In 1860 Union sentiment was still strong in North Carolina. Despite the sectional crisis then approaching, a majority of her people was opposed to secession. The Fort Sumter confrontation of April 1861, however, changed this picture drastically. When President Lincoln called on North Carolina to furnish two militia regiments to help restore order in the South, Governor John W. Ellis, a strong secessionist, replied immediately that the state would furnish no troops for a "war upon the liberties of a free people."1
Most North Carolinians looked upon Lincoln's move as an attempt at coercion. Even staunch Unionists now became reconciled to secession and conflict. The state prepared for war. Governor Ellis ordered the seizure of Forts Caswell, Macon, and Johnston along with the United States Arsenal at Fayetteville and the Branch Mint at Charlotte. He then hurried the General Assembly into special session, and it wasted little time in setting the date for a convention to meet in Raleigh. On 20 May the convention unanimously adopted an ordinance of secession. According to a local newspaper "the good old North State" left the Union "amid the ringing of bells and the booming [of] cannon mingled with the deafening shouts of thousands of loyal voices."2 Meanwhile the General Assembly was organizing the state for war.
Though North Carolina's interior position in the Confederacy made her only a secondary battlefield, it was not unimportant in the grand strategy of the war. Occupation of the state's coastal region would pose a constant threat to the Confederate communication lines running south from Richmond, while the state itself was an important source of supply for the Army of Northern Virginia. Attacks along the coast, therefore, were not long in coming.
As early as 29 August a Union squadron captured Hatteras, and attacks along the coast continued unrelentingly. By the summer of 1862.____________________