Map - Battle of New Berne, 14 March 1862
Battle of New Berne, 14 March 1862. Map based on sketch map that accompanied the official Confederate report.
Talk:Battle of New Bern (1862)
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Hmm. New Bern (without the e on the end) is the swiss spelling IIRC, and may be more historically accurate. Also, it would allow for linking. - Triona 5 Sept 2004
You're absolutely correct, the city is called New Bern and not New Berne. I've moved it. ugen64 22:47, Sep 5, 2004 (UTC) Thanks, I believe both spellings have historically been used. The version without the e on the end is now more common, but both versions are still readily recognized. - Triona 5 Sept 2004
You have an error in the first sentnence of the Battle section. Fort Macon did not fall until April 26, 1862 after the fall of New Bern and the other coastal cities and towns of North Carolina. Suspect the original writer met to say Morehead City rather than Fort Macon in the opening sentence. Morehead City fell on March 22, 1862 and its capture along with the capture of Beaufort which fell on March 25, 1862 opened the door for the seige of Fort Macon.
In the preliminaries section, it talks about the northern part of the coast, including Cape Lookout. Cape Lookout is in the very much in the southern part of the North Carolina coast.
13:02, 29 June 2010 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by Ans0729 (talk • contribs)
Cape Lookout was the southern limit of the defensive district that extended to the Virginia border. The adjective "northern" applies to the district, which was indeed north of that covering the rest of the coast. PKKloeppel (talk) 23:51, 29 June 2010 (UTC)
This Month in New Bern History – March 2021
While the inhumanity of war is clear, sometimes acts of humanity during war take us by surprise. One such example is that of Confederate Captain Mayo and his captor, Union Major W. B. Lowell. This is their story.
A map of the battlefield, based on one prepared for General Branch, showing location of Fort Ellis
On March 14, 1862 while the Battle of New Bern raged, four miles south of New Bern stood Fort Ellis, a Confederate fort on the Neuse River where Brinson School currently stands.
Commanding the fort was Captain John Micajah Mayo of the NC 2nd Artillery Regiment, Co A (also known as the NC 36th Regiment, Company F, nicknamed "The Pamlico Artillery"). When the Federal troops broke through the Confederate defenses on the battlefield, General Branch rode on horseback in great haste to the fort and ordered Mayo to destroy his guns and magazine. With over 3,000 pounds of powder and 500 loaded shells in the magazine, it was critical that this ammunition not fall into the hands of the Union Army.
Time was short – the Union was approaching. Quickly Captain Mayo sent his men out of the fort and away from danger and lit the trail to the explosives himself. Unfortunately, he was not far enough away from the blast site when it ignited, causing a massive detonation, described as the largest explosion of the battle. By all estimates, Mayo was thrown at least 100 feet through the air. Both of his legs were broken, his flesh and eyes severely burned, and his body badly mangled. He was reported as being killed.
James Micajah Mayo, courtesy Find A Grave
That night Captain Mayo was found by Major W. B. Lowell of the 11th Connecticut Infantry who was immediately drawn to this man and the courage he displayed, sacrificing himself for the mission instead of risking his men. Major Lowell had Mayo moved through Union lines to the hospital where he was treated by Dr. James B. Whitcomb. Major Lowell greatly admired Mayo’s heroism and told fellow officers, “He’s our prisoner, of course, but he shall never need a friend so long as I live. He voluntarily faced that terrible death rather than require it of one of his men." 1
Lowell visited Captain Mayo every day, wrote dictated letters to Mayo’s mother, read out loud and played the violin for hours. One evening, while grasping Lowell’s hand, Mayo stated, “It seems impossible that we were ever enemies, a brother could not have been kinder nor more self-sacrificing.” 2 Despite his severe injuries, Mayo was discharged from the hospital after six months. Impressed by this young Confederate officer, Union General Ambrose Burnside arranged to dine with Mayo before his departure and personally arranged for a special escort to return him to his family farm in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, where he continued to recuperate.
Amazingly, Captain Mayo recovered and extended his service, this time with the NC 4th Cavalry where he was appointed a Major. At the battle of Upperville, VA in June 1863, he was captured and sent to prison. He spent time at two prisons until February 1865 when he was transferred to City Point, VA for exchange. While he was a prisoner at Johnson’s Island Military Prison near Sandusky, OH, he kept a detailed journal of prison life. He wrote two volumes, one of which, August 1863 - March 1864 is in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. It is deemed to be one of the best accounts of prison life during the Civil War written by either side in the conflict. The other has been lost.
After the war Mayo returned home to Edgecombe County, NC to practice law (prior to the war, he had studied law at the University of Virginia). He married Florence Lyon and had 8 children. In 1886 he moved with his family to Ocala, Florida and became a land speculator and officer for a new railroad looking to expand its services.
