The Battle for Hatteras Island
Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras
After the fall of Fort Sumter to Confederate forces in April of 1861, North Carolina began to prepare for war against the Union. Although the state did not formally secede until May 20, 1861, plans for coastal defenses were initiated in April of that year. Initially, overall responsibility for the state’s coastal defenses was given by the State Military and Naval Board to Brigadier-General Theophilus Holmes, "Commander of the Coast Defenses of the State," on April 26, 1861 (Ashe 1971; Bright 1961; Hill 1926; King Collection 1902b, 1902c). At the time of Holmes’ appointment, North Carolina had no standing, well-trained, well-organized, state militia. In reference to general conditions within the state, Ashe (1971:646-647) observed:
The Confederate government was a sudden creation, the development of unexpected circumstances, and it had none of the resources of established governments, no arsenals of construction, and no magazines of supplies...The difficulties and obstacles in the way of preparation of remote batteries [i.e., forts] at inaccessible points were almost insuperable.
On the existence of pre-war infantry, artillery and cavalry units within North Carolina, Manarin (1962:1) noted: "When the war broke out, the only military organization in the state, aside from a few volunteer companies, was the Militia. This organization embraced all white males between 18 and 45. Because of a long period of peace, the Militia was only organized on paper and had no practical existence."
To remedy the troop problem, an act was passed on May 1st by the North Carolina State Legislature that authorized Governor John W. Ellis to raise 10 regiments of State Troops (three years obligation or duration of war service requirement ). Pre-secession laws further allowed the state to raise an unlimited number of independent volunteer regiments for 12 months service. Initially, the three year regiments were designated as North Carolina "State Troops" (NCST), while the 12 month units were referred to as "Volunteers" (Barrett 1963; Gordon 1982; Manarin 1962). Due to the tremendous confusion created by the dual system, all North Carolina units, except for the first 10 original regiments of State Troops, were later reorganized with new regimental designations by November of 1861 (Barrett 1963; Gordon 1982; Manarin 1962). In July of 1860, Governor Ellis died and was succeeded by North Carolina’s Speaker of the Senate, the capable Henry T. Clark (Hamilton 1973). Brigadier-General Holmes was given command of the state’s southern coastal defenses (i.e., from the New River to South Carolina), while Brigadier-General Walter Gwynn was charged with the responsibility of defending the northern coast (i.e., from the New River to Norfolk) (Ashe 1971; Hill 1926). Ashe (1971) noted that Gwynn was originally a graduate of West Point and an "engineer of distinction."
The state’s civilian and military leaders were fully cognizant of the particular need to fortify the coastal inlets. As Hill (1926:154) observed:
The coast of North Carolina is peculiar in that the mainland, with the exception of Onslow County, does not touch the ocean...Inlets at Oregon, Hatteras, Ocracoke and Beaufort indented the sand banks. As long as these inlets and the mouth of the Cape Fear River were held either by state or Confederate troops, North Carolina would be safe from invasion by sea. Hence the matter of defending these gateways was of paramount importance.
Perhaps most significant to North Carolina’s leaders at the time, was the fact that the trio of inlets at Ocracoke, Oregon and, particularly, Hatteras were the maritime transportation "keys" to the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound region. At the time of the Civil War, many ocean going vessels passed through these inlets to reach North Carolina’s major inland port towns of Edenton, Elizabeth City, Plymouth, Washington and New Bern. As such, it was absolutely critical for the state to protect the inlets of the Outer banks from Union capture. To accomplish the defense, the state raised troops and initiated construction of forts and batteries on key inlets and harbors. In addition to the fortifications, a small fleet of shallow-draft gunboats was assembled to patrol the sounds and nearshore waters of the state (Tredwell 1982). As the early phase of the war progressed, the state’s warships, coastal fortifications and volunteer troops were transferred into Confederate national service before the end of 1861. State coastal defenses were transferred to national government (Confederate States of America [CSA]) control between late June and mid-August of that year (Ashe 1971; Barrett 1963; Bright 1961; Hill 1926).
In the northeastern section of the state, a series of forts and gun batteries were built at Hatteras, Ocracoke and Oregon Inlets. As part of the comprehensive coastal defense system designed to defend North Carolina’s northerly inlets and upper sounds from invasion by Union forces, two fortifications were erected on the north side of Hatteras Inlet (Figures 9-12). These forts, later named, Fort Hatteras and Fort Clark, were specifically built to defend Hatteras Inlet. The inlet was rightly considered by both Confederate and Union military officials to not only be one of North Carolina’s major shipping inlets, but also the key to the Albemarle-Pamlico Sound region (Butler 1996; Thompson 1897a). Major W. Beavershaw Thompson, Confederate States Army (CSA), (1897a) noted: "As I have before remarked, this inlet is the key to Albemarle Sound, and it can not be too strictly guarded." In addition to the strategic need to defend the inlet from invasion forces, the Confederates were successfully using Hatteras Island as a base of operations from where blockade runners could make port. Further, privateers, along with North Carolina’s few warships (converted civilian steamers), sallied forth from the inlet to prey upon Union merchant shipping (Robinson 1994; Stern 1962; Tredwell 1982). Before Hatteras Island was captured by Union forces in late August of 1861, eight schooners, seven brigs and one bark were taken by state owned and privately operated commerce raiders that operated from Hatteras Inlet (Hill 1926:161). An unknown number of blockade runners entered or exited the inlet during the same period.
Little detailed information is available about the actual construction of the fortifications and the activities of Confederate troops on Hatteras Island between early May and late July of 1861. Confederate records indicate that several engineers in Brigadier-General Gwynn’s command, Colonel Elwood Morris (NCST), Major W. Beavershaw Thompson (CSA - Engineers), and a civilian, Thomas H. Allen, were responsible for the design and construction of forts and batteries on Hatteras, Beacon (Ocracoke Inlet), and Portsmouth islands (Ashe 1971; Campbell 1897; Hill 1926; Thompson 1897a, 1897b; Whitford Papers: April-August 1861). John Rollinson, Collector of the Port of Hatteras, recorded that the first Confederate (NCST) troops arrived at Hatteras Inlet on May 9, 1861 (MacNeill 1958:137). Hatteras Inlet’s primary fortification, Fort Hatteras (a.k.a Fort Ellis [Hamilton 1973), was constructed first and apparently near completion by late July of 1861 (Campbell 1897). Fort Hatteras, the larger of the two works, was positioned on northeast side of Hatteras Inlet near the Pamlico Sound shore (Figures 9 and 10). Construction of Fort Clark (originally designated as Fort Ellis), the secondary work, was not initiated until mid-July of 1861 (Campbell 1897; Thompson 1897b). This smaller fort, designed and positioned to defend the rear of Fort Hatteras from land attack, was further oriented on the peninsula to engage enemy warships that attempted to enter the inlet and attack Fort Hatteras (Figures 9-12). According to a Union soldier stationed at Hatteras Inlet, Fort Clark was located 1,200 yards from Fort Hatteras (Champney 1862-1863).
At the time of their capture, Forts Clark and Hatteras were described as "...planned with a good deal of engineering skill...and...built at great expense of money and labor" (Harper’s Weekly [HW] 1861b:599). Written descriptions and drawings of Fort Clark produced after the Union capture provide conflicting details. Several sources describe (e.g., Bosbyshell 1895; Denny 1879) or illustrate (e.g., Hawkins 1887) Fort Clark as a simple "square redoubt." The drawings and written descriptions completed by a Union engineer, Lieutenant Francis Farquhar (1861, 1863, 1996) are, however, likely to be more accurate than written descriptions presented in other sources (Figures 11 and 12). Various records indicate that the parapet walls of both Forts Hatteras and Clark were built from sand and blocks of peat. The parapets of each fort were apparently formed with double rows of peat blocks that were subsequently infilled with sand (Figures 13-16). The interior face of the walls may have been further revetted with brush, sod and/or wooden planks. Long wooden stakes/pegs were purportedly used to secure the peat blocks into position (Bosbyshell 1895; Campbell 1897; HW 1861b; Farquhar 1996; Johnson 1986). On Hatteras Island, local oral tradition indicates that the peat or marsh sod, used in the construction of the two forts, came from the marsh complex around Hatteras Village. The marsh area, now referred to as "the Slash," is presently interspersed with a number of canals and ditches. A local informant stated that her grandfather had actually observed laborers cutting canals and mining marsh sod in the Slash back in 1861. The canals were apparently used to operate workboats and barges for the procurement of the marsh sod utilized at the inlet forts. A late war (ca., 1865) image of Fort Hatteras (North Carolina Division of Archives and History n.d.) clearly shows evidence of peat blocks on the lower portion of the parapet wall, while the upper portions of the walls are completely covered with beach grasses and low vegetation (Figure 14).
