Battle of Fort Macon, North Carolina

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Battle of Fort Macon

Other Names: None

Location: Carteret County

Campaign: Burnside's North Carolina Expedition (February-June 1862)

Date(s): March 23-April 26, 1862

Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. John G. Parke [US]; Lt. Col. Moses J. White [CS]

Forces Engaged: Parke’s Division of Department of North Carolina, 3rd Division [US]; Fort Macon Garrison [CS]

Fort Macon (Present-day)
Fort Macon North Carolina.jpg
Fort Macon, North Carolina

Estimated Casualties: 490 total (US 10; CS 480)

Description: In late March, Maj. Gen. 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. (See Battle of Fort Macon: A Civil War History.)

Previously, the Union forces had successfully demonstrated its Anaconda Plan by blockading the North Carolina coast, securing the barrier islands and outer banks, and capturing the vital and strategic locations of Hatteras Inlet Batteries, Roanoke Island, and New Bern. The fall of Fort Macon, consequently, was a continuation of the Federal demonstration to strengthen its blockade and secure the North Carolina coast. (See Burnside's North Carolina Expedition.)

Fort Macon, North Carolina
Fort Macon.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Photograph of the 'brick and stone' Fort Macon. Unlike most Civil War era forts which were constructed of earth and sand, Fort Macon was constructed primarily of brick and stone.

Map reflecting the strategic Fort Macon
Fort Macon.jpg
(Click to Enlarge)

Coastal North Carolina in the vicinity of Fort Macon, showing how it dominated the seaward approaches to Morehead City and Beaufort.

Vital Fort Macon (Center) and City of Beaufort Map
Fort Macon Map.jpg
(Library of Congress)

Map of the entrance to Beaufort harbor, N.C., showing the position of Fort Macon and vicinity. See Fort Macon State Park History.

Result(s): Union victory

Sources: National Park Service; Autobiography of General Winfield Scott, New York. 1864.

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in the Carolinas (Hardcover). Description: Dan Morrill relates the experience of two quite different states bound together in the defense of the Confederacy, using letters, diaries, memoirs, and reports. He shows how the innovative operations of the Union army and navy along the coast and in the bays and rivers of the Carolinas affected the general course of the war as well as the daily lives of all Carolinians. He demonstrates the "total war" for North Carolina's vital coastal railroads and ports. In the latter part of the war, he describes how Sherman's operation cut out the heart of the last stronghold of the South. Continued below...

The author offers fascinating sketches of major and minor personalities, including the new president and state governors, Generals Lee, Beauregard, Pickett, Sherman, D.H. Hill, and Joseph E. Johnston. Rebels and abolitionists, pacifists and unionists, slaves and freed men and women, all influential, all placed in their context with clear-eyed precision. If he were wielding a needle instead of a pen, his tapestry would offer us a complete picture of a people at war. Midwest Book Review: The Civil War in the Carolinas by civil war expert and historian Dan Morrill (History Department, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historical Society) is a dramatically presented and extensively researched survey and analysis of the impact the American Civil War had upon the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, and the people who called these states their home. A meticulous, scholarly, and thoroughly engaging examination of the details of history and the sweeping change that the war wrought for everyone, The Civil War In The Carolinas is a welcome and informative addition to American Civil War Studies reference collections.

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Recommended Reading: American Civil War Fortifications (1): Coastal brick and stone forts (Fortress). Description: The 50 years before the American Civil War saw a boom in the construction of coastal forts in the United States of America. These stone and brick forts stretched from New England to the Florida Keys, and as far as the Mississippi River. Continued below...

 At the start of the war some were located in the secessionist states, and many fell into Confederate hands. Although a handful of key sites remained in Union hands throughout the war, the remainder had to be won back through bombardment or assault. This book examines the design, construction and operational history of those fortifications, such as Fort Sumter, Fort Morgan and Fort Pulaski, which played a crucial part in the course of the Civil War.
 

Recommended Reading: Ironclads and Columbiads: The Coast (The Civil War in North Carolina) (456 pages). Description: Ironclads and Columbiads covers some of the most important battles and campaigns in the state. In January 1862, Union forces began in earnest to occupy crucial points on the North Carolina coast. Within six months, Union army and naval forces effectively controlled coastal North Carolina from the Virginia line south to present-day Morehead City. Continued below...

Union setbacks in Virginia, however, led to the withdrawal of many federal soldiers from North Carolina, leaving only enough Union troops to hold a few coastal strongholds—the vital ports and railroad junctions. The South during the Civil War, moreover, hotly contested the North’s ability to maintain its grip on these key coastal strongholds.
 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (175 pages) (North Carolina Division of Archives and History). Description: From the drama of blockade-running to graphic descriptions of battles on the state's islands and sounds, this book portrays the explosive events that took place in North Carolina's coastal region during the Civil War. Topics discussed include the strategic importance of coastal North Carolina, Federal occupation of coastal areas, blockade-running, and the impact of war on civilians along the Tar Heel coast.

 

Recommended Reading: The Civil War on the Outer Banks: A History of the Late Rebellion Along the Coast of North Carolina from Carteret to Currituck With Comments on Prewar Conditions and an Account of (251 pages). Description: The ports at Beaufort, Wilmington, New Bern and Ocracoke, part of the Outer Banks (a chain of barrier islands that sweeps down the North Carolina coast from the Virginia Capes to Oregon Inlet), were strategically vital for the import of war materiel and the export of cash producing crops. From official records, contemporary newspaper accounts, personal journals of the soldiers, and many unpublished manuscripts and memoirs, this is a full accounting of the Civil War along the North Carolina coast.

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