First Wednesday – Chicamacomico Races

After the capture of Hatteras Inlet by Federal forces in late August 1861, and the subsequent abandonment of some isolated coastal outposts, North Carolina began fortifying Roanoke Island to protect the inter-coastal waterways.  The 8th North Carolina Regiment and the 3rd Georgia Regiment were stationed at Roanoke Island.

600 men of the 20th Indiana Regiment occupied the small village of Chicamacomico on the Outer Banks of North Carolina to protect against attacks from the Confederate forces at Roanoke Island.  Confederate forces were unaware of the occupation until they captured the Fanny, a supply vessel.  A few days later, on October 4, 1861, the Confederates attacked the encampment at Chicamacomico which led to the two-day ordeal dubbed as the “Chicamacomico Races.”

Confederate forces arrived at Chicamacomico at dawn on October 4, 1861 amassed in barges towed by steamers.  Under orders, the Indiana soldiers abandoned Chicamacomico grabbing only the barest of supplies and equipment and marched toward the Hatteras lighthouse.  Local people, many of whom had expressed Union sympathies, fled in front of the retreating Indiana soldiers.  As they left, the 3rd Georgia Regiment landed and began pursuit, capturing and killing some of the Union soldiers.  The three groups of people (local civilians, Union soldiers, Confederate soldiers) continued south until, at about midnight, the Indiana men reached the relative safety of the Hatteras lighthouse.  The Confederate forces made camp for the night a short distance away.  Although the 8th North Carolina pursued the groups and attempted to get ahead of the fleeing Federal forces, their boats ran aground and became lodged on a sandbar.

The following day, the Georgians learned of the fate of the 8th North Carolina and began the march back to Chicamacomico.  Suddenly the 9th New Jersey Zouaves appeared and gave chase to the Georgians.  The tables were turned and the Confederates marched about 18 miles under duress before being picked up from the Outer Banks.  During this second phase of the “races,” the Union gunboat Monticello advanced to within range of the fleeing Confederates and began firing shells at the Georgians.  This print from our original print collection depicts the shelling of the Georgians by the men on the Monticello.

Ultimately, neither force held Chicamacomico or suffered more than minor troop losses.  The confrontation was a military stalemate but produced a lasting and entertaining tale of a two-day “race.”

Engraving of the Chicamacomico Races from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, Nov. 2, 1861

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