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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Washington, N.C., Siege of

by Paul Branch, 2006

An ochre colored map depicts the seige of Washington; shows that the Pamplico River turns into the Tar River just southeast of Washington NC. Rebel troops surrounded Washington on both sides of the Tar River, as well as south of the Pamlico River.The Confederate siege of Union-occupied Washington, N.C., extended from March 30 to April 16, 1863. The primary goal was to capture the town, but if that was not possible, the secondary goal was to tie up the garrison and keep Union forces on the defensive. Earlier, Maj. Gen. John G. Foster, leading the Union Department of North Carolina, arrived at Washington to assume command of about 1,200 men, including the 1st North Carolina Union Volunteers. Three gunboats supported this force. Foster ordered reinforcements, but before they could arrive, the Confederacy's Maj. Gen. Daniel H. Hill approached the town on March 30 with about 5,000 troops. Since the element of surprise was lost and a direct assault had little chance of success, Hill besieged the town while his supply wagons gathered provisions from the region. The Confederates erected an earthwork battery, Fort Hill, six miles below Washington at Hill's Point, and its guns prevented Union transports from reaching Washington with reinforcements. Foster and his small garrison were surrounded.

The siege involved several engagements-mostly exchanges between Confederate batteries and Union gunboats and town defenses. On the night of April 13, however, the Union steamer Escort succeeded in running the blockade to Washington carrying supplies, ammunition, and reinforcements. As a result, during April 15 and 16, Hill abandoned the siege and withdrew his forces. Although he failed to capture Washington, Hill did manage to throw the Union forces on the defensive and to gather large quantities of food from Union-held areas.


John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963).

Hal Bridges, Lee's Maverick General: Daniel Harvey Hill (1991).

Douglas S. Freeman, Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command, vol. 2 (1946).

Additional Resources:

Civil War Traveler:

Image Credit:

Foster, John G. Sketch showing the position of the attacking and defending forces at the siege of Washington, N.C., March 29 to. [Washington, Government Printing Office, 1866] Map.

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