Operations Against Plymouth

Thomas' Legion
American Civil War HOMEPAGE
American Civil War
Causes of the Civil War : What Caused the Civil War
Organization of Union and Confederate Armies: Infantry, Cavalry, Artillery
Civil War Navy: Union Navy and Confederate Navy
American Civil War: The Soldier's Life
Civil War Turning Points
American Civil War: Casualties, Battles and Battlefields
Civil War Casualties, Fatalities & Statistics
Civil War Generals
American Civil War Desertion and Deserters: Union and Confederate
Civil War Prisoner of War: Union and Confederate Prison History
Civil War Reconstruction Era and Aftermath
American Civil War Genealogy and Research
Civil War
American Civil War Pictures - Photographs
African Americans and American Civil War History
American Civil War Store
American Civil War Polls
North Carolina Civil War History
North Carolina American Civil War Statistics, Battles, History
North Carolina Civil War History and Battles
North Carolina Civil War Regiments and Battles
North Carolina Coast: American Civil War
Western North Carolina and the American Civil War
Western North Carolina: Civil War Troops, Regiments, Units
North Carolina: American Civil War Photos
Cherokee Chief William Holland Thomas
Cherokee Indian Heritage, History, Culture, Customs, Ceremonies, and Religion
Cherokee Indians: American Civil War
History of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indian Nation
Cherokee War Rituals, Culture, Festivals, Government, and Beliefs
Researching your Cherokee Heritage
Civil War Diary, Memoirs, Letters, and Newspapers

Operations Against Plymouth [April-May 1864]
While the South was enjoying some recent battlefield successes in Virginia during the American Civil War (1861–1865), Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would send Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke to North Carolina during April 1864 in a grand attempt to recapture strategic Southern forts and ports along the coast. Although the Operations Against Plymouth (April–May 1864) were successful, exigencies of war would soon require Hoke to abandon all military activities and return to Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. The removal of Hoke's force and the destruction of the Confederate Ironclad ram Albemarle allowed both Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina, to fall back into Union hands.
Confederate Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke, commanding, led the Operations Against Plymouth. Hoke, a North Carolina native, resumed command of his brigade at Petersburg, Virginia, in January 1864, and led it south to North Carolina, where he organized attacks on the coastal towns of New Bern and Plymouth. In the latter engagement during the Battle of Plymouth, April 17, 1864–April 20, 1864, Hoke captured a garrison of 2,834 Union soldiers. For his successes, the Confederate Congress would vote on May 17 to extend its "Thanks" for the action of Hoke and his men at Plymouth. Hoke would be promoted to major general on April 23, 1864 (appointment dated from April 20), and assume command of what was known as Hoke's Division in the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. On May 5, 1864, the CSS Albemarle and a few Confederate vessels fought the Union Navy to a draw during the Battle of Albemarle Sound. The Albemarle was damaged and, unable to render further assistance, was scuttled before falling into Union hands. Although touted a Confederate victory, the Operations Against Plymouth were indeed short-lived because Plymouth would return to Federal control soon after Hoke was ordered to return with his forces to Virginia and assist Gen. Lee as he endeavored to enlarge his army and defend the state against the Elephant now under the command of Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant. For the duration of the conflict, the entire North Carolina coast would remain under Union control.

Operations against Plymouth Map
Civil War Operations against Plymouth Map.jpg
Operations against Plymouth Map

Operations against Plymouth
General Robert F. Hoke.jpg
General Robert F. Hoke

During the spring of 1864 the Confederate authorities decided on a bold campaign that was designed to capture some of the towns held by the Federals in eastern North Carolina. Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke, well-known for his brilliant battlefield successes, was selected to command the expedition. Along with his own brigade, Hoke also commanded Ransom's, Terry's Virginia brigade, the Forty-third North Carolina Regiment, of which the distinguished citizen, Thomas S. Kenan, was colonel, and several batteries of artillery, assisted by CSS ram Albemarle operating in the Roanoke River.
Battle of Plymouth
Consisting of the Battle of Plymouth and Battle of Albemarle Sound, the Operations Against Plymouth (April–May 1864) was a joint Confederate Army-Navy effort to recapture vital Southern forts and ports along the North Carolina coast in 1864 during the American Civil War (1861–1865).
In a joint operation with the ironclad ram CSS Albemarle, four Confederate brigades under Brig. Gen. Robert F. Hoke attacked the Federal garrison at Plymouth, North Carolina, April 17–20, 1864. On April 19, the Rebel ram appeared in the river, sinking the USS Southfield, damaging the USS Miami, and driving off several other Union Navy ships supporting the Plymouth garrison. Confederate forces next captured Fort Comfort, driving defenders into Fort Williams. The garrison capitulated on April 20, 1864. The Confederate victory at the battle of Plymouth added immense ordnance stores to the Southern war effort and reopened the Roanoke River for Confederate commerce and military operations. Brig. Gen. Hoke, in an after battle report dated April 20 to Confederate authorities, stated to have stormed and captured this place [Plymouth], capturing 1 brigadier, 1600 men, stores, and 25 pieces of artillery.* Next, Hoke intended to follow-up his victory by mounting an attack on the nearby strategic coastal community of New Bern (spelled New Berne at the time).

North Carolina Map of Civil War Battlefields
Operations Against Plymouth.gif
Operations Against Plymouth

NC Coast and the Civil War Map
Roanoke River Map.gif
Courtesy Microsoft MapPoint

Operations against Plymouth
Operations Against Plymouth.jpg
Operations against Plymouth

Following the capture of the Union command and the newly acquired provisions at Plymouth, Gen. PGT Beauregard conveyed a rather sober truth about the recent fight. The general wrote that on April, 23, 1864, while at Weldon, N.C., I assumed command of the Department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia. It included Virginia south to the James and Appomattox, and all that portion of, North Carolina east of the mountains. The War Department was closely engaged at that time with certain operations against Plymouth and New Berne, from which great results were expected at Richmond, but about which the enemy was not much concerned, as the main object of his campaign could in no wise be affected or seriously disturbed by such a diversion.

The fall of Plymouth led to the Federal evacuation of nearby Washington, N.C., on April, 28, 1864. (See also Siege of Washington.) On the evacuation, reported Union Gen. Palmer, Washington was burned by Federal troops. In an order condemning the atrocities by his troops, Palmer said, "It is well known that the army vandals did not even respect the charitable institutions, but bursting open doors of the Masonic and Odd Fellows' lodge, pillaged them both and hawked about the streets the regalia and jewels. And this, too, by United States troops! It is well known that both public and private stores were entered and plundered, and that devastation and destruction ruled the hour." Official Records, XXXIII, p. 310.


Battle of Albemarle Sound


The CSS Albemarle sailed from Plymouth and engaged the Union fleet on May 5, 1864, and, due to the damage sustained in the battle of Albemarle, was forced to abandon its objective of New Bern and thus returned to Plymouth. Unlike most Civil War ironclads and rams, which were built in the traditional shipyard, the CSS Albemarle had been constructed in a Southern cornfield. While engaged during the Battle of Albemarle Sound, May 5, the Albemarle and her two guns had faced and engaged a large Union fleet that was armed with a total of sixty guns. The outcome of the naval contest, however, was the immediate withdrawal of Confederate and Union naval forces, therefore resulting in a draw. General Hoke next moved against New Bern.

Battle of Plymouth and Battle of Albemarle Sound
Battle of Plymouth Battle of Albemarle Sound.jpg
Operations Against Plymouth

Although Hoke had already taken the outworks at New Bern and demanded its surrender, a messenger from Richmond arrived and hand delivered him special orders. Hoke had been instructed to report immediately to Petersburg, no matter how far his operations might have advanced against New Bern. According to Official Records, "No time was lost in carrying out the order." The anticipated Union attack on the Confederate capital of Richmond had warranted Hoke's immediate assistance. His withdraw and advance was to be "made with all haste," stated General Robert E. Lee, who had received his instructions directly from President Jefferson Davis.

*D. H. Hill, Jr., Confederate Military History Of North Carolina: North Carolina In The Civil War, 1861-1865, page 174, stated the number at "nearly 3,000 men and 25 pieces of artillery," which would be the entire Federal garrison. Hoke's preliminary report, dated April 20, 1864, is often quoted by many authors and historians, but, since the entire garrison had surrendered, less casualties, the number of "nearly [less] 3,000" would reflect the after battle report. On p. 193, furthermore, Hill, quoting Colonel Henry Burgwyn of the 26th North Carolina, stated, "Capturing Plymouth...with some [at least] 2,500 prisoners." Whereas both Confederate and Union reports and records placed the Union total between 2,500 and 3,000, according to p. 618, Histories of the Several Regiments and Battalions from North Carolina in the Great War 1861-'65 (Volume 2), Brig. Gen. Wessells reported Union losses of exactly 2,834.

Recommended ReadingThe Civil War in North Carolina. Description: Numerous battles and skirmishes were fought in North Carolina during the Civil War, and the campaigns and battles themselves were crucial in the grand strategy of the conflict and involved some of the most famous generals of the war. Continued below...

John Barrett presents the complete story of military engagements across the state, including the classical pitched battle of Bentonville--involving Generals Joe Johnston and William Sherman--the siege of Fort Fisher, the amphibious campaigns on the coast, and cavalry sweeps such as General George Stoneman's Raid.

Operations against Plymouth [April-May 1864]

Site search Web search

Related Studies:

North Carolina Coast and the American Civil War

Recommended Reading:  Storm over Carolina: The Confederate Navy's Struggle for Eastern North Carolina. Description: The struggle for control of the eastern waters of North Carolina during the War Between the States was a bitter, painful, and sometimes humiliating one for the Confederate navy. No better example exists of the classic adage, "Too little, too late." Burdened by the lack of adequate warships, construction facilities, and even ammunition, the South's naval arm fought bravely and even recklessly to stem the tide of the Federal invasion of North Carolina from the raging Atlantic. Storm Over Carolina is the account of the Southern navy's struggle in North Carolina waters and it is a saga of crushing defeats interspersed with moments of brilliant and even spectacular victories. It is also the story of dogged Southern determination and incredible perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. Continued below...

For most of the Civil War, the navigable portions of the Roanoke, Tar, Neuse, Chowan, and Pasquotank rivers were occupied by Federal forces. The Albemarle and Pamlico sounds, as well as most of the coastal towns and counties, were also under Union control. With the building of the river ironclads, the Confederate navy at last could strike a telling blow against the invaders, but they were slowly overtaken by events elsewhere. With the war grinding to a close, the last Confederate vessel in North Carolina waters was destroyed. William T. Sherman was approaching from the south, Wilmington was lost, and the Confederacy reeled as if from a mortal blow. For the Confederate navy, and even more so for the besieged citizens of eastern North Carolina, these were stormy days indeed. Storm Over Carolina describes their story, their struggle, their history.


Recommended Reading: Rebels and Yankees: Naval Battles of the Civil War (Hardcover). Description: Naval Battles of the Civil War, written by acclaimed Civil War historian Chester G. Hearn, focuses on the maritime battles fought between the Confederate Rebels and the Union forces in waters off the eastern seaboard and the great rivers of the United States during the Civil War. Continued below...

Since very few books have been written on this subject, this volume provides a fascinating and vital portrayal of the one of the most important conflicts in United States history. Naval Battles of the Civil War is lavishly illustrated with rare contemporary photographs, detailed artworks, and explanatory maps, and the text is a wonderful blend of technical information, fast-flowing narrative, and informed commentary.


Recommended Reading: Ironclads and Columbiads: The Coast (The Civil War in North Carolina) (456 pages). Description: Ironclads and Columbiads covers some of the most important battles and campaigns in the state. In January 1862, Union forces began in earnest to occupy crucial points on the North Carolina coast. Within six months, Union army and naval forces effectively controlled coastal North Carolina from the Virginia line south to present-day Morehead City. Continued below...

Union setbacks in Virginia, however, led to the withdrawal of many federal soldiers from North Carolina, leaving only enough Union troops to hold a few coastal strongholds—the vital ports and railroad junctions. The South during the Civil War, moreover, hotly contested the North’s ability to maintain its grip on these key coastal strongholds.

Recommended Reading: The Civil War in the Carolinas (Hardcover). Description: Dan Morrill relates the experience of two quite different states bound together in the defense of the Confederacy, using letters, diaries, memoirs, and reports. He shows how the innovative operations of the Union army and navy along the coast and in the bays and rivers of the Carolinas affected the general course of the war as well as the daily lives of all Carolinians. He demonstrates the "total war" for North Carolina's vital coastal railroads and ports. In the latter part of the war, he describes how Sherman's operation cut out the heart of the last stronghold of the South. Continued below...

The author offers fascinating sketches of major and minor personalities, including the new president and state governors, Generals Lee, Beauregard, Pickett, Sherman, D.H. Hill, and Joseph E. Johnston. Rebels and abolitionists, pacifists and unionists, slaves and freed men and women, all influential, all placed in their context with clear-eyed precision. If he were wielding a needle instead of a pen, his tapestry would offer us a complete picture of a people at war. Midwest Book Review: The Civil War in the Carolinas by civil war expert and historian Dan Morrill (History Department, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historical Society) is a dramatically presented and extensively researched survey and analysis of the impact the American Civil War had upon the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, and the people who called these states their home. A meticulous, scholarly, and thoroughly engaging examination of the details of history and the sweeping change that the war wrought for everyone, The Civil War In The Carolinas is a welcome and informative addition to American Civil War Studies reference collections.


Recommended Reading: The Civil War on the Outer Banks: A History of the Late Rebellion Along the Coast of North Carolina from Carteret to Currituck With Comments on Prewar Conditions and an Account of (251 pages). Description: The ports at Beaufort, Wilmington, New Bern and Ocracoke, part of the Outer Banks (a chain of barrier islands that sweeps down the North Carolina coast from the Virginia Capes to Oregon Inlet), were strategically vital for the import of war materiel and the export of cash producing crops. From official records, contemporary newspaper accounts, personal journals of the soldiers, and many unpublished manuscripts and memoirs, this is a full accounting of the Civil War along the North Carolina coast.

Try the Search Engine for Related Studies: Operations Against Plymouth North Carolina, American Civil War Battle of Plymouth, Battle of Albemarle Sound History, Pictures, Details, Union, Confederate Ships, Vessels, Ironclads, CSS Albemarle Details, Facts.

Return to American Civil War Homepage

Best viewed with Internet Explorer or Google Chrome