The Surrender of Fort Macon

In his next letter written three days after the surrender of Fort Macon, Oliver Case gives an account of his view of the culminating action during the siege of the Confederate fort at the tip of the Bogue Banks. Brigadier General John G. Parke, the brigade commander placed in command of the siege efforts by General Burnside, had assembled his guns for the attack including three artillery batteries of eleven total guns, both mortars and 30-pound rifled guns. The soldiers of the 8th CVI had labored for weeks preparing the artillery and infantry positions to lay siege to the fort.

The regiment has been hard at work ever since we arrived here, throwing up entrenchments to protect the artillery and infantry.[1]

On the 24th of April, with the preparations for a bombardment completed, General Parke called for the Confederate garrison of Fort Macon to surrender. General Burnside had arrived the previous day and met under a flag of truce with the commander of the fort to no avail.

The surrender of the fort was now demanded, and met a defiant refusal.[2]

Burnside gave the order to commence with the siege and Parke responded to the defiant Rebels by turning up the pressure.

Our riflemen pushed up so close as to pick off the rebel gunners.[3]

The bombardment of Fort Macon began at 5:00 am on the morning of April 25th with Parke’s eleven guns from Bogue Banks and some assistance from batteries afloat.

On the morning of the 25th, fire was opened on the fort from the shore batteries and the three steamers moving in a circle. The latter drew off after an hour’s fighting; and the siege batteries increased in energy, shaking the sandy beach, and knocking gun after gun from the fort’s parapet.[4]

For the next eleven hours, the Union artillerymen with assistance from the soldiers of the 8th CVI kept up the bombardment. The masonry fort was no match for the modern rifled artillery and several large openings appeared in the walls and gun after gun was disabled. Through it all, the 8th CVI was in the thick of the action. Oliver writes to Abbie:

The work was completed Thursday night and the bombardment commenced early the next morning and continued without intermission until four in the P.M., our regiment meanwhile lying behind the breastworks while a perfect rain of shot and shell came upon all sides of them, many times caving the banks upon them so it was necessary to dig one another out with shovels. Several of our men were hit by balls rolling into the trench upon them, but none were wounded. The artillery lost one killed and two wounded.[5]

Croffut and Morris confirm the role of the 8th during the bombardment:

The Eighth was alone in the rifle-pits, between the thundering cannon, shooting the rebel gunners and infantry whenever a head was visible.[6]

The fort was commanded on this day by 27-year old Confederate Colonel Moses J. White. White, a native of Mississippi, held an impressive record at the U.S. Military Academy in the Class of 1858 graduating second. Originally assigned to the western theater at the beginning of the war, he was given command of Fort Macon on October 5, 1861. During the siege, White was struggling with health problems that had first appeared during his time at West Point. However, he continued to encourage his officers and soldiers during the bombardment until he was completely exhausted.

Colonel Moses J. White, Commander of Fort Macon

By the afternoon of the 25th, it was evident that the fort and its garrison could not withstand much more of the devastating fire from the Union guns. After meeting with his commanders, White ordered the flag of surrender to be raised.

The rebels came out with a white flag about four o’clock and a messenger was sent for. Gen. Burnside, also, arrived in the evening. Capitulations were agreed upon before morning…[7]

The Union forces entered the fort and raised the national colors igniting a controversy between two of the regiments.

…early the next day the “Stars and Stripes” were run up by the 4th R.I. Regiment. The 8th Conn. were not very well suited to do all the work and have the 4th R.I. hoist their flag, but that is all right; it is “Uncle Sam”, anyhow.[8]

Croffut and Morris identify the Rhode Island regiment as the 5th and give additional details on the honor bestowed on them in lieu of the 8th.

…the 5th Rhode-Island; and to this fragment of a regiment the rebel flag was given as a trophy next morning, when the formal surrender was made, and the regiment took possession of the fort. The Eighth considered itself again defrauded of its just rights; and the Tribune’s narrative said, “But for the accident that the 5th Rhode-Island had relieved the Eighth Connecticut the previous evening, the captured flag would have gone to grace the legislative halls at Hartford.” Gen. Parke justifies giving the preference to the Rhode-Island regiment by the fact that the Eighth Connecticut Volunteers had no field-officer present to receive the surrender.[9]

The Surrender of Fort Macon, April 26, 1862

In a happier ending to the story for the Confederate officers and soldiers of Fort Macon, Oliver relates that many of them, after their parole, were reunited with their family members.

