north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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     As soon as fighting commenced in 1861, Union commanders saw the importance of controlling eastern North Carolina’s waterways to gain access to shipping and transportation along the inland railroads, thereby hampering the Confederates’ ability to make use of the state’s networks to supply Richmond. In an effort to gain the upper hand, Federal forces overran poorly equipped Confederate bases on the Outer Banks in 1861. Confederate troops were forced to move inland in order to provide a stronger defense for the next onslaught by the Union forces.

     After the fall of the Outer Banks, the defenses around New Bern, one of the state’s most active inland ports, were left to Gen. Lawrence O’B. Branch, who created a series of forts and earthworks along waterways around the town. Branch’s efforts were hampered by inadequate supplies and men but resulted in the creation of several rudimentary forts and gun emplacements. Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside readied his forces for an attack from their bases on the Outer Banks in 1862 and successfully took New Bern with few losses.

     Once Burnside’s men controlled New Bern, they re-occupied the works thrown up by the Confederates along the rivers. One of these emplacements was at Batchelder’s Creek, about ten miles northwest of the town. The ring of pickets placed by Burnside throughout the old Confederate lines protected the town and was an advance warning system should the Confederates attack. The Confederate forces then set up their own picket lines about two miles away from the Union lines to prevent further inland movement by the Union army. It was along these lines that the Confederates sought to attack and re-take New Bern in 1864.

     During the attempt to re-take New Bern, Confederate forces were under the command of Generals Robert F. Hoke and George Pickett who hoped to surprise the Federals by a multi-pronged assault, moving most of the troops through Batchelder’s Creek towards New Bern. The first stage of Hoke’s plan worked and the outmanned troops of the Batchelder’s Creek stations quickly retreated in the face of superior Confederate strength. The Confederates re-took the earthworks along the creek and readied for an assault on the town. However, the retreating Union forces were able to re-form in New Bern and the Confederate forces were unable to advance. New Bern stayed in firm control of the Union military throughout the war.

     Many of the original earthworks can still be found in wooded areas around New Bern although development is threatening their preservation. Concerned groups have recently purchased portions of the battlefield to save it from encroachment.


References:
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
Richard A. Sauers, The Battle of New Bern and Related Sites in Craven County, North Carolina, 1861-1865 (1994)
Battle of New Bern: http://www.hiddencoast.com/content/civilwarbattle.htm
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north carolina highway historical marker program


Major General Robert F. Hoke

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