Civil War Transcendence, Part 56



A long string of islands ran for 2/3 of North Carolina’s eastern boundary, from its northern border down to Beaufort, about 200 miles north of the Georgia border.  These Barrier Islands, as they were called, created a breakwater from the Atlantic Ocean and created inlet sounds that allowed shipping in waters less rough than those of the ocean.  The largest sounds created by the Barrier Islands were the Albemarle Sound and the Pamlico Sound. One of the main entrances to Pamlico Sound from the Atlantic Ocean lay at a break in the Barrier Islands at Hatteras Inlet located adjacent to Hatteras Island. The island was situated just about in the exact middle of North Carolina’s eastern margin and sported two Confederate Forts that protected both the island and the inlet.

Silas Stringham

Capt. Silas Stringham, US Navy

The Union Flotilla and army contingent left Newport News, VA on August 26, 1861, and reached Hatteras Island the same day. Beginning on August 28th, Flag Officer Silas Stringham utilized a new naval tactic in bombarding the forts.  His steam gunships continuously moved in a circle firing at the two Confederate Forts. Wooden sailing frigates were required to drop anchor to steady the ships for any firing at a fort. The Union steam powered gunships were under no such compulsion to drop anchor and come to a halt before firing. Also, the Union gunships had longer range cannon than the Confederate guns and soon battered the Confederate Forts into submission, resulting in the surrender of the forts on August 29, 1861. This accomplished two aspects of Union General-in-Chief Scott’s plan. It allowed the Union Navy access to Pamlico Sound, and after the occupation of the forts by the Union Army forces, helped to start closing off access by the Confederate blockade runners to Confederate ports.

The Hatteras Expedition was such a success that a more ambitious expedition was planned for November, 1861. The target was Port Royal, the best harbor located south of Chesapeake Bay, situated near Beaufort, S.C.


About Civil War Reflections

Vernon has been a Civil War buff since childhood, but had been inactive in Civil War history for over two decades. However, in the early 1990s his interest was rekindled after watching Ken Burns’ “Civil War Documentary” on PBS. He particularly became interested in the Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg) and decided to learn more about this epic struggle.
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