The prisoners were discharged on parole, much to their gratification and some of our boy’s displeasure. Sightseers say that they had a great time over in Beaufort Saturday when the garrison was set free. Children looking for their parents, wives for their husbands, fathers for their children and when they were recognized in the crowd such a hugging and kissing as was not often seen was carried on.[10]


[1] Unpublished Oliver Case letter to Abbie Case dated 28 April 1862 from the Simsbury Historical Society

[2] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, 1868 by W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, 1868

[3] IBID

[4] IBID

[5] Case letter, 28 April 1862

[6] Croffut and Morris

[7] Case letter, 28 April 1862

[8] IBID

[9] Croffut and Morris

[10] Case letter, 28 April 1862

Connecticut Day at Antietam 2012

8th CVI Reenactors help celebrate Connecticut Day at the Antietam Battlefield












What a great day at Antietam! Congrats to the NPS and the folks from Connecticut who put so much work into making Connecticut Day at Antietam 2012 an outstanding event. It provided a wonderful opportunity to meet some interesting folks who love talking about the CW and Antietam. A special hap tip to John Banks for his time and gracious introductions to many of the folks. I hope we now have some new friends here at Oliver Cromwell Case.




Remembering the Sacrifice of the 11th CVI and Captain Griswold

11th CVI Monument at Antietam

On a recent trip to the Rohrbach Bridge (Burnside) area of the Antietam Battlefield, I couldn’t help but think of the sacrifice (albeit needless) of the men of the 11th Connecticut. In particular, I recalled the pronounced valor of Captain John D. Griswold who led a group of the Connecticut soldiers as skirmishers only to be mortally wounded as he crossed the creek. John Banks has an excellent, detailed account of his heroism.

The men of the 8th Connecticut had been the first of Harland’s Brigade to experience loss as just after sunrise as the Confederates sent “a solid 12-pound ball…diagonally through the Eighth, killing three men, and frightfully wounding four…” Now their sister unit, the 11th CVI, was devastated in the failed attempt to secure a crossing at the bridge.

The 11th CVI Axis of Advance toward Rohrbach Bridge on the morning of 17 September 1862

Preparing for the Siege of Fort Macon

In late March 1862, the commanding officer of the 8th CVI, Colonel Edward Harland, was sick and bed-ridden with typhoid fever as his regiment was divided into three parts. Two companies were sent to occupy Beaufort and a few of the other companies were sent to secure Morehead City. The remaining companies including Company A crossed over from Carolina City to the Bogue Banks to begin movement toward Fort Macon located on the tip of the banks. Oliver Case had been on picket duty seven miles away from camp near Carolina City when his company departed. As Private Case caught up to his fellow soldiers over on the Bogue Banks, there was much work to be done in preparation to lay siege to Fort Macon and its Confederate garrison.

On April 12th, the 8th CVI being commanded by Major Hiram Appelman in the absence of Colonel Harland began their push toward the fort.

Croffut and Morris describe the action:

Major Hiram Appelman, now in command, marched his regiment by the right flank up the beach, and, when within three miles of the fort, filed across the island in line of battle. Company G, Capt. James L. Russell, was thrown out as skirmishers; and the regiment waded forward knee-deep in the yielding sand. The rebel skirmishers contested the advance, but were driven steadily back; and, while they retreated, they shouted, with absurd inaptness, “Come on, you d__d Yankees! we are enough for you !” Company H, Capt. Sheffield, was now deployed to skirmish; and the captain was severely wounded in the body. The exultant rebels continued to move back until they entered the fort; the Eighth having passed through a cedar-jungle, about a mile from the fort.[1]

Oliver’s letter of 17 April 1862 does not comment on this operation carried out by the 8th. He does describe the work being done to affect the siege of Fort Macon.

Some of the companies are detailed each night to help build entrenchments and I think that by three or four days at farthest we shall open fire upon the fort. The mortars and field pieces are nearly all in position, and part of the howitzers.

Oliver’s prediction is fairly accurate because the siege will begin in about 7 days. In the meantime, life on Bogue Banks is filled with the work of preparing positions for mortars being floated across the sound. The guns were moved up the island at night to avoid detection by the Confederates within Fort Macon. Protected firing positions were constructed for the guns using sandbags. Conditions were difficult for Oliver and his fellow soldiers as they worked.

The Eighth Connecticut Volunteers and 4th Rhode-Island were alternately on duty; when off duty, occupying an uncomfortable camp down the island. Rifle-pits were dug at night within two thousand feet from the fort, and constantly occupied. In front of them, in storms, the sea surged over the island. The sand was so movable, that the men were sometimes half covered.[2]

The Siege of Fort Macon










The Siege of Fort Macon showing the artillery firing positions constructed by the men of the 8th CVI (Harper’s Weekly, May 17, 1862)

[1] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, 1868 by W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, 1868.

