After the Confederate victory at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December and the failed Mud March in January, Lee detached half of his army under General James Longstreet and sent them south to gather supplies and protect the supply lines in North Carolina. Longstreet, commanding 45,000 men, sent D. H. Hill, a North Carolina native, with 12,000 men to recapture New Bern. Hill planned a three pronged attack to regain control of the town. He encountered the Federals on March 13, 150 years ago today. Meeting eight miles outside the town, the Federals were pushed back through Deep Gully to Fort Anderson.
Fighting resumed the next day, and after opening fire on the fort for a few minutes, General Pettigrew, Confederate commander in the area, sent forward a flag of truce to demand the fort's surrender. Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Anderson, instead of answering, asked for a truce to confer with general Foster in New Bern. Ignoring warnings of a trap, Pettigrew agreed. The ceasefire gave time for Union gunboats to arrive and move into position. Pettigrew, seeing his mistake, ordered his troops to open fire. However, when the gunboats arrived and opened fire, he was forced to retire. Although he had failed to recapture New Bern, D. H. Hill had been successful in filling his wagons with supplies for the army in what had been Union controlled territory.