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.
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.