Destruction of the Neuse

An Account from the New York Herald

Thursday, March 23, 1865

Our Kinston Correspondence.
Kinston, N.C., March 17, 1865

Particulars of the Occupation of Kinston
Succeeding the hard fight of Friday, the 10th [at Wyse Fork], our troops occupied their old position near Southwest Creek, recuperating and making their time useful by picking up and capturing many stragglers from the rebel army. Tuesday morning at eight o'clock the entire force was on the march, moving by the flank. Colonel A. G. Malloy of General Carter's division being in advance of the whole force. Colonel Malloy, with his command, moved within three-quarters of a mile of the Neuse River, opposite Kinston, when, meeting the rebel skirmishers, he immediately deployed skirmishers, formed in line of battle and moved on the enemy.

The Enemy Withdraws Across the Neuse River
The rebel skirmishers retired across the Neuse River, and for half an hour their sharpshooters kept up a heavy fire upon our skirmishers, at the end of which time they fell back.

Occupation of the Town
The First battalion, Major Hammil, of Colonel Malloy's brigade, crossed the river and took possession of the town. The mayor and some influential citizens of Kinston came out and made a formal surrender of the place, the enemy having evacuated. On the morning of Wednesday, the 15th, the remainder of the forces crossed the river on pontoons, took position around the city, and immediately went to work fortifying the place.

Strength of the City
On both sides of the river the enemy had some of the most formidable works that have been seen anywhere during the war, being traversed so that it was absolutely impossible to do them damage from any quarter.

On the Kinston side they abandoned two thirty-two pounders and a magazine containing two thousand rounds of fixed ammunition. Ten thirty-two pounders they threw into the river.

Destruction of the Ram
The ram Neuse was destroyed by fire and sunk. Her smokestack can be seen now still standing. She must have been a formidable craft. Her crew, exclusive of officers, numbering ninety, surrendered themselves as prisoners. On the ram were twenty-one hermetically sealed cans of powder, two hundred pounds each, and two sixty-eight pounders, rifled guns—all of which at present slumber quietly in the bosom of the Neuse. The rebels had fixed a train of powder running from the magazine, two inches deep, four inches wide and two hundred yards long. At the entrance of the magazine percussion shells were placed on end, covered with about a bushel of powder, which would have raised the whole concern to the heavens. Capt. Haskins, of the 13th Iowa, detached and cut off this train before anything could be done, as he, in company with two other officers, preceded the troops in crossing the river.

The rebels, before they left, set torpedoes all around the town—that is, near and on all the roads leading out of it. Last night one exploded, killing two cavalry horses. Efforts are being made to remove them.

Most of the citizens remain. However, there are few males. One box car [sic] was the only rolling stock captured.

The City of Kinston
The city is pleasant and healthy in appearance, and the residences very neat and handsome. A ridge of hills forms a semi-circle running from the river on one side to the same on the other, thus completely surrounding the place with water and hills, making it, of course, a strong position naturally.

Both the railroad and wagon bridges were destroyed. A detail of one thousand men was made from the Twenty-third corps to assist in building the railroad. Trains will be running to this place in a few days.

Sherman is not far off, and will be heard from in a few days.

Contrabands are coming in by hundreds. Deserters and Union men who have escaped from the enemy report that they have retreated beyond Goldsboro, evacuating the latter place and falling back to Raleigh.

The Rebel Loss in Wounded in the Battle of Kinston [Wyse Fork]
A telegraphic operator, who surrendered himself here, reports that the enemy transported from this place two thousand of their men who had been wounded during the fight and skirmish in front of Kinston.

All citizens and deserters say that [Gen. Braxton] Bragg confessed that he suffered a terrible defeat at Wise's Forks, on the 10th of March.

About one hundred prisoners were captured here. I have just ascertained that the railroad bridge was burned about the time Newbern [sic] was taken, and has never since been wholly rebuilt. It was burned, so reports say, by a man named Thompson, who is now said to be doing business in one of the towns in North Carolina held by our forces.

From the Collection of Mark A. Moore