Gen. Ambrose Burnside and the Fall of New Bern, 1862

A sketch of the Battle of New Bern now held by the State Archives

On March 14, 1862, the Battle of New Bern was fought. The Battle was second of three major engagements in an expedition led by Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside. The first was at Roanoke Island in early February. After capturing the Island and securing the region, Burnside set his sights on New Bern, a strategic port.

The advance on New Bern was a strategic success and provided a boost to Burnside’s reputation. He threw all available resources into the effort. Leaving a single brigade to guard Roanoke Island, Burnside’s fleet sailed on March 11, stopping at Hatteras where they were joined by an additional 13 gunboats, amassing a combined force of 11,000 men. On March 12, sailing in two parallel lines, the fleet entered the Neuse River.

Anchoring at the mouth of Slocum’s Creek, the force shelled the shoreline and disembarked early on the morning of March 13. No Confederates were posted there but sentries upriver set bonfires to announce the Federals’ approach. Despite thick mud, Burnside’s army pressed on to New Bern, encountering token resistance from the Confederate along the way. The town fell to Union soldiers the next day and remained occupied for the rest of the war.

Tryon Palace will commemorate the 152nd anniversary of the battle this weekend with Civil War encampments, cannon drills, crafts, historic interpreters and more. The Palace will also open a new exhibit, called “Face to Face,” Saturday in the New Bern Academy Museum which explores life in occupied New Bern.

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