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In late January 1862, a Federal land-sea expedition assembled at Hatteras Inlet to take Roanoke Island and capture control of the North Carolina sound region. The force was under the joint command of General Ambrose Burnside and navy Flag-Officer Louis Goldsborough. After several delays due to bad weather, the Union fleet, consisting of numerous troop transports and more than 20 war vessels, arrived at the southern end of Roanoke Island.
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On February 7, 1862, Federal ships bombarded Fort Bartow, southernmost of the Confederate defenses. One of three Confederate earthen forts on the west side of Roanoke Island (the others were Fort Huger and Fort Blanchard), Fort Bartow mounted nine guns. The forts were designed to protect the mainland from Federal invasion and to complement obstructions placed in the channel.
Constructed in the fall of 1861 of reinforced sand, Fort Blanchard was the smallest of the three and mounted four guns. The fort saw no action during the Battle of Roanoke Island as its guns were out of range of the main Federal operations. Fort Blanchard was surrendered on February 8, 1862.
The Confederate fleet, under Captain W. F. Lynch, waited to engage the Federals behind a line of obstructions placed in Croatan Sound to retard the Federal advance. However, the Confederates, after a sharp engagement which was ended only by darkness, were forced to retire due to lack of ammunition.
On February 8, 1862, the Federal fleet bombarded various positions on Roanoke Island including Fort Blanchard and Fort Forrest in support of General Burnside’s land offensive. After the Union victory on the afternoon of February 8, a detachment of Federal ships under Commodore S. C. Rowan was sent into Albemarle Sound in pursuit of the Confederate fleet. As a consequence, Union forces were in control of most of the inland waters of northeastern North Carolina.
John G.Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
John Stephen Carbone, The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (2001)
Lorenzo Traver, Burnside Expedition in North Carolina. Battles of Roanoke Island and Elizabeth City (1880)
Richard Allen Sauers, The Burnside Expedition in North Carolina (1996)