Published 1883, 1885





Hatteras Inlet―Roanoke Island


The reader who has examined the coast charts or maps of the United States is aware that low, long, sandy islets fringe almost the entire coasts of what are known as the Southern States. There are numerous inlets between these islets that have a certain degree of permanency, but many of them close for a series of years, and are found open again after some gale of unusual severity.

Between Cape Henry and Cape Hatteras are several of these ephemeral "inlets" or channels, between the sea and inland waters. Thirteen miles south of Cape Hatteras is Hatteras Inlet, and eighteen miles farther, Ocracoke, the bend of that coast from the cape being west-southwest and, looking toward Cape Henry, north by east.

Hatteras Inlet has more depth over the bar, and its regimen is more permanent than any of the other entrances into the sounds of North Carolina. It was the most convenient en­trance for the distribution of supplies to the Confederate army in Virginia, and bordering the inland waters were pro­duced in great abundance what are known as "naval stores." These, and considerable cotton grown in that region, gave ample cargoes for outward bound blockade-running vessels.

No sooner was the Civil War fairly begun, and the Navy Yard at Norfolk in the possession of the Confederates, than heavy guns were transported from that point, and the inlets at Hatteras and Ocracoke fortified.

From the Sounds of Albemarle and Pamlico through Hat­teras and Ocracoke Inlets, small vessels made raids to capture vessels under the National flag that might be passing along the coast, and for a time these efforts were well rewarded.

The shoal water extending far out gave these entrances a certain amount of immunity to the raids of privateers and blockade-runners, and it was hoped would prevent a success­ful attack on the batteries designed to protect these en­trances. Hatteras Inlet has on its bar, at ordinary high water, usually fourteen feet, the depth varying one or two feet more or less from the effects of gales and freshets on the inland waters. Within this outer bar, at a distance of nearly one mile, is what is known as the "bulkhead, a bank of sand separating the deeper waters of the sounds and those within the exterior bar. At ordinary high tide there is a depth of seven feet; when heavy southeast winds bank up the waters, as they do from time to time, nearly double this depth may be found temporarily on the "bulk­head." Once within the outer bar, by means of lighterage, easily effected in smooth water, vessels with cargoes can readily lessen their draught so as to cross the bulkhead; with vessels having batteries and fitted for war purposes, the difficulty of entering is much greater, and where the required depth is eight or nine feet, considerable delay occurs in awaiting the banking up of the waters.

The Navy Department, appreciating the importance of Hatteras Inlet, the principal one affording access to the magnificent sound with its wide ramifications, directed in 1861 the preparation and concentration of such naval force as was available, and invited an army co-operation for its capture.

The military importance of holding Hatteras Inlet was at that time quite unappreciated save by the Navy Department.

The transport steamers were chartered by the navy and commanded by navy officers, and the detachment of troops "was to return to Fort Monroe after the expedition." "It was not intended that you (General Wood) should take any further action in relation to the expedition than to provide such troops for the same as on conference with Commodore Stringham should be found sufficient for the purpose. The expedition originated in the Navy Department, and is under its control."[1]

General Wool, at Fort Monroe, on the 25th of August, 1861, made a detail of 860 men under General B. F. Butler, who was directed to report, as soon as his troops were ready, to Flag-Officer Stringham. "As soon as the object of the ex­pedition is attained, the detachment will return to Fort Monroe."

The following day, the transport steamer Adelaide, Com­mander Henry S. Stellwagen, and the Peabody, Lieutenant R. R. Lowry, took on board 500 of the 20th Regiment N. Y. Volunteers, Colonel Weber; 220 of the Ninth N. Y. Volun­teers, Colonel Hawkins; 100 of the Union Coast Guard, Cap­tain Nixon, and 60 of the 2d U. S. Artillery, Lieutenant Larned. With commendable alacrity they left the same day (26th of August) with the flag-ship of Stringham, the steam frigate Minnesota, Captain G. I. Van Brunt; steam frigate Wabash, Captain Samuel Mercer; Monticello, Commander John P. Gillis; Pawnee, Commander S. C. Rowan, and Revenue Cutter Harriet Lane, Captain John Faunce. The army tug Fanny, under the command of Lieutenant Peirce Crosby, of the navy, also accompanied the expedition.

The transports towed two schooners, having large, un­wieldy iron surf-boats on board.

The same afternoon this force rounded Cape Hatteras and anchored off shore near the proposed point of debarkation, which was some three miles east of Hatteras Inlet. Surf­boats were hoisted out, and preparations made to facilitate debarkation early in the morning. At daylight on that day Major-General Butler left the flag-ship for the Harriet Lane with the company of marines on that vessel, Captain Shuttleworth, which augmented his command to 915 men.