Meanwhile, Major W. B. Lowell wrote to a Confederate Veteran Magazine, in which he told the story of his meeting and becoming friends with Mayo. He related, “I hope he lived through the war if he was ever able to go in again and if alive will write me. …we always found him a gentleman and a man of most wonderful nerve. 3
Unfortunately, that reunion was not to be, as Mayo was killed by a train in 1897 in Florence, SC. He was buried on the old Mayo farm near Whitakers, NC. His grave was unmarked until a memorial service in 2000 conducted by Camp 771 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans from Wilson, NC unveiled an official Veterans Grave Marker for Major James Micajah Mayo.
In a little town near the Florida Panhandle is located the county seat of Lafayette County - Mayo, Florida. The plaque in front of the local Court House commemorates the fact that the town is named for Confederate officer James Micajah Mayo. One of his sons, Nathan Mayo, was the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture for 37 years, the longest tenure in the office’s history.
If you would like to hear more about Captain Mayo and other powerful stories of courage and conviction, please join us at the New Bern Historical Society’s Lantern Tour at the New Bern Battlefield site on April 9-10. Click here for details.
1,2 On the Field of Honor, Annah Robinson Watson, 1902, Sprague Publishing, pages 69, 71.
3 Confederate Veteran Magazine, "Thrilling Story by a Union Veteran," Vol 3, 1895, page 383.
War of the Rebellion: Serial 009 Page 0249 Chapter XX. BATTLE OF NEW BERNE, N. C.
seventh North Carolina troops Sloan's regiment Brem's, Edelin's, Whitford's, Mayo's, Herring's, Leecraft's, and Sutton's companies.
Colonel Campbell is instructed to guard the river shore, and if he should be hard pressed you will send him such re-enforcements as you can spare. I will have two regiments in reserve. My headquarters will be on the Beaufort road, in the rear of the batteries. Have all your troops in position by daybreak. If compelled to fall back from the river shore and occupy Fort Thompson breastwork, you will hold so much of it as extends from the old Beaufort road to the river.
[Inclosure Numbers 2.]
HEADQUARTERS DISTRICT OF PAMLICO,
March 12, 1862-8.30 p. m.
Colonel R. P. CAMPBELL, Commanding:
It is presumed that the following troops have reported to you, to wit: Colonels Vance's and Sinclair's regiments Captains Latham's, McRae's, Harding's, and Mallett's companies, and Colonel Spruill's cavalry. Send off couriers to-night, if you have no already done so, and give them orders. Colonel Sinclair's regiment is already at Fisher's Landing. That is the only body of troops that I have moved. Colonel Avery and Lieutenant-Colonel Haywood constitute the reserve, and will receive their orders directly from me.
You had better gather your force near you before daybreak. If the enemy attempt a landing, as he probably will in the morning, resist him with all the force you can bring to bear. If compelled to fall back, occupy so much of the Fort Thompson breastwork as extends from the Beaufort road to an impassable swamp on the extreme right. Guard well the Beaufort road where it crosses the breastwork. If the enemy attempt to land at Fisher's Landing, Sinclair will need strong re-enforcement. Explain to your officers that when they fall back they are to rally behind the Fort Thompson breastwork.
I have just directed that a cavalry company be sent to you immediately, so that you may have abundant couriers by whom to send your orders.
P. S.-My headquarters will be on the Beaufort road, in the rear of the batteries.
[Inclosure Numbers 3.]
HEADQUARTERS FIRST DIVISION,
March 30, 1862.
Major General T. H. HOLMES,
Commanding Department of North Carolina:
GENERAL: I omitted, through inadvertence, to state in my official report of the battle of the 14th a very important movement. When, as stated in my report, an officer came to me from Colonel Clark, of the Militia, and informed me that the enemy were in line of battle in force on his right, I directed him to proceed immediately to Colonel Campbell with the information, and also sent one of my own couriers to guard against a miscarriage.
As soon as the Militia fled my aide-de-camp was sent to Colonel Lee, on the left, with orders to send his own regiment (the Thirty-seventh),
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Map Plan of the Battle of Newberne [!] North Carolina : fought March 14th 1862.
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Battle of New Berne, 14 March 1862 - History
[New Bern and the Civil War by James Edward White III (Arcadia Publishing & The History Press, 2018). Softcover, maps, photographs, illustrations, notes, bibliography, and index. Pages main/total:178/206. ISBN:978-1-62585-992-1. $21.99]
Though weighted toward the Union perspective, the literature associated with the 1862 Burnside Expedition that seized much of the North Carolina coastline is largely satisfying and still growing. A notable exception to this is the scholarship related to Civil War New Bern. Richard Sauers's treatment of the March 14, 1862 Battle of New Bern in 1996's "A Succession of Honorable Victories" remains by far the best examination of the topic however, the several subsequent Confederate efforts to retake that important port city have been poorly addressed by comparison. Attempting to pick up this slack is James Edward White's New Bern and the Civil War. While White dutifully outlines in brief the 1861 capture of the Hatteras forts and the 1862 New Bern battle, his primary focus is on the three failed (perhaps better described as aborted) Confederate attacks on New Bern that occurred during 1863 and 1864.
