Thursday, March 6, 2014

February 4, 1864 (Thursday): New Berne Besieged

Fort Macon

FORT MONROE, VA., February 4, 1864.
(Received 4. 20 p. m.)
Major- General HALLECK, General- in Chief:
    Dispatches from Brigadier- General Palmer, at New Berne, dated 2nd February, at 5. 15 p. m. The post of Newport, between New Berne and Beaufort, is expected to fall. Colonel Jourdan still holds Morehead City, but may have to evacuate and go to Fort Macon. The naval gun- boat Underwriter has been surprised by the enemy and blown up near New Berne. The railroad is probably cut off between New Berne and Beaufort. The river is still open. Palmer has 3,500 man under his command. They have provisions for 6,000 for ninety days. I will endeavor to re- enforce New Berne by a company of heavy artillery, which is the arm they will need. I telegraphed Major- General Sedgwick as you desired, but have received no answer. I still think the enemy's force is not more than 8,000. May not the movement I suggested when I saw you be the best way to relieve New Berne! I await instructions.

     B. F. BUTLER,
     Major- General.

Official Records, Series I., Vol. 33, Part 1, Page 511.

The threat of a Union advance through North Carolina against the railroads southeast of Richmond had prompted a shift of troops in that direction.  It had the effect of causing northern forces in that area to pull back. Why Halleck and Union planners did not take the advice of Grant and move even more troops to the area is an open question, but one which is seldom asked by historians.  Lee's army was not strong enough to contend with a simultaneous advance, but this was never adequately exploited. 

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