Signal was made from the flag-ship to disembark troops, and the Pawnee, Monticello, and Harriet Lane to assist the work and cover the landing.

While this was in process of execution, at 8.45 A.M., the Wabash took in tow the sailing frigate Cumberland that had joined the force after arrival off the bar, and followed by the flag-ship Minnesota, led in to attack the batteries known to have been placed for the defence of the inlet.

Soon after, the steam frigate Susquehanna appeared and signal was made her to engage the batteries. The first ob­ject of attack was what was afterward known as Fort Clark, situated a half mile east from the principal work at the immediate entrance to the inlet. The vessels had opened fire beyond extreme range and the fort replied.

The Minnesota passed inside and ahead and with her con­sorts soon caused the battery of five guns, which was without a bomb-proof, to be deserted, the men passing through or around the shallow lagoon, to reach and take shelter in the principal work, which was also on the eastern side of the inlet and known as Fort Hatteras. Shortly afternoon it was observed that no flags were flying on either fort, and, as seen from the flag-ship, the nearest work, Clark, was evidently abandoned.

In the meantime the attempt to land had been only partially successful. As the heavy iron surf-boats struck the beach they were thrown high upon it, there to remain, and two flat-boats landing troops were stove. In this manner 315 troops, including 50 United States Artillery, 55 marines, and 2 navy howitzers were thrown on shore without provi­sions or supplies of any kind, and much of their ammuni­tion was wetted. The surf was heavy and increasing and further attempts to land were discontinued. A movement by the troops was made along the beach toward Fort Clark, and at 2 P.m. the Union flag was hoisted over it by them.

The firing from the fleet had been suspended since 12.30, from the supposition of an intended surrender, as the larger fort was not flying a flag, and was silent.

The Monticello was directed at 4 P.m. to effect an entrance to the inlet, and when well within the breakers Fort Hatteras opened on her and received at once the fire from the Minnesota, Susquehanna, and the Pawnee, which latter vessel had joined in the attack, and soon after was followed by the Harriet Lane with her battery of small rifled guns, effective at the long range then necessary to reach the fort. The Wabash at the time was employed in towing the sailing frigate Cumberland into an offing, as it was supposed the fort had surrendered.

The bombardment continued until sunset, for the most part ineffective, from too great a distance, when the larger vessels hauled off for the night, and the Pawnee, Monticello, and Harriet Lane went up the coast toward the cape and anchored close to the beach for .the purpose of protecting the troops, they having withdrawn from the immediate vicinity of the forts.

On the following day (28th) at 5.30 A.M. signal was made to prepare for action and follow the motions of the flag-ship; the weather, which had been threatening, had become pleasant and the sea less rough.

While the heavier vessels led in to attack Fort Hatteras, the Monticello was directed to embark or provision the troops on shore, at the option of General Butler.

The landed troops had during the night thrown up a sand battery, placed their howitzers in it, and had opened on the vessels in the sound in communication with the fort, which seems to have materially disconcerted the enemy.

At 8 A.M. the Susquehanna, leading, opened fire on the fort, the Wabash following; the Minnesota then took posi­tion between the two. The vessels anchored, and main­tained their fire, and were soon followed by the sailing frigate Cumberland, which anchored also in excellent posi­tion and commenced firing with effect. It was soon seen that the pivot guns did the principal part of the work, and this fact became the more apparent as the flag-officer re­ported "the enemy returned our fire throughout the en­gagement, but with no effect, their shot falling short," from the fact, doubtless, of not being able to obtain suffi­cient elevation. Half an hour before the end of the engage­ment the Harriet Lane,, added the fire of her battery. The defenders, seeing that the fire from their guns was wholly ineffective, and having suffered considerable loss from the careful firing of the pivot guns in the fleet, hoisted a white flag at 11.10 A.M., when the firing ceased. The fire from the batteries on the ships' broadside had been suspended soon after going into action, the fort being in range only by giving great, if not extreme elevation to the guns. The plunging effect of the shells from the heavy pivot guns' on the bomb-proof was very great, threatening breaking through; one shell had found its way through a ventilator, and the safety of the magazine was imperilled.

On the appearance of the white flag the troops on the beach marched toward the fort, the army transport and the tug Fanny, with General Butler on board, passed the bar and anchored within the inlet, and the Harriet Lane, in an attempt to do so, grounded, and did not succeed in getting off for some days. Three steamers and several schooners of the enemy that were within the sound watching events, and prepared to throw in reinforcements, left when a shell was thrown at them from the Fanny.

In this engagement not a single casualty occurred to the National forces. In Fort Clark two killed were found, and from Fort Hatteras several killed and a number of wounded were known to have been taken previous to the surrender―13 wounded were among the prisoners.

The guns of the attacking vessels numbered one hundred and fifty-eight; the pivot guns, ten in number, were the most effective, to which may be added the five small rifled guns of the Harriet Lane. The character of the forts and the batteries captured will appear hereafter.