On a brief background note, the city of New Bern, which is the county seat of Craven County and was colonial North Carolina's capital at one point, has gone through many different spellings during its history. In Civil War era documents the most common spelling is New Berne with an 'e', and the author uses both versions interchangeably in the book.
White's text does a fine job of impressing upon the reader the imposing defensive geography surrounding New Bern, which sits at the confluence of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Indeed, the military topography would lead some to call New Bern "the best fortified town in America," and the integrated defenses would serve the Union garrison well during the war's second half. Federal engineers constructed an extensive network of trench lines, blockhouses, and enclosed forts around the outskirts of New Bern itself. All approaches to the city on both banks of the Neuse and Trent rivers were well covered. Providing visual reinforcement to the author's written descriptions of these defenses are contemporary engineer drawings of the forts as well as archival sketches of several blockhouses, the post watchtower, and other features. With additional support from U.S. Navy gunboats, the combination of natural and man-made defenses at New Bern would prove to be a considerable psychological barrier to assault. As the book demonstrates, the imposing Union works repeatedly overawed Confederate commanders and subordinates at key moments of decision during the 1863-64 attacks.
The first Confederate attempt to reclaim New Bern (the Second Battle of New Bern) took place during the spring of 1863, when a reduced Union presence on the coast prompted Confederate authorities to send a pair of columns toward the city under generals James Pettigrew and Beverly Robertson. The plan was for Pettigrew to attack Fort Anderson (which was situated on the north bank of the Neuse opposite New Bern) while at the same time Robertson would assail the earthworks guarding the direct land approach to the city. During March 13-15, both wings pressed forward. Pettigrew and the reserve artillery detachment promptly surrounded Fort Anderson, and Robertson got tangled up west of New Bern with stubborn Federals defending a section of the Trent Road cut by forest, gullies, and swampland. Both generals declined to press their attacks in the face of determined enemy resistance on land and river, and they withdrew.
The Third Battle of New Bern was fought on February 1-2, 1864. Under the uninspiring overall direction of General George Pickett, the Confederate plan of attack involved four different approaches—three converging infantry columns under Robert Hoke, James Dearing, and Seth Barton and waterborne assault teams led by famed naval officer John Taylor Wood. According to the plan, General Hoke's force would attack New Bern directly, Dearing would overrun Fort Anderson, and Barton would assault the Union defenses along the right bank of the Trent River just south of New Bern. Meanwhile, Wood's marines would row downriver in small boats and use surprise to board and capture the Union gunboats. Nothing went as planned. As it turned out, Hoke defeated an enemy screening force at the Battle of Batchelder's Creek, but both Dearing and Barton declined to attack the Union works fronting them. On the Neuse, Wood was able to capture the USS Underwriter, but the commandeered vessel promptly grounded and had to be destroyed. The elaborately arranged attack was another failure, and the Confederate soldiers and marines withdrew. On a side note, a pair of standalone chapters recount the diversionary February 2, 1864 Confederate attack on Newport Barracks and the same month's infamous hangings at Kinston of a number of captured Union soldiers who were Confederate deserters.
The Fourth Battle of New Bern was fought during a dark period of the war for the Confederates but a bright spot for southern fortunes in eastern North Carolina. A chapter briefly outlines General Hoke's successful combined army-navy assault on Plymouth during April 1864, and another recounts the Union abandonment and destruction of Washington. The final Confederate attempt to recapture New Bern involved another ambitious multi-pronged attack, this time with high hopes for naval support from a pair of ironclads. The CSS Neuse was still unfinished, but the CSS Albemarle dutifully set out for New Bern from recently captured Plymouth. Damaged in transit by Union gunboats, the ironclad would not make it to its destination. It would not matter in the end however, as Hoke, who believed he was only days away from capturing the city, was recalled to Virginia.
Addressing all of these operations in a single 200-page volume precludes a micro-level military examination of events, but White's well-constructed accounts should be detailed enough to satisfy most readers. Well supported by numerous high-quality maps and the volume's generous illustration, White's text ably integrates terrain description and appreciation with solid operational and tactical narrative. Though space limitations in an already tightly packed study probably precluded it, a chapter describing civilian life inside the city and the impact of the large contraband camp established nearby would have made a desirable addition. Curiously, the bibliography lists a rather large collection of unpublished documents, diaries, and letters but only a scattering of these manuscript sources can be found in the chapter notes, which indicates a greater reliance on the O.R. and other published materials of all kinds.
