Early War North Carolina
The Fall of Fort Macon


     There has probably been no other campaign that granted the laurels of success to Major General Ambrose Burnside during the American Civil War but the amphibious operation he launched against the North Carolina coast in the months of February through April 1862. Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough commanded the fleet of eighty ships that transported 13,000 infantry troops, divided into three brigades upon the first amphibious operation against the Tar Heel State.

     On the 23rd of March, Burnside's third brigade had laid siege to Fort Macon and Brigadier General John G. Parke immediately opened communication with the fort calling for its unconditional surrender. The surrounding cities of Morehead City and Beaufort had been successfully cut off from communicating with the bastion. Yet the commanding officer refused to accept the surrender offer. For the next thirty five days, the 1st North Carolina Infantry and their batteries couldn't do more than watch as the federals began investing the fortifications.

     Colonel Moses J. White had a few major concerns when called on to capitulate. The sand dunes surrounding the fort provided a nuisance to his field of fire. With the fortifications crowned with fifty four various pieces of artillery, only six 32 pound cannon and two 10 inch guns, landed shells close enough to cause concern. The bluecoat's concealment was so concise that all too often the working parties would disappear completely from view, and from the ramparts the North Carolinians were unable to locate their exact positions.

     Towards the end of April the Federal batteries were close enough to make life hot for the defenders. Major General Burnside arrived by sea demanding once again the surrender of the fort. Colonel White agreed to see him and at 8:00 am on the 24th of April, walking away unsatisfied, the Confederate Commander guaranteed further resistance.

     In the early morning hours of April 25th, Fort Macon engaged with both Navy and Army batteries for twelve hours. The two hundred sixty three North Carolinians however, had been roughly handled and Colonel White considered it time to speak with General Parke once again. The iron duel ceased for the evening as General Parke sought the presence of the department commander to discuss any change in the surrender terms.

     On the 26th, an unconditional surrender was called for, although Burnside was willing to parole the garrison and by doing so would prevent another day of unnecessary resistance and destruction of property. Generosity would prevail and the defenders entitled to haul their flag down and march out as honored and paroled soldiers. Fort Macon had fallen and General Burnside had walked away with probably his greatest performance of the war.


Dan (Aldie) Daniel Moran
© 2003

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 dmoran@us-civilwar.net