Articles of capitulation were signed between Flag-Officer Stringham and General Butler on the one part, and Samuel Barron, commanding naval force, Colonel Martin, command­ing land forces, and Major Andrews, commanding Fort Hat­teras: "It is stipulated and agreed by the contracting parties on the part of the United States Government, that the officers and men shall receive the treatment due to prisoners of war." Six hundred and fifteen prisoners were taken, among whom were several who some months before had been officers in the National navy. It is known that a certain number of the garrison escaped previous to the capitulation, some of whom were wounded.

Flag-Officer Barron, in his report to the Confederate Navy Department, states that he arrived at Hatteras Inlet early on the 28th, in the steamer Winslow, accompanied by Colonel Bradford, Chief of Ordnance of North Carolina, and Lieu­tenants Murdaugh and Sharpe of the Confederate navy. He found Colonel Winslow, in command of Fort Hatteras, very much exhausted from exposure and hard fighting the previ­ous day. He says: "The garrison had hoped for the arrival of a regiment from Newbern the previous night, which would have been employed in an attempted assault of Fort Clark, held by the Union troops, the appearance of bad weather. having caused the protecting vessels to seek an offing. Early in the morning the fleet again stood in, took positions and opened fire, and in addition the Union troops had, during the night, erected a battery of rifled field-guns near to Fort Clark, which also opened on us.

“During the first hour, the shells from the ships fell short, the fort only firing occasionally to get range, to re­serve the very limited supply of ammunition until the vessels might find it necessary to come nearer in; but they, after some practice, got the exact range of the IX-, X-, and XI-inch guns, and did not find it necessary to alter their positions, while not a shot from our battery reached them with the greatest elevation we could get. . . . Several hours had thus passed, without the ability to damage our adversaries, and just at this time, the magazine being reported to be on fire, a shell having fallen through the ventilator of the bomb-proof into the room adjoining the principal magazine, a white flag was ordered to be shown, when the firing ceased, and the surrender was made."

A very succinct report of General Gatlin, Commander-in­Chief in North Carolina, will be found on p. 573, Vol. IV., of the "Rebellion Records," published by the Government. It concludes as follows: "I may be permitted to conclude this rapid sketch by stating that we failed to make timely efforts to maintain the ascendancy on Pamlico Sound, and thus admitted Burnside's fleet without a contest; we failed to put a proper force on Roanoke Island, and thus lost the key to our interior coast; and we failed to furnish General Branch with a reasonable force, and thus lost the important town of Newbern."

On consultation with Flag-Officer Stringham and Com­mander Stellwagen, General Butler determined to leave the troops and hold the fort until he could get some further in­structions from the Government.

He adds: "The importance of the point cannot be over­rated. When the channel is buoyed out any vessel may carry fifteen feet of water over it with ease. Once inside, there is a safe harbor and anchorage in all weathers. From there the whole coast of Virginia and North Carolina, from Norfolk to Cape Lookout, is within our reach by light­draught vessels, which cannot possibly live at sea during the winter months. From it offensive operations may be made upon the whole coast of North Carolina to Bogue Inlet, ex­tending many miles inland to Washington, Newborn, and Beaufort. In the language of the chief-engineer of the rebels, Colonel Thompson, in an official report, 'it is the key of the Albemarle.' In my judgment, it is a station sec­ond in importance only to Fortress Monroe on this coast. As a depot for coaling and supplies for the blockading squadron it is invaluable. As a harbor for our coasting trade, or inlet from the winter storms or from pirates, it is of the first importance." Future events fully confirmed the opinion of General Butler as to the value of Hatteras Inlet in a military point of view, and no less in respect to all of the advantages so clearly expressed.

Twenty-five pieces of artillery, one thousand stand of arms, a large quantity of ordnance stores, provisions, three valuable prizes, two light-boats, and four stands of colors were captured.

From the 25th of June to the capture of Hatteras Inlet, on the 28th of August, one bark, seven brigs, and eight schoon­ers had been captured by "privateers" or Confederate cruis­ers, and had been brought into the inlet.

The flag-ship proceeded to New York on the 30th with the prisoners on board; the Pawnee and Monticello remained at the inlet, the remainder of the vessels proceeded to different points of blockade, the company of regulars returned to Fortress Monroe, and the other troops remained as a garri­son until further orders. Hatteras Inlet became a depot of supplies for coal and the other wants of vessels blockading, and in the coming months a centre of operations. As soon as necessary surroundings were satisfactorily arranged, Com­mander Rowan, of-the Pawnee, became active.

On the 16th of September he sent Lieutenant Maxwell to the fort commanding Ocracoke, Inlet, situated on Beacon Island, some twenty miles distant. He was in command of the army tug Fanny, and carried 61 men belonging to what was known, as the naval brigade, commanded by Colonel Hawkins.

