Southern Banner

Athens, Georgia

Friday morning, April 30, 1862


“Correspondence Southern Banner

South Mills, N.C., April 22nd, 1862.””


          Editors Southern Banner:


I take this early opportunity of informing you of some of the military events which have occurred near this place within the last three days, and particularly of the engagement of the Third Ga. Regt. with the Federals, which took place on Saturday last, the 19th inst.


Most of our regiment had been posted near Elizabeth City- Col. Wright making his headquarters, with a reserve, at South Mills. Saturday morning, which gave promise of a beautiful Spring day, the report of a cannon was heard in the direction of Elizabeth City. This was about sunrise. Other guns followed in quick succession while it became evident that the enemy was bombarding the town. While this demonstration was being made, the enemy was landing troops on the opposite side of the Pasquotank, in Camden county. They had been debarking all the previous night. Col. Wright being convinced that the demonstration at Elizabeth City was only a feint, for the purpose of drawing his regiment down to that place, ordered the six companies, and the artillery and cavalry, first back to our intrenchment, four miles below S. Mills, on the Elizabeth City road. Afterwards being informed that a strong force of the Federals were marching on South Mills, through Camden county, Col. W. ordered the whole force at the intrenchment immediately back to S. Mills, while he advanced with the four companies at that place, to meet the approaching column. Our forces marched rapidly, and about 12 M. the artillery and two companies of infantry joined Col. Wright, and were marched forward and posted in battle-line, occupying a piece of woods, while the enemy had to advance through a field in front of our line. In the meantime the Athens Guards and “Young Guards,” were posted on the right wing of our line, about a mile distant from the force engaged. Our forces were ordered to remain in position, to oppose any advance from Elizabeth City, and to burn the bridge over the Pasquotank, about two miles below South Mills. Our orders were executed and we waited impatiently the command to join the balance of our regiment and go into the action.


Shortly after 12 M. our artillery opened fire on the approaching foe. For nearly three hours the cannonading continued, three pieces of ours being opposed to three, at least (it is said five) in the Federal column. Our artillery, a Virginia battery formerly attached to the Wise Legion, was skillfully managed and did terrible execution in the ranks of the enemy. Our infantry, during the engagement, advanced and occupied a ditch, awaiting the near approach of the enemy. About three o’clock they came within range , and a fierce and rapid fire of musketry ensued, lasting about one hour. During this time the 9th Regt., N.Y. Zouaves approached our lines by a flank movement through a piece of woods on our left; then, suddenly appearing on the field in front of our battery, charged our lines, endeavoring to capture our battery. Our infantry in the ditch reserved their fire until the Zouaves came within fifty yards, then opened upon them with deadly effect, and completely repulsing their charge. As the N. Y. Zouaves debauched from the woods, our men heard distinctly the command of the N. Y. Colonel, “Charge that battery!” He rode on, waving his sword, but in a moment an unerring shot brought him to the ground. The colors of the same regiment were shot down, and those of another regiment.


About 4 P.M., Capt. McComas, of the Virginia battery, was killed by a Minnie ball. This unfortunate disaster caused his men for a moment to waiver; the gun carriage, too, was disabled by a solid shot from the enemy, so that it became necessary to take it from the field. At this time the enemy were pressing our flanks and likely to overpower us with numbers. Col. Wright ordered a retreat to our intrenchments Our line fell back about half a mile, across open fields. Then the Athens Guards and Young Guards, who had been impatiently held in reserve, were ordered up. The enemy had occupied the first position of our forces as they retired, but did not pursue our men. Our reserve was put in position awaiting the enemy, but he did advance. About 4 ½ P.M. men were seen advancing on the left of our reserve, apparently endeavoring to outflank us . Our company was immediately sent out as skirmishers, and commenced firing at long range on the seeming foe. A field piece, at the same time, fired rapidly on the same body of men. To foil the purpose of the enemy, we fell still farther back, and were in readiness, expecting him to debauch from the swamp. It was raining at this time, and the atmosphere hazy, but through the mist a white flag was discovered. Firing then ceased, all awaiting in suspense and with various conjectures as to the mission of the flag of truce. The man came up and was discovered to be one of our regiment, (of the Clarke Rifles). We had been firing on a detachment of Capt. Hendon’s company, which had become separated from our line. Fortunately none of our men were killed or hurt by this mistake.


After this mistake was discovered our reserve, with artillery and cavalry, were ordered forward to the position we had just left. There we awaited the enemy till dark, but as he did not come pickets were stationed and our forces ordered into quarters for the night.


As large numbers were opposed to us, and sufficient reinforcements had not come up, it was deemed expedient to fall back to the canal locks, 13 miles from this place. The retreat commenced about 2 A.M. of Sunday. We halted at the locks, all the forces being brought off in good order. At that point reinforcements soon came up and we were yesterday marched back to this place. The enemy have gone off to their gunboats.


Some of the fruits of this victory are the capture of a large quantity of powder, about 150 stands of arms, cartridges, blankets, etc. We have also taken about 40 prisoners, including about 20 wounded and the surgeon attending them. The loss of the enemy cannot be accurately known to us, but from the best information we have, is not less than 500 killed and wounded. Our loss is 6 killed, and about 20 wounded and missing. Our force was less than 400. About 20 Federal officers were killed, among them Col. Hawkins.


                                                                                                                                                                   Miles Atheniensis