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Book VII:—politics.

Chapter 1:

The blockade.

WE will conclude the narrative of military events for the year 1862 with a sketch of the operations of which the coast of the Confederate States was the theatre during the second half of that year.

In the chapter on Roanoke, contained in the first volume, we gave an account of the operations of the Federals on the coast of North Carolina until after the capture of Fort Macon, on the 26th of April, 1862. Regarding those which took place along the other portions of the coast of the Southern States, the chapter on Pulaski, in the early part of this volume, brought us down to the end of June. We resume the narrative where those two chapters left it, following the division adopted in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, so as to classify the minor incidents that have no connection between them, and ending it, in a uniform manner, at the close of the year 1862. The naval or mixed operations will thus be grouped according as they may have taken place on the northern or southern part of the Atlantic coast, or on the eastern or western part of the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, or on the high seas.

We begin at the north of the Atlantic coast, where the Federal blockading squadron was placed under the orders of Commodore Goldsborough. We have already given an account of the operations of this squadron in the rivers and bays of Virginia, when it co-operated with the army of the Potomac. It remains for us to record what it had to do on the coast of North Carolina, in order to preserve and extend Burnside's conquests in the inland 606 [607] sea which bears the name of Pamlico Sound, south of Roanoke, and Albemarle Sound, north of this island.

Pamlico Sound penetrates into the low lands of North Carolina westward by means of two deep estuaries, which are in their turn cut up into numberless small creeks. At the north, that of Tar River takes, from the village of Washington, the name of Pamlico River; at the south that of Neuse River retains the name of this water-course, forming the anchoring-ground of the small town of Newberne, built on its right bank. The tide is sufficiently strong both in the Tar and Neuse to carry vessels of considerable draught far beyond the mouths of those rivers, thus enabling gun-boats to penetrate into the very interior of the State. The river waters which flow into Albemarle Sound also form a certain number of deep inlets on the northern shore of this interior basin, the most important of which are the North River, eastward, the Chowan River, to the west, and the Pasquotank River, between the two. On the borders of the last-mentioned bay, into which the Great Dismal Swamp discharges its waters, stands the little town called Elizabeth City. The western extremity of Albemarle Sound terminates at the entrance of the important river of Roanoke, which, descending from the Alleghanies, where it takes its rise, runs along the boundary-line of the States of Virginia and North Carolina, and on the borders of which are successively to be met the villages of Weldon, Hamilton, Williamston and Plymouth. Albemarle Sound extends northward, between the mainland and the sand-bank by which it is bounded, almost as far as Cape Henry, in Virginia, at the entrance of Chesapeake Bay, under the name of Currituck Sound; but this arm of the sea does not communicate with the ocean, which can only be reached through Pamlico and the Strait of Croatan. The strip of land bordering on Pamlico Sound, as we have stated elsewhere, presents but four navigable passage-ways for vessels— New Inlet, Hatteras Inlet, where the forts were situated, Ocracoke Inlet, and lastly Old Topsail Inlet. This last inlet, situated near an angle formed by the sand-bank known to sailors as Cape Lookout, only communicates with the inland sea through a kind of narrow lagoon, which stretches southward, as Currituck Sound extends northward. It was nevertheless the inlet [608] most frequented by trading-vessels before the war. It was protected by Fort Macon, which the Federals had captured in April. At a short distance from this fort, but on the mainland, stood, on the two sides of a small bay, the towns of Beaufort and Moore-head City. A railroad connects the latter with the town of Goldsboroa and with all the railway lines of North Carolina.

This was the junction of railway lines that Burnside was charged to break up after the capture of Newberne—an operation which might have had a great bearing upon the whole system of Confederate defences, but which he was obliged to forego in consequence of the reverse sustained by the Federal troops before Richmond. In fact, Virginia was only connected with the other Southern States by three lines of railway. To the west there was the Richmond, Lynchburg, Knoxville and Chattanooga line, which the Federals menaced every time they advanced either from Nashville or Kentucky toward East Tennessee. The other two lines placed Virginia in communication with the other States bordering the Atlantic, the two Carolinas and Georgia, whence Lee's army derived part of its supplies. These two lines, composed of several branches constructed at different periods, described many zigzags through the country which they traversed. One, in the vicinity of the mountains, had been considerably shortened at the end of 1861 by the completion of the Danville and Greensboroa section, which avoided the circuitous route of Raleigh. The other runs southward, in an almost direct line from Richmond to Wilmington, along Cape Fear River, thence proceeding westward toward South Carolina. This line crosses the Roanoke at Weldon, and the Neuse at Goldsboroa. If Burnside had been able to strike the railroad near one of these two points, he would have caused serious trouble to the Confederates. But when he left the waters of the Neuse for those of James River, with a division composed of his best troops, his successor, far from being able to resume such projects, was afraid lest the enemy might come to dispute the posts of which he was already in possession. In fact, General Foster, the successor above mentioned, had only one brigade with him, and a few gun-boats commanded by Captain Davenport. To avoid seeing his troops surprised and crushed in detail, he massed them at those points [609] where they were protected by the naval force on the island of Roanoke, at Cape Hatteras and at Moorehead City. Newberne was only occupied by an advanced post. The gun-boats were directed to display the Federal flag in front of the small towns situated on the borders of Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, without compromising it by a permanent establishment. Fortunately for Foster, the Confederates on their part had stripped North Carolina of troops in order to reinforce their main army in front of Richmond. He was not, therefore, molested, and at the expiration of a few weeks reinforcements came from Massachusetts to form a small division under his command, sufficient to prevent any aggressive return on the part of the enemy.

Before proceeding any further, it is proper that we should rapidly enumerate the naval operations which took place in the waters of North Carolina from the month of April to the time when the land-forces were again able to co-operate effectively. During the siege of

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