The launch of the Pawnee was in tow, manned by 22 sailors and 6 marines, armed with a 12-pounder howitzer, commanded by Lieutenant Eastman. The fort was situ­ated on the sea face of Beacon Island, and was found deserted. It was octagonal, having in the centre a bomb­proof one hundred feet square, with the magazine within, and four large water-tanks directly over it. Twenty plat­forms for guns were partially destroyed by fire; the gun­carriages had been burned, four VIII-inch navy shell-guns, and fourteen heavy 32-pounders were found; two guns had been carried away the previous day. The men were landed without delay, the trunnions of the guns broken off, and at the same time the launch went to the town of Portsmouth near by, where three VIII-inch navy guns were found lying on the beach and one mounted on its carriage. The attempt to make a battery had been abandoned in consequence of the taking of the forts at Hatteras Inlet. The town, which had some five hundred inhabitants before the attack on the Hatteras Inlet forts, was nearly deserted; those remaining said they were Union men, and expressed their gratification at seeing their old flag again. "Lieutenant Eastman as­sured them that they would not be molested by the Govern­ment, and that they might return to their usual occupa­tions." He then destroyed the guns and returned to the Fanny. The combustible material had been placed within and around the bomb-proof of Fort Ocracoke, which was supported by heavy pine timbers and logs. It was destroyed by fire, after which the expedition returned to the Pawnee.

Either with or without competent authority, soon after the occupation of Hatteras Inlet, the Twentieth Regiment of Indiana volunteers, Colonel Brown, was sent to occupy Chicamicomico, near the northern end of Hatteras Island, some twenty-five miles north of the lighthouse. Within this sand­spit the water is quite shoal for two miles or more, and this speedily led to the capture of the army tug Fanny, and a con­siderable quantity of army stores.

The proximity of Roanoke Island and the presence of a large number of Confederate troops fortifying it, made the bait of a regiment too tempting to be resisted, so on the 4th of October there appeared ten transports and seven steamers, including the captured tug Fanny, a cotton barge, and two flat-boats laden with troops. A part of this force was landed north of the Indiana regiment, and the remainder was taken south to cut off the retreat.

The troops retreated in haste, and favored by the delay of the enemy in getting his forces on shore from the shoal water extending so far out, all save twenty or more stragglers had passed the point of debarkation when it had been ef­fected. The retreat was continued to Hatteras lighthouse, the Confederates pursuing to within a short distance of it. Here the Union troops were reinforced by a regiment from Hatteras Inlet, and here was also found the steam frigate Susquehanna as close to the shore, as moderately bold water would allow. The retreat had been hasty and laborious, and the troops were greatly in want of food and water; their ne­cessities were soon relieved, and when the morning dawned the Confederates took up their line of retreat to some point where a comparatively near approach to the long sand-spit upon which they were would enable them to re-embark. The Monticello, commanded by Lieutenant D. L. Braine, ar­rived at the lighthouse on the sea face, and was directed to pursue the enemy in retreat. At 1.30 P.M. of the 5th she came up with a considerable force at Kinekeet, moving north with many stragglers in the rear; two small Confederate steamers were in the inland waters, following as near the island as the depth of the water would allow. A heavy fire of shells from three guns on board of the Monticello was maintained with great effect, which caused the men to scatter in haste to a clump of trees, beyond which, in the sound, were several of their steamers, upon which the fugitives were taking refuge by means of boats. The Monticello continued her firing for two hours, when two men were discovered on the beach making signals; a boat was sent near the beach, and one man belonging to the Twentieth Indiana was res­cued; the other was unfortunately drowned in the surf.

The Monticello was in three fathoms, as near the beach as the roughness of the water would permit, and guided by the information obtained, resumed throwing shells, which was continued until near sunset-nearly four hours-with little intermission.

Commander O. S. Glisson, in the Mount Vernon, sent two armed boats on the night of December 31, 1861, to destroy a lightship formerly anchored on Frying Pan Shoal, and then secured under the guns of Fort Caswell. No one was found on board of the vessel; she had been fitted for the reception of eight guns, to aid, it was supposed, in harbor defence. The combustible material found on board, saturated with the turpentine brought for the purpose, soon made a blaze suf­ficient to attract the attention of the men in the fort, whose cry of alarm was heard by the boats' crews. The fort opened fire soon after in the supposed direction of retreat of the boats. The lightboat was speedily burned.

The reader is reminded of the magnitude of the struggle in progress and of its geographical extent on land and sea. Considering the waters only, the Potomac River and the water within the Capes of Virginia presented no inconsider­able field of operations; then again, as soon after the cap­ture of Hatteras Inlet as a force could be got together, followed a much larger expedition for the capture of Port Royal and further operations east of Cape Florida. The coasts bordering on the Gulf of Mexico and upper waters of the Mississippi were no less theatres of armed con­tention.

