Spurred by optimistic predictions like that of Colonel Hawkins, Burnside had come to North Carolina with the hope of uncovering a stifled reservoir of national fervor; like Governor Stanly, he chose to acknowledge the rights of slaveholders in order to foster such sentiments. For a time the predictions seemed accurate, such as when the mayor of Washington welcomed Burnside's troops as liberators, but much of the apparent loyalty was feigned, while those who were truly opposed to secession often dared not speak: even Union troops could not provide universal protection, and one night Confederate authorities spirited Washington's mayor away to a Richmond prison. Burnside managed to induce a single skeleton regiment of North Carolinians to don blue uniforms, but as that regiment mustered in, Governor Stanly made a steamboat tour of Union-held towns around the sounds, exhorting true patriots to rally round the flag: his appeals echoed in profound silence. Most of his unwilling constituents curled their lips at a man they thought a traitor. Burnside took the hint and finally advised the administration to abandon any plans to accommodate the loyalist element. It was probably about this time that he began to reevaluate the issue of slavery. 1
During Governor Stanly's unavailing circuit of the sounds, Robert E. Lee wielded his Richmond army against McClellan's forces in a weeklong series of attacks that uprooted the Union host from its supply base and slammed it against the James River, at Harrison's Landing.