The Fight for the Old North State

The Civil War in North Carolina, January–May 1864

Hampton Newsome

Winner: Richard Barksdale Harwell Award

Winner: Emerging Civil War Book Award

“In summation, it is difficult to imagine any writer approaching the subject of the 1864 North Carolina campaign with the same degree of thoroughness that Newsome has accomplished in this book. He has proven to be among the best Civil War authors writing today.

—Emerging Civil War

“[Newsome] places the campaign’s military component within a larger political and social context, and he provides astute analytical insights in both his own words and those of contemporaries.

—America’s Civil War
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On a cold day in early January 1864, Robert E. Lee wrote to Confederate president Jefferson Davis “The time is at hand when, if an attempt can be made to capture the enemy’s forces at New Berne, it should be done.” Over the next few months, Lee’s dispatch would precipitate a momentous series of events as the Confederates, threatened by a supply crisis and an emerging peace movement, sought to seize Federal bases in eastern North Carolina. This book tells the story of these operations—the late war Confederate resurgence in the Old North State.

Using rail lines to rapidly consolidate their forces, the Confederates would attack the main Federal position at New Bern in February, raid the northeastern counties in March, hit the Union garrisons at Plymouth and Washington in late April, and conclude with another attempt at New Bern in early May. The expeditions would involve joint-service operations, as the Confederates looked to support their attacks with powerful, homegrown ironclad gunboats. These offensives in early 1864 would witness the failures and successes of southern commanders including George Pickett, James Cooke, and a young, aggressive North Carolinian named Robert Hoke. Likewise they would challenge the leadership of Union army and naval officers such as Benjamin Butler, John Peck, and Charles Flusser. Newsome does not neglect the broader context, revealing how these military events related to a contested gubernatorial election; the social transformations in the state brought on by the war; the execution of Union prisoners at Kinston; and the activities of North Carolina Unionists.

Lee’s January proposal triggered one of the last successful Confederate offensives. The Fight for the Old North State captures the full scope, as well as the dramatic details of this struggle for North Carolina.

About the Author

Hampton Newsome is the author of Richmond Must Fall: The Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, October 1864.

Additional Titles in the Modern War Studies Series