rested. A reconnaissance made by your instructions showed the object of the movement had been accomplished.
Having given the men sufficient rest and food, at 10 o'clock we commenced our return. By your direction I assumed command of the rear guard with two pieces, supported by the Twenty-first Massachusetts and one company of the Fifty-first Pennsylvania. The rain in the evening having made the roads very bad, our progress was somewhat, retarded, but on arriving at our place of landing at 6 o'clock, finding our boats ready to receive us, we embarked on board our proper transports, proceeded to this anchorage, landing the detachment belonging to Roanoke, and those destined for New Berne proceeded to their stations.
I cannot close this report without bearing testimony to the gallant officers and men under my command. Lieutenants Gerard and Avery, Marine Artillery; Lieutenants Morris and Herbert, Ninth (Zouaves) New York Volunteers, deserve all I can say for their coolness and courage. Mr. Albert E. Hand, formerly clerk of this vessel, attached himself to my command, and behaved in the most gallant manner. Captain Child, temporarily on duty in this vessel, S.C. D., and Mr. Moore, pilot, were indefatigable in landing the troops, piloting the vessel, &c. When it is considered that our men marched nearly all night, fought a hard battle of three hours' duration, and marched the same distance the second night without sleep through deep mud cheerfully, without a murmur, too much praise cannot be awarded them.
W. A. HOWARD,
Colonel Marine Artillery.
Brigadier-General RENO, U.S. A.,
New Berne, Department North Carolina.