On the analytical front, White is particularly critical of Pettigrew's cautious decision to not assail Fort Anderson during the March 1863 operation, even though the general's determination that he could not hold the fort against the U.S. Navy even if he took it (therefore making the losses incurred wasteful) seems sagacious enough in this reviewer's mind. On the other hand, Pettigrew appears not to have known at the time that Robertson was stymied west of New Bern, and one can argue that pressing the attack was an essential part of the plan. Even so, most Confederate attempts to capture fortified Union river enclaves during the war proved demonstrably ill-advised. Generally speaking, the Confederates lacked the resources and expertise to launch and sustain joint operations, and most Union river post defenses were consciously designed to face landward with a view toward rendering any captured place too hot to hold in the face of massive U.S. naval counterattack. Plymouth was a clear exception to the general rule (it helps to have ironclad support!), with bad to disastrous results similar to those experienced at Helena, Milliken's Bend, and Fort Butler being far more common. The justified later war hesitancy to assault well prepared and defended earthworks should be taken into consideration as well. The author also seems to be highly impressed by Confederate planning during the various operations even though the Civil War record of offensives that relied on the close coordination of a multitude of widely-separated columns is generally not a good one. White is almost certainly correct that a lack of mission enthusiasm on the part of the top field commander, in particular Pickett's uninspired direction of the third battle, probably doomed most of the operations (and undoubtedly contributed to the timidity displayed by some of the key subordinates).
James White's well-composed descriptive accounts of the several attempts by Confederate forces to retake the strategically important port city of New Bern comprise a very welcome and largely satisfying attempt to fill in long-standing gaps in the North Carolina military history of the mid to late Civil War period. Recommended.
1862 March 26: Details of the Battle of New Bern
The latest war news, this week about the Battle of New Bern, which had been fought on March 14, 1862. This is from The Prescott Journal of March 26, 1862.
W A R N E W S
THE GREAT VICTORY!
The Capture of Newbern [sic]
F U L L P A R T I C U L A R S !
DESPERATE FIGHTING ! !
The following are the details of the battle at Newbern [sic] :
Commodore Rowan 1 was in command of the fleet of gunboats, and had sunken vessels, torpedoes, and other rebel obstructions to overcome and pass, but surmounted all with but slight damage to only two of his fifteen vessels. Two brigs, three barks, and ten schooners were sunk by the rebels, above two rebel batteries. The latter were silenced, the sunken vessels passed, and our flag hoisted over the silenced batteries as our force went along. This was on Saturday P. M., and night closed in.
A 10-Inch Columbiad Mounted as a Mortar, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War
Sunday morning a heavy fog set in, but lifted, when our gunboats passed up safely and silenced Fort Thompson with its two heavy Columbiads. Then Fort Ellis with nine guns was captured after pretty brisk fighting, but the rebels fled soon in a panic, and our flag waved over another fort. Only one fort was left to be engaged and Newbern [sic] would be at the mercy of our troops this was Fort Lane—the rebels having enough of the boats, offered little if any resistance and fled. The rebels then fired a large number of scows filled with rosin and turpentine, inteding to float them down and burn our gunboats, but they got stuck and burnt away furiously. The gunboats then shelled the depot and track, but our troops had then crossed and a white flag was hoisted. Our navy did not lose a man.
Operations on land were briefly as follows : Our troops landed twelve miles below Newberne [sic], Gen. Reno’s brigade 3 in the advance. Most of the troops were so anxious to land that nearly every regiment jumped into the water and waded ashore. In less than two hours, after marching two miles, they found deserted rebel camps, with fires burning, and hot rebel breakfast untasted. A breastwork was only passed and the division bivouacked for the night, and early in the morning skirmishing began.
Foster’s brigade, 4 comprising the Massachusetts 24th, 25th, 26th, 23d, with the 10th Connecticut in reserve, were in line, and engaged a twenty gun battery of the rebels on their left flank, who showered grape, canister and shell upon them, also heavy musketry from their infantry.
The second brigade, comprising the 21st Massachusetts, 51st New York, 51st Pennsylvania and 9th New Jersey engaged them on the right, and General Clark’s third brigade 5 took a position in front. The 1st brigade bore the brunt of battle and the 24th Massachusetts soon had Maj. Stevenson and Lieut. Colonel Horton wounded, and the 23d Massachusetts lost Lieutenant Colonel Merritt by a cannon ball carrying away one side of his body. 6
The 10th Connecticut were ordered to support the 27th Massachusetts, which had suffered severely.
The 3d brigade together with the 2d executed a flank movement, and the order to charge bayonets was given.
Battle of New Bern, from “Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War
A hand to hand fight ensued of the most desperate character, when our troops drove the rebels out at the point of the bayonet, chasing them out of sight.
