Today in History:

Suffolk II

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Battle Name: Suffolk II
Other Names: Norfleet House Battery
State: Virginia
Location: Suffolk
Campaign: Longstreet’s Tidewater Operations (February-May 1863)
Dates: April 13-15, 1863
Principal Commanders: Brig. Gen. John Peck [US]; Lt. Gen. James