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While the Federal navy made plans for a systematic blockade of southern coasts, they also reacted to specific threats. In July 1861 Confederate vessels, operating from behind the North Carolina Banks, captured two Federal merchantmen This action, coupled with a fear of what Confederate raiders might accomplish if allowed to operate in these waters, convinced Lincoln it was necessary to control Albermarle and Pamlico Sounds. This could best be accomplished by seizing Ocracoke Inlet, guarded by Forts Hatteras and Clark.
A naval squadron, commanded by Commodore Silas Stringham, accompanied bv some 1,000 soldiers led by General Benjamin Butler, sailed from Hampton Roads on August 26, arriving off the Confederate forts the following day. Butler's troops landed to the north of the forts, while Stringham maneuvered his ships to within range of the forts and opened fire on Fort Clark. Unable to withstand the bombardment, the Confederates abandoned Clark and took refuge in Fort Hatteras. Butler's forces, meanwhile, became marooned by heavy surf on the beach, and were unable to participate. The next day Stringham bombarded Hatteras, forcing its surrender.
While the battles resulted in a Federal victory, the lack of coordination between the naval and military elements was appalling.
To blockade the South Atlantic coast effectively, the Federal navy required a port in the area from which to support its ships; Port Royal was selected. On October 16, 1861, a squadron commanded by Commodore Samuel F Du Pont left New York for Norfolk where they embarked 1,200 troops, led by General Thomas Sherman. On October 29 the force sailed for Port Royal. On November 7, the squadron steamed to a point midway between the two forts. For over four hours the ships fired at the forts with devastating accuracy. With their cannon destroyed, Fort Walker's defenders had to abandon their posts, and Du Pont took possession. Fort Beauregard also surrendered. Sherman's troops were landed, and Port Royal secured
Stringham's squadron commences its bombardment of fort Hatteras on August 29 (right). A total of 158 guns pounded the fort, forcing its surrender when their fire was directed at the magazme. In itself, the victory was not a startling event but it became important as a booster of flagging Northern morale.
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