[2] IBID

“I may not live to get home…”

Bouge Island, April 17th, 1862

I may not live to get home, but I think I stand as good a chance as anyone in the company…

The irony of those words coming from Oliver Case exactly five months before he would lose his life on the fields outside Sharpsburg. Commenting again to his sister Abbie, Oliver expresses the surprise he felt before marching into his first combat experience at New Bern, N.C.

I felt very different upon the battle than I expected. There is not the dread of death that one naturally expects.

What did he expect? Fear? Cowardly? Anger?

In an essay entitled,”How Does One Feel Under Fire?”, Civil War officer Frank Holsinger wrote of the deception of “feelings” upon entering battle:

In presentments of death I have no confidence. While I have seen men go into battle predicting truthfully their own death, yet I believe it is the belief of nine out of ten who go into battle that this is their last. I have never gone into battle that I did not expect to be killed. I have seen those who had no thought of death coming to them killed outright. Thus Corporal George Horton, wounded at South Mountain, wrapped his handkerchief around his wounded arm and carried the colors of our regiment to Antietam. Being asked why he did not make the best of it and go to the hospital, that he was liable to be killed, he answered, “The bullet has not been moulded to kill me.” Alas! he was killed the next day.

Soldiers of Burnside's Expedition come ashore at the Battle of New Bern

This line of discussion by Oliver began as a result of a rumor sent back home by his “friend” Philo Matson who we first met in the letter of 16 March 1862.

Oliver complains to Abbie of Matson’s misinformation:

I do not see what object P.A. Matson can have in representing me sick and “will probably never be able to see Conn. again.” He knows that since I left Annapolis, with the bare exception of a short time upon the “Chasseur”, I have been perfectly healthy. I do not think that there is one in the company but what has had sick spells caused by exposure. I may not live to get home, but I think I stand as good a chance as anyone in the company, P.A. Matson to the contrary notwithstanding.

According to the records of the 8th CVI, Matson may have already deserted by the time this rumor makes its way back to Simsbury. Case is concerned about his family hearing these rumors and worrying about his health. Interestingly, later in the letter Oliver admits that he has “been a little down with a cold for a week or ten days, but since I have got into camp I am all right.”

Light Marching Order – Part II

On the 20th of March 1862, the two regiments plus the 5th Rhode Island continued their march toward Morehead and Beaufort while two companies of soldiers were left behind to guard the captured Confederate barracks. According to Oliver’s letter of 6 April, the group reached Carolina City on the 22nd and received a temporary respite from marching as they went into camp operations.

…we arrived at Carolina City where we have remained in some shanties of boards which we have picked from some old dilapidated dwelling. The sesech burnt the principal buildings before they left. There has been a splendid vessel burnt near the fort since we have been here to prevent its falling into our hands.

Once again, Oliver found himself on picket duty stationed about seven miles from the main camp but enjoying the duty “very much.” Food was readily available to the soldiers who made good use of their issued food and “traded off our hardtack and salt horse for sweet potatoes and hoecake and had a fine mess of greens.” Obviously, relations with the local populace were good enough to facilitate this barter system although the Carolina City residents may have received the worst of the deal. “Salt horse” was a demeaning nickname used by soldiers for the salted meat provided by contractors in large barrels to Army units. The meat was often spoiled as alluded to in one of Oliver’s earlier letters.

When Oliver returned from his remote picket duty, he found that his company was gone and the rest of the regiment had been moved to multiple locations in anticipation of future operations.

When I got back, Co. A was on the other side of the sound, except a few sick ones who were left behind, and as our tents had come to pitch and floor them and get into camp once more. We expect the Co. back today but they may not be in, in several days. Our regiment is pretty well split up; two companies at Morehead, one at Beaufort, and ours over on the Island.

Croffut and Morris write in their official history:

The force consisted of the Eighth Connecticut and the 4th and 5th Rhode-Island. The trains were much delayed : there was little food, and no tents or cooking utensils. The weather became stormy, and the men dug holes in the ground, and sheltered them with boards; and here for a dreary week they lived, catching a few fish and oysters when they could. Here Col. Harland was prostrated with typhoid-fever. Two companies of the Eighth were sent over to occupy Beaufort, and others to Morehead City. Opposite was Fort Macon, on the extreme upper point of Bogue Banks, a low, sandy island, or spit, half a mile wide, stretching twenty miles south-west along the coast. Inside this island was Bogue Sound, three miles wide, with shallow water, only three or four feet deep.

