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1864 April 30: The Battle of Plymouth and Other News

April 30, 2014

Following is the Polk County Press’ summary of the week’s war news, from its April 30, 1864, issue.

The first item refers to the Battle of Plymouth, which was fought from April 17 through April 20, 1864, near Plymouth, North Carolina.  The Union leader was Henry W. Wessells,¹ not General Godfrey Weitzel, as stated in the aricle.

The National Park Service summary of the battle states:

In a combined operation with the CSS ram Albemarle, Confederate forces under Maj. Gen. R.F. Hoke, attacked the Federal garrison at Plymouth on April 17.  On April 19, the ram appeared in the river, sinking the Smithfield, damaging the Miami, and driving off the other Union ships supporting the Plymouth garrison.  Confederate forces captured Fort Comfort, driving defenders into Fort Williams.  On the 20th, the garrison surrendered.

For more details on the battle, see the NCpedia article on Plymouth, Battle of, by Dan Blair.

Union forces had 2,000 casualties and Confederate forces 800, considerably different than the loses listed in the following article.


The News.

The news of the week seems to be of the disasterous [sic] order again.

On the 29th [sic] the rebels attacked our forces at Plymouth, N. C., under Gen. Weitzel.  After a four days battle Gen. Weitzel was forced to surrender.  Our loss is 150 killed and wounded, 2000 prisoners, post stores, 3000 stand of small arms, and 24 cannon.  The rebel loss is 1,500 killed and wounded.  As at Fort Pillow, all negroes captured were murdered.

The Rebel Ram Attacking Federal Gun-Boats at Plymouth, North Carolina, from "Harper's Weekly"

The Rebel Ram Attacking Federal Gun-Boats at Plymouth, North Carolina, from “Harper’s Weekly”²

The sword contest at the New York Sanitary Fair is ended.  Gen. Grant [Ulysses S. Grant] won the sword by 16,000 majority.

The rebel account of the surrender of Fort Pillow acknowledges that an indiscriminate massacre followed.

A dispatch from Washington gives reasons why the people should not be discouraged at the recent disasters.  The government is pursuing the policy that has been called for by the whole country, of concentrating its forces for a mighty blow at the heart of the rebellion, while the rebels are pursuing the scatteration policy.

1.  Henry Walton Wessells, Sr. (1809-1889) was a career military officer who graduated from West Point in 1833 and served in the Seminole Indian wars and the Mexican War. In the 1850s, he served on the frontier in the Dakotas and Kansas. During the Civil War he served on the Missouri border war, the Peninsular Campaign and was wounded at the Battle of Fair Oaks. After four days’ hard fighting in the defense of Plymouth, he was compelled to capitulate and was a prisoner of war from April 20 to August 3, 1864. Wesselss was promoted to lieutenant colonel, U.S. Army, in February, 1865, and for the next year was in command of the draft rendezvous at Hart’s Island, N.Y. He mustered out of the Volunteer service on January 15, 1866. After the War, he commanded U.S. military forts in Nebraska and Dakota Territory, and retired from active service in January 1871.
2.  The May 7, 1864, issue of Harper’s Weekly included a story on “The Rebel Ram at Plymouth, North Carolina,” along with this illustration. The University of Wisconsin-River Falls’ Chalmer Davee Library has microfilm copies of Harper’s Weekly for 1858-1865 (UWRF online catalog).

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