Important as was the possession of Hatteras Inlet, it need not be a subject of wonder that nothing further grew out of it for the time. The Confederates set to work with earnest-s ness with their limited means, after the capture of the inlet, to fortify Roanoke Island, which was still a key to the greater part of the inland waters, but even after a lapse of interven­ing months, when the preparations of the co-operative Union forces had been completed and were within Hatteras Inlet, they had not yet perfected their defences.

On that coast of storms in winter, neither the “vessels of war," as they were somewhat inaptly termed, if compared with vessels built for the purpose, nor the transports for the troops, often unseaworthy, stood on the order of their coming. Happily for them, Hampton Roads was only one hundred and fifty miles distant, but on arriving off the inlet vessels that had been chartered not to draw more than twelve feet were found of heavier draught, and some of them ham­mered to pieces on the bar, and many of the naval vessels were of extreme draught for crossing the bulkhead. They came as they could, crossed the bar into the inlet as soon as possible, then awaited exceptional banking of the waters to cross the "bulkhead."

Rear-Admiral L. M. Goldsborough, who was in command of the naval forces, and General A. E. Burnside, who com­manded the troops, arrived on January 13th. Owing, how­ever, to a lack of water for days before, few or none of the vessels had crossed the bulkhead; on the 15th, however, the naval vessels, having least draught in general, began crossing, and by the 23d all of them that had arrived up to that time were over the bulkhead. The Whitehall, in get­ting across the outer bar, or within the inlet from the sea, was so injured that she had to be sent to Hampton Roads for repairs.

Not before the 22d of January had General Burnside made any considerable progress in getting the army transports over the bulkhead, and from the facts above stated, the last naval vessel was delayed until the 28th of January, and the last of the army transports until February 5th. For the time being, the river steamer Philadelphia was the flag-ship of Rear-Admiral Goldsborough; the naval vessels intended for action were as follows: Stars and Stripes, Lieutenant. Commanding Reed Werden, and flag-ship of Commander S. C. Rowan; Louisiana, Lieutenant-Commanding A. Murray; Hetzel, Lieutenant-Commanding H. K. Davenport; Underwriter, Lieutenant-Commanding Wm. N. Jeffers; Delaware, Lieutenant-Commanding S. P. Quackenbush; Commodore Perry, Lieutenant-Commanding C. W. Flusser; Valley City, Lieutenant-Commanding J. C. Chaplin; Commodore Barney, Acting-Lieutenant R. T. Renshaw; Hunchback, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant-Commanding E. R. Colhoun; Southfield, Acting Volunteer Lieutenant-Commanding C. F. W. Behm; Morse, Acting-Master Peter Hayes; Whitehead, Acting-Master Chas. A. French; Lockwood, Acting-Master G. W. Graves; Brincker, Acting-Master, John E. Giddings; I. N. Seymour, Acting-Master F. S. Wells; Ceres, Acting­Master John McDiarmid; Putnam, Acting-Master W. J. Hotchkiss; Shawsheen, Acting-Master Thos. G. Woodward; and Granite, Acting-Master's Mate E. Boomer.

The army transports were forty-six in number, armed with forty-seven guns of small caliber, and carried in round num­bers 12,000 troops. They formed not an inconsiderable part of the attacking force, and were under Commander Samuel F. Hazard, U.S.N.

Flag-Officer Goldsborough reports, February 18th: “Dur­ing our detention at the inlet we resorted to every means in our power to get accurate information of the enemy's posi­tion and preparations, and we obtained enough to enable us to arrange our programme of attack, which, in substance, was as follows: The naval division was to lead from the time of starting up to that of encountering the enemy.

"Early on the morning of the 5th, the necessary general signals for a move were thrown out from the Philadelphia, and as soon afterward as could be expected for so large a number of vessels, all were under way, with the naval divi­sion as prescribed, arranged in three columns, commanded respectively by Lieutenants-Commanding Werden, Murray, and Davenport. Although the weather favored us, our prog­ress was unavoidably slow."

At sundown the vessels arrived and anchored in line off Stumpy Point, within ten miles of the marshes. "A certain individual" was sent for, who lived near by, whose services were deemed important, and he was brought on board of the flag-ship Philadelphia. The following morning, Flag-Officer Goldsborough, with his staff, consisting of Commander Case, Captain's Clerk Fisher, as signal officer, and Lieutenants T. R. Robeson and N. S. Barstow went on board of the Southfield, which for the time became the flag-ship. The vessels were again under way with two light-draught steamers, Ceres and Putnam, a mile or so in advance. About 9 A.M. the weather, which had been thick, partially cleared, and the vessels of the enemy were seen at anchor, apparently close in with the shore, between Pork and Wier Points. At 10.30, when within a couple of miles of the marshes, it became thick, rainy, and windy, and the vessels again anchored in line. In the afternoon, one of the steamers of the enemy approached the marshes for the purpose of reconnoitring, and was not molested, as the flag-officer "was not unwilling that she should accomplish her wishes."