 General Burnside’s objective for this operation was the reduction and surrender of Fort Macon occupied by a small Confederate garrison, but commanding the approaches in and out of Bogue Sound. In his letter to Abbie, Oliver described Fort Macon:

Fort Macon is situated upon the extreme west of the island and completely hemmed in by our forces, both by land and by water. Our gunboats will make an attack soon, assisted by the artillery, if they do not surrender. It seems a pity that they should attempt to hold it when they themselves know they cannot and it will probably cost them a great many lives. The garrison consists of 300 men which cannot hold it a great while against our mortars.


Modern View of Fort Macon, North Carolina

On the 29th of March, Brig. Gen. Parke began the movement of troops and material to affect the siege of Fort Macon. The logistics of moving siege equipment and supplies would continue until 10 April 1862 as only light draft boats are able to cross the sound making it a time consuming process. The ordinance assets assembled for the siege include 30lb rifled Parrotts along with both 10in and 8in mortars. Seven companies of the 8th CVI are included in the siege force. (from Parke’s report of 9 May 1862)

Oliver closed his letter of 6 April in his normal manner asking about the news from home including the news of the burning of his Uncle J.A. Tuller’s house and the deaths of both William Mather and his wife. He is also very happy to have recently received a letter from his father.

Light Marching Order – Part I

In his next letter to his sister Abbie written on 6 April 1862, Oliver apologizes for being tardy in his correspondence, but blames it on the almost constant movement of his regiment and what he calls “light marching order.” Because of this configuration, he has been unable to carrying along his writing materials.

In the Civil War, infantrymen such as Private Case, lived a life on the move empowered by what the modern American infantryman would refer to as your “LPCs – leather personnel carriers.” Marching was a big part of being a soldier in the Civil War. Generally, there were two types of marching configurations; heavy marching order and light marching order. For the soldier, the command for heavy marching order meant that he would shoulder all of his personal equipment which could weigh as much as 50 to 60 pounds. Heavy marching order was used when commanders did not plan for the current location to be revisited or to be accessible after completion of the march and required several hours of advance notice to allow for packing. Conversely, light marching order was used when an engagement was considered to be eminent with the soldier carrying only the essentials for battle such as their weapon, ammunition, water and possibly a small supply of food such as hardtack. For the 8th CVI, this command was modified to include “blankets and accoutrements.”

An unidentified Union soldier in "light marching order" (Library of Congress)

Oliver reports to Abbie that he and the other men of the 8th CVI left their previous camp in Newbern on the 18th of March. From General Parke’s report, we learn that both the 8th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island left their camps and boarded the steamer “Eastern Queen” traveling down the Neuse River to Slocum’s Creek where they turned upstream to a landing point determined by General Burnside.  Oliver again reports that they traveled about 7 miles up Slocum’s Creek and found the landing site disembarking and remaining at the landing site until about 5:30 PM. He is also quick to note that the soldiers had not “had any rations for one and one-half days.” Oliver was one of thirty-five men from Company A selected to participate in “a forced march of a dozen miles.” He described the experience of the march:

It was the hardest march I ever saw; mud over shoes, water often nearly knee deep, our haversacks empty, stomachs ditto.

The soldiers reached their destination, an abandon Confederate camp, about 9:30 PM making it a four-hour road march of about 12 miles. Given the terrible road conditions, this was not a bad pace by these Connecticut men as the current U.S. Army road march standard for the Expert Infantry Badge qualification is 12 miles in three hours or less. However, the soldiers of Parke’s Brigade were completely spent from the march:

Some of our men were so completely exhausted that as soon as they got to the camp they fell upon the ground and could not be aroused.

Oliver had no time to rest after the completion of the march as he was assigned a special duty:

I was put upon picket the first night which I did not relish very much after the fatigue of marching, but lucky for me I had a pair of dry stocking in my pocket which were worth their weight in gold at such a time.

The marching was not over for the men of the 8th CVI and the 4th Rhode Island. The following day, they were on the move again.

We again took up our line of march about 11 o’clock the next day, leaving a few companies to guard the barracks, on the road towards Morehead and Beaufort.

The commanders obviously observed the effects of the previous day’s march on the soldiers and realized that today was not the best day for marching without some therapy.

We had proceeded but a short distance when we were halted and a day’s rations of hardtack and about ½ gill of whiskey given to each man. Our march was rather hard for the reason that we were so stiffened up by our last night’s tramp, but as we only marched nine miles we stood it pretty well.

By the way, from my best research, ½ gill of whiskey would be about 10 ounces, an ample amount to ease the pain of the march! There was more marching in store for Oliver and his fellow soldiers in the days to come.