Link To This Page — Contact Us —
The Battle of New Bern
February 2, 1864 in New Bern, North Carolina
Confederate Forces Commanded by:
John Taylor Wood
**Missing and Captured
Conclusion: Confederate Victory
On February 2, during the cold and rainy morning, the Union gunboat USS Underwriter was moored at the Neuse River port town of New Bern, where it could add the firepower of its cannon to aid in the defense of New Bern from Confederate land forces.
Shortly after 2:00 A.M., the ship's lookout spotted 14 small boats being rowed rapidly toward the ship. He sounded the alarm, and the ship's crew members hurried on deck. They delivered several volleys of rifle fire at the boats before grappling hooks were thrown on board and Confederate raiders armed with cutlasses and pistols began climbing over the sides.
The first raiders met a " blazing sheet of flame ", and 4 of them were hit with 6 or 7 minie balls apiece. " It seemed like the very jaws of death ", remembered one survivor, but more and more raiders scrambled onto the ship and a wild melee of hand-to-hand fighting ensued between the boarders and the crew.
Gradually, the greater numbers of the Confederates won out, and the ship's crew was forced belowdecks into the ward room and coal bunkers. The raiders found that with the ship heavily moored fore and aft and the fires banked, it was impossible to steam away with the captured vessel.
The sound of battle aboard the Underwriter had alerted nearby Union shore batteries. Despite the large number of Union prisoners on board, the Union batteries began shelling the ship with an intense fire.
The Confederate commander, John Taylor Wood, ordered the Union prisoners and Confederate dead and wounded placed in the small boats, and after setting the ship on fire, the raiders climbed back into their boats and began rowing back upstream.
The Federals on shore, seeing the Underwriter burning and knowing it held several tons of gunpowder, abandoned the nearby batteries in order to escape the coming explosion.