COL. MALLETT'S REPORT OF THE FIGHT AT KINSTON
The articles on this page were published April 15, 1863 in the Weekly Standard, a Raleigh,
North Carolina newspaper. W. W. Holden, Editor. Transcribed by Myrtle Bridges
February 27, 2003
Fayetteville, N. C., Feb. 20, 1863
Governor:-Confinement to my bed for the last two months will, I trust, be apology sufficient for the delay in
reporting to your Excellency the part taken by my command in the battle near Kinston, on Sunday, December 14.
I arrived at Kinston by Railroad, on Sunday morning at 7 o'clock, and reported immediately to Gen. Evans,
who ordered me to take position with my Battalion, consisting of 19 officers and 460 men, in the rifle pits on
the East bank of the Neuse river to support a S. C. Battery, commanding the County bridge. At 8 ½ o'clock we
were in position, and in a few moments musketry firing commenced on the left of the line of battle, which was
formed on the West side of the river, and at 9 o'clock the first gun was fired by the artillery. At 9 ¼ o'clock
I received an order through one of Gen. Evans' aids, to march at double quick across the bridge. Having crossed,
I met Gen. Evans on the West side, directing men, pouring spirits of turpentine on cotton placed upon the bridge.
He ordered me to take my command through the field on the right of the White Hall road, and engage the enemy.
We passed through the field under fire of shell from the enemy, (losing one man) to the distance of a quarter
of a mile, to a fence on the edge of a swamp on the other side of which the enemy appeared to be in force.
Here we were engaged for some time, but the principal point of attack appeared to be the Church known as
Harriet's Chapel, on my left, where was stationed a section of Starr's battery supported by the 61st N. C.
Troops under col. Radcliffe. At length, the firing upon my part of the line ceased almost entirely. Being
anxious to charge the enemy and drive them back, I sent Lieut. Little to the section of artillery on my left,
to ascertain the real position of the enemy and let our forces, as it was impossible to charge through the
swamp in my front.
About the time of Lieut. Little's return, without any accurate information, I received a written order
from Gen. Evans by a courier, viz: "Colonel, let me know if the enemy are in your front: if not, join me at
the bridge." At this time, there being no indication of the enemy in front, I drew off in good order and
returned to the bridge, but to my surprise, Gen. Evans was absent, leaving no orders or instructions for me.
Observing the S. C. Battery commanding the bridge, had been removed, and the bridge apparently deserted,
I concluded the General was waiting for me on the East side, retreated toward Kinston, and proceeded across
the bridge. In a few moments after crossing, I was met by an officer of his staff with orders to go back.
This order I promptly obeyed, marching again at a double quick through the same field to my former position
under heavy fire from the enemy's artillery, and was almost immediately hotly engaged with his infantry. In
about an hour I was reinforced with 90 or 100 men from the 61st regiment N. C. T., commanded by Lieut. Col.
Devane, who took position on my right. The enemy made a vigorous charge at this time on my left and was as
vigorously repulsed. Old veterans could not have met their foe with more coolness and determination than these
newly tried men. He appeared determined to force his way through my lines at the church. I ordered Lieut.
Col. Devane to reinforce my left. He took his position promptly and did good service, and I here take pleasure
in testifying to his coolness and undoubted bravery.-With his assistance and the company of my right flank,
commanded by Lieut. McRae, also ordered to the left, we held the enemy in check for some time.
My ammunition how began to fail, and after sending repeatedly to the rear, could not be replenished.
Apprehending an attempt to turn my right also, Capt. McRae (acting as my Lieut. Col.) was directed to observe
closely and give me immediate notice of any advance in that direction. He reported the enemy in force; who,
however, made no attempt to flank me, owing I suppose, to the impenetrable swamp between us.
At this time, having held the enemy in check about three hours, and looking in vain for further reinforcements;
(the section of artillery near the church retired, I since learned for want of ammunition,) immediately after
Lieut. Col. Devane sent me word the enemy was flanking us on the left, and withdrew his men toward the bridge.
Finding myself alone, and the enemy pressing upon us, I ordered a retreat which was made in good order,
the men continuing their fire with good effect. At the bridges I intended to make another stand, but on approaching,
found it on fire, and crowded with men endeavoring to cross. A panic ensued; the enemy pressing upon us in two
directions at double quick in large force, and the bridge, the only means of escape, in flames. The greater
portion of my command succeeded in crossing, while others were driven back by the flames. While endeavoring
to keep the men back, fearing the bridge would fall every moment, I was wounded in the leg by a Minnie ball,
and obliged to relinquish the command to Capt. McRae, whose self-possession and bravery should not be left
Being under a heavy cross fire from an overwhelming force, my men and ammunition exhausted, and the bridge
impassable, I advised Capt. McRae to surrender. The enemy now directed his fire upon our retreating troops on
the Kinston side of the river, who spiritedly returned the fire with good effect, killing a Col. Gray, and
others near the bridge.
The enemy's force was between 20 and 25, 000 men, with 72 pieces of artillery. Gen. Foster admitted to me
we had repulsed three of his veteran regiments with a loss of 100 men, since ascertained to be about 500.
I regret to report the loss of two of my best officers, who fell at the close of the engagement. Lt. J. J.
Reid, commanding Company H fell by my side near the bridge, and Lt. Joseph H. Hill commanding Company C, while
retreating on the Kinston side. Both led their companies gallantly through the entire engagement. Braver or
more gallant young men (whose loss we lament) never drew a sword.
Our loss was 7 killed, 22 wounded, 8 missing, and 175 taken prisoners. After diligent search and enquiry
for Adjutant E. W. Mann, and Lt. R. K. Williams, I am reluctantly forced to include them in the list of killed.
Officers and men, who nearly all were under fire the first time, behaved with the coolness, determination
and bravery of veterans.
It would almost be invidious to call attention to any particular one, but I cannot refrain from mentioning
the conspicuous and gallant bravery of Lt. J. R. McLean, commanding Co. I.
Hoping I may be allowed to engage the enemy under more favorable circumstances, I am Governor, Your
Obedient servant, Peter Mallett, Colonel Commanding Battalion
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