- North Carolina in the beginning of 1863 -- gathering fresh supplies -- Demonstrations by D. H. Hill against New Bern -- fights at Deep Gully and Sandy ridge -- siege of Washington, N. C. -- Blount's Mills and Gum Swamp.
At the opening of this year, the troops of North Carolina were disposed, so far as the records show, as follows: Thirty-two regiments and one battalion of infantry, two regiments of cavalry and three batteries were with General Lee; under Gen. Kirby Smith, the Fifty-eighth, Colonel Palmer, the Sixty-fourth, Colonel Allen, and Fifth cavalry battalion, Capt. S. W. English, were stationed at Big Greek gap, Tenn.; the Sixty-second regiment, Colonel Love, was guarding bridges near Knoxville; the Seventh cavalry battalion was in Carter county, Tenn.; Walker's cavalry battalion was in Monroe county, Tenn.; the Twenty-ninth, Colonel Vance, and the Thirty-ninth, Colonel Coleman, were in Bragg's army. In the State, General Whiting was in charge of the defenses of Wilmington, with 9,913 officers and men. Gen. S. D. French, in charge of the department of North Carolina, had his forces stationed as follows: General Pettigrew's brigade at Magnolia; Gen. N. G. Evans' South Carolina brigade at Kinston; General Daniel's brigade, General Davis' brigade, Maj. J. C. Haskell's four batteries, Colonel Bradford's four artillery companies, and Capt. J. B. Starr's light battery at Goldsboro; the Forty-second regiment, Col. George C. Gibbs, and Captain Dabney's heavy battery at Weldon; the Seventeenth regiment, Col. W. F. Martin, at Hamilton; Gen. B. H. Robertson and three regiments of cavalry at Kinston;  Thomas' legion in the mountains. The field returns for January show that the forces scattered over the State aggregated 31,442 men.1 This large number of soldiers was collected in the State because it was thought another strong expedition was about to descend upon Wilmington, or some point on the coast. Upon the opening of the spring campaign, these troops were sent in all directions. After General Foster's return to New Bern from Goldsboro, his force around New Bern showed little activity. Some expeditions were occasionally sent out, resulting in skirmishes or minor engagements. At Sandy Ridge, on the 13th of February, the Fifty-eighth Pennsylvania infantry had a skirmish with a detachment from the Eighth North Carolina regiment, in which 4 North Carolinians were wounded. An expedition under Capt. Colin Richardson, of the Third New York cavalry, engaged some militia near Swan Quarter and Fairfield on the 4th of May. In these two skirmishes the Federals lost 18 men. During this spring, enormous supplies of meal and meat for the maintenance of the Confederate armies were drawn from North Carolina, and military operations in Virginia and North Carolina were made to so shape themselves as to facilitate the collection of these supplies. Shortly after General Longstreet was assigned to command the department of Virginia and North Carolina, he learned
that there was a goodly supply of produce along the east coast of Virginia and North Carolina, inside the military lines of the Federal forces. To collect and transmit this to accessible points for the Confederates, it was necessary to advance our divisions so as to cover the country, and to hold the Federal forces in and about their fortified positions while our trains were at work. To that end I moved with the troops in Virginia across the Blackwater to close lines about the forts around Suffolk, and ordered the troops along our line in North  Carolina to a like advance. From Manassas to Appomattox, p. 324.In a letter to General Lee, General Longstreet stated to him his plans:
In arraying our forces to protect supply trains in the eastern counties of North Carolina, we had hoped to make a diversion upon New Bern and surprise the garrison at Washington. The high waters have washed away the bridges and detained us a week, and it is probable the enemy has discovered our movements. Rebellion Records, XVIII, 951.So, in pursuance of this policy, while the Confederate wagon trains were moving busily among the rich corn counties east of the Chowan, Gen. D. H. Hill, who had been assigned to command the troops in North Carolina when it was thought that another great expedition was about to invade the State, organized a demonstration against New Bern, and, to still further confine the Federals, shortly afterward laid siege to Washington. These were the two towns containing large Federal garrisons. At the same time, General Longstreet made a similar movement against Suffolk. Gen. Junius Daniel's North Carolina brigade, made up of these regiments: Thirty-second, Colonel Brabble; Forty-third, Colonel Kenan; Forty-fifth, Lieut.-Col. S. H. Boyd; Fifty-third, Colonel Owens, and Second battalion, Lieut.