J. W. Cook, succeeding in passing the batteries which guarded the river approach and assailed the fleet in front of the town. Swift and thorough was the work of our little boat, in a short time the entire fleet of the enemy were either sent to the bottom or driven out of harbor. The Albemarle succeeded in withdrawing to a place of safety, and the remaining forces withdrew for the evening.
But the work of capturing Plymouth was by no means accomplished. All of its lines of defence were still intact. Fort Williams, a powerful earthwork, thrown up to a considerable height, commanded the field directly south and enfiladed the approaches, both east and west. Extending from this fort to the river, and enclosing the town, were lines of breast-works. The roads leading into the enclosure were protected by stockades, or timbers firmly set in the ground. The daytime of April 18th and 19th was occupied in resting by a portion of our forces, and in reconnoitering by others. General Hoke selected the eastern front as the most feasible point of assault along the riverside, since the fleet was not there to interfere. To this work Ransom's brigade was assigned. Late on the evening of the 19th Ransom approached a creek of some depth but little width, which was stoutly defended by an outpost of the enemy. By the aid of Branch's Battery these were forced to move back, and quickly—a pontoon having been laid—a line of skirmishers passed over and took position at the crest of a gentle rise from die creek. As soon as possible the brigade passed over and took position. A detachment of one company from each regiment had been made, Company A, of the Twenty-fourth, being of the number. These were deployed as skirmishers and advanced some distance in front of the principal line. We inferred from these arrangements that an assault upon the enemy's works was contemplated, and that we of the skirmish line were expected to lead. Soon word came along the line of skirmishers that Captain Durham, of the Forty-ninth, would command us. From this we knew that serious work was ahead.
I must pause here and pay a passing tribute to the memory of this officer. He had already distinguished himself for skill and courage in the service. However, on account of his superior business qualities he was offered the post of quarter-