The Affair at Washington
The facts which come to us from undoubted sources, if the late attack upon the town of Washington, we are glad to say, enable us to correct some unfortunate rumors which have gone out.
The entire command of the expedition was committed in charge of that cool and intrepid officer, Capt. Stephen D. Pool, who at the defence of Fort Macon and in the recent attack upon Washington showed himself to be and able officer.
It is not true that the enemy was advised both at Newbern and Washington of the intended attack. The enemy was ready for it, but was not expecting it. We learn that the enemy had determined upon a raid upon Williamson and Hamilton, and that the force at Washington had been reinforced from Newbern the day before, and was to leave Washington that morning for the intended raid.
The expedition against Washington was made with no view or expectation of holding that place, we are informed, but for the purpose of destroying or capturing the “contrabands” in his possession, and if possible to make Washington so hot as to drive the enemy from the place. Brig. Gen. Martin committed the entire expedition to the direction of Capt. Pool, having previously, in consultation, ordered the plan of attack and the general scheme of its conduct. About 800 men composed the expedition, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery. Gen. Martin, it was understood, would remain in the neighborhood to render support or succor which might be needed.
The attack was made on Saturday morning last at day break. Our force approached quietly until they encountered the pickets at the west end of town, who immediately demanded them to halt. Lt. Davis, who led the advance, demanded a surrender, when the pickets fired into our ranks. Our advance had been peremptorily ordered not to fire upon the pickets, but to charge vigorously upon them, but unfortunately, when they fired upon our men, their fire was returned by a number of pieces. This aroused of course the entire town. At once a portion of our cavalry charged into the town down Market street, while a portion of the infantry charged down Second street. As soon as our infantry arrived at the Academy, they were fired upon by the enemy from the building. Here our men captured four pieces of artillery, with ammunition, which were afterwards served by Capt. Manney and his men. At this time, Capt. Boothe, who gallantly led the cavalry, was dangerously wounded, upon which a panic seized most of the Cavalry, excepting a portion of Capt. Tucker’s company, who, under his command, gallantly demeaned themselves throughout the whole affair. A panic had also seized many of the infantry, who ingloriously fled. The enemy took to the houses at once, and fired upon our troops from the windows, etc. Our men were forbidden to fire upon the houses, lest they might injure some of the families and children.
The gun boats Louisiana and Picket commenced throwing shells and other missiles upon the town damaging the houses, but fortunately did not set them on fire. During the fight the steamer Picket was blown up by the ignition of her magazine, killing all on board but 12 persons—the loss was about 60 on board of the vessel.**
Capt. Pool held the town about four hours and then retired, his men slowly dragging out the four pieces of cannon captured. The enemy’s loss, including the destruction on board of the Picket, was 160, in killed, wounded and missing. Our loss was 10 killed, 41 wounded and 30 missing, most of whom have since come in.
The conduct of Capt. Pool during the whole affair is highly spoken of. Capts. McRae and Cobb, of the 8th N. C. Regiment, Capt. Norman, of the 16th N. C., Capt. Manney, of the artillery and Captains Boothe and Tucker of the Cavalry, and others whose names we have forgotten, all distinguished themselves. Capts. Boothe, Mull and Norman were dangerously, and Lieuts. Grimes and Sinton severely wounded. Other names among the killed and wounded we have not obtained.
It is understood that the Cavalry companies of Capts. Walker and Lawrence were not in the fight, having “skedaddled” at an early period. On the fall of Capt. Boothe, his company, it is said, became panic stricken, and got out of danger. Capt. Tucker, Lt. Utley, and other officers and men of his company behaved with the utmost courage, charging the enemy in all directions and damaging him seriously. We regret to learn that Corporal Smedes, and privates R. Burns, J. Ling, Winborne, Bridges and perhaps others are missing, some of those it is feared were killed, and others taken prisoner.
The enemy’s force, including those on the gunboats, amounted to about 1,000. Only about 450 of our men participated in the fight, some of whom, both officers and men, are said to have behaved badly. It must be considered, however, that the most of them were raw troops, had not smelt powder before, and were engaged in a most hazardous undertaking. To assault a fortified town, guarded by a vigilant ____, should be undertaken by veteran and daring troops.
Strange to say no negroes were apprehended in this attack. At the Academy, one large, impudent fellow came out and assailed one of our men, asking “What have you damned rebels come here for?” The soldier replied with his bayonet, running it through him, killing him instantly. As soon as they found the Confederates were in town, they all rushed for the boats and got out of the way.
After our forces left, we learn that the Yankees immediately commenced arresting all the citizens who were supposed to sympathize with the Confederates. During the fight, we learn a most worthy lady received a flesh wound in one of her limbs.
A friend who was in the expedition, writing from Kinston says: “Capt. Tucker won for himself a name for valor and coolness of which any man might be proud.”
From the Raleigh Standard
** More on the role of the Pickett can be found here
Source: The Greensborough Patriot, September 18, 1862 as found in Confederate Newspaper Project
Read Full Post »