On March 13th 1862, BrigGen Ambrose Burnside led about 11,000 Union troops in a landing on Slocum’s Creek near New Bern, NC. Today, this area is the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station. Burnside’s objective was the capture of the town of New Bern and gaining controling of the railroad supply line at Goldsboro, a vital transportation link for the Confederates.
Oliver Case and the 8th CVI fought in this battle as part of BrigGen Parke’s brigade. On March 13, 1862, Parke’s Brigade made a “slow” landing at the mouth of Slocum’s Creek from small boats ferried by a tugboat. The brigade moved up the right bank of the Neuse River until they hit the entrenchments of the Confederate forces defending New Bern. The entrenchments were abandoned, but the brigade continued its march until nightfall. General Parke reported that “roads generally were in bad order, and the men marched in many localities through water and mud. In addition, heavy showers fell at intervals during the day and night, and although the men had their overcoats and blankets the bivouac was extremely trying.” [OR, Parke, 22 Mar 1862]
In the early morning of March 14, 1862, General Parke advance his brigade toward New Bern where the unit is quickly engaged by Confederate forces in entrenchments. Colonel Rodman, commander of the Fourth Rhode Island (later to become the division commander and be killed in action at Antietam), discovered an opening in the entrenchments by which the Confederates can be flanked. Parke quickly ordered the brigade to attack the entrenchments and the Confederate were soon flanked and the center of the Confederate line was broken. [Reports of Harland and Parke, 22 Mar 1862]
General Parke reported that all the regiments “were under fire, and the officers seemed proud of the men they were leading and the men showed they had full confidence in their officers.” Two soldiers are killed in action and four are wounded.
The attack upon the defenses of Newbern (March 14th) was made at an early hour, and the Eighth assisted in the capture of about five hundred Confederate troops. This was the regiment’s first baptism of blood. Its killed were privates Phelps of Company B and Patterson of Company I, with four wounded. The personal bravery of Colonel Harland amid the whistling bullets at Newbern, together with his skill and cool-headedness as a tactician, and his evident desire to shield his men from harm whenever possible, gave them a confidence in him which was never afterward shaken. [Vaill]
The 8th was first in the battle in which they fought bravely…Gen Burnside came along up side of our Regt an[d] order[ed] us to charge on them in which we did in double quick time in which they fired upon us killing 8; wound[ed] several. It was a bold attempt but we won the victory driving the rebels in every direction. [Harrington]