THE BATTLE OF PLYMOUTH
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When Plymouth fell to the Union in May of 1862, the Confederacy almost immediately set its sights on the recapture of the small port town. Why? Because under Union control, Plymouth served as a jumping off point for increased Northern occupation of inland North Carolina, threatening the North Carolina/Virginia border and thus, the backdoor to the Confederate capital of Richmond.
How would this encroachment be possible by way of Plymouth?
For one, by water. Plymouth was located just upstream of the mouth of the Roanoke River, and the Albemarle Sound, a large body of water on which a sizeable portion of the Federal navy fleet was stationed. With Plymouth in Northern hands, Federal ships could enter the mouth of the Roanoke and make their way upstream along the waterway, threatening the Confederate-held Fort Branch, located above Williamston on the Roanoke River.
Inland advancement by the Union was also possible by land, and was feared by the Confederates due to Plymouth’s proximity to the vital Wilmington & Weldon Railroad line, which ran through the nearby town of Tarboro. With all of the significant Southern ports except Wilmington closed by 1864, this crucial rail route was the so-called “Lifeline of the Confederacy”, and supplied Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia with men, munitions and foodstuffs. Federal troops stationed in Plymouth had made attempts to destroy the line at the Weldon railroad bridge, and the Confederates knew that retaking Plymouth was essential to the protection of the vulnerable rail line.
The Battle Begins and the “Iron Monster” Arrives –