The rebels took possession of a railroad train and fled from Newbern [sic], burning some bridges, the Washington House, some private dwellings, and a number of whiskey and turpentine distilleries.
Slaves had commenced pillaging but were stopped.
A number of Unionists were found in the city.
1. Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden, Chicago: McDonnell, 1866-68 (available in the UWRF Archives E 468.7 .G87 1866).
2. Stephen Clegg Rowan (1808-1890) was a career navy man. At the start of the Civil War, he was captain of the Pawnee, and made gallant attempts to relieve Fort Sumter. He assisted in the Battle of Hatteras Inlet, the Battle of Roanoke Island, and provided support at the Battle of Elizabeth City and Edenton.
3. Brigadier General Jesse Lee Reno (1823-1862), a career military officer, led the 2nd Brigade. He will be killed on September 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain. The city of Reno, Nevada, is named for him.
4. Brigadier General John Gray Foster (1823-1874), another career military officer, led the 1st Brigade. From 1862-1863 he will command the Department of North Carolina.
5. Brigadier General John Grubb Parke (1827-1900), an Army engineer, led the 3rd Brigade. William Smith Clark (1826-1886) was the lieutenant colonel of the 21st Massachusetts Infantry.
6. Robert H. Stevenson William L. Horton Henry Merritt.
Battles for New Berne Reenactment: March 5 – 6 (Saturday: Part 1 of 2)
The Battles for New Berne reenactment weekend is being sponsored by the Rains Brothers Camp 1370 of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in New Bern, NC. The reenactment will consist of two battles, one on Saturday (the Battle of New Berne) and one on Sunday (the Battle of Batchelder’s Creek). The Battle of New Berne took place March 14, 1862, and the Battle of Batchelder’s Creek took place February 1, 1864.
The reenactment is held on Historic Belair Plantation, eight miles west of New Bern. It is the last and largest brick plantation country house of the 18th century in North Carolina. It was built about 1772 and is a majestic three-story brick building, reached by a long drive, lined by lavish old cedars. Belair was spared during the Civil War by General Burnside who was a Mason, as was the owner of the plantation. The written order to spare the plantation, dated March 20, 1862, still hangs on the wall at Bellair. The purpose of this event is to educate the public:
- That North Carolinans(Tar Heels) came in defense of the Old North State at New Berne against the invading Federal army during the First Battle of New Berne
- That more than one battle was held in Craven County during the War Between the States
- That while the Confederate battle flag was not flow at the first Battle of New Berne, it was flown at other battles in Craven County during the War and
- That the Battle of Batchelder’s (Batchelor’s) Creek was very important in its attempt to retake New Berne in 1864.
The Battle of New Berne – Saturday, March 5th The Battle of New Berne was fought about 5 miles south of New Bern along Highway 70, March 14, 1862. It was part of General Burnside’s Expedition to eastern North Carolina where his goal was to capture the coastal areas of North Carolina including the Outer Banks, Roanoke Island, New Berne, and Fort Macon. After capturing Roanoke Island, his forces headed to New Berne, which was the second largest port in North Carolina. The capture of New Berne would provide Burnside with a base to operate throughout eastern North Carolina for further attacks on Washington, Plymouth, and Kinston. In addition, it would provide a coaling station for the Federal blockade fleet patrolling off the coast of North Carolina. The Battle of New Berne was a great victory for the Federals with the citizens of New Berne fleeing the town with food left on the tables and parts of the town in flames. Children’s Battle – 4:30pm: An opportunity for children to participate in a mock battle. They may purchase wooden rifles at the site and working with a number of re-enactors, recreate a mock battle.
Speakers and Events
9:30am – The Battle of New Berne – Grover Godwin
10:15am – The Kinston Hangings – Dennis Jones
11:00am – Battle of Newport Barracks – Eric A. Lindblade The
Battle of New Berne Scenario (2:30pm): This scenario will outline the battle of New Berne on Saturday so you will know what is happening throughout the battle.
General L. "O'B." Branch was in charge of the defenses of New Bern, NC. The first night, the unit camped at the fairgrounds and the next day it was ordered to the Fort Thompson Line. Colonel Reuben P. Campbell of the 7th Regiment commanded all the troops on the right side of this line. March 14, 1862, the Union forces advanced and penetrated the Confederate line to the right of the 7th Regiment.
The 7th Regiment itself was under the direct command of LtCol (Edward Graham) Haywood. His troops were posted to the right of the county road. The battle started by firing a Parrot gun into some Federal horsemen, dispersing them. At 7:20 a.m., the firing was general from all over. The Militia under Colonel H.J.B. Clark gave way to the advancing Union forces and fled the field under panic. The Union forces then started up the trenches that had been vacated by the Militia. This caused a flanking of Colonel James Sinclair's 35th Regiment. Sinclair was order to charge the advancing forces with bayonets but he failed to form his men and left the field confused. This left LtCol Campbell to hold the advancing Union forces with his remaining army which included the 7th Regiment and Company F. Haywood was ordered to leave the breastworks and conduct a bayonet charge at the enemy forces advancing in a column. Haywood and the 7th Regiment charged the enemy.
