Item Description: Zaccheus Ellis was a lieutenant from Wilmington, N.C. This letter to his mother recounts how his battalion left Wilmington, and engaged with their enemies in some detail. He was killed in action in Bentonville, N.C.
Item Citation: From Folder 1, in the Zaccheus Ellis Letters, #3266-z, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Birouac Near Rockfish Creek
March 1, 1865
My darling Mother,
I received yours of the 15th, a few days ago, and it was really a treat.
Since my last to you our affairs have altered a great deal, and in reaching this point, we have had some right hand marching to do, although I (have) rode nearly all the way, having the pony with me.
On the 18th, the enemy, with 1 monitor, and 14 or 15 wooden vessels, engaged Fort Anderson, all day; the Fort replied, but having nothing but 5-24 & 32 pound guns, could do no damage. The enemy fired with a great deal of accuracy, and tore the Fort up considerably. The same morning, an Infantry force advanced from Smithville, and established their lines within about one mil of us; their pickets much nearer- Our pickets and theirs, and light artillery were firing off and on, all day; and with the shelling of the Fort, from the gun boats, made the place anything, but comfortable. The enemy, that day, sent a force round the right of a mill pond, which was the extension of our right, and flanked us; we having but a very small force there to oppose them, place das we were, with the Fort torn up so badly, and no heavy guns on our left, and a flanking force on the right, with nothing to oppose them, we could do nothing but fall back, which we did on the morning of the 19th, with a slight loss of captured men. We kept on to Towncreek, about 10 miles back, where we made a stand. That afternoon, about sunset, the enemy appeared in our front, and drove in our pickets, and we tore up the bridge. The next day, the enemy was sharp shooting all day, with occasional artillery firing between them and we, with only three men wounded, on our side. The same day, the landed a heavy force at Cowan’s place about 3 miles up the river: Hagood’s Brigade fought them sometime, but were overpowered, which made it necessary for us again, to fall back, and that, quickly.
We left the trench’s, with the enemy pouring the memie(?) balls, and shells at us, but not a man was wounded. The Pen’l had the bridge at McFlehmmings burnt, which kept the enemy from following us up, as far as they would have done; and, I think, saved us from capture. We reached Wilm (Wilmington) about 11 o’clock that night, and were ordered to Hoke’s lines, the next morning, but the order was countermanded, and we were ordered to Hilton. I then went down street with Charles, and stayed ’till nearly dark; you can have no idea, Mother, of my feelings, knowing that our good old town was doomed.
The shops are all closed, government property, being destroyed, huge piles of cotton and resin being set afire, tobacco being thrown in the river. You can’t imagine anything like it. Well, the next morning early, we started, and, if my feelings were bad when I left Fort Campbell, you can imagine what they were, when I turned my back on our good old tow, to see it no more,’till after the war. I couldn’t help thinking if Gen. Whiting had been in command, that we would have had Wilmington now. That day we crossed North East, and camped, marched the next day, and the next, arrived here, where we have been since.
The enemy followed us as far as North East, but since then we have heard nothing of them.
For the last three or four days, our authorities and the Yanks have been engaged charging prisoners. I understand we are to deliver 10,000 here, and the Yanks, the same number at Richmond.
I understand that Kidder, in Wilmington, gave a big one in the town hall. I also understand they have conscribed 500 negros for soldiers. All of Ges. Yan Amringes resin + stills were burnt before we left. I feel right sorry for him, although better that way, than the enemy should get it.
I received the eatables, + I can tell you, enjoyed them, as our eating is rather poor.
I can’t tell where we are going, or when, but will keep you posted. I must stop now, as I have an opportunity of sending this off.
We are near Duplin Road, but you had better direct to Goldsboro, care of Major Cameron.
Love to all