The day following, February 7th, gave evident signs of good weather. At nine, general signal was made to get under way. The Underwriter was also put in advance as a lookout, the Ceres and Putnam to keep only one-fourth of a mile in advance of the flag-ship. The channel through the marshes is so narrow as not to admit of more than two vessels abreast, and that was the order of steaming until the much wider waters of Croatan Sound were reached. The vessels having IX-inch guns ware then « closed up around the flag-ship." At 10.30, eight vessels of the enemy were seen drawn up behind an extensive obstruction formed by a double row of piles and sunken vessels stretching well across the sound and between the forts on Pork and Wier Points. One of them fired a heavy gun, to announce, per­haps, the impending attack. In less than an hour, the Underwriter, in advance, having shelled Sandy Point, made signal that it was not fortified. This omission on the part of the enemy favored the landing of troops at Ashby's Har­bor, as arranged.

Not long after this announcement the naval division, com­manded as above given, accompanied as previously arranged by the army division, composed of the Picket, Captain T. P. Ives; Huzzar, Captain F. Crocker; Pioneer, Captain C. E. Baker; Vidette, Captain I. L. Foster; Ranger, Captain S. Emerson; Lancer, Captain M. B. Morley, and Chasseur, Cap­tain John West, in close order, had approached sufficiently near the enemy to attack, and to employ their heaviest fire against the battery on Pork Point, a battery between Pork and Wier Points, and another on Redstone Point, all of which had opened fire on the advancing vessels. At noon the action became general; at 1.30 the barracks behind Pork Point had been set on fire by shells and burned furiously for an hour. At this time the vessels were hotly engaged.

Toward 3 P.M. the troops, embarked on board of light­draught steamers and boats, started to land at Ashby's Har­bor. It was guarded by a large body of the enemy's troops, with a field battery, but the Delaware, with the division flag of Commander S. C. Rowan, having very judiciously taken up a flanking position to the southward of Pork Point, op­portunely turned her guns on the enemy, enfilading Ashby's Harbor and scattered the troops with IX-inch shrapnel.

At 4.30, Pork Point battery and the one next to the north. ward ceased firing for a time, and five of the enemy's steam­ers, apparently injured, went behind Wier's Point, and the troops landed. At 5 P.M., the batteries and the enemy's

steamers again opened fire. In forty minutes these vessels were compelled to retire; one of them in a disabled condi­tion took refuge under Redstone battery. At six, only Pork Point battery was active, and to avoid wasting shells, signal was made to cease firing. In the course of the afternoon Midshipman B. J. Porter landed with six navy howitzers, “to assist the army in commanding the main road and its two forks during the night, and to assist in more active operations the following morning."

The direction from which the rattle of musketry on the land proceeded gave assurance that the Union troops were not in the line of fire, and the gunboats were again moved up and engaged the forts. This continued until the firing of small arms slackened, and then signal was made to cease filing, as it was supposed that the Union troops were ap­proaching the rear of the batteries. At that time, however, the enemy were replying with only one gun.

At 1 P.M. the Underwriter, Valley City, Seymour, Lock­wood, Ceres, Shawsheen, Putnam, Whitehead, and Brincker, were ordered to clear away the double line of piling, which was effected soon after 4 P.M. About the time our ves­sels had removed the obstructions, the National flag had been hoisted by the Union troops, and a few minutes later the enemy had set on fire the works at Redstone, and the steamer Curlew. Both blew up in the early part of the evening, and Roanoke Island was then in the undisputed possession of the National troops.

Pork Point batteries, known to the Confederates as Fort Bartow, was found to be a heptagon, mounting eight 32­pounders and one 68-pounder rifled gun. In its rear was a field battery of three guns, designed to protect it against the advance of troops. The six howitzers from the fleet under Midshipman Porter rendered essential service in the reduc­tion of this work. A mile and a half north of Fort Bartow was Fort Blanchard, mounting four 32-pounders, and one mile beyond that Fort Huger, on Wier's Point, mounting two 68-pounder rifles and ten 32-pounders. Fort Ellis, on the eastern side of the island, was a four-gun battery, intended to prevent the debarkation of troops. On the main­land, nearly opposite Fort Bartow (Pork Point), was Fort Forrest. This was placed on hulks sunk in the sand, and to enfilade vessels that might attempt to remove the double row of piles beyond which the eight Confederate vessels were placed. It was stated in a post return, made ten days pre­vious to the attack, that the defence for Roanoke Island was forty 32-pounders, seven rifled guns, and five days' ammuni­tion.

