Thursday, March 13, 2014

Battle of New Bern

Today is the 152nd anniversary of the Battle of New Bern, a battle fought during the Civil War as part of the Burnside Expedition. My parents and brother live in New Bern, North Carolina, and the battlefield is not far from their homes. So one day I toured the battlefield.

Battle of New Bern Historic Marker

Just over a month earlier Union General Burnside captured Roanoke Island between the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds. Capturing New Bern, the second largest city in North Carolina, would allow the United States to bottle up the blockade-running ports inside the Outer Banks.

Burnside's troops were accompanied up the Neuse River by the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron. The city was protected by extensive defense works, but Lawrence O. Branch, the Confederate general didn't have enough troops to man them effectively.

Battle of New Bern as illustrated by Harper's Weekly on 5 April 1862; courtesy of Wikipedia

The opposing sides met on this date 152 years ago. It was a fog-shrouded morning and neither side had good information about enemy forces. In addition to being undermanned the Confederate soldiers were under trained, their line broke when Burnside's 4th Rhode Island regiment attacked. The Rebel forces retreated into the city, but were continuously shelled by the Union naval fleet and were unable to reform and ended up fleeing to Kinston some 35 miles west.

General Burnside captured New Bern and it remained in Union control until the end of the war.

Confederate Col. Zebulon Baird Vance, leading the 26th North Carolina regiment participated in the battle. He was the 37th and 43rd governor of North Carolina in office between 1862-1865 and 1877-1879. He also served as a United States Senator from 1879-1894. My cousin's husband, believes he is a descendant of the famous North Carolinian, but I have not yet been able to find the connection.

Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894); courtesy of Wikipedia

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