Sunday, February 8, 2009
Yesterday I was honored to be the guest speaker at the regular meeting of the Sons of Union Veterans, North Carolina Union Volunteers Camp #5, which is based in Morehead City. I gave a presentation about Union naval operations in Onslow County, NC (my home county) during the Civil War. The basic storyline is that once the Union controlled Beaufort and Fort Macon (late April 1862) they used that as a fueling station for the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron. They also used it as a rendevous point from which to conduct joint army-navy raids along the portions of the state's coast that were still in Confederate hands. A series of operations, not including the Battle of New River, were small raids generally aimed at destroying coastal salt works and capturing southern schooners outbound with loads of cotton and naval stores. Most of these operations were generally successful. The most well-known action in the county was the aforementioned Battle of New River (Nov. 23-25, 1862), a much larger scale operation conducted by the daring Lt. William Barker Cushing. This raid hit the heart of the county, the seat of Jacksonville. Cushing correctly predicted that he would "surprise the enemy in going and have to fight my way back down" the river. It was one of the earliest of Cushing's daring exploits and about the most excitement the town of Jacksonville saw during the war. At any rate, the program was pretty well attended and the lunch afterwards was an excellent opportunity for fellowship. The day was made even better by the fact that I shared the hour's drive there and back with an old friend, Steve Sayko, recently returned from a year's duty in Afghanistan. I thoroughly enjoyed the day!