The naval casualties, including the howitzer battery of six guns operating with the army, were 6 killed, 17 wounded, and 2 missing.

Flag-Officer Goldsborough speaks in terms of great com­mendation of all under his command, and especially of officers commanding vessels. He adds, "It is really diffi­cult for me to state in adequate terms how largely I feel in­debted to Commanders Rowan and Case for their constant and signal services throughout, from the very inception to the consummation of the achievement in view."

This victory was most important; the proximate result left no ports or inlets unoccupied by our forces along the entire North Carolina coast except Wilmington. Including what was soon after achieved by Flag-Officer Dupont, on the coast of Georgia and Florida, Charleston and Wilmington were the only entrances unclosed from Cape Henry to Cape Florida.[2]

With untiring labor and zeal we find that at 3 P.M. of the day following the surrender of the Confederate forts, Com­mander Rowan had taken on board all of the ammunition obtainable, which was only twenty rounds per gun, and had entered Albemarle Sound for the purpose of destroying -the seven Confederate war vessels that had escaped after the fall of Roanoke Island. His pennant was on board the Delaware, Commander Quackenbush, and was followed by the Louisiana, Hetzel, Underwriter, Commodore Perry, Valley City, Morse, Seymour, Whitehead, Lockwood, Ceres, Shawsheen, Brincker, and Putnam.

As this force passed into the sound the smoke of the two Confederate steamers was seen on the further shore, appa­rently heading for the Pasquotank River. Signal was made to chase, and the course changed to cut them off if possible, but without success. The flotilla steamed up the Pasquo­tank to within ten miles of Fort Cobb, where it anchored at 8 P.M.

The officers commanding vessels were assembled on board of the flag-ship and informed by Commander Rowan that the vessels of the enemy would be found either drawn up behind the Cobb Point battery, or they had escaped through the canal to Norfolk. "Calling their attention to the fact that there were only twenty rounds of ammunition per gun, the vessels would be organized for a reconnoissance in force, to be converted into an attack if it was deemed prudent. No firing would be admissible until the order was given, and in order further to economize ammunition, each vessel as she approached the enemy should run him down and engage hand-to-hand. With this understanding these noble spirits returned to their respective ships to await the events of the morrow."[3]

At daylight of the 10th, the flotilla weighed anchor and formed in the order prescribed, the Underwriter, Perry, Morse, and Delaware in advance, with the Cores on theft right flank. The remainder of the force, led in order by the Louisiana, and the Hetzel, Valley City, and Whitehead being ordered, if the attack was made, to leave the line as soon as the battery was passed, and attack it in reverse. The flo­tilla proceeded at moderate speed up the river. . At 8.30 the enemy's steamers were seen drawn up, as an­ticipated, behind the battery, which mounted four heavy 32-pounders, and was commanded by Commodore Lynch in person, and supported by the schooner Black Warrior, moored on the opposite shore, armed with two guns of the same class. The vessels of the enemy were drawn up on a diagonal line, the right resting on the Cobb Point battery. When within long range, battery and vessels opened fire with 80-pounder rifle and other guns; when within three­quarters of a mile signal was made, "Dash at the enemy," and fire was opened by the flotilla with telling effect. This quite demoralized the enemy; the Black Warrior was set on fire and abandoned; the fort was abandoned when the head of the column passed it, and the vessels designated dashed at the vessels of the enemy. The Perry, under command of Flusser, struck the flag-ship Sea Bird and sunk her, and took the officers and crew prisoners; the Underwriter cut off the retreat of the Beaufort, and the Ceres ran ahead and took possession of the Ellis, whose crew deserted and endeavored to escape to the shore; the Delaware boarded the Fanny, that had been set on fire and deserted by the enemy. His defeat was sudden and overwhelming. "Three or four of the flotilla proceeded at once to Elizabeth City and ran alongside of the wharves. A battery of field artillery fled from the principal street. An armed party from the flotilla came suddenly on a mounted officer of the ‘Wise Legion,’ who, in obedience to orders from General Henningsen, was compelling the defenseless people to set fire to the houses." Several were set on fire before he was arrested and brought to Commander Rowan. A curious incident, truly, in war, when the enemy becomes the protector against the senseless injuries inflicted by pretended friends.

