North Carolina in the Civil War

Brigadier General John G. Foster

Brigadier General John G. Foster

Goldsborough Expedition – December 1862 – Also known as Foster’s Raid, the Goldsboro Expedition was a series of battles initiated by Union General John G. Foster from New Bern to Goldsboro, with military objectives of destroying the railroads, depots, and the vital Goldsboro Bridge. The action was designed to disrupt the supply line to the north and support General Ambrose Burnside’s attack at Fredericksburg, Virginia

Kinston – December 14, 1862 – The first battle of the Goldsborough Expedition, this took place in Lenoir County after a Union expedition led by Brigadier General John G. Foster left New Berne in December to disrupt the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad at Goldsborough. The advance was stubbornly contested by Confederate General Nathan Evans’s Brigade near Kinston Bridge on December 14, but the Confederates were outnumbered and withdrew north of the Neuse River in the direction of Goldsborough. General Foster continued his movement the next day, taking the River Road, south of the Neuse River. The Union victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 685.

White Hall – December 16, 1862 – Also called the Battle of White Hall Ferry, this battle took place in Wayne County, North Carolina, as part of the Goldsborough Expedition. On December 16, 1862, Brigadier General John G. Foster’s Union troops reached White Hall where Confederate Brigadier General Beverly Robertson’s brigade was holding the north bank of the Neuse River. The Federals demonstrated against the Confederates for much of the day, attempting to fix them in position, while the main Union column continued toward the railroad. The inconclusive battle resulted in total casualties of 150.

Goldsborough Bridge – December 17, 1862 – This battle took place in Wayne County, North Carolina as part of the Goldsborough Expedition. On December 17, 1862, Brigadier General John G. Foster’s expedition reached the railroad near Everettsville and began destroying the tracks north toward the Goldsborough Bridge. Confederate Brigadier General Thomas Clingman’s brigade delayed the advance but was unable to prevent the destruction of the bridge. His mission accomplished, Foster returned to New Berne where he arrived on the 20th. The Union victory resulted in estimated casualties of 220.

Confederate Generals Lee and Longstreet

Confederate Generals Lee and Longstreet

Longstreet’s Tidewater Operations – February-May 1863 – In 1863, Lieutenant General James Longstreet was placed in command of the Confederate Department of Virginia and North Carolina. He was given several goals — to protect Richmond, support Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, forage and gather supplies for the Confederate armies, and retake, or capture, the forts along the Virginia and North Carolina Coast.

Fort Anderson – March 13-15, 1863 – Also called the Battle of Deep Gully, this skirmish took place in Craven County. When Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet took charge of the Department of Virginia and North Carolina on February 25, 1863, he directed Major General D.H. Hill, commander of the North Carolina District, to advance on the Union stronghold of New Berne with about 12,000 men. Major General William H.T. Whiting, who commanded the Wilmington garrison, refused to cooperate. After an initial success at Deep Gully on March 13, Hill marched against the well-entrenched Federals at Fort Anderson on March 14-15. Hill was forced to retire upon the arrival of Union gunboats. The city’s garrison was heavily reinforced, and Hill withdrew to threaten Washington, North Carolina. The Union victory resulted in total casualties of seven.

Washington – March 30-April 20, 1863  – This battle took place in Beaufort County when Confederate Major General D.H. Hill moved against the Federal garrison of Washington, North Carolina. By March 30, the town was ringed with fortifications, but the Confederates were unable to shut off supplies and reinforcements arriving by ship. After a week of confusion and mismanagement, Hill was maneuvered out of his siegeworks by Brigadier General John G. Foster and withdrew on April 15. The inconclusive battle resulted in estimated casualties of 100.

Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina

Battle of Plymouth, North Carolina

Operations Against Plymouth – April-May 1864 – While the Confederates were having some recent battlefield successes in Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee sent Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke to North Carolina in April 1864 in an attempt to recapture strategic Southern forts and ports along the coast. Although the campaign was successful, other events soon required Hoke to abandon all military activities and return to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. The removal of Hoke’s force and the destruction of the Confederate Ironclad Albemarle allowed both Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina to fall back into Union hands.

Plymouth – April 17-20, 1864 – In a combined operation with the CSS ram Albemarle, Confederate forces under Major General Robert F. Hoke, attacked the Federal garrison at Plymouth on April 17. On April 19, the ram appeared in the river, sinking the Smithfield, damaging the Miami, and driving off the other Union ships supporting the Plymouth garrison. Confederate forces captured Fort Comfort, driving defenders into Fort Williams. On the 20th, the garrison surrendered. The Confederate victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 2,834.

Albemarle Sound – May 5, 1864 – Taking place in and Washington Counties of North Carolina, this battle was part of the Operations against Plymouth Campaign. On May 5, 1864, the Confederate ship Albemarle, commanded by J.W. Cooke,  fought seven blockading Union ships to a draw at the mouth of the Roanoke River. During the fight, Captain Melancton Smith and the Federal troops recaptured the converted steamer Bombshell and the USS Sassacus was badly damaged. The inconclusive battle resulted in an estimated 88 total casualties.

Attack on Fort Fisher, North Carolina

Battle of Fort Fisher, North Carolina

Expedition against Fort Fisher – December 1864

Fort Fisher –  December 7-27, 1864 – In December 1864, Union Major General Benjamin Butler was relieved of command of the Army of the James and assigned to lead an amphibious expedition against Fort Fisher, North Carolina which protected Wilmington, the South’s last open seaport on the Atlantic coast. Learning that large numbers of Union troops had embarked from Hampton Roads on December 13, Confederate General Robert E. Lee dispatched Major General Robert Hoke’s Division to meet the expected attack on Fort Fisher. On December 24, the Union fleet under Rear Admiral David D. Porter arrived to begin shelling the fort. An infantry division disembarked from transports to test the fort’s defenses. The Federal assault on the fort had already begun when Hoke approached, discouraging further Union attempts. Butler called off the expedition on December 27 and returned to Fort Monroe, Virginia. The Confederate victory resulted in total estimated casualties of 320.