15 November 1862: “. . . when lo ! what did he hold in his hand but a wig.”

Item Description: excerpt from The New York Herald, 15 November 1862, page 1, column 3.



General Foster’s Recent Movements and Their Results.

The Losses Sustained by the Union Troops.


Destruction of the Rebel Salt Works at Wilmington,

&c., &c., &c.

Our Newbern Correspondence.

NEWBERN, N.C., Nov. 9, 1862.

General Foster’s Expedition a Partial Success—The Fight at Williamston—The Rebels Abandon Their Works near Hamilton—The Advance to Tarboro—Reconnoissance—A Large Rebel Force Awaiting the Arrival of the Union Troops—A “Hair” Breadth Escape of a Rebel—Difficulties of the March, &c.

Your correspondent reached this city to-day, in the United States steamer Massasoit, with a special messenger from General Foster’s army, the same having been at WiIliamston yesterday morning, and under orders to march for Plymouth to-day, and thence to embark in transports for Newbern.

This forward movement, with General Foster commanding in person, has been entirely successful, that is as regards reaching certain points and places. Yet the main object of the movement was to capture two rebel regiments and some artillery that had been sent out to attack Plymouth, also for recruiting purposes. Owing to the inefficiency of one of our colonels, who was an acting brigadier general, and who delayed the expedition twenty-four hours, the rebel regiments escaped our vigilance.

Before reaching Williamston we had a fight by moonlight, which lasted nearly an hour. On the rebel side there were engaged parts of three regiments and two pieces of artillery—all this on an elevation and behind intrenchments. In this little fight the Marine Artillery, Belger’s battery, a portion of the Third New York artillery, and the Massachusetts Forty-fourth (part of Col. Stevenson’s brigade), were engaged.

The Marine Artillery and Belger’s battery behaved admirably.

Lieut. Keith, of the Signal Corps, crossed over a deep creek and signalled to our army from almost in the midst of the rebel fire.

When we neared Hamilton the rebels abandoned their intrenchments, nearly a mile long, on Rainbow Bluffs. The first flag to float over them was that of the Signal Corps, under command of Lieutenant Taylor. We then advanced to within eleven miles of Tarboro. From this point two reconnoissances were made—one by Major Gerrard, of the Third New York cavalry, who met the rebels in force, had two men killed, and retreated without further loss. The other reconnoissance was made to within five miles of Tarboro by Major Fitzsimmons, of the Third New York cavalry.

At these points the rebels were found to have massed a large force, with reinforcements constantly arriving; therefore it was deemed impolitic to attack them. Besides, in front of us was an extensive swamp. The weather indicated rain. If we had crossed this swamp, in all probability we would have lost all our artillery, as the swamp becomes impassable after a twelve hours’ rain. By a system of strategical movements we made good our retreat to Williamston without the loss of a man, and even before the rebels knew what we were doing.

On our return to Hamilton, Captain Wilson, with company H of the Third New York cavalry, charged into town and took four guerrillas prisoners, with their horses. One of the men is a captain. The guerrillas threw away their arms. As Captain Wilson caught up with the last guerrilla—both going as hard as they could on horseback—he stretched out his hand to seize him by the hair, when lo ! what did he hold in his hand but a wig. Captain Wilson was so amused and surprised at the occurrence, and so taken up with looking at the wig, that he allowed the prisoner to escape.

Williamston is a very pretty little town.  Almost all of the inhabitants have left it.

Hamilton is a smaller place than Williamston.  It was entirely deserted on the approach of our troops.

Major Gerrard with his battalion of the Third New York cavalry and Allis’ flying artillery, reached Washington, N. C., yesterday, in four hours and a half direct from Williamston.

This department is unquestionably in need of at least two brigadier generals.

On our return march the weather was very severe on the troops. It kept snowing and hailing for eighteen hours. One rebel female said she knew the Yankees were coming, because they brought their snow and cold weather with them.


In the course of our late advance on Tarboro we had six killed and tea wounded.

Killed—Third New York cavalry, 2; Forty-fourth Massachusetts, 2; Twenty-fourth Massachusetts 1; Marine Artillery, 1.

Wounded—Forty-fourth Massachusetts, 8; Marine Artlllery, 2

Lieut. Stebbins, of the Forty-fourth, was wounded in the leg.

Reconnoissance on the Tar River.



Within the last few days Captain Greenwood, while in charge of this little craft, made two reconnoissances to within one mile of Greenville, on the Tar river. On both occasions we engaged the pickets and advance forces of the rebels, repulsing them.

We captured a few horses, took a couple of prisoners and destroyed some property as a military necessity.

Destruction of Wilmington Salt Works.



The Expedition to Destroy the Works—The Work Done by Boat’s Crews—The Rebels Open Fire—The Gunboat Replies and Silences the Rebels, &c.

We left Bogue Inlet on the morning of the 31st, and arrived in the waters of New Topsail Inlet on the afternoon of the same day. Three-quarters of a mile up the inlet Captain Cushing came in sight of extensive salt works, probably the largest on the coast, certainly large enough in the extent of their operations to supply all Wilmington with salt, with some beside for the use of the rebel army. In less than an hour and a half the whole works were destroyed, principally by fire and powder.

There were also destroyed two lighters, used to convey salt up the country and bring down wood in return; the latter to keep their salt works going.

To do this we had to land in two of the vessels’ boats, at a long distance from the gunboat. Just as our party was returning the rebels opened fire on them with artillery from a hill, about one mile off. The rebels tried hard to sink our boats, and their firing was excellent. Immediately the gunboat opened on the rebels, silencing their artillery and scattering their infantry, both of which were in plain sight; even while they were retreating.

On our side there was no loss. What the rebel loss was we do not know.

Item Citation: The New York Herald, 15 November 1862, page 1.  Wilson Library, North Carolina Collection.  Call number C071 N561.

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