When the unfinished Fort Clark was captured by Federal forces in August of 1861, it was described by Farquhar (1996) as "...a redoubt of irregular figure, located about one mile from the inlet...and...midway between the sound and the ocean." The ocean face parapets that mounted 32-pounder guns were approximately 18 feet thick (basal width) and the sound face parapet, arranged for light artillery and musket defense, was five feet thick (Farquhar 1996; Thompson 1897b). The interior of the fort contained a square magazine and bombproof shelter, characterized as having been "...constructed similarly to the one in Fort Hatteras" (Farquhar 1996). The magazine at Fort Hatteras was reported to be "...well constructed...having at least 6 feet of sand on top of the wood casing. The floor of the magazine is on a level with the site, below which it could not be sunk on account of the water (table)" (Farquhar 1996). A poor quality, circa 1862 photograph (Division of Archives and History n.d.) shows magazines and bombproofs inside Fort Clark that appear much like naturally vegetated sand dunes. The photographic image was later interpreted in a more clearly defined sketch illustration (Figure 13) in Hawkins (1887).
Although Confederate records do not mention the presence of buildings outside the walls of the two forts, a barracks complex was apparently constructed to the north and west of Fort Clark (Figures 9, 10, 13, 17 and 18). Illustrations of Forts Hatteras and Clark that were made shortly after their capture show few large structures in the immediate vicinity of Fort Hatteras. Since Fort Hatteras was built on a small island (Figures 9 and 10), the structures at Fort Clark were apparently used by off-duty Confederate troops from both garrisons. After the Union occupation of Hatteras Island, a number of buildings were constructed on the inlet shore adjacent to Fort Hatteras (Figures 9, 10 and 14). Period sketches and photographs indicate that Confederate and Union built structures in the barracks complex outside Fort Clark were generally plank-on-frame construction houses with one or two rooms (Figures 13-20). Historic sketches further show that the buildings were erected on pilings (i.e., post-in-ground construction) (Figures 13 and 18), an architectural feature common to nineteenth century houses on the Outer Banks (Barfield 1995; Bosbyshell 1895).
Nearby Fort Ocracoke (a.k.a Fort Morgan (Hamilton 1973) included an 18,000 gallon cistern sheltered within its bombproof (Hill 1926). Forts Hatteras and Clark may have included small cisterns, but maintenance of adequate water supplies for the large garrison must have been problematic. Campbell (1897) observed: "Water is obtained by sinking wells in the sand to a depth of 5 or 6 feet. Water can be had in this way in many places on the beach. It is not very good, but answers. They (i.e. Confederate troops) bought some water from the mainland." It is probable that such wells were easily contaminated by salt water during sea-to-sound overwash episodes that frequently occurred on Inlet Peninsula. The lack of fresh water was apparently a problem for the Confederate forces. During the Union naval bombardment of Fort Hatteras, Captain Sparrow (1982) noted that the garrison water supply was critically low by nightfall on the first day of the battle. Later, after the Union capture of the two forts, US Navy steamers were required to ship fresh water supplies to the Hatteras garrison from Baltimore (Wool 1996a) until enough wells were dug to supply the garrison (Farquhar 1996).
Given the general lack of detail in early Confederate war records, exactly who labored to complete the fortifications at Hatteras Inlet is unclear. Bosbyshell (1895) indicated that black slaves were solely used to construct Forts Hatteras and Clark. It is most likely, however, that a mixed crew of black freedmen and slaves, as well as white enlisted soldiers, conducted most of the work. Records do indicate that the State Adjutant-General’s office later issued orders for slave owners to supply laborers for the state’s defenses (Graham 1982). Mallison (1998) noted that a large group of black freedmen from Orange County traveled east and sought work agreements with military officials to work on the coastal forts in return for daily wages. The fortifications at Beaufort Inlet, Fort Macon, were modified and improved upon in the summer of 1861 by a mixed labor contingent of slaves, paid black freedmen and white soldiers (Branch 1999). Later in the war, a quota system was employed, whereby an average of one out of every eight male slaves, between the ages of 21 and 45, in a given district were impressed for fortification construction service (Graham 1982). In May of 1861, Daniel Campbell, master of the northern brig Lydia Francis, was captured with his crew when the ship wrecked in a gale just below Cape Hatteras (Campbell 1897). Before their release, Campbell and his crew were held at Fort Hatteras for two months. In his August, 1861 report to the US Navy, Campbell stated: "The laborers employed were about 180 negroes, said to be free, and brought from different parts of the State."
Nearby Fort Oregon was also constructed under the direction of Colonel Elwood Morris at the north end of Hatteras Island during the same period that Forts Hatteras and Clark were built. D. H. Hill (1926:170) later noted of the construction at Oregon Inlet: "The manual work was done almost entirely by 150 free negroes hired by the state. Colonel Morris stated that he could not get the soldiers to swing picks and shovels." Apparently, few of the actual troops participated in the construction of the forts. As Barrett (1963:34) observed: "...the soldiers had little to do. They whiled away their days drinking whiskey, fishing, and writing letters...It was called to the Governor’s attention on one occasion that intoxication to an alarming extent prevails among the officers and men...on the northern coast defense" (Clark 1861 [italics added], quoted in Barrett 1963:34). As work progressed on the fortifications, the laborers were greatly hampered by frequent sandstorms, insects and pestilence (Merrill 1952; Stick 1958). Doctor Edward Warren, who was later appointed as North Carolina’s Surgeon General (Barrett 1963), was stationed at Hatteras Inlet during the summer of 1861. He (Edward Warren n.d., quoted in Stick 1958:119) recalled:
the mosquitoes held possession of it by day and night...While one laborer worked upon the fortifications another had to stand by him with a handful of brush to keep him from being devoured by them. The poor mules looked as if they had been drawn through key-holes and then attacked with eruptions of small-pox.
As rapidly as possible, newly formed companies of the 7th Regiment North Carolina Infantry (Volunteers) were sent from various mainland counties to man the coastal defenses on Hatteras, Ocracoke and Portsmouth Islands during the summer of 1861. The designation of the 7th Regiment was later changed to the 17th Regiment North Carolina Infantry (State Troops) on November 14, 1861 (Clark 1982; Manarin 1962). As work proceeded at the various fortification sites on the Outer Banks in the spring and summer of 1861, a flurry of orders were submitted by the State Arsenal in New Bern, North Carolina to Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, Virginia for artillery pieces, ammunition, gun carriages and equipment to arm the fortifications at Hatteras, Ocracoke and Oregon Inlets (Whitford Papers: April-August 1861). A number of unmounted guns (8-inch, 10-inch and 32-pounder naval guns) were apparently shipped to Hatteras Inlet from the US Navy’s former Gosport Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia (Barrett 1963; Branch 1999; Bright 1961; Hill 1926). Although the government of North Carolina had financed the construction of the state’s coastal fortifications, all batteries and forts were ceded to the Confederate national government in late July of 1861 (Hill 1926). By late August of 1861, overall command of North Carolina’s coastal defenses, including those on Hatteras Island, had been transferred to Brigadier-General Richard C. Gatlin, CSA (Gatlin 1996).
Colonel William F. Martin of the 7th North Carolina Infantry was given overall command of the defenses at Hatteras, Ocracoke and Oregon Inlets. Six companies of the 7th Regiment, including both permanently assigned and temporarily attached companies (i.e., the "Lenoir Braves," the "Preston [Jonesboro] Guards," and the "North Carolina Defenders" - all companies later assigned to the 32nd Regiment North Carolina Infantry), were stationed at Hatteras Inlet by mid-August 1861. Major William S. G. Andrews, 10th Regiment North Carolina State Troops (1st Regiment North Carolina Artillery), was charged with the collective command of both garrisons at Forts Hatteras and Clark. Captain John Thomas P. D. Cohoon ("Independent Grays") commanded Fort Hatteras. Between early July and late August, various elements of the 7th Regiment, the "Independent Grays," "Hamilton Guards," "Preston Guards" and "North Carolina Defenders," were assigned by Martin to Fort Hatteras. Captain John C. Lamb ("Roanoke Guards") commanded the garrison troops assigned to Fort Clark, which was composed of two companies, the "Roanoke Guards" and "Lenoir Braves." Other companies of the 7th Regiment garrisoned Fort Ocracoke, Fort Oregon and the Portsmouth Island battery during this period (Clark 1982; Jordan and Manarin 1977, 1983; Lamb 1982; Manarin 1966; Martin 1982, 1897; Pool 1982; Sanders 1982; Sparrow 1982).
