WAR IN EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA, 1862-1864
When General Burnside departed for Virginia, as ordered in July 1862, he took two divisions with him. This left J. G. Foster, his successor in command in North Carolina, with an insufficient number of troops to make a long anticipated move on Goldsboro. General Foster turned his attention, therefore, to strengthening the fortifications at New Bern and other places in his command. At the same time he sent raiding parties into the eastern North Carolina countryside. Union naval forces were also active on the rivers and sounds. Hamilton, Trenton, Pollocksville, Swansboro, Williamston, and Jacksonville were among the many localities visited by the Union raiders. The Confederates in turn struck at Plymouth and Washington. Finally in December 1862, Foster moved in force on the Wilmington-Weldon Railroad at Goldsboro, but he managed to damage the line only superficially. It was back in full operation within a few days.
General Lee, concerned about the threat to his supply lines in eastern North Carolina, sent General D. H. Hill to the state in early 1863 with instructions to keep the Union forces confined to their bases while Confederate supply trains moved through the fertile region. In the spring Hill made feeble demonstrations respectively against New Bern and Washington. Other than these moves he did little with his new command.
Military activity was at a minimum in North Carolina during the summer and fall of 1863. Still the times were very gloomy. The eastern counties, lying open to Union troops, were subject to numerous enemy raids including one by Negro troops under General E. A. Wild. Adding to the burdens of the eastern Carolinians were the activities of armed bands of Negroes and native Union bushwhackers, known as "Buffaloes," who terrorized the area. Furthermore, Union authorities had plans for a fugitive slave colony on Roanoke Island.
In an effort to relieve the situation in North Carolina, General Lee, in February 1864, ordered General George E. Pickett with a 13,000 man