Burnside Expedition Part 6

Siege and Defeat of Fort Macon

The movement of the artillery for the siege of the fort was a masterpiece of ingenuity and hard work. First the weight of the guns required the repair of the railroad bridge at Newport. The 5th RI Bn, under the command of Major John Wright, was detailed to this task. Upon completion of the repairs they were relieved by the 9th New Jersey (on loan to Parke from 2nd Brigade for the purpose of supplying security). Originally the ordinance dedicated to the siege consisted of a battery of 30lb rifled Parrotts and four 10″ mortars. The ordnance officer in charge, LT Daniel Flagler, however, deemed this insufficient for the task and went to New Berne and coordinated for an additional four 8″ mortars. The batteries were taken to the landing at Slocum’s Creek and then transported by wagon to Havelock. There they were loaded on to railroad cars that were hauled along the tracks to Morehead City by horses and mules (no serviceable engines could be found). Finally the pieces had to be brought across the sound to Bogue Banks. Only one suitable scow could be found for this duty and due to the tides and shallow water only one trip a day could be made. Once on the Banks all the guns and ammunition had to be hauled by fatigue parties up 4 1/2 miles of sandy beach. It was not until April 11th that all the necessary equipment was on hand. On the 12th CPT Williamson, Topographical Engineer conducted a reconnaissance to locate the positions for the batteries. The narrowness of the island left few options and the sand dunes were originally thought to be obstructions to the proper placement of the guns. Williamson turned the problem into a positive by devising a way to turn the sandy hills into emplacements by revetting the walls of the dugout dunes with sand bags. Much of the work was done under fire from the fort and at night but remarkably few casualties resulted from the enemy fire. The works were completed and ammunition stocked in the batteries on the night of 23 April. The order to open on the fort was received at 1400 on the 24th but the mortar batteries were inadequately manned and the barrage was delayed overnight while men of the Company I, 3rd New York Artillery were marched into position. CPT Lewis Morris, commanding the Parrott battery, took the opportunity to use the delay to make some last minute adjustments to his embrasures. The guns were opened on the fort at 0530 on the 25th with Morris reporting that the first shot struck the parapet. The mortars soon followed and for several hours the batteries poured fire into the fort as rapidly as they could be serviced. In the mid morning the fleet joined in the bombardment but remained on station for just an hour before they claimed high seas and departed. The fire from the rifled guns proved most effective, after some adjustments by LT W. S. Andrews who was observing from his signal station. Andrews reported that after 1200 “every shot fired from our batteries fell in or on the fort.” The Confederate defenders manned their guns throughout the barrage but the sand dunes proved remarkably effective at absorbing their rounds. The only Federal soldier killed was lost when he scrambled over the dunes to replace a downed aiming stake. The amount of fire was eventually slowed by Parke in an effort to preserve ammunition but the damage being done by the Parrotts was enough to convince Colonel Moses White, commanding the Confederate garrison, that further resistance was folly. At around 1700 the white flag of surrender was raised over the fort. The final arrangements for surrender were not completed until the morning of the 26th when White and 400 defenders marched out of the fort. The Confederate colors were struck and the fort reclaimed.

Burnside Expedition (Campaign Series)


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