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CHAP. XIV. Burnside was a Rhode Islander and also a graduate
of West Point, who had hitherto been singularly favored in attracting popular admiration and applause. The Governors of the States to which he was sent seconded his mission with praiseworthy zeal. Before he had finished his task wider designs were matured by the Government, and he was intrusted with the more important duty of leading his amphibious coast division to the waters of North Carolina. His regiments began assembling at Annapolis early in November, but, incurring the usual delays, the month of December passed before his whole force proceeded to his second rendezvous at Fort Monroe in complete preparation to set sail.
Here also he was joined by a fleet of twenty vessels borough,
of war, under command of Flag-officer Goldsborough, detailed to accompany and assist him. General McClellan gave Burnside his final orders on January 7, 1862, directing him to assume command of the Department of North Carolina, which had been created, including the Hatteras forts. His instructions were to first seize and hold Roanoke Island, then to capture New Berne, next to attempt the capture of Fort Macon and open the harbor of Beaufort; also, if possible, to penetrate into the interior from New Berne and seize the railroad at Goldsboro'. The whole expedition went to sea from Fort Monroe on the evening of January 11, 1862. Burnside's army numbered a total of 12,829 men, divided into three brigades respectively under Generals John G. Foster, Jesse L. Reno, and John G. Parke. These with their supplies were embarked on a motley collection of transports, about a hundred in number - steamers, schooners, tug
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boats, every description of craft that was deemed Chap. XIV seaworthy, and which could be made useful in the shallow North Carolina sounds. The whole fleet sailed under sealed orders, which were opened when the vessels were twenty miles from Fort Monroe.
It was only a favorable day's run from the rendezvous to the Hatteras forts, and during that part of the voyage the fleet had the benefit of good weather; but before the ships began to assemble, the sea was so boisterous that there was great difficulty in passing through Hatteras Inlet. Some seventy of the vessels managed to get in behind the comparative shelter of the outer coast; the others were compelled to encounter the fury of a storm Burnside, which set in, and which, the general states, continued almost incessantly twenty-eight days. Three
Report steamers and half a dozen sailing vessels were lost, but, strange to say, only three lives. The remain- the war. ing ships were, by great exertion, got through the Inlet a few days after the arrival. Once inside, another trouble was at hand. A difficult bar called the Bulkhead, with only seven and a half feet of water, had to be crossed; and nearly a month of delay occurred in getting the expedition over this obstruction. On the 6th of February the fleet renewed its advance; numbering seventeen ships-ofwar, carrying forty-eight guns and 7500 troops. The remainder of the force was left behind at Hatteras, The thirty-eight miles of intervening distance were soon passed over; on the evening of February 7 the men-of-war engaged the shore batteries on Roanoke Island. During the long delay in the advance, the enemy had become thoroughly
of the Committee
CHAP. XIV. informed of the expected attack, and strengthened
their position by every available device.
At best, however, it proved what the rebel commander called it, an unequal conflict. The principal defenses consisted of several strong forts on the northern end of the island ; a row of piles and sunken vessels to obstruct the ship-channel in Croatan Sound; and a fleet of seven rebel gunboats stationed behind it. While Goldsborough with his war vessels was engaging these on the afternoon of the 7th, the army division was landed without serious resistance near Ashby's harbor, midway of the island. The island is long and narrow and a principal road runs along the middle of it from south to north. Not far above the landing-place what were supposed to be impenetrable swamps approached the road on either side, leaving it a mere causeway. Across this causeway the rebels erected a strong breastwork and rifle-pits to the right and left. A force of infantry, variously estimated at from one to two thousand, supported this apparently serious obstruction. Early on the morning of the 8th the Union troops advanced up the road; Foster, the senior brigadier-general, in the center, Parke on the right, and Reno on the left. While Foster engaged the main work at the causeway with field-pieces, the other brigade commanders respectively undertook to flank it, through the swamps to the right and the left. Two hours passed in this effort, and finally Reno and his men, forcing their way
in popa 28,990 the water waist-deep amid thick, tangled under
brush, succeeded in getting through the swamp on on Conduct the left and opening a fire on the right and rear of Nov. 2, 1865. the enemy's battery. Parke had also nearly suc
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Report to the
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p. 85. Report,
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ceeded in turning the position on the other side. A CHAP. XIV. simultaneous assault by Foster in front and Reno against the rebel right drove the enemy from their guns in precipitate confusion. It was a victory of persistent and stubborn energy rather than severe Investigafighting. The total loss on the Union side was five Committee officers and thirty-two men killed and ten officers erate House and two hundred and four men wounded. The reported rebel loss was twenty-three killed and fifty-eight wounded.
The battle at this point decided the fate of the island. The Union troops followed the retreating enemy to the northern end with such promptness and vigor that they had no time or opportunity for further resistance. The garrisons abandoned the forts and joined the flying column. Having no transports at hand in which to escape, and finding himself surrounded, Colonel Shaw, the rebel commander, sent a flag of truce to make a complete surrender. “The fruits of the day's fight,” says Foster's report,“ were the whole island of Roanoke Report to with its five forts, thirty-two guns, 3000 stands of on conduct arms, and 2700 prisoners.” Ex-Governor Henry Nov. 2, 1866 A. Wise, of Virginia, upon whom, as district commander, the responsibility of this Confederate disaster fell most heavily at the time, made the following striking summary of the strategic importance of the capture of Roanoke Island. “It unlocked two sounds (Albemarle and Currituck), eight rivers (the North, West, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Little, Chowan, Roanoke, and Alligator), four canals (the Albemarle and Chesapeake, Dismal Swamp, Northwest, and Suffolk), and two railroads (the Petersburg and Norfolk, and the Seaboard and
Auzit. Pranks). It guarded more than four-fifths of all
Saks supplies of corn, pork, and forage, and it
at the emand of General Huger off from all of ita moet efficient transportation. It endangers the subsistence of his whole army, threatens the navy yard at Goeport, and to cut off Norfolk from Rich
mond, and both from railroad communication with Ram. In the South. It lodges the enemy in a safe harbor Cartoon from the storms of Hatteras, gives them a rendezwa kun vous, and large, rich range of supplies, and the
command of the seaboard from Oregon Inlet to Cape Henry."
However interesting might be the detailed narrative, it would require more pages than can be devoted to it to describe how the natural fruits of the capture of Roanoke Island were in part gathered by successive expeditions within the North Carolina sounds during the remainder of the year 1862. They can only be mentioned here in the briefest possible summary. The rebel fleet which retreated was followed by a detachment of Goldsborough's ships, under Commander Rowan, into Pasquotank River towards Elizabeth City, where,
on February 10, he completely annihilated it, capGoldsbor. turing one steamer, burning and destroying five Kuparin others, and occupying Elizabeth City and other ma 20, 19. points. Carrying out the original instructions,
another expedition, naval and military, sailed from Roanoke Island against the town of New Berne on
the Neuse River, one of the southern affluents Burnude of Pamlico Sound, where a combined attack on 1682. w.tk. the 14th of March effected a quick reduction of pp. 19-10. the very considerable defenses at that place. “The
fruits of the victory at New Berne,” reports General