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The Battle of Plymouth
Ram Albemarle off Plymouth NCThe Battle of Plymouth, April 17-20,1864, was the last major Confederate victory of the Civil War and the 3rd largest battle fought in North Carolina. It is considered by historians to be the cleanest, most competently fought Confederate victory on North Carolina soil. It is also significant that the battle was led by native North Carolina Generals, Robert Hoke and Matt Ransom, as well as Beaufort, NC native, Commander James Cooke of the ironclad the CSS Albemarle.

Plymouth was a strategic port in a rich agricultural region. The Roanoke River also provided river access to the important Wilmington & Weldon Railroad, which served as, “The Lifeline of the Confederacy”. Plymouth was occupied by Union forces from 1862 right up until the Battle of Plymouth. It wasn’t until the spring of 1864 that General Lee allowed one of his most able junior officers, Robert F. Hoke to attempt to dislodge the Union forces.

By that time, Plymouth was defended by approx. 2,500 Union troops with an extensive system of forts, redoubts, and trenches. The Union Army was supported by 5 Union gunboats under the command of Charles Flusser. Hoke amassed 13,000 Confederate troops and a just christened and untested ironclad ram called the CSS Albemarle to accomplish his task.

The CSS Albemarle performed brilliantly, and the Federals were completely defeated and dislodged by the combination of naval bombardment, cavalry, heavy artillery and raw hand-to-hand combat in the streets of Plymouth. Unfortunately, the town was largely destroyed by this and previous skirmishes which had taken place starting in 1862.

Most of the Union troops captured here were sent to the infamous Confederate prison in Andersonville where many of them died. Upon their arrival in prison they were dubbed “The Plymouth Pilgrims”. Today, the descendants of these “Pilgrims” are an organized group and attend the Battle of Plymouth Living History Weekend held each April. Descendants of other key figures, including Captain Cooke of the Albemarle, and Gilbert Elliot, the young engineer responsible for building the ship, are also regular attendees at the event, posing for group photos and honoring the memories of their illustrious ancestors, and the special place in history they occupy.