We when think Civil War, July 1863, it conjures images of such iconic places and moments as the Devil’s Den, Little Round Top, Seminary Ridge, Culp’s Hill or the so-called High Water mark at the angle along United States defenses at the end of the Pickett-Pettigrew charge. Further still, some may call to mind the end of the siege of Vicksburg in the western theater of the war. Few will state that the terms call to mind Federal raids into eastern North Carolina. Eight such raids, however, did occur in North Carolina during the month of July 1863
(see time line: http://www.nccivilwar150.com/timeline/1863.htm).
The first such raid was led by Major General John G. Foster and departed New Bern on July 3 and returned July 7. The raid headed southwestwardly towards Kenansville and passed through the communities of Comfort and Hallsville on the way. At Hallsville, US forces met and captured a company of Confederate cavalry. From there, they proceeded the next day to Warsaw where they destroyed some railroad freight cars filled with various goods and tore up and set fire to sections of the railroad track; heating, bending and twisting the metal rails in an attempt to render them useless. Receiving word of pending Confederate reinforcements, the US forces withdrew to Trenton and then the next day returned to New Bern.
CSA General Whiting reported the whereabouts of the Union forces to Governor Vance by telegram. He included mention of the minor damage perpetrated by Foster’s men and noted that the Cars (cars refer to train cars) would resume running in a day.
Governor Vance sent a request to Confederate Secretary of War James Seddon requesting reinforcement – Vance was unaware of the events unfolding in Gettysburg, PA. Foster’s raid and subsequent actions in North Carolina were designed, in part, to keep Confederate forces and supplies in North Carolina, as much as possible. To steal a popular quote: North Carolina was a “side show to the big show.” Even so, the raids did affect North Carolinians and caused considerable worry of deeper raids towards Raleigh. News of Gettysburg and Vicksburg would filter back to Tar Heels but these series of raids made an immediate impression in the Old North State.