While State Troops and black laborers feverishly worked to complete the fortifications, a special board of Union military planners worked on a plan to capture and destroy North Carolina’s coastal fortifications. No one individual was apparently responsible for the development of the plan (Merrill 1952), but the planners knew that the Outer Banks’ remote inlets were not as heavily defended as other major Confederate ports, such as Wilmington, Charleston and Savannah, along the Atlantic seaboard (Stern 1962). Successful action by Confederate commerce raiders and privateers that operated out of Hatteras Inlet further motivated the US Navy’s decision to attempt an expedition against coastal North Carolina (Robinson 1994; Stern 1962). Union plans to capture the Confederate held island and its fortifications were in no small way stimulated by a letter of complaint to Gideon Wells, Secretary of the (US) Navy. In early August of 1861, the New York Board of Underwriters petitioned the Federal government to undertake measures to neutralize attacks on northern merchant ships by Confederate naval forces. A letter from the Underwriters, dated August 12, 1861, stated: "...it is greatly...desired that immediate steps be taken by the Government to prevent, as far as possible, any further captures by pirates [i.e., privateers and CS Navy commerce raiders] who sally out from those [i.e., Hatteras and Ocracoke] inlets" (Wells 1897:78). A Union invasion force was quickly assembled and on August 26, 1861 the first elements of a combined US Army and Navy invasion force, under the joint command of Commodore Silas Stringham and Major-General Benjamin Butler, arrived off the bight of Cape Hatteras (Hays and O’Brien 1962; Hawkins 1887). The US Navy hoped to destroy the Confederate fortifications and block Hatteras Inlet with a small fleet of stone laden transport ships (Merrill 1952; Stern 1962).
Although Confederate intelligence forewarned of an impending Federal attack on Hatteras Island (Sparrow 1982), the fortifications at the inlet were not complete and together only mounted approximately 13 artillery pieces on the day before the Union attack. Discrepancies as to the exact armament of the two forts at the time of the Union assault exist in both secondary (e.g., Ashe 1971; Dean 1950; Hill 1926; Holcombe and Buttgenbach 1912:35; Pollard 1994; Roush 1961, etc.) and primary sources (e.g., Campbell 1897; Hayes and O’Brien 1962; Parvin 1922; Sparrow 1982; Thompson 1897a, etc.) that offer details of the battle. The commentaries of two officers who actually witnessed to the engagement, a Union naval officer, Lieutenant John Barnes (Hays and O’Brien 1962:78) and a Confederate artillery officer, Captain Thomas Sparrow (1982:43-44), are likely to be the most accurate of the various accounts. Further, Master Daniel Campbell’s (1897) description of the mounted armaments generally support the observations made by Captain Sparrow.
Fort Clark evidently mounted only five of its seven planned guns, two of which were light field pieces (6-pounders) positioned against land attack (Hawkins 1996a). Three guns were mounted on the ocean face gun platforms; two smoothbore 32-pounders and one rifled 32-pounder (Hawkins 1996a; Hayes and O’Brien 1962:78). In the weeks before the engagement, General Gwynn reported to Governor Clark that Fort Hatteras was armed with 13 guns (Mallison 1998:35). After the Union attack, General Butler (1996) later reported that an unmounted 10-inch columbiad was taken along with 14 other heavy weapons (32 and 64-pounders) at Fort Hatteras. Apparently, at least five of these pieces were not mounted before the battle. According to Captain Sparrow (1982:43-44), Fort Hatteras only mounted eight of its twenty planned guns. Four guns, one smoothbore 8-inch howitzer and three smoothbore 32-pounders, faced the inlet, while only three guns, one smoothbore 8-inch howitzer (64-pounder) and two smoothbore 32-pounder, were in position behind the ocean face parapet. A third smoothbore 32-pounder, positioned on the land face, was directed toward "Hatteras Woods" (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:78; Sparrow 1982:43-44). As Union forces later captured 25 artillery pieces at the two forts, 12 additional guns were located, but not mounted in the forts at the time of the Union attack in August of 1861. Apparently, the garrisons at all of North Carolina’s coastal fortifications had problems in acquiring the proper gun carriages required to mount even the limited number of artillery pieces that were on hand during the summer of 1861 (Barrett 1963; Branch 1999; Mallison 1998).
The Federal naval force, under the command of Commodore Silas Stringham, was composed of five heavily armed frigates, two gunboats and four lightly armed transports and tug boats. The frigates, Minnesota, Wabash, Pawnee, Cumberland and Susquehanna, were variably armed with a mix of 8, 9, 10 and 11-inch smoothbore guns in their main batteries. The Monticello, a small gunboat, was armed with 8-inch smoothbore guns and a second gunboat, the Harriet Lane, mounted 8-inch and 32-pounder rifles (Gibbons 1989; Hayes and O’Brien 1962). A Union naval officer recorded that the attacking fleet of warships, tugs and troop transports mounted a total of 161 guns (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:74). Major-General Benjamin Butler, Volunteer Forces Commander, Department of Virginia (Churchill 1996a), commanded a combined infantry, marine and artillery assault force of approximately 1,150 men (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:74). Butler’s landing force was composed of detachments from the 2nd US Artillery, the 20th New York Volunteers, the 9th New York Volunteers ("Hawkins Zouaves") and the Union Coast Guard (later the 99th New York Volunteers). Fifty US Marines from the naval fleet supported the infantry and artillery units (Hawkins 1887:633; Hays and O’Brien 1962:74, 80).
When the invasion force was completely assembled off the Cape on the morning of August 27th, final preparations for the attack on the forts at Hatteras Inlet were made (Hayes and O’Brien 1962). Naval bombardment of the fortifications commenced at 10:00 a.m. on August 28th. With Commodore Stringham’s initial signal, "Wabash engage the batteries!," the warships, broadside to the beach, opened fire on Fort Clark. As the fleet moved south and passed the inlet, the bombardment of Fort Hatteras commenced. After the fleet passed Fort Hatteras, the line of warships continued to maneuver in a long continuous loop. As the fleet repeatedly passed the inlet fortification throughout the day, plunging and direct fire from the heavy naval guns were directed at the two fortifications from the fleet’s 161 guns (Hays and O’Brien 1962). According to military historians (Hill 1926; Reed 1978), Stringham’s maneuver (i.e., bombardment of a fixed target by a circling column of warships), was unique in the annals of American naval history. Before that time, US Navy warships simply anchored offshore and fired at land targets. The new maneuver made it difficult for shore batteries to hit the distant moving targets. The method employed by Stringham was subsequently adopted and employed with devastating effect against all Confederate coastal and riverine forts later in the war (Hill 1926).
In response, Fort Clark’s gunners replied with their comparatively light battery of 32-pounders. According to Union naval officers, the fort’s guns had adequate range capabilities, but the gunners were supplied with improperly timed fuzes (Hays and O’Brien 1962). As a result, the majority of the Confederate shells harmlessly exploded well before reaching the intended targets. Later reports noted that the use of damp, poor quality propellant powder further reduced the range capabilities of the Confederate guns (Merrill 1952). The fort’s single rifled gun, a 32-pounder, was able to reach the long-range targets. Unfortunately for the defenders, only solid shot was available for the gun (Martin 1897). Apparently, Fort Clark’s gunners had not yet received explosive shells for the rifled 32-pounder. This piece was effectively manned and caused some consternation among the Union gunners (Hays and O’Brien 1962). As noted with a degree of admiration by Lieutenant John Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:78) on board the USS Wabash:
Hardly had the smoke rolled from the gun [on board the Wabash] before with ready alacrity the battery [Fort Clark] replied with its entire force...a rifled 32-pounder...was served with regularity and great skill by the enemy. The other guns of this fort fired shells, their range was perfect, but their fuses being short, the shell burst high in the air, and much too short to cause serious damage. With the rifled gun we were beautifully hulled three times; many of its [solid] shot went whistling over us, just between our masts...and numberless missiles from its wicked mouth struck within a few feet of us, dashing the water up in jets into our faces.
Shortly after the bombardment commenced on the 28th, a Marine and naval detachment with elements of the 9th and 20th New York Volunteers, the Union Coast Guard and a contingent of regular Army artillerymen, attempted to make landfall some three-to-four miles above Hatteras Inlet (Hawkins 1887; Hayes and O’Brien 1962; Mallison 1998). Official records indicate that about 315 soldiers and two 12-pounder artillery pieces were actually landed approximately three miles up the beach from Fort Clark (Butler 1996; Weber 1996). Lieutenant Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:80) observed the landings and disparagingly recorded:
With ill contrived boats badly managed, the landing through the tremendous surf was a matter of no little difficulty and danger. And what with bad appliances, and still worse management, but about 280 men were landed, including 50 Marines...60 Regulars of the [2nd] Artillery, the balance being composed of a miserable, thieving set of rascals, terming themselves "Coast Guard"...without officers or organization of any kind, and a promiscuous crowd of about 150 of [Colonel] Max Weber’s regiment of Germans who were but little better than their confreres...
Unfortunately for the landing force, wind speed increased during the late morning hours and stimulated rough surf conditions. Several small boats, iron surf boats and wooden flats, were lost in the heavy seas, but no soldiers actually drowned during the landing. After the remaining troop transports nearly foundered in the breakers, the ungainly vessels were towed out to calmer waters offshore along with the bulk of the Army’s landing forces (Butler 1996; Hayes and O’Brien 1962; Weber 1996). In addition to weather and surf difficulties, the Union landing party was further subjected to fire from Fort Clark, but did not retreat as no Confederate infantry forces sallied out to drive the invaders from the shore. According to Lieutenant Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962), the Confederates might have easily hurled the invaders back into the sea, but the garrison troops failed to take advantage of the apparent confusion on the beach. Of the Union landing forces, Barnes stated: "These men landed and, scattered about the beach, were useless for any practical purpose and in the event of our bombardment proving unsuccessful, they were merely a present to the enemy of so much bone and sinew, arms and accoutrements" (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:80).
Fort Clark’s defenders had nearly expended all ammunition by mid-day. All during the first day of the naval attack, the guns at Fort Hatteras were silent. Due to the range of the Union naval vessels, Fort Hatteras’ gunners were ordered by Colonel Martin to hold their fire (Martin 1897). Although he was unaware of the ammunition shortage within the fort, a northern newspaper correspondent for Harper’s Weekly, reported: "The cannonading on our part was incessant, and the air was alive with the hum and explosion of flying shells; but the enemy did not return fire with any regularity, the battery being too hot for them, from the explosion of shells that dropped in at the rate of about half a dozen a minute" (HW 1861a:578). During the bombardment, one of Fort Clark’s 32-pounders suffered a direct hit and was dismounted from its carriage. The force of the impact actually smashed one of the heavy mounting trunnions off of the gun tube (Johnson 1986).
About 1:00 in the afternoon, all readily available ammunition had been expended by Fort Clark’s gunners and the defenders retreated to Fort Hatteras after spiking their pieces (Martin 1897). Weber’s troops then advanced on the deserted position and occupied the fortification. Upon occupation, Union troops hauled down the abandoned Confederate colors and unfurled the Stars and Stripes over Fort Clark’s ramparts. As the afternoon progressed, naval gunners continued to bombard Fort Clark. Only after the Union colors were repeatedly waved at the fleet by Weber’s men, did the firing on the captured position actually cease (Weber 1996). The loss of Fort Clark was not only a moral victory for the Union, but a severe tactical loss for the Confederates. The two fortifications, Hatteras and Clark, were designed to operate as a single defensive unit, in mutual support, in the event of a seaborne invasion. Fort Clark’s geographic position had been selected so that its battery could easily fire on naval ships offshore and protect the lightly armed rear of Fort Hatteras from land attack. With the loss of Fort Clark, Union land and sea efforts were simply concentrated on Fort Hatteras alone.
Late in the day of the 28th, the Union bombardment was halted by signal from Commodore Stringham on board the Minnesota. Upon the abandonment of Fort Clark, Stringham mistakenly assessed the situation and believed that both forts had been abandoned. Barnes (Hays and O’Brien 1962:81) recorded in his journal:
Soon after, the commodore bore down upon us and, crossing our stern, hailed saying that he thought we had "driven them out of both batteries" but he took no steps to convince himself that his supposition was, as we knew it to be, simply absurd and ridiculous. He went curvetting around the squadron, signaling his victory, to the discomforture and annoyance of everyone, who had sense enough to see how preposterous was the assumption.
After the cease fire was ordered, two frigates, the Wabash and Cumberland with 44 and 40 guns, respectively, were signaled to leave the scene of the action and make for blockade stations off Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly thereafter, about 4:00 p.m., the gunboat Monticello attempted to pass through the inlet. Fort Hatteras’ gunners, with weapons silent to that point in time, responded with vigor and quickly repelled the vessel with a hail of gunfire. Of the action, Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:81-82) noted:
the shot and shell fell like hail around the devoted little vessel...we [Wabash] beat to quarters, and prepared for action. The Monticello by this time had crawled out of her hot berth, like a wounded bird...numerous holes in her sides testified to the nature of the amusement she had indulged in.
The bombardment fleet resumed positions and concentrated fire with little or no effect on Fort Hatteras until dusk. Barnes, again, provided a critical assessment of the action. He observed: "...for one hour we kept up a continued and unremitting fire with, I am ashamed to say, no effect whatever except making a great noise and smoke" (Hays and O’Brien 1962:82).
As night fell, a gale threatened and the warships retired to deeper waters offshore. The naval support and Army transports with the remaining infantry and artillery left the small shore party to their own devices inside the sheltering walls of Fort Clark. No attempt was made to recover, resupply or reinforce the Union landing force. Lieutenant Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:82) critically noted in his journal:
On shore there was a small party of our troops, such as they were; of them, 54 Marines from the squadron...one company of the Regular Artillery, a mob of thieving wretches without leader or commander, calling themselves "Naval Brigadiers," and a miscellaneous lot of Dutchmen under the command of Col. Weber...These men were huddled upon the beach...and were evidently getting along badly enough...we already looked upon them as enemy’s property. No attempt was made either to relieve or reinforce them...Never shall I forget the disgust, amazement and chagrin experienced and expressed by everyone that night!
During this period of respite, additional Confederate forces arrived at Fort Hatteras from the Portsmouth and Ocracoke) garrisons. Colonel Martin, at the time of the initial Union attack, had ordered several companies from the adjacent coastal garrisons to come to the aid of the defenders at Hatteras Inlet (Martin 1897). The reinforcements, Company K ("Washington Grays"), 10th Regiment North Carolina State Troops (1st Regiment North Carolina Artillery) and three other companies of the 7th Regiment ("Morris Guards," "Hertford Light Infantry," and "Tar River Boys") arrived on the scene by boat late in the afternoon (Manarin 1962; Parvin 1922; Sparrow 1982). Due to the intensity of the bombardment, the small fleet of transports waited well offshore in the Pamlico Sound to avoid the Union barrage (Sparrow 1982). Captain Thomas Sparrow (1982:37) of the Washington Grays later recorded:
It was hard sometimes to distinguish between the bursting of a shell in the fort [Fort Hatteras], and a gun fired from it...How the shell burst over the fort! What beautiful white clouds of smoke they make! Such were some of the oft-repeated remarks made by the men around me...there was such a continual roar of artillery, that we could not at our distance of one, two and three miles distinguish the bursting of a shell from the firing of a gun.
When the Union commanders observed the Confederate reinforcements attempting a landing about 5:00 in the afternoon, several guns of the fleet were directed against the transports. Captain Sparrow (1982:38) recalled: "The shells fell short, but the rifle shot flew by us in quick succession. I had to make great exertions to keep my men below decks, out of the way of the shots." A portion of the reinforcements later managed a to land near the inlet and entered Fort Hatteras at dusk (Sparrow 1982). Later that night, Commodore Samuel Barron, Confederate States Navy (CSN), arrived with Major Andrews at Hatteras Inlet by the steam gunboat, CSS Winslow; Major Andrews was away from the island, attending to other official duties, at the time of the first Union attack. When North Carolina began the transfer of state maintained fortifications and volunteer troops to Confederate national service in early August of 1861, Barron, a former US Navy Captain from Virginia, was charged with command of all coastal defenses of North Carolina and Virginia. In deference to Barron’s senior rank, Colonel Martin and Major Andrews offered command of the defenses at Hatteras to the Commodore. It seems that Martin may have expected defeat and wanted someone other than himself to be the eventual scapegoat. Nonetheless, Barron accepted command and assumed responsibility for the garrison on the evening of the 28th (Andrews 1897; Martin 1897).
Throughout the night, soldiers and critical supplies of ammunition and water were off loaded from the transports. Company cooks worked throughout the evening to revive the exhausted troops with hot food and coffee (Sparrow 1982:43). As one Confederate officer later recalled: "Fasting, want of sleep, and anxiety had quite exhausted me. A cup of coffee and a little whiskey and sugar given me by Captain Clements quite revived me" (Sparrow 1982:43). Some attempt was made to mount a 10-inch Columbiad rifle inside Fort Hatteras. The much needed weapon had not been moved inside the fort before the Union fleet attacked. Sparrow (1982) indicated that some hours into the night, it was determined that there was actually no ammunition for the Columbiad in the fort’s magazine. Accordingly, the effort to mount the gun was halted (Sparrow 1982). Another participant in the night’s events, Private W. A. Parvin (1922), indicated that an 11-inch Columbiad rifle was, in fact, mounted during the night. Parvin (1922:14) stated: "...the 11-inch Gun that we mounted in the night Began to get Shots to close to them for comfort So they moved out of Range and opened fire on us with their 100 pound Rifled Parrot guns." Official Union Army reports after the battle indicated that one 10-inch Columbiad was actually found in the fort "ready for mounting" (Butler 1996). As such, Parvin’s account, which tends to be bit colorful and embellished, appears to be incorrect.
The Confederate officers mistakenly estimated that 700-800 Union soldiers had occupied Fort Clark. Although Barron and the other officers at Fort Hatteras made plans to retake Fort Clark on the night of the 28th, many of the reinforcements from Portsmouth Island and Fort Ocracoke, with critical ammunition and water supplies, had not yet landed on Hatteras Island. As the garrison troops on shore were critically short of both water and small arms ammunition, the planned assault on Fort Clark was delayed by Barron until the night of the 29th. While officers of the Union forces offshore were greatly concerned for the safety of the detachment inside the abandoned Fort Clark, the soldiers of the landing party were not particularly worried. During the night, Confederate pickets advanced to within a few yards of Fort Clark, but saw no signs of the enemy within. Apparently, no pickets had been left outside the fortification to observe Confederate troop movements. Captain Sparrow (1982:42-43) recalled:
We learned afterwards that only a small force was left there [Fort Clark], and that they got drunk on the whiskey found there and went to sleep. This is told me by one of the free negroes who remained there. The fort might have been retaken had the fact been known.
Later, Commodore Barron and his officers would be greatly censured for not attacking the comparatively weak Union landing party. As one contemporary civilian observer noted:
They [Union Navy] had landed a force of 300 men whom they were compelled to leave unsupported on the Sands. These our men in the Fort [Fort Hatteras] left unmolested, tho’ they could easily have overpowered them, conduct inexplicable then & which has never yet been satisfactorily explained.
On the morning of the 29th, Fort Hatteras’ gunners manned their weapons while the relief sections rested within the bombproof shelter. The supporting infantry troops were placed outside the fort under the shelter of the parapet wall that faced the Pamlico Sound. Shortly after dawn, Confederate engineers attempted to reposition a number of interior traverse walls to protect the inlet face guns from enemy raking fire that was expected to come across the top of the ocean face parapet. Although the garrison engineers worked feverishly on the problem, the traverses were unfinished when the Union fleet resumed the attack. As a result, two of the unprotected gun positions were destroyed in the bombardment (Sparrow 1982). By 7:40 in the morning, Union warships, positioned some two-and-one-quarter miles from Fort Hatteras, resumed the bombardment (Andrews 1897; Hayes and O’Brien 1962:84). Onboard the Wabash, Barnes recorded: "...noise, smoke, and hissing of shells ruled the hour. The shell practice with 10 and 11 inch guns was remarkably good" (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:84). During the early phase of the attack, only the three ocean face guns could be brought to bear on the Union warships that continually passed offshore. As no Union warships attempted to pass through the inlet, the inlet face guns were useless (Andrews 1897). The Confederate gunners initially fired sparingly, as the range to the ships was too great for the three operational pieces. As noted by Captain Sparrow (1982:47): "It was a one sided business. It became a question of endurance on our part. Could we hold out during the day we could take the enemy in Fort Clark at night."
The Harper’s journalist who accompanied the Union expedition reported: "They fired nearly half an hour before the battery [Fort Hatteras] responded, when it answered briskly. Our fire was more correct than on the previous day. The range had been obtained, and nearly every shot went into the battery, throwing up cloudes (sic) of sand and exploding with terrific effect" (HW 1861a:578). Despite such observations, stray shells fell wide of Fort Hatteras, in and around Union occupied Fort Clark, to the extent that the occupying Federal troops were forced to abandon beach area positions taken up between the two forts (Hawkins 1887). During the bombardment, additional troops from the Union Coast Guard and the 20th and 9th New York Volunteers landed under covering fire from the Navy gunners to reinforce Weber’s beleaguered force. The fleet fired continuously for three-and-one-half hours. Captain Sparrow (1982:45), whose men manned two of the inlet face guns, later recalled:
Such a bombardment is not on record in the annals of war. Not less than three thousand shells were fired by the enemy during the three hours. As many as twenty-eight in one minute were known to fall within and about the fort. It was like a hailstorm, and how so many escaped is known only to Providence, who sheltered and preserved us.
During the second day of the naval attack, a Union artillery piece was put into action against Fort Hatteras in the sand dunes near Fort Clark. The light 6-pounder rifle was effectively manned by the Coast Guard detachment. Confederate steamers attempted to land additional troops near the inlet, but the field piece on the beach was fired with great effect and the transports soon retreated out into the sound (Weber 1996). As the Union naval and field artillery gunners perfected their gunnery, the volume of shrapnel exploding in and about Fort Hatteras was terrific. Captain Sparrow (1982:49) observed:
For the last hour the enemy seemed to have got our range exactly...We had long ceased to fire, as we could not reach the enemy, and to man the guns was a useless exposure of the men. It became apparent that in an hour or two every man must be killed or wounded.
Later in the morning, a shell penetrated the roof of the bombproof shelter inside Fort Hatteras. Although the shell failed to explode, the Confederate commanders feared that the adjacent ammunition magazine would soon be penetrated with more devastating effect. Given the ferocity of the bombardment, the Confederates suffered comparatively few casualties. At least 35 soldiers were wounded severely enough to require the attention of surgeons over the two attack day period and two soldiers were killed in a quarters area near Fort Clark on the first day of the Union attack. An unknown number of troops suffered minor lacerations and bruises from spent shrapnel and flying debris whirling around the fort (Barron 1897; Butler 1996; King 1897). In the aftermath of the battle, Major-General Butler (1996) reported that enemy losses were "...ascertained to be 12 or 15 killed and died of wounds, and 35 wounded."
Despite such minimal losses, Commodore Barron determined that the continued defense of the fort, in the face of far superior firepower, would needlessly result in the loss of many defenders exposed to plunging fire from the Union warships. The presence of the reinforcements from Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands, as well as the garrison from Fort Clark, further compounded the problem. Fort Hatteras was simply not designed to protect more troops than the assigned garrison (Hill 1926). By mid-morning, Union naval guns were pounding the fort with 10-20 shells per minute and two of the garrison’s guns were dismounted by near direct hits (Holcombe and Buttgenbach 1912), With all artillery ammunition nearly expended, with little effect on the distant naval fleet, Commodore Barron and Colonel Martin met with their staff and announced the decision to surrender the garrison. When the white flag was raised on Fort Hatteras’ ramparts, the signal was given to the fleet by Commodore Stringham to cease fire. After some hours of negotiation, the Confederate garrison was unconditionally surrendered to Union forces. Lieutenant Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:84) of the Wabash observed: "At about 11:15 a white flag was observed to be flying upon the ramparts of the fort and by sundown we were in complete possession."
After some hours of negotiation, articles of capitulation were signed aboard Stringham’s flagship, the USS Cumberland. The overall Confederate loss was great, as Barron surrendered some 700 men, 1,000 rifle-muskets and muskets, 31 artillery pieces and two forts (Churchill 1996b). The captured officers and enlisted men of 7th and 10th Regiments were first sent to a military prison on Governor’s Island, New York. After about two months, the prisoners were transferred to Fort Warren in Boston harbor (Hill 1926; Parvin 1922). Upon their parole in 1862, the soldiers were returned to North Carolina and those who opted to remain in the Confederate Army were reformed as the 17th Regiment North Carolina Volunteers (1st Organization) (Clark 1982; Jordan and Manarin 1977; Manarin 1962, 1966).
The Confederate defenders at Hatteras Inlet, particularly Commodore Barron and Colonel Martin, were heavily criticized in the Southern press for surrendering the two forts (Ashe 1971; Barrett 1963; Bright 1961; Hill 1926). The criticism directed at the defenders was certainly unfair. At the time of the attack, neither of the two forts mounted there full batteries; particularly absent were the two forts’ complement of heavy Columbiads (8-inch and 10-inch). This problem was due to both a lack of the proper ammunition types and the lack of gun carriages/gun carriage parts for all available guns. Such ammunition and accoutrements were not readily available in the state and the Confederate national government had been particularly slow to assist the North Carolina government with materiel adequate for proper defense (Bright 1961; Hill 1926). Further, in an effort to aid Virginia, the government of North Carolina had shipped a great number of troops, small arms, artillery, ammunition and supplies northward. This assistance, at the request of the Confederate national government, came largely at the expense of the state’s own defense needs (Ashe 1971; Hill 1926).
Concern over the lack of heavy coastal artillery (i.e., 8 and 10-inch guns) and ammunition supplies at Hatteras Inlet had been voiced much earlier in the summer of 1861. Sparrow (1982:39) noted: "I anticipated the result...I knew the enemy could shell us from the ocean, and that the armament of the fort[s] was not sufficient for a successful resistance. I told the Adjutant-General [Colonel James G. Martin] this in Raleigh the last time I was in the city." Within the state, most residents of the Tidewater counties were shocked and dismayed over the outcome of the battle. Ashe (1971:655) noted:
...the capture of the garrison, composed chiefly of local companies, caused great sorrow and consternation throughout the entire region, and apprehension was felt that Roanoke Island and the towns on the [Albemarle] sound would be immediately attacked and taken, and the adjacent part of the State laid open to incursions of the enemy. Indeed, that disaster was the first that touched our people...the public was greatly shocked.
Even members of the civilian population in North Carolina recognized the significance of the Confederate losses at Hatteras Inlet. Catherine Edmonston, the wife of a prominent North Carolina planter, astutely voiced her thoughts on the capture of the forts in her diary. She (Crabtree and Patton 1979:85) observed:
I believe I have now brought up all the different threads of my narrative up to Aug 28th when occurred the Bombardment of Fort Hatteras. This was but a Land Fort, hastily thrown up at the commencement of the War to defend Hatteras Inlet, which tho by no means an important one in time of Peace was, from the impossibility of blockading it by vessels stationed outside, most valuable to us in time of war as vessels running the Blockade found safe harbour and secure entrance into Pamlico & Albemarle Sounds in defiance of their pursuers. It ought by all means to have been well defended, which unfortunately however was not done. As this was the beginning of our troubles in this State, I ought to be particular in mentioning it.
In the aftermath of the event, Edmonston (Crabtree and Patton 1979:86) went on to write: "The excitement was tremendus (sic) throughout the State. Censure was unsparingly heaped upon the officers in command, the men, & the State authorities."
Despite the Union success and subsequent glorification of the event in official US military correspondence and in the northern press (Barrett 1963; Merrill 1952), certain eyewitnesses condemned the actions of Commodore Stringham and General Butler. In an assessment of the first day of the engagement (August 28th), Lieutenant Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:82-83) noted:
...an analysis (of my feelings) would probably have disclosed the presence of supreme contempt and indignation towards the leaders and commanders of what then appeared to be a disgraceful affair. It had been a helter-skelter, happy-go-lucky concern from the beginning to the end so far. There had not been the least manifestation of sound sense or military or naval judgment...Had that squadron been commanded by an active, energetic man, with the smallest amount of naval knowledge and capacity, the whole affair might have been ended in one half hour from its commencement, with no possibility of failure, at the expense of one tenth the ammunition expended that day.
Barnes (Hayes and O’Brien 1962:84-85) concluded his critique of the Union tactics with this observation:
I close with the remark that the enemy (Confederate forces) never had more faithful allies than they had in the brutal folly, supreme ignorance and want of ordinary military and naval perception of Como. Stringham and Gen. Butler, whom I am ashamed to call our leaders! Had failure been possible, we should have encountered it. I shall leave no one of my acquaintance uninformed, and shall look forward to there being such a report of the proceedings of this day to the government as shall result in the removal of both from active service.
Apparently, a number of high-ranking US military officials, including Admiral DuPont, held sentiments similar to those voiced by Barnes. The northern press was, however, ecstatic over the events at Hatteras inlet. As a result of such popular public opinion, other officials dared not to openly attack the expedition commanders (Barnes and O’Brien 1962:85[note 48]). Merrill (1952) concluded that the overall operation was poorly organized and badly executed. The naval gunners saved the day when they delivered an intensive, smothering bombardment and overwhelmed the two forts with sheer firepower.
With the surrender of the fortifications at Hatteras Inlet, a detachment from the Union Coast Guard and several companies of the 9th and 20th New York Volunteers were left to garrison the forts. Colonel Rush Hawkins of the 9th New York Volunteers was given command of the occupation forces. Colonel Max Weber and the 20th New York detachments were stationed at Fort Hatteras, while Colonel Hawkins and the 9th New York soldiers garrisoned Fort Clark. All naval warships except for the Pawnee and the Monticello returned to stations either in Virginia or off the coast South Carolina. These two warships and the tug, Fanny, were left to support the occupation garrison (Hawkins 1887). The Confederate forces that remained on Hatteras Island were thrown into a state of panic. The few men who evaded capture at Fort Hatteras made their way by boat to Fort Oregon with the news of the losses. A council was held by the garrison’s officers and the majority voted to abandon the fort. In view of the expected ocean bombardment, combined with a land attack, the position of the fort was considered to be untenable. Although the garrison commander, Captain Lindsey, 7th North Carolina Volunteers, and Colonel Morris, Chief Engineer, dissented in the decision, the fort’s guns were spiked and the garrison was evacuated to Roanoke Island without a shot fired (Hill 1926).
Within days of the occupation of Hatteras Island, trouble began. In the immediate aftermath of the battle, officers and enlisted troops of the 20th New York plundered Fort Clark and the Confederate camps in the vicinity. The booty seeking volunteers first raided the personal trunks of the Confederate officers and soldiers and later "liberated" medical supplies, small arms and other military equipment from Fort Clark. After looting was completed, Weber’s men burned portions of the Confederate camp facilities and barracks buildings (Hawkins 1996b). Colonel Weber’s troops later used small boats to raid local homes and businesses on the island. The island’s civilian inhabitants advised Hawkins of the repeated robberies and destruction of private property. He vigorously responded by threatening Weber. In a letter to Weber, Hawkins (1996c) wrote:
I learn with great regret that your men and others under your command still continue to commit depredations against the property of the inhabitants of this island...This must and shall stop...These people...have taken the oath to support the Constitution of the United States, and they ought to and shall be protected in their rights of property and person...if it cannot be prevented by any other means, I shall use my artillery against all the boats I may see pass. I have promised these people protection, and intend to keep my promise good.
Although Hawkins apparently curbed the excesses of the troops under his command, his relations with Weber remained quite strained.
In early September, five additional companies of the 9th New York arrived to further support the occupation force. Initially, Hawkins recommended to his superiors that Fort Clark be abandoned. Hawkins (1996a) stated: "I cannot see the use or necessity of holding Fort Clark. It is a mere outpost at best, and could easily be taken by surprise in the night." Despite Hawkins’ appraisal, Fort Clark was garrisoned by Union forces for three more years (Judson 996). Hawkins (1887) further observed that as the news of the Union capture of the forts was disseminated, "intelligent contraband" (i.e., escaped slaves) began to make their way to Hatteras Island from the mainland and other coastal islands. By early September, soldiers of the 9th New York were hard at work building the new facilities (Johnson 1986) and additional heavy naval guns (8-inch) were mounted inside both Forts Hatteras and Clark (Farquhar 1996). After assuming command of the Federal forces left on Hatteras Island, Hawkins set out to establish friendly relations with the civilian inhabitants of the Outer Banks. He (Hawkins 1887:636) noted:
Within ten days after the landing, nearly all of the males had taken the oath of allegiance, and several professed their willingness to carry proclamations to the mainland, and to bring back such news of military movements as they could obtain...I learned that, as I had suspected, a force was...to make the attack upon Hatteras Island.
In mid-September, the two remaining companies of the 9th New York, a detachment company from the 1st US Artillery, and the 20th Regiment Indiana Volunteers were all sent from Virginia to bolster the Federal defenses on Hatteras Island. Weber’s command was apparently detached to garrison the Ocracoke Island defenses. In addition to the ground troops, two additional gunboats, the Putnam and the Ceres, were sent to increase the Union naval presence in the Pamlico Sound (Hawkins 1887).
During this period, local informants and US Navy intelligence sources advised Colonel Hawkins that the Confederates had abandoned both Fort Ocracoke on Beacon Island and the small gun battery on Portsmouth Island (Gillis 1996; Hawkins 1887). On September 16th, a detachment of US Navy sailors and Union Coast Guardsmen was sent by steamer to the adjacent islands to investigate. The detachment found the fortifications on both islands abandoned and noted that only four of Fort Ocracoke’s 22 guns had been removed by Confederate forces. The landing party proceeded to burn the magazines, bombproofs, gun carriages and buildings associated with the fortifications. All remaining artillery pieces were reportedly destroyed on location, presumably spiked, and the ammunition was returned to Hatteras Island (Hawkins 1996d; Hill 1926). As with the case of Fort Oregon, the Confederate garrisons on Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands abandoned their positions without a fight. Despite the subsequent censure lavished upon the defenders by various military and government officials, the forts and batteries were not completed and were further ill supplied and under gunned for adequate defense (Hill 1926). Given the events at Hatteras Inlet, these defensive positions would have likely fell, rather quickly, to a determined Union attack. With the loss of all Confederate defenses on the Outer Banks, within the period of a few short weeks, Hill (1926:173) observed:
...all the fortifications guarding the inlets to the Albemarle and Pamlico sounds fell under Federal sway. As the Federal fleet had now absolute control of the sea and of the inlets and a safe lodgement on the banks, the way was clear for the second disastrous invasion of the state.
In late September, Confederate intelligence sources passed information to the garrison on Roanoke Island that the Union forces were consolidating their position on Hatteras Island with the aid of the armed tug, Fanny. In response, three makeshift gunboats from North Carolina’s "Mosquito Fleet" (Raleigh, Curlew, Junaluska) were sent by Commodore Barron’s successor in North Carolina waters, Captain W. F. Lynch (CSN), to capture the Union vessel (Hill 1926; Stern 1962). On October 1st, the small patrol approached Hatteras island in the vicinity of Chicamacomico and encountered the Fanny along with elements of the 20th Indiana. The Indianans had been sent by Hawkins to fortify and protect the Cape Hatteras lighthouse from possible Confederate demolition. The 20th Indiana had originally landed near Chicamacomico on September 29th and were in the process unloading additional supplies and ammunition from the tug when the Confederate steamers arrived. The Fanny grounded on a sandbar when here crew attempted to make for Hatteras Inlet and escape the Confederate gunboats. After a brief naval duel, the Union vessel was overwhelmed (Hawkins 1887; Hill 1926; Huger 1996a, 1996b). The outgunned crew of the tug surrendered the vessel along with 42 soldiers to the Confederate squadron. The Confederates were particularly pleased with the capture of the vessel with two rifled cannon and Union supplies that included a large quantity of artillery ammunition and 1,000, each, coats, overcoats and shoes (Hill 1926:175; Wright 1996). Upon receipt of the news, Colonel Hawkins sent word for the remaining companies of the 20th Indiana to retreat to the lighthouse (Hawkins 1887).
On October 4th, the Confederate garrison stationed at Roanoke Island, jointly commanded by Colonel A. R. Wright (3rd Regiment Georgia Volunteers) and Colonel H. M. Shaw (8th Regiment North Carolina Volunteers), landed a large force near Chicamacomico under the protective cover of the three gunboats (Barrett 1963; Hill 1926; Yellowly 1982). The Confederates were intent on destroying the lighthouse and setting up a base of operations to move against Federal occupation forces at the inlet. Wright’s Georgians, with the aid of the gunboats, drove the Indianans from the field and pillaged the Union camp at Chicamacomico. Shaw had planned to land his troops south of Chicamacomico to cut off the Union retreat. Due to excessively deep water and nearshore sand bars that blocked the passage of the transports, Shaw’s men could not wade ashore and were inexplicably returned to Roanoke Island without any attempt to land the men at another nearby location (Yellowly 1982). As night fell, the 20th Indiana halted their regrouped at the lighthouse while the Confederates made camp at Kinnakeet. Meanwhile, local spies sent word of the Rebel landing to Colonel Hawkins, who then proceeded to march up the island with the 9th New York on the morning of the 5th (Barrett 1963; Hill 1926).
When Colonel Wright discovered that Colonel Shaw had failed to land the other half of the Confederate expedition force, he ordered a retreat back to Chicamacomico (Hill 1926). During the day, the Union gunboat, Monticello, provided fire support from the ocean side of the island (Johnson 1986). Although one Indiana private later claimed that the Monticello had destroyed two Southern sloops (Stern 1962), Confederate sources indicate that the Union gunboat shelled the Confederate force with little or no effect (Yellowly 1982). After the Union forces consolidated late in the evening, and command and control were reestablished by Hawkins, a Union counter attack was launched (Hawkins 1887). In their turn, the Confederate units made a rapid retreat to their boats and withdrew from the island. In light of the somewhat awkward troop movements made by the two opposing forces during the battle at Chicamacomico, the action was disparagingly dubbed the "Chicamacomico Races" by the locals (Barrett 1963; Hill 1926). Although Hawkins saved the lighthouse and prevented the establishment of a threatening Confederate presence on the island, he was censured by Army high command for the loss of the Fanny and for splitting up his forces. He subsequently lost his command at Hatteras and was briefly replaced by Brigadier-General Joseph Mansfield (Hawkins 1887; Whipple 1996a).
Within days, Mansfield was relieved by Brigadier-General Thomas Williams (Whipple 1996b). Williams was a petty tyrant of sorts and was widely despised by the troops at Hatteras Inlet. Johnson (1986) reported that one soldier shot at the General through the window of his quarters. In another instance, the creative soldiers constructed and camouflaged deep pits along paths where Williams conducted inspections. After Williams fell into two of the pits in one day, Johnson (1986:79) noted: "This was such a mortal affront to his state and dignity that he has hardly shown himself out of his quarters since." After Williams arrived at Hatteras, Colonel Hawkins was ordered by his department commander, Major-General John E. Wool, to meet with President Lincoln and the Cabinet. On the 6th of November, Hawkins visited Washington to discuss the benefits of either abandoning or holding Hatteras Island. Hawkins felt strongly about the strategic value of the island and its inlet, as the "key to the Albemarle." He advised Lincoln to have the island heavily garrisoned and to order further improvements to the garrison facilities and defenses at the inlet (Hawkins 1887). Later, Hawkins and his "Zoauves" participated in numerous engagements (e.g., Roanoke Island, New Bern, Elizabeth City, Fort Macon, etc.) in coastal North Carolina during the Burnside expedition of 1862 (Hawkins 1887). Soon after Hawkins’ meeting with the President, additional barracks, a hospital and other structural facilities were erected outside the walls of Fort Clark to the north and west of the camp and quarters complex originally constructed by Confederate troops and black laborers (Figures 15-18). Before the additions were completed tents were used as supplementary quarters for the burgeoning Union garrison (Bosbyshell 1895; Champney 1862-1863; Johnson 1986). Bosbyshell (1895:28) recalled: "At Fort Clarke some of the companies occupied tents, others preferring the old wooden barracks erected by former occupants, vulgarly but suggestively named ‘Camp Louse’...Here the regiment settled, literally away from the rest of the world."
As Union forces consolidated control of the Outer Banks during the late fall and winter of 1861-1862, a series of remote camps and observation posts, peripheral to Forts Hatteras and Clark, were constructed on Hatteras Island. When Confederate forces were permanently driven off the island, Camp Wool and Camp Winfield Scott were established on the sound side of the island near the present village of Hatteras. In close proximity to the fortifications, a warehouse and wharf complex was erected on the shore of the Pamlico Sound (Wool 1996b). A rotating detachment of men was charged with maintenance of the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras and another small camp was located up the island at Trent (Frisco) (Champney 1862-1863; Jackman 1891; Johnson 1986). Apparently, a church at Trent was fortified with a surrounding breastwork and utilized as a guard house (Johnson 1986). A "Negro Camp" of twelve buildings (Figures 9-10) to house escaped slaves was constructed somewhat north of Fort Clark and across the inlet road that led to Fort Hatteras (Farquhar 1864). The former slaves, who numbered some 100 individuals by 1865, served as laborers on the fortifications, servants for commissioned and non-commissioned officers, or as boatmen for the garrison quartermaster (Champney 1862-1863; James 1865). In March of 1863, Private Edwin G. Champney of the 5th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers wrote: "Tom Ferg and the others are acting as nigger drivers. There is a large number of contrabands [i.e. escaped slaves] here living in shanties and working in the forts" (Champney 1862-1863:22).
Shortly after Forts Hatteras and Clark were captured, Colonel Hawkins (1996d) reported:
If it is decided to hold Fort Clark, a considerable amount of timber should be sent here to support the sides of a ditch, which should be made at once. A large amount of work should be done on this fort...The store-houses and barracks to be built at Fort Hatteras should be commenced at once. This will also take a large amount of timber, which should be sent immediately.
Although the two forts were generally completed over the period between the winter of 1861 and summer of 1862, structural work continued well into 1863 (Champney 1862-1863; Hawkins 1887; Johnson 1986). The form of each fort was somewhat modified from the original plan and stronger magazines and bombproofs were constructed. To thwart possible infantry attacks, angled palisading of sharpened pales was positioned outside the walls of Fort Clark (Figure 13). A similar arrangement was added to Fort Hatteras sometime during the same period (Figure 14). The gun batteries in each fortification were strengthened with the addition of larger caliber guns. Detailed engineering diagrams of both Forts Hatteras and Fort Clark were drawn by Union engineers. One illustration depicted Fort Clark shortly after its capture in 1861 and the second schematic showed the fort after its final completion (Figures 11 and 12) (Farquhar 1861, 1863).
In October of 1861, Brigadier-General Williams had soldiers of the 20th Indiana construct a breastwork across Inlet Peninsula in the vicinity of Fort Clark. It is not clear if the breastwork incorporated Fort Clark as a bastion or if the breastwork was constructed to the east of the fort. In order to better defend the inlet garrisons, Mansfield planned to have the troops cut a canal across the island on the east side of the fortified line above Fort Clark (Johnson 1986). Before the massive project was completed, a major storm thwarted Williams’ plans. In early November of 1861, Johnson (1986:67-68), a private in the 9th New York, witnessed the destruction and stated:
the last storm...not only swept away the camp of the Indians, but so completely demolished the works they had made that hardly a sign of them is to be seen...The General’s works here across the Island have been carried by the storm, erased, leveled and scattered to the winds!
The fortifications at Hatteras Inlet were occupied by Union troops for the duration of the war. By December of 1861, the garrison population at Hatteras Inlet reached 1,892 officers and enlisted men (Wool 1996c). Forts Hatteras and Clark later served as a base of operations for General Ambrose Burnside’s expedition in January and February of 1862, a period when Union military activities on the island reached a wartime peak. After Burnside’s capture of Roanoke Island and other inland port towns, such as New Bern and Elizabeth City, North Carolina, the Outer Banks became a comparatively quiet "backwater" of the war. As one Union observer noted: "After its capture affairs at Hatteras...settled down into a routine of possession" (Edmands 1912:58). Northern soldiers quartered on Hatteras Island often held a dim view of their station. A soldier passing through Hatteras Inlet with Burnside’s expedition reported:
Of all the lonely, God-forsaken looking places I ever saw this Hatteras island takes the premium. It is simply a sand-bar rising a little above the water...The water is never still and fair weather is never known; storms and sea gulls are the only productions... and the only things which make any attempt to grow, are a few shrub pines and fishermen [Day 1883:23].
Union troops garrisoned at Forts Hatteras and Clark generally found life to be rather miserable on the wind-blown beaches of the island. In the winter of 1863, one unhappy trooper (Champney 1862-1863:26-27) lamented in his journal:
[the sand] blows into all the cracks and crevices, fills the bunks, gets into our victuals, blinds our eyes and torments us in ever possible way...Sand, Sand, fine sand, air filled with it, everything covered, eyes, mouth, nose, ears filled. Awful, terrible, Cold. It seems as though this was the worst place in the world.
Other Union soldiers echoed similar sentiments (e.g., Bosbyshell 1895; Denny 1879; Drake 1889; Johnson 1986; Roe 1907). By the spring of 1864, Brigadier-General Innis N. Palmer, Commander, Headquarters District North Carolina, wrote that the walls of Fort Clark were under constant natural attack from storm overwash action and dune formation processes. In a May, 1864 letter to the Army’s Adjutant-General, Palmer noted: "...with every strong wind the parapet is nearly buried in the sand" (Palmer 1996).
During the period of Union occupation of coastal North Carolina, one black and two white Union Army regiments of North Carolina volunteers were raised. Colonel Rush Hawkins and several other Union officers worked diligently to establish the volunteer units in 1862 and 1863. Many of the volunteers were "Bankers" while other volunteers came from the mainland Tidewater counties. The 1st Regiment North Carolina Infantry (1st North Carolina Union Volunteers or 1st North Carolina Union Infantry) was initially formed in the Union occupied town of Washington, North Carolina during May and June of 1862 (Hawkins 1887; Manarin 1962). Companies H and I (1st North Carolina Union Artillery) of the 1st North Carolina Union Volunteers mustered into service at Fort Hatteras in January of 1863 (Mallison 1998). Although, Hawkins implied that local volunteers were in service at Hatteras Inlet as early as 1861, enlistment records do not officially note the presence of North Carolina volunteers on Hatteras Island until 1863 (Donald Collins, Department of History, East Carolina University, personal communication 1999).
Companies H and I were stationed on Hatteras Island to support the regular Union Army garrison at Forts Hatteras and Clark. Detachments from the Hatteras companies were sent to both Ocracoke and Portsmouth islands. In March of 1863, Edwin Champney (1863:22) noted: "...Gen Foster...ordered all the men to be concentrated at the forts. The Buffaloes garrison Fort Hatteras." The North Carolina volunteer soldiers were disparagingly nicknamed "buffaloes" by the local civilian populace; Union Army regulars later adopted the insulting term (Donald Collins, Department of History, East Carolina University, personal communication 1999). Apparently, the buffaloes were not particularly well regarded by the Northern troops. Roe (1911:240) stated: "The alleged loyal North Carolinians...do not stand very high in the minds of the men from Massachusetts. Seemingly they are more observant of calls for rations than for work of any kind." Despite the integration problem with regular Union Army troops, Company H remained on duty at Hatteras Inlet until the volunteer soldiers of the unit mustered out at New Bern on June 27, 1865 (Manarin 1962).
Fort Clark was essentially decommissioned in the summer of 1864. On orders from Brigadier-General Palmer, the fort was "dismantled." The garrison’s armaments and munitions were relocated to Fort Hatteras sometime after August of 1864 (Judson 1996). Although not indicated in official records, the barracks buildings associated with Fort Clark may have been dismantled during the abandonment process. During the same time period, erosion damage to Fort Hatteras was repaired and "sea-wall" was constructed in an effort to "hold the drifting sand" and prevent storm overwash from flooding the low lying area between Fort Clark and Fort Hatteras (Michie 1996). While Fort Clark must have soon fell into a state of disrepair, Fort Hatteras continued to be armed and garrisoned by Union occupation forces long after the Confederate surrender in 1865 (Campbell 1996).
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