The armed men were recalled to their respective vessels. No other houses were destroyed besides those set on fire under the direction of Lieutenant Scroggs of the Wise Le­gion."[4]

The Confederate steamer Forrest, which had been disabled in the engagement at Roanoke Island on the 7th, a gunboat on the stocks, and another vessel with lighter frame had been set on fire at the shipyard by the enemy. Competent persons were sent on shore to destroy boilers and machinery and ways; this done, the vessels withdrew to Cobb's Point. Un­successful efforts had been made by other vessels of the flo­tilla to extinguish the fires on board of the Fanny and the Black Warrior. The latter vessel had on board a large amount of provisions and stores for the Confederate vessels, all of which were burned. The machinery of the Fanny and Sea Bird was destroyed and the armament of those vessels was in part recovered. The fort at Cobb's Point was de­stroyed, after removing powder, powder tanks, and projec­tiles, and some of the vessels were then dispatched to further thwart the designs of the enemy. Nothing more brilliant in naval "dash" occurred during the entire civil war than appears in this attack.

Lieutenant-Commanding Murray, in the Louisiana, accom­panied by the Underwriter, the Perry, and the Lockwood, went to Edenton on the 12th. After a reconnoissance of the entrance, the smallest vessel in advance passed up to the town. A company of mounted artillery precipitately fled and many of the inhabitants had left the town. Eight can­non and one schooner were destroyed. The vessels were visited by the town authorities and other persons "who professed sentiments of loyalty to the Union."

Lieutenant-Commanding Jeffers proceeded on the 13th, in the Lockwood, accompanied by the Shawsheen and Whitehead, with two schooners in tow, to the mouth of the Chesa­peake and Albemarle Canal. Two small steamers and three small schooners were about a mile and a quarter distant, and the entrance was obstructed. A picket stationed near fired to give the alarm, and a large body of men got under cover.

From a point near the entrance to the canal, three shells were thrown by the vessels, when the whole body of the enemy fled. A sunken schooner, supported by piles and logs, was found fifty yards within the canal, which formed a complete barrier. A body of fifteen armed men were thrown out, and at the distance of half a mile a second row of piles was found obstructing the canal. A fine dredging-machine that had been in use sunk at that moment. The enemy had destroyed the machinery and set the upper works on fire. The two schooners in tow were then sunk in the mouth of the canal, supplementing as it were the work already done by the enemy.

Commander Rowan, in the Delaware, returned to Elizabeth City at five p.m. of the 18th, and ordered the Louisiana, Perry, Morse, Lockwood, and Whitehead to follow. Going up Croatan Sound, he found the Barney at anchor as pre arranged; another vessel, the Hunchback, with a battalion of the Ninth New York on board, had grounded; the remainder of the regiment was on board of the Barney.

The vessels anchored to await the arrival of the Hunchback. On the morning of the 19th the gunboats moved to the head of the sound, and Lieutenant-Commanding Murray was sent in the Lockwood to make a reconnoissance of Plymouth. In the meantime the Hunchback with the re­mainder of the troops came up and anchored. Leaving the force off the mouth of the Roanoke to await Murray's return in the Lockwood, with the Delaware and Perry, Rowan pro­ceeded to Winton "for the purpose of communicating with the Union men said to be in arms at that place."

On the return of Murray the vessels awaiting him followed Rowan. Being desirous to reach Winton at an early hour the Delaware and Perry proceeded at full speed. At 4 P.m they came in sight of the wharf and houses at the landing; the town itself was hidden by a high bluff covered with oak trees.

"Ranging up past the wharf and bluff, where a Negro woman stood, apparently to assure us that no danger need be apprehended, suddenly a small armed force and two bat­teries of light artillery opened a heavy fire on the vessels." The artillery overshot their mark; the Delaware was too near to bring her battery to bear, and was obliged to steam ahead. She turned with some difficulty in the narrow channel, and opened fire on the enemy; the Perry from a position more favorable opened at once with shrapnel. The vessels moved down the river some seven miles and anchored to await the arrival of the expected reinforcement.

At early daylight on the 20th the flotilla moved up to Winton, the leading vessels throwing a few shrapnel on shore to cover the landing of the troops, which was speedily effected. In a few minutes Colonel Hawkins's force, accom­panied by two navy howitzers, had possession of the bluff and passed over to the town without opposition. A quantity of military stores, tents, arms and knapsacks, and the quarters occupied by the troops of the enemy were destroyed. The troops were re-embarked, and the force withdrew to the sound. The Perry and Whitehead were dispatched to Elizabeth City.

The sounds were patrolled by the flotilla until the army had made its preparations and the vessels had received an abundant supply of ammunition, indispensable stores for the work before them.


[1] Letter of Assistant Adjutant-General, Rebellion Records, Vol. IV., p. 580..

[2] The army followed the scattered forces of the Confederates,, and on the northern part of the island received the surrender of a considerable number, making a total of 2,677, including the wounded. A considerable number had effected their escape at Nag's Head. The army loss was 41 killed, and 181 wounded. The loss of the enemy was considerably less, as he was well protected.

[3] Commander Rowan's Report.

[4] Rowan's Report.

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