Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/380

This page has been validated.
Southern Historical Society Papers.

Carolina Regiment was temporarily attached to Ransom's Brigade for this expedition, and it should be mentioned that Branch's Artillery of Virginia formed a part of the brigade.

The first step taken for the recapture of Plymouth was the construction of the Albemarle, a small, but powerful, iron-clad steam ram. This boat had been commenced the year previous at Halifax on the Roanoke, and when completed the forces under General Hoke were put in motion and arrived at their destination on the evening of April 17, 1864.

The town of Plymouth was directly accessible from two directions, the west and south. By a flank movement it could be approached from the east, but on the north was the river, held by a fleet of gunboats, and beyond was an impassible swamp.

The object of the preliminary operations was to enable the Albemarle to pass the river batteries on the western side. The dispositions of the forces for this purpose was as follows: General Hoke's brigade approached the western side of the town and General Ransom's the southern. In the absence of the official reports of this battle the details of the narrative which follows must be confined mainly to the operations of Ransom's brigade, and even these to the limited view of the writer's observations and experience. So, on the evening of the 17th of April, while Ransom's brigade was resting about a mile distant from the southern fortifications, Colonel William J. Clarke, of the Twenty-fourth North Carolina Regiment, called aside the officers of Company A, of which the writer was a member, and instructed them that he wished the company to deploy as skirmishers, and develop what force held a certain point which he indicated, and drive them if possible. The order was immediately obeyed, and the company encountered a spirited resistance in a few moments. The object for which Company A had been sent out had scarcely been accomplished before the entire brigade advanced in fine array, firing as they moved. This demonstration drew forth the concentrated fire of all the enemy's batteries on the south side, including the heavy guns on board their fleet.

General Hoke was making a similar show of attack on the western side, and the two demonstrations so engaged the attention of the enemy that the Albemarle, commanded by Captain