Breaking the North Carolina Commerce Trade
In an effort to strengthen the Anaconda plan of a Naval blockade against the Confederate seaports, the concern of the State Department was drawn to the coastline of North Carolina; where privateers and pirates were marking great success in running back and forth through the outer bank in the Cape Hatteras region. The Secretary, William Seward sought assistance in breaking the commerce trade within the region by asking of the Navy Department for an expedition into the area in destroying the rebel defenses along the coast.
A joint operation was launched on the 26th of August 1861 lead by Flag Officer Silas Horton Stringham, commanding the Atlantic Blockade Squadron and Major General Benjamin F. Butler, commanding ground forces embarked aboard. Major General John Ellis Wool, commanding Headquarters, Department of Virginia issued Special Orders No. 13, dated August 25, 1861 which authorized the usage of 860 ground forces to land and capture the Confederate batteries.
The squadron of warships and steamers had taken a day to reach the Carolina coast from Hampton Roads, and anchored in their staging area to the south of Hatteras about 5 pm on the 27th of August. Upon the arrival of the frigates Minnesota and Wabash, Commander John Gillis stood in with the Monticello and made a reconnaissance of the shore line discovering two forts on the north side of the Hatteras Inlet, with a suitable place for landing troops two miles north of that.
The following morning; while all was being prepared to assault, the marines were transferred from both Minnesota and Wabash, along with a pair of howitzers; three hundred additional troops were landed by the Monticello while Minnesota, Wabash and Cumberland began a horrendous shelling of both Confederate forts. The Harriet Lane, Pawnee, and Monticello placed themselves within supporting distance of the ground troops.
At 8 o'clock the following morning the fleet opened fire, the flag ship being anchored as near to the fortifications as the depth of the water would allow. Fuses were ordered for fifteen seconds and the remainder of the fleet drew in and joined the bombardment. The Harriet Lane ran into shore for the purpose of covering the landing of Butler's troops, when a large steamer was seen making way down the sound with re-enforcements, but a small sand battery already established courtesy of the Coast Guard had engaged and forced them to draw off.
Forty five minutes later Wabash and Cumberland engaged with Fort Clark as the Minnesota passed between ten minutes later firing shells and showering the rebel garrison with hot iron. The engagement drew the Confederate attention away from the beach as Monticello, Pawnee and Harriet Lane, began landing the ground forces commanded by Colonel Max Weber.
The Susquehanna had joined the fight about an hour later and continued keeping it hot for the rebels when at twenty five minutes past twelve, the flags were drawn from the fortifications and Confederate soldiers were seen running for the boats in making an escape. An American Flag was spotted running up the flag pole of Fort Clark at 12:30 pm and signal was sent from Captain G. J. Van Brunt, commanding Minnesota to cease fire. This act of raising the flag above Fort Clark had been reported by Flag Officer Stringham to the Navy Department having learned only that one of his sailors from the Pawnee had risked his life in doing so.
Three and a half hours later as Monticello, Captain John P. Gillis, commanding; attempted to run through the inlet past Fort Hatteras, when firing commenced from within and signal was immediately sent out for Minnesota, Susquehanna and Pawnee to come to the aid of her. Fort Hatteras had continued most of the afternoon in flying no flag above her ramparts. In an effort to get out of the shoal waters she had sailed into, Monticello struggled with the current while fighting for its life against the fort with her pivot gun.
Major General Benjamin Butler, who had since transferred himself from the Harriet Lane to the tug Fanny when his volunteer aide, Mr. William H. Wiegel boarded and passed along to him a communication from Captain Samuel Barron, Confederate States Navy, commanding the Naval Defenses of Virginia and North Carolina, it read:
Fort Hatteras, August 29, 1861
Flag Officer Samuel Barron, C.S. Navy, offers to surrender Fort Hatteras, with all the munitions of war. The officers allowed to go out with side-arms and the men without arms to retire.
S. BARRON, Commanding Naval Defenses of Virginia and North Carolina
The reply from Butler was simple:
August 29, 1861
Benj. F. Butler, Major General, U.S. Army, commanding, in reply to the communication of Samuel Barron commanding forces at Fort Hatteras, cannot admit the terms proposed. The terms offered are these: Full capitulation; the officers and men to be treated as prisoners of war. No other terms admissible. Commanding officers to meet onboard flag-ship Minnesota to arrange details.
The surrendering party had found their way to the Fanny ready to present their swords to the general from Massachusetts, when they were quickly informed that this had been a joint operation between Naval and Army forces, their surrender could only be accepted onboard Flag Officer Stringham's ship, the Minnesota before he and Captain Van Brunt.
The parties of the belligerents met shortly thereafter upon Minnesota having had terms drawn:
OFF HATTERAS INLET,
U.S. Flag-Ship Minnesota, August 29, A. D. 1861,
Articles of capitulation between Flag Officer Stringham, commanding the Atlantic Blockading Squadron, and Benjamin F. Butler, major general, U.S. Army, commanding, on behalf of the United States Government, and Samuel Barron, commanding the naval forces of the defense of North Carolina and Virginia, and Colonel Martin, commanding the forces, and Major Andrews, commanding the same forces, at Fort Hatteras:
It is stipulated and agreed between the contracting parties that the forces under the command of the said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, and all munitions of war, arms, men, and property under the command of the said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, be unconditionally surrendered to the Government of the United States in terms of full capitulation.
And it is stipulated and agreed by the contracting parties on the part of the United States Government that the officers and men shall receive the treatment due to prisoners of war.
In witness whereof we, the said Stringham and Butler, on behalf of the United States, and the said Barron, Martin, and Andrews, representing the forces at Hatteras Inlet, hereunto interchangably set our hands this 29th day of August 1861, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty fifth year.
S. H. STRINGHAM,
Flag-Officer Atlantic Blockading Squadron
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
Major-General, U.S. Army, Commanding.
Flag-Officer, C.S. Navy, Comdg. Naval Defenses Va. And N.C.
WM. F. MARTIN,
Colonel Seventh Regiment Infantry, N.C. Vols.
W. S. G. ANDREWS,
Major, Commanding Forts Hatteras and Clark
The operation had been one of impeccable success. So satisfied had the United States Government been with the command of Flag Officer Stringham, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Welles had published on September 2, 1861 a congratulatory letter for the brilliant achievement of reducing the batteries of Hatteras and having done so without the loss of a single man. Hatteras had been added as another inch of Southern real estate reclaimed by the joint forces of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Editors Note: Mr.Moran is a feature writer on the US-Civilwar.com writers staff. He may be contacted with your questions, ideas and requests at firstname.lastname@example.org