150 years ago, during the American Civil War, a minor naval battle was fought. The expedition launched on the 7th and 8th of February 1862. Ambrose Burnside sent his naval forces, a fleet of sixteen gunboats, to chase off a Confederate force of seven boats, one of which was destroyed. The Southern Mosquito Fleet, as it was called, operated in North Carolina’s sounds.
Under command of Confederate Captain William F. Lynch, the survivors sailed to Elizabeth City for supplies. The captain expected Elizabeth City to be the target of Union forces next.
Near the city, a small fort at Cobb’s Point was supplied with four guns. Unfortunately, the fort was manned by only eight very frightened militiamen. February 10, 1862, Union Captain Stephen C. Rowan sailed up the river with his gunboats, forcing the militia gunners to run. Only two shots were fired. The Union boats sailed past Cobb’s Point and on into the Mosquito Fleet.
Under command of Commander Stephen Rowan, the Federal forces attacked sinking one Confederate ship and capturing another. Three ships were destroyed by their own crews. Only two Confederate ships escaped, the Beaufort sailing to Norfolk, but the Appomattox was scuttled and burned by her crew after finding they were two wide to sail through canaland. Lynch watched this disaster from the fort. His ship’s boat had been destroyed while he was ashore.
The Federal fleet occupied Elizabeth City for a brief time and took Edenton on February 12th. This Union victory diminished the number of ports left available to Confederate blockade runners.
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