Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 23.djvu/172
166 Southern Historical Society Papers.
Leaving Richmond by the Richmond and Danville railroad, Kirk- land's Brigade reached Wilmington, N. C., after a long and fatiguing ride on the cars in extremely cold weather, and Kirkland marched at once with the two regiments which arrived first, viz., the Seven- teenth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Sharpe, and Forty-second, under Colonel Brown, for Sugar Loaf, a point a few miles above Fort Fisher. Our horses and wagons had not come, so all of the mounted officers were on foot (as the Irishman would say). On the march at night we heard a loud explosion and saw a great light to- wards the ocean, which we thought was the bursting of a magazine on one of the Federal ships, and the men gave three cheers. But we afterwards learned it was the explosion of Butler's famous " Pow- der Boat," which he thought would scare the poor rebels away.
In the morning we halted at Sugar Loaf. The fleet had been bombarding Fort Fisher, but the enemy had not landed.
The Confederate forces under Bragg, outside of Fort Fisher, con- sisted of a small body of Senior Reserves, aged from forty-five to sixty, and some little cavalry. It was pitiful to see some of those gray-haired patriots dead in the woods, killed by shells from the fleet. Among those who carried a musket there was Mr. William Pettigrew, brother of the heroic General now a venerable minister of the gospel.
Kirkland placed one company from the Forty-second, under Cap- tain Koontz, in Battery Gatlin, a small fort on the sea-beach at the southern end of Masonboro Sound, and held the rest of his command on the road covered by the thick woods and dense undergrowth.
I had found a pony at an abandoned farm-house and mounted him, so as to convey orders, but he was new to the business and did not like my spurs. Kirkland ordered me to ride down to the beach to see if there were any signs of landing troops from the transports. I did so, and saw the ships extending as far as I could see down the beach, but no indication of landing. Returning, I reported this to the General, but in a few minutes a soldier came running up, almost breathless, and told us that the enemy had lowered his boats on the side opposite the shore., pulled rapidly to the land and captured Capt. Koontz and his company, but few escaping. We rode down through the woods and found a large force on the beach and more coming, while the woods around us were filled with shrieking shells. Gen- eral Kirkland promptly ordered his small command forward to the edge of the woods which skirted the shore and deployed both regi- ments as skirmishers. By his direction I rode down the line and