-Col. H. L. Andrews, moved toward New Bern by the lower Trent road; the cavalry under General Robertson was sent by the upper Trent road, and General Pettigrew's brigade, with fifteen guns under Major Haskell, was ordered to approach the city near Barrington's Ferry, to bombard the gunboats and Fort Anderson. General Pettigrew's brigade consisted of the following North Carolina regiments: Eleventh, Colonel Leventhorpe; Twenty-sixth, Colonel Burgwyn; Forty-fourth, Colonel Singeltary; Fortysev-enth, Colonel Faribault, and Fifty-second, Colonel Marshall. At Deep Gully, a few miles out from New Bern,  General Daniel found five companies and two field pieces in strong position. With four companies, he at once attacked and routed the Federals. This initiatory success could not, however, be followed up, as General Pettigrew, after every exertion, found it impossible to carry out his orders. He was expected to take Fort Anderson, to advance his guns to that point, a commanding one, and then to drive away the gunboats on the river, and if possible, shell the garrison. General Pettigrew, however, found his artillery and ammunition so worthless and unsuited to the work in hand, that he made no progress in his attack. He had only four guns of range enough to reach the boats. These were 20-pound Parrotts of Confederate manufacture. Of these, one burst, killing or wounding several of the gunners, another broke down, and the shells from the others
burst just outside the guns. Pettigrew's Report.So rather than sacrifice his men by storming the work with infantry alone, General Pettigrew wisely decided to withdraw. The Twenty-sixth regiment had been under orders since daylight to assault Fort Anderson, when the artillery opened, and its youthful and gallant Col. H. K. Burgwyn and his men withdrew with great reluctance after having been under a heavy artillery fire for some hours. The Confederate losses in this demonstration were, so far as reported, 4 killed and 19 wounded. Between this movement against New Bern and the siege of Washington, only one or two skirmishes took place. A few men from the Seventeenth regiment made a demonstration against Plymouth. Col. John E. Brown, with three companies of the Forty-second regiment, attacked the post at Winfield, on the Chowan river, below Gatesville; after a brisk exchange of shots, he withdrew. At Sandy Ridge, three companies of the Forty-ninth and some of the Eighth regiment had a short skirmish on the 20th, and lost 1 killed and 6 wounded.  Toward the last of March, General Hill sent General Garnett to lay siege to Washington. It had been hoped, as already seen, to surprise the town, but the rains delayed and exposed the movement. General Lee advised against an assault on the town on account of the loss it might entail.2 In a letter to General Beauregard, then at Charleston and expecting to be reinforced from North Carolina, General Hill describes the objects of his attack on Washington:
For the last four weeks I have been around Washington and New Bern with three objects in view—to harass the Yankees, to get our supplies from the low country, and to make a diversion in your favor. . . . Washington was closely besieged for sixteen days, but they succeeded in getting two supply boats into town, furnishing about twenty days rations to the garrison. I then withdrew. Rebellion Records, XVIII, 1007.This was done in accordance with his instructions from General Longstreet. Longstreet states these instructions as follows:
General Hill is ordered and urged to be prompt in his operations. If he finds that too much time will be consumed in reducing the garrison at any point, he is to draw off as soon as he gets out the supplies from the eastern counties. Rebellion Records, XVIII, 959.The reason for these instructions was, that now as the spring was fairly opening there were loud calls for the troops operating in North Carolina. General Lee was trying to reinforce for his spring campaign. General Beauregard was asking for aid at Charleston, and the Richmond authorities were anxious to strengthen the Western armies. Hence the campaign in North Carolina was again reduced to defensive issues, and the troops moved to bigger fields. During the siege at Washington there was some spirited fighting around the town, and General Pettigrew at Blount's mills repulsed, after a sharp attack, a column  under General Spinola as it was marching to the relief of Washington. On the 22d of May, Lee's Federal brigade, one regiment of Pennsylvania troops, seven pieces of artillery, and three companies of cavalry, surprised the Fifty-sixth and Twenty-fifth North Carolina regiments at Gum Swamp, below Kinston. These regiments were broken and scattered, and lost 165 prisoners; but rallied and sup-ported by some companies of the Forty-ninth regiment, the Twenty-seventh regiment and other troops, attacked the Federals and drove them back to New Bern, killing their commander, Col. J. R. Jones.