The Union forces were driven back at a loss of many troops and equipment and even re-capturing Brem's Battery that had fallen into the enemy hands. With the Federal troops routed, the 7th Regiment formed again for another attack by Union Forces which appeared to their right with increased numbers. Most of Colonel Haywood's batteries were silenced with the exception of one and with this and the 7th Regiment, he attempted to hold the breastworks. Eventually with, the loss of most of his batteries, he ordered the 7th Regiment to fall back. Under heavy fire, they retreated and re-formed. Seeing no hope of removing the Union forces from the field, Colonel Campbell retired from the battle and New Bern was lost. General Branch moved his forces to Kinston, NC. The 7th Regiment lost 6 killed, 15 wounded and 30 missing.
In General Branch's after action report he had high praise for the 7th North Carolina's actions, saying:
"The gallant 7th met them with the bayonet and drove them headlong over the parapet, inflicting heavy loss upon them as they fled but soon returning with heavy reinforcements, not less than five or six regiments, the 7th was obliged to yield, falling back slowly and in order. Seeing the enemy behind the breastwork, without a single man to place in the gap through which he was entering and finding the day lost, my next care was to secure the retreat."
Legends of America
After the Civil War began, North Carolina joined the Confederacy with some reluctance on May 20, 1861. It was the second-to-last state to leave the Union. The reluctance stemmed because its population was divided in their loyalties between the North and the South and remained divided throughout the war. While seven states seceded as a direct result of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency, North Carolina joined Virginia, Tennessee, and Arkansas in initially choosing to remain within the Union. However, after Confederate forces in Charleston, South Carolina fired on the Federal garrison at Fort Sumter in April 1861, North Carolina’s position changed and opted to become one of the eleven states of the Confederacy rather than fight against its neighboring states.
During the war, of the approximately 150,000 white men in North Carolina between the ages of 15 and 49 — almost 125,000 (or more than 80%) served in the Confederate Army at some point. However, some 24,000 of these men deserted their military units. Between 33,000 and 35,000 died in battle, of wounds, or of disease between 1861 and 1865. Meanwhile, at least 10,000 white and an additional 5,000 black North Carolinians joined Union army units and fought against the Confederacy. Thousands more North Carolinians refused to be conscripted into Confederate military service or to support the state’s war effort by paying taxes or contributing material.
Tensions between Unionists and Confederate forces in North Carolina culminated in two mass killings. The first occurred in late January or early February of 1863 in Madison County when members of the 64th North Carolina infantry killed 13 citizens who were suspected of being Unionists and deserters from the Confederate Army. A year later in February 1864, Major General George E. Pickett hanged 22 North Carolinians captured fighting for the Union after they had deserted the Confederacy.
Fighting occurred sporadically in the state beginning in September 1861, when Union Major General Ambrose Burnside set about capturing key ports and cities, notably Roanoke Island and New Bern. In 1864, the Confederates assumed the offensive, temporarily reconquering Plymouth, while the Union army launched several attempts to seize Fort Fisher. One of the last remaining major Confederate armies, under Joseph E. Johnston, surrendered near Bennett Place to Union General William Sherman, who spared North Carolina the destruction he had inflicted on South Carolina.
North Carolina Campaigns & Battles:
Blockade of the Carolina Coast – August-December 1861 – The Union blockade, which included the Blockade of the Carolina Coast, was a naval strategy to prevent the Confederacy from trading. The blockade was proclaimed by President Abraham Lincoln in April 1861 and required the monitoring of more than 3,000 miles of Atlantic and Gulf coastline.
Battle of Hatteras Inlet, North Carolina
Hatteras Inlet Batteries – August 28-29, 1861 – Also called the Battle of Fort Clark and Battle of Fort Hatteras, this battle took place in Dare County on August 28-29, 1861. On August 26, an amphibious expedition led by Major General Benjamin F. Butler and Flag-Officer Silas Stringham, embarked from Fort Monroe, Virginia to capture Hatteras Inlet, an important haven for blockade-runners. On the 28th, while the navy bombarded Forts Clark and Hatteras, Union troops came ashore and attacked the rear of the Confederate batteries. On August 29, Colonel William F. Martin surrendered the Confederate garrison of 670 men. The Federals lost only one man. Butler returned to Fort Monroe, leaving the captured forts garrisoned. This movement was part of Union efforts to seize coastal enclaves from which to enforce the blockade. The Union victory resulted in three Union casualties and 770 Confederate.
Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition – January-July 1862 – This expedition was a series of engagements fought along the North Carolina Coast between February and June 1862. It was aimed at closing blockade-running ports inside the Outer Banks. The amphibious operation was carried out primarily by New England and North Carolina troops under Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside and assisted by the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron under Captain Louis M. Goldsborough.
Roanoke Island, North Carolina Charge
Roanoke Island – February 7-8, 1862 – Also called the Battle of Fort Huger, this battle took place on February 7-8, 1862 in Dare County as part of Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition. On February 7, 1862, Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside landed 7,500 men on the southwestern side of Roanoke Island, North Carolina in an amphibious operation launched from Fort Monroe, Virginia. The next morning, supported by gunboats, the Federals assaulted the Confederate forts on the narrow waist of the island, driving back and out-maneuvering Brigadier General Henry Wise’s outnumbered command. After losing less than 100 men, the Confederate commander on the field, Colonel H.M. Shaw, surrendered about 2,500 soldiers and 32 guns. Burnside had secured an important outpost on the Atlantic Coast, tightening the blockade. The Union victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 2,907 including 37 killed, 214 wounded, and 13 missing from the Union, and 23 killed, 58 wounded, and 500 captured from the Confederates.
New Berne – March 14, 1862 – This battle took place in Craven County on March 14, 1862. On March 11, 1862, Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside’s command embarked from Roanoke Island to rendezvous with Union gunboats at Hatteras Inlet for an expedition against New Berne. On March 13, the fleet sailed up the Neuse River and disembarked infantry on the river’s south bank to approach the New Berne defenses. The Confederate defense was commanded by Brigadier General Lawrence Branch. On March 14, John G. Foster’s, Jesse Reno’s, and John G. Parke’s brigades attacked along the railroad and after four hours of fighting drove the Confederates out of their fortifications. The Federals captured nine forts and 41 heavy guns and occupied a base which they would hold to the end of the war, in spite of several Confederate attempts to recover the town. The Union victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 1,080.
Fort Macon, North Carolina Surrender
Fort Macon – March 23-April 26, 1862 – This long battle took place in Carteret County, North Carolina between March 23 and April 26, 1862. In late March 1862, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside’s army advanced on Fort Macon, a third system casemated masonry fort that commanded the channel to Beaufort, 35 miles southeast of New Berne. The Union force invested the fort with siege works and, on April 26, opened an accurate fire on the fort, which soon breached the masonry walls. Within a few hours, the fort’s scarp began to collapse, and the Confederates hoisted a white flag. This action demonstrated the inadequacy of masonry forts against large-bore, rifled artillery. The Union victory resulted in Union casualties of 10 and Confederate – 480.
South Mills – April 19, 1862 – Also called the Battle of Camden, this battle was also part of Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition and took place in Camden County on April 19, 1862. After learning that the Confederates were building ironclads at Norfolk, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside planned an expedition to destroy the Dismal Swamp Canal locks to prevent the transfer of the ships to Albemarle Sound. He entrusted the operation to Brigadier General Jesse Lee Reno’s command, which embarked on transports from Roanoke Island on April 18. By midnight, the convoy reached Elizabeth City and began disembarking troops. On the morning of April 19, Reno marched north on the road to South Mills. At the crossroads a few miles below South Mills, elements of Confederate Colonel Ambrose Wright’s command delayed the Federals until dark. Reno then abandoned the expedition and withdrew during the night to the transports at Elizabeth City. The transports carried Reno’s troops to New Berne where they arrived on April 22. The inconclusive battle resulted in total estimated casualties of 150.
51st Infantry Regiment
The following is taken from New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.
This regiment was organized in New York city October 11, 1861, by the consolidation of the Scott and the Union Rifles with the Shepard Rifles. The New York Rifles, Col. Chas. W. LeGendre, had already been consolidated with the Shepard Rifles, Colonel Ferrero, and part of the Empire Zouaves with the Union Rifles, Col. Anton Martin Lichtercost. Other incomplete organizations were added, Henry Z. Drew's company of Mechanic Rifles becoming part of Company C Company A, U. S. Voltigeurs or Rangers, Col. Albert C. Ramsay, Company D and a portion of Col. L. Ayer's Yates Rifles part of other companies of the regiment. The Scott Rifles were recruited by Col. W. R. McDonald, under authority from the War Department, dated July 22, 1861. Col. Edward Ferrero was placed in command of the regiment, which, recruited in New York city, was mustered in the service of the United States for three years between July 27 and October 23, 1861. At the expiration of its term of service, the men entitled thereto were mustered out and the regiment retained in service. June 3, 1865, the enlisted men of the 109th Infantry, not discharged with their regiment, were transferred to it.
