These pages are dedicated to the memory of all the men from North Carolina that fought in the Civil War.
Battle of Roanoke Island (The Burnside Expedition) Raleigh News and Observer September 16, 1881 The death of Senator Burnside on Tuesday last, reminding us of the entrance into our waters, in 1862, of the fleet placed in his charge, we interviewed one who was captured at the battle above named and gathered the following particulars. The Burnside Expedition sailed from Fortress Monroe, under the command of Commodore Goldsborough and General Burnside, on the 12th January, 1862. The forts on Hatteras Island having been taken by the Federals the preceding fall, the expedition put in at that point, several of the larger transports experiencing considerable difficulty in getting over the “swash”. There was some diversity of opinion respecting the point to be struck, but Roanoke Island being the key to all the northeastern section, including, among other rivers, the Roanoke and Chowan, the descent of the armada upon this point was daily looked for. This being early in the war, the works had not attained that strength of character which characterized them later in the struggle, so it can be said that the island was poorly fortified. The shore batteries were so far apart that there cold be no support, while the redoubt had nothing to prevent an enfilade fire. The Confederate troops numbered, including the sick list, between 2,000 and 3,000 men and were composed of the 8th and 31st North Carolina Regiments, a few companies from Wise’s Legion and a battalion of the 17th North Carolina Regiment, the last named (two companies) garrisoning the fort which was soon to be exposed to a terrific fire. On the 5th February, the expedition was reported to be moving in the direction of Roanoke Island, and on the morning of the 6th, the armada came to anchor a few miles distant. The long roll sent the garrisons of the forts and batteries to their posts, while the other troops were properly disposed. General Henry A. Wise not being on the island, the command devolved upon Col. H.M. Shaw, of the 8th North Carolina. A fog obscured the fleet during the greater part of the day, and night found it still at anchor. On the morning of the 7th, the expedition moved, being properly divided. It was indeed a grand sight. Croatan Sound being some four miles wide, there was plenty of room for maneuvering by the vessels. Those armed numbered the rise of twenty and were of different rig. The large “double-ender” was conspicuous, then the ferry boat, and finally the large sloop, favored by a gentle breeze, ranged in battle array. The transports were of large size, the bay steamers and the steamship S.R. Spaulding, being among them. The division of armed steamers and sailing vessels came into action at once, while the transports, of course, kept at a safe distance. Fort Bartow, as before stated, could get no support. A few Confederate gunboats were off the island, and for a while only a naval battle was had. But soon the firing became general. Nothing could be heard above the roar of the guns. The fort steadily replied with four guns en barbette, though at times one embrasure gun could be brought to bear. The attack being upon the flank, several embrasure guns could not be used. The bombardment was kept up till near night, the Federals landing some 15,000 troops during the afternoon. The landing was effected under a heavy shelling of the woods and was not opposed. During the night, the artificers repaired the fort, while the worn out garrison buried their dead, removed the wounded, or slept in the few remaining houses of their comfortable winter quarters, burned early in the attack. The morning of the 8th came and officers and men were at their posts, but it soon became apparent that but little more fighting between the fleet and the fort was to be done. A desultory firing took the place of the incessant bombardment of the day before. The great body of the fleet had hauled off to await the result of the fight on shore, soon to take place. The reports of the light artillery, mountain howitzers and rifles were next heard. The redoubt, commanding the main road, was being attacked. After several hours’ fighting, it was flanked, and the Confederate forces fell back to the north end of the island, the garrisons of the fort first dismantling their guns. Arriving at Col. Shaw’s camp, it was soon ascertained that there was no alternative but to surrender. Col. Wharton J. green had landed after the position of the Confederates had been turned, and he and his command became prisoners along with the rest. A flag of truce was sent out by Col. Shaw and the bearer of it soon returned, accompanied by a Massachusetts major. A short conference was had; General Foster appeared and the surrender was made to him, he remarking that while General Burnside was in general command, he (Foster) commanded the forces that had landed. He at the same time assured Col. Shaw that his officers and men should be treated as prisoners of war. In about two weeks the prisoners were paroled and carried to Elizabeth City. Such of the Confederate gunboats as were not destroyed in the taking of the island, endeavored to make their escape to Norfolk by way of the Dismal Swamp Canal. These were pursued and several destroyed. Edenton was occupied by Federals from this expedition on the 9th, and on the 10th the Federal forces from 14 gunboats, commanded by Capt. Rowan, occupied Elizabeth City, after destroying a battery on the banks of Pasquetank River, together with several gunboats. In this last naval battle, Captain Cooke, Confederate Navy, was complimented by officers of the United States Navy, for his bravery. He took part in a hand-to-hand fight, his vessel being boarded. The sounds and rivers were soon full of gunboats. On the 20th, Winton, the county seat of Hertford, was partially burned. On the 14th March, 1862, General Burnside’s forces attacked and carried a line of redoubts near Newbern and thus captured the city. Then followed the occupation, on the 21st of the town of Washington; 23rd, Morehead, and the capture on the 26th April, of Fort Macon. On the 8th July, General Burnside’s forces effected a junction with General McClellan’s command on the James River, and on the 26th August, he relinquished command of the Department of North Carolina and was succeeded by General Foster. General Burnside was a successful soldier while in this state. After he left he was not successful but he at all times bore a good character for integrity.