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]

ENDNOTES:

[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

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