The regiment left the State October 29, 1861 served in the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, Department of North Carolina, from November, 1861 in the same brigade and division, 9th Corps, from June, 1862 in the 1st Division, 23d Corps, from September, 1863 in the District of Kentucky, Department of Ohio, from January, 1864 in the 2d Division, 9th Corps, from February, 1864 in the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Corps, from March, 1864 in the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Corps, from April, 1864 as Engineers of the Division, from May 26, 1864 in the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, 9th Corps, Army of the Potomac, from July 2, 1864 and it was honorably discharged and mustered out, commanded by Col. John G. Wright, July 25, 1865, at Alexandria, Va.
During its service the regiment lost by death, killed in action, 7 officers, 130 enlisted men of wounds received in action, 2 officers, 63 enlisted men of disease and other causes, 2 officers, 181 enlisted men total, 11 officers, 374 enlisted men aggregate, 385 of whom 1 officer, 72 enlisted men died in the hands of the enemy.
The following is taken from The Union army: a history of military affairs in the loyal states, 1861-65 -- records of the regiments in the Union army -- cyclopedia of battles -- memoirs of commanders and soldiers. Madison, WI: Federal Pub. Co., 1908. volume II.
Fifty-first Infantry.&mdashCols., Edward Ferrero, Robert B. Potter, Charles W. LeGendre, Gilbert McKibben, John G. Wright Lieut.-Cols., Robert B. Potter, Charles W. LeGendre, R. Charlton Mitchell, Samuel H. Benjamin, John G. Wright, Thomas B. Marsh Majs., Robert B. Potter, Charles W. LeGendre, R. Charlton Mitchell, John G. Wright, Thomas B. Marsh, George W. Whitman. The 51st regiment contained six companies of the Shepard Rifles, two companies of the Scott Rifles and two companies of the Union Rifles and was organized in New York city, where it was mustered into the service of the United States July 27 to Oct. 23, 1861, for a three years' term. It left the state for Washington on Oct. 31, with 850 members, was assigned to the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, Gen. Burnside's North Carolina expedition, and embarked at Annapolis Jan. 6, 1862, for Roanoke island. The first active service of the regiment was at Roanoke island, where it fought with courage and steadiness. The battle of New Berne followed in March, in which the 51st suffered the most severely of any regiment engaged&mdash71 men being killed or wounded. Until July 6, 1862, the command was quartered at New Berne, when it was ordered to return to Virginia, and upon arriving at Newport News was assigned to the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, 9th corps. It participated in Gen. Pope's campaign in August and September was present at Kelly's ford was closely engaged at Sulphur springs, the second Bull Run and Chantilly, with a loss in the campaign of 89 in killed, wounded and missing. The regiment was withdrawn to Washington, but soon took the field for the Maryland campaign was active at South mountain and Antietam, losing in the latter battle 87 killed or wounded in a most brilliant charge across the stone bridge, which alone would have made the fighting qualities of the regiment renowned. In November, the 51st was engaged at Jefferson, Va., and Warrenton springs and late in the month moved to Fredericksburg, where it took part in the battle in December with a loss of 73 members. After sharing the hardships of Burnside's "Mud March," the regiment established winter quarters near White Oak Church, but was soon transferred to the Department of the West and with the 9th corps arrived at Vicksburg in June. It participated in the siege operations and the pursuit to Jackson, Miss. then proceeded to Tennessee, where it participated in the battle of Blue springs was active at Campbell's station, and assisted in the defense of Knoxville during the siege. In Dec., 1863, a large proportion of the command reenlisted and received veteran furlough, rejoining the regiment with new recruits at Knoxville. In Feb., 1864, the 9th corps was ordered to join the Army of the Potomac at Brandy Station, where it arrived May 1. In the Wilderness campaign the loss of the regiment was 79 during the first two days, including Col. LeGendre, who was wounded in the eye. The command distinguished itself for heroism in the terrible month which followed then proceeded to Petersburg was active at the mine explosion, the Weldon railroad, Poplar Spring Church, Hatcher's run, at Fort Stedman, and in the final assault on April 2, 1865. The original members not reenlisted were mustered out during the autumn of 1864 and the veterans at Alexandria, July 25, 1865. The total enrollment of the regiment was 3,050 and it received in June, 1865, the veterans and recruits of the l09th N. Y. Its total loss in all its engagements was 925, while 202 died from wounds and 385 from accident, disease or imprisonment. At Peebles' farm, Va., the regiment was surrounded and 332 members captured. Col. Fox in "Regimental Losses" says of the 51st, "Few regiments saw a more active service and none left a more honorable record."
51st Regiment NY Volunteer Infantry | Regimental Color | Civil War
The 51st Regiment, or “Shepard Rifles,” mustered into service for three years by 23 October 1861. When their three year term expired, those entitled…