Thursday, February 9, 2012

Battle of Roanoke Island – Day 2

After having landed the night before, Burnside's 10,000 Federal troops moved toward the Confederates forts on the morning of February 8th. They encountered the Confederate forces in position along a swampy part of the island. 400 troops held a redoubt with three cannons, with supposedly impenetrable swamps on either side. 1,000 more Confederates were behind them in reserve. For two hours the first Union brigade attempted to break the Confederate position, but all their efforts were useless. The larger Union force could not all be put into position in the restricted area.

When the second brigade arrived its commander suggested an attempt to be made to flank through the impenetrable swamps. This was done with two forces attempting to flank on both sides of the Confederate position. Although uncoordinated, they were both able to march through the swamp to strike the Confederates at the same time. As they appeared, the Union center attacked as well. Under this unexpected attack from three directions, the Confederates broke and ran.

With no further defensive positions and being greatly outnumbered by the Union troops, Colonel Shaw, the Confederate commander decided to surrender. The North had lost 37 killed, 214 wounded and 13 missing, the South 23 killed, 58 wounded and 62 missing. 2,500 men surrendered, along with 40 cannons from the fort. Several regiments of reinforcements had arrived after the battle, but soon enough to be surrendered. The capture of Roanoke Island gave the Federals a location from which to launch attacks on other locations in North Carolina. Colonel Shaw wrote this in his official report:
I cannot close this report without giving expression to the deep grief which I feel on account of the disaster which has befallen us, and at the same time expressing the earnest hope that the Great Being who holds the destinies of nations in the hollow of His hand will soon enable us to retrieve the losses we have sustained.


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