Tuesday, May 01, 2007

North Carolina, 1862

Dates: 11 January to 25 April, 1862


Union: Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside, commanding the Federal infantry forces and Commodore Louis Goldsborough, commanding the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.

Confederate: Brigadier General Henry Wise, commanding Confederate forces at Roanoke Island, NC. Brigadier General Lawrence Branch, commanding Confederate troops at New Berne, NC.

Prelude: Now that the Union had control of the main channel into Pamlico Sound, it was time to do something about it. There were a few Confederate held ports that still allowed blockade runners to head in and out. There were also several forts that could pose a threat to future Federal operations. It was decided to amass a fleet of 63 ships and 15,000 troops, commanded by Burnside, at Hampton Roads, with the idea to reinforce Port Royal, SC. This force was chosen for the assault on Pamlico Sound.

11 January, 1862: The Federal force departs Hampton Roads.

13 January, 1862: The fleet arrives off Hatteras Inlet. They find one problem; there was a sand bar that prevented deep draught ships from entering. It was decided to get the warships and transports across, but it would take time.

22 January, 1862: Wise arrives and assumes command at Roanoke Island as Federal warships were working crossing the bar at Hatteras Inlet.

5 February, 1862: Finally the Union fleet is across the bar and head into Pamlico Sound.

7 February, 1862: Battle of Roanoke Island: Burnside sends 17 gunboats up to Croatan Sound on the west side of Roanoke Island. They engage and drive off three Confederate gunboats, allowing Burnside to land troops at Ashby’s Harbor, over two miles from three forts; Forts Huger, Blanchard, and Bartow. Goldsborough signals the start of the attack with these words, “This day our country expects every man to do his duty.” Soon the forts are neutralized.

8 February, 1862: Burnside pushes his troops up Roanoke Island, forcing a small defense force to withdraw to the forts. Wise, a former Governor of Virginia, was ill and bedridden but was still able to command. Problem was he had only 1000 at his command, Burnside was throwing 7500 at him. After a brief resistance, the Confederates surrendered.

With Roanoke Island under Federal control, Burnside was free to spread out the seek other Confederate targets.

10 February, 1862: 14 Union warships enter Albemarle Sound, north of Roanoke Island, there they proceed up the Pasquotank River, where they find the remaining seven gunboats of the Confederate “Mosquito Fleet.” After the Federals made short work of them, Burnside was able to land troops and seize Elizabeth City.

12 February, 1862: Burnside decided to send patrols up Albemarle Sound. During the next eight days, Federal forces first captured Edenton, and then go up river to take Winston. Other forces went east to Curratuck Sound.

All of this was aimed to clear and secure the northern half of the North Carolina coastal region. Once that was done, it was time to concentrate on the south.

11 March, 1862: Burnside takes 11,000 soldiers and 13 gunboats and begin heading south. The next target was chosen as New Berne, on the Neuse River.

13 March, 1862: Burnside lands his troops on the south bank of the Neuse and began marching on New Berne.

14 March, 1862: Battle of New Berne: Burnside marches his troops up a rail line while gunboats followed in support. He meets a defensive force of 4000 under Brigadier General Lawrence Branch. Burnside’s three brigades, under Brigadier Generals John foster, Jesse Reno, and John Parke son brush the Confederates back and take New Berne, seizing 41 cannon and nine forts. The town will remain in Union hands for the remainder of the war.

19 March, 1862: Burnside orders some of his troops south to Carolina City while others are sent up the Pamlico River.

20 March, 1862: The town of Washington is briefly taken.

22 March, 1862: Federal troops complete movement to Carolina City.

The next target was Fort Macon, which guarded the Beaufort Inlet Channel. Parke was given the assignment to take the fort.

23 March, 1862: Parke sends a surrender demand to Fort Macon’s commander, Colonel Moses J. White. The demand is refused.

29 March, 1862: Parke landed his forces on Bogue Banks, west of Fort Macon, and marched one mile to a good position for placing the fort under siege. Parke was helped by four Federal gunboats, resulting in the fort being boxed in.

Things were stable for a while, but as March turned into April, other operations were in progress.

18 April, 1862: Burnside orders an expedition sent up the Pasquotank River to Camden.

19 April, 1862: The Federal troops soon land on the east bank of the river and began moving north. A small force of Confederates stop them south of South Mills in what turned out to be a brief skirmish.

20 April, 1862: Those same Federal troops head back down the river and head back to Roanoke Island.

25 April, 1862: Parke decides that he had enough of the siege and ordered an 11-hour bombardment. Using both his artillery and that of the gunboats.

26 April, 1862: Colonel White, who only had 400 North Carolina troops to hold off the Federals to begin with, surrenders his command.

With three costal forts in their possession, the Union controlled much of the North Carolina sounds and could both support the naval blockade as well as any land action.

With Fort Macon in Federal hands, the port of Beaufort fell, providing the Union with a coaling and repair station for the rest of the war.

Burnside would later that year command the Army of the Potomac at the Union defeat at Fredericksburg, VA. Later in the war he would command IX Corps until the Battle of the Crater in 1864, when he loses his command for good.

Goldsborough would be resigned to an administration position in Washington D.C. in September, 1862. Afterwards, he commanded the US Navy’s European Squadron in 1865. He died in 1877.

Foster briefly commanded the Army of the Ohio until injuries forced him to give that up. He stayed in the Army until his death in 1874.

Reno was killed at South Mountain, MD on 14 September, 1862.

Parke would stay with Burnside in both the Army of the Ohio and the Army of the Potomac, eventually taking over IX Corps after the Battle of the Crater.

Branch would be killed at Sharpsburg, MD on 17 September, 1862

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