William Danford Blair
“ ONE GOOD PORT:” THE UNION NAVY AND BEAUFORT HARBOR, NC 1862-1865.
(Under the direction of Carl E. Swanson) Department of History, August 1999.
The purpose of this thesis is to examine the role of Beaufort Harbor in Union naval operations during the American Civil War. Because it was the scene of little fighting during the conflict, any importance the harbor had must be logistical. Consequently, much of the research focused upon discovering how the blockading fleet was supplied, and how Beaufort fit into the supply system.
Beaufort Harbor was a key element in the blockade of the port of Wilmington. The use of Beaufort Harbor saved the U.S. Navy money during the war in coal costs, and saved its blockading ships valuable time making the blockade more efficient. The great advantage of Beaufort Harbor was its location relatively close to the Cape Fear River approaches. This enabled ships to refuel with only a short absence from station, and with little fuel usage in transit. Another important advantage was that the inlet's depth allowed the admittance of most ships in the fleet.
Because of its location the harbor was a haven in which ships could conduct emergency repairs or refit after extended periods at sea. The harbor was well-suited as a base from which to raid towns farther down the coast and disrupt Confederate activities. Beaufort would eventually be the base from which the great attacks on Fort Fisher originated. Though little recognized, one cannot understand the blockade without understanding the role of Beaufort Harbor.