Battle of New Bern (1864)
|Battle of New Bern (1864)|
|Part of the American Civil War|
New Bern in 1864
|United States (Union)||CSA (Confederacy)|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Innis N. Palmer||George E. Pickett|
|New Bern Garrison||Pickett's Division
and Hoke’s Brigade
|Casualties and losses|
364 captured and missing
The Battle of New Bern was fought during the American Civil War from February 1–3, 1864. The battle resulted in a failure to Confederate forces trying to recapture the coastal town of New Bern which had been lost to the Union Army in 1862.
Union forces had captured New Bern during Ambrose Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition in March 1862 and had been under Union control ever since. In 1864 the Union garrison was a brigade-sized force commanded by Brig. Gen. Innis N. Palmer. Major General George E. Pickett commanded the Confederate ground forces coordinating against New Bern with a detachment of Confederate Marines and sailors led by Commander John T. Wood. Pickett organized a three-prong attack against the town.
Brigadier General Robert F. Hoke’s brigade first made contact on February 1 along Bachelor’s Creek where he hoped to surprise the Union outpost under Col. Peter Claassen of the 132nd New York Infantry. Both sides brought forward artillery as the fight began to grow and Claassen ordered his men back into New Bern. In the darkness and fog Union reinforcements bound for the fighting became cut off and were captured. Hoke then halted his brigade outside New Bern and waited to hear from the rest of the Confederate attacks. The second Confederate attack was led by Brig. Gen. Seth Barton which moved across the Trent River against the 17th Massachusetts Infantry under Col. Thomas I. C. Amory supported by the 3rd New York Light Artillery. Amory’s artillery opened against Barton causing him to believe the Union defenses he faced were far too strong and withdrew from range of the artillery. Pickett’s third attack was led by Col. James Dearing against Fort Anderson across the Neuse River. When Dearing came within sight of the fort, like Barton, he too believed the defenses facing him were too formidable to attack. By nightfall Palmer’s Union defenses maintained their position and Pickett gave up hope of renewing the assault. On February 2 Commander Wood and his naval contingent surprised the crew of the USS Underwriter anchored in the Neuse River. The majority of the Underwriter’s crew escaped but Wood’s Confederates seized the ship and set about to sail her downriver and attack the Union Navy Yard. Union artillery from Fort Stevenson opened fire on the Underwriter setting it on fire and forcing the recent captors to flee. Pickett called off the offensive and retreated on February 4.
General Braxton Bragg, military advisor to Jefferson Davis, urged for a change in leadership. General Hoke would resume field command of the Confederate offensive against the Union-held North Carolina coast. Hoke would find greater success in his attack on Plymouth, North Carolina.
- Lloyd, H. H., Lloyd’s Battle History of the Great Rebellion. Boston, Massachusetts: B.B. Russell & Co., 1866.
- Chaitin, Peter, The Coastal War: Chesapeake Bay to Rio Grande. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life, Incorporated, 1984.