Civil War in NE North Carolina

Burnside's Expedition and beyond

Civil Authority in Elizabeth City during the war

Civil authority remained in control of the city, with a few hiccups, until February 1863.

The Federal attack and occupation on February 9, 1862 was short lived.  By Feb 14th Confederate forces were back in the city itself, Union forces having withdrawn.  Although elements of the civil authority fled before the fighting on February 9th 1862, the civil government remained in charge of the town - neither the federal or Confederate forces declared a martial law.

Confederate forces remained in the town throughout the Burnside Expedition.  The last major action of the expedition, however, precipitated the withdrawal of Confederate regular forces - the Battle of Shiloh in April 1862.  In early March a Louisiana Tiger was shot dead in the streets after continuing to hassell a local merchant - drunk and abusive he paid with the harassment with his life. 

A Union meeting scheduled for May 1st 1862 was called off - the civil authority could not protect the people from pressure from the guerrillas or the Union soldier.  But nonetheless they were still in charge.

August 1862 saw recruitment in Camden of Company D, 1st NC Union Volunteers.  They ventured over to Elizabeth City in September to recruit and while there the base camp in Camden was bushwhacked by guerrillas.  Eventually, Company D would recruit Elizabeth City men and garrison the town but allowed it to remain in Civil authority - this in October and November 1862.  At this time Captain Enos Sanders began arming blacks to help garrison the city - citing the coming Emancipation Proclamation as authority.

Pasquotank held civil elections in November/ December for the coming year 1863 - Mayor Ball refusing to serve although elected.  Civil authority still in charge of the city.

Guerillas bushwhack Lt Nathaniel Sanders and Joseph T McCabe January 5, 1863 causing a huge disturbance and the military arrest of several citizens - some of whom were in the town council meeting at the time.  Civil authority still in control.  Sanders demands pledge of allegiance or leave.

A month passes - enforcement of the Emancipation Proclamation is not popular with local secesh whites. Camden part of Company D is forced into hiding by guerrilla activity.  A major winter storm on February 4/5 makes Thad Cox think his wife would be safer in Elizabeth City than isolated in lower Pasquotank.  Guerrillas bushwhack them as they try to bring her into town - kill Thad Cox, pregnant wife, and four year old child.  Enos Sanders sends for help from Union forces.  Major Wallis arrives and on February 13th declares martial law.  

The next two months Wallis is in charge.  This changes when Longstreet invests Suffolk and Hill attacks Washington NC - forces the withdraw of Union NC Vols. from Edenton and Elizabeth City - Union consolidates forces in Plymouth, Norfolk, New Bern, Washington.  Martial law ends but civil authority refuses to take control.  

When US troops visit in August 1863 they find no civil authority so they set up Unionists under the business end of their guns - this lasts until they leave -  two weeks.

From that point forward there is no civil authority in charge of the area and when either military faction comes in they establish, however briefly, martial authority.

At one point the situation becomes so bad that James Cathcart Johnston declares that the problem is not guerrillas or buffalos but a third group of marauding men.  Lee proposes a joint cavalry raid through the region with US cavalry to rid the area of the marauders - it does not come to pass.

Civil authority is not established again until after the war ends.

Views: 37


You need to be a member of Civil War in NE North Carolina to add comments!

Join Civil War in NE North Carolina

Books writtenby site members

Mike Zatarga's new book The Battle of Roanoke Island (top) is out from The History Press..The Museum of the Albemarle has copies in stock.


Jim Gaddis has a new book out as well. Richard Gatlin and the Confederate Defense of Eastern North Carolina is available at and as well as at a couple of bookstores in the Elizabeth City area:

Page After Page, Eliz. City, NC

Museum of the Albemarle


Robert Smith's book The History of Fort Ocracoke in Pamlico Sound from The History Press is currently available as well. The Museum of the Albemarle has copies in stock.

It looks like there are a plenty of new reads for Civil War buffs in northeastern North Carolina!


From last summer

Lee Oxford's book is also for sale online,  in area bookstores, and at local museums

© 2018   Created by Bruce Long.   Powered by

Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service