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But one stronghold of the enemy on the coast of North Carolina now remained unconquered—that of Wilmington, which was heavily fortified and well defended. But it was not permitted to General Burnside to add the capture of this important' place to his series of victories. He had already done enough to deserve the commendations of his grateful countrymen, but he would have been glad to complete the occupation of the North Carolina shores. He received the most flattering testimonials from the authorities at Washington of the appreciation of the service which he had already rendered. The Secretary of War expressed his gratitude in the following terms: “The report of the late brilliant successes of the United States forces under your command at Newbern has afforded the highest satisfaction to the President, to this Department, and to the whole nation, and thanks for distinguished services are again tendered to you and the officers and soldiers under your command."* These expressions of approval were not mere empty words. General Burnside was promoted to Major General of Volunteers, his commission dating March 18th. Generals Foster, Reno, and Parke were also promoted to the same grade, dating from the fall of Fort Macon, April 26th. Colonel Rodman received a deserved advancement to the rank of Brigadier General, dating from the 28th of April. Flag Officer Goldsborough and Commander Rowan also received the thanks of Congress for their services at Roanoke Island and Newbern, and were duly promoted to a superior rank. Thus did a grateful country manifest its approval of patriotic and heroic deeds.
*Mr. Stanton's Letter, as quoted in General Order No. 23.
THE DEPARTMENT OF NORTH CAROLINA.
JHE boundaries of General Burnside's jurisdiction as com
mander necessarily defined by the limits of the conquests which our arms should make. After the battle of Newbern, the pursuit of the flying foe into the interior would have been an easy task, had the victorious army been appointed and equipped for an aggressive campaign of such importance. But General Burnside had no cavalry. He had also no reserves. All his forces had been put into the battle after a wearisome march, and they were too much exhausted to do more than drive the enemy out of his defences. The orders for the expedition pointed to the immediate reduction of Fort Macon. General Burnside, therefore, was obliged to content himself with the administration of affairs, and with strengthening Newbern and putting it in condition for defence, that it might become a suitable base for future military operations. His instructions contemplated no movement at present beyond the reoccupation of Fort Macon. On Sunday, March 16th, public services of Thanksgiving to God for the victories of our arms were held in the churches of Newbern, and on Monday, the serious civil work of the Department began.
General Burnside found that he had by no means an easy task to perform. While the siege of Fort Macon was in progress, affairs at Newbern demanded almost constant personal supervision. There were questions of property to settle, the employment and care of large numbers of “contrabands” who had been abandoned by their masters, the subsistence of many
poor persons who had no visible means of support, and a thousand other matters of greater or less importance, which required perpetual attention. The Department had been constituted upon the arrival of the expedition at Hatteras Inlet. While it included within its boundaries only Hatteras Inlet and its neighborhood, its civic duties were not arduous. But as its limits enlarged, its labors increased. It had been supposed that North Carolina was a State which had been reluctantly dragged out of the Union. There must be a strong loyal sentiment somewhere latent among the people. It was not the least of General Burnside's duties to seek, to find and to develope this sentiment. Could it be done best by diplomacy or by arms? General Burnside did not think that, while the rebels had a large army in the field, any State could be allured from its subjection to the rebel government. It would be useless for any number of people to declare themselves independent of the authority at Richmond, while that authority could command the arms of half a million of soldiers. A State must be conquered, or its professed allegiance was of small value. It was the duty of the Commander of a Department to show to all the people within the boundaries of his authority, that the government which he served was more powerful than the usurping government, and that he had ample means for protecting those persons who would renounce their allegiance to the enemy and declare themselves loyal to the Union. The policy of the United States was not only to conciliate, but to subdue and to defend. If there should be any considerable numbers of loyal persons on the shores of North Carolina, it would be cruel to leave them exposed to the hatred and hostility of their enemies. As a military movement, it was also necessary to hold certain points upon the coast, to manifest the supreme authority of the government of the United States, and to prove that the attempts making to restore that authority all over the South were made earnestly and with an eye to
With some such object in view, General Burnside sent out
detachments of his troops to visit, examine, and, if thought necessary, to occupy certain portions of the coast. While General Parke's brigade was busy at Beaufort and Fort Macon, the command at Newbern was not suffered to lack employment. Colonel Hartranft, with the 51st Pennsylvania Regiment, made a reconnaissance into the interior of the coast counties, acquiring considerable valuable information, and picking up a few prisoners.
A somewhat important expedition, under the command of General Foster, was sent to Washington, at the head of the Pamlico river. On the 19th of March, eight companies of the 24th Massachusetts, under Colonel Stevenson, were embarked on board the steam transport Guide, and on the 20th, they sailed, under convoy of the gunboats Louisiana, Delaware, and Commodore Perry. The steamers anchored in the Pamlico river the same night, and on the 21st, proceeded up the river. At a distance of five miles below the place, obstructions were found in the channel, to prevent the ingress of any hostile force. One or two deserted batteries were observed upon the shore. The gunboats broke through the obstructions, but owing to the shallowness of the water, the transport could not approach the town. Two companies were transferred to a boat of lighter draft, were landed, and marched into the place without hindrance.
An account of the occupation given by the correspondent of the Boston Journal, presents a very good view of the expedition and its results : “Washington is a village of twenty-five hundred inhabitants, some two-thirds of whom have seen fit to leave for the interior. It is a pleasant, inviting locality. Our troops landed at a wharf, and visited the village about two o'clock in the afternoon, where they were received by the remaining inhabitants with every expression of welcome. In passing through the streets, one lady appeared at her door and displayed the stars and stripes, which she had long kept secreted from the rebels. She seemed overjoyed at the sight of our troops. The line of march extended to the Court House, where was a flag staff,
and upon this was run up the national flag. The people gathered wonderingly about, and seemed to enjoy the sight, though they refrained from any strong expression of their feelings. It was ascertained that the principal portion of the rebel force here had left immediately after Newbern was taken, and that a squad of cavalry, which lingered behind, had recently left the place.” Our naval forces found that two gunboats had been building at this place. One of them, pierced for six guns, was launched and carried up the river a short time before the arrival of our forces. It was burnt on the night of the 20th, by the enemy's hands. The other boat was not yet completed, and was destroyed by our seamen, assisted by some of the inhabitants of the town. After a short stay, our troops were reëmbarked, and on the next day returned to Newbern. Other small bodies of troops were sent into the country upon reconnoitering expeditions. They returned with reports of a not very encouraging nature. The loyal sentiment of the people of North Carolina was not so strong as had been supposed. The people had at first, doubtless, beeen overawed by the superior power of the rebel government. But they had also, to a very great extent, willingly entered into the war against the Federal Government. North Carolina had also profited largely, and was destined to profit still more by the blockade-running, for which Wilmington afforded unusual facilities. The people were not yet ready to break away from the yoke of the insurgent power. They had not felt its heavy burden as they were destined to feel it a later period. Still, our own government did not despair of bringing the State back to its allegiance.
Roanoke Island was also the base of some operations which kept the troops employed, though they accomplished no extraordinary results. Before the army had started for Newbern, on the 8th of March, a force of six companies of the 6th New Hampshire had been sent to Columbia in search of a regiment of rebels which was said to be gathering recruits at that place. General Foster led the expedition. The troops landed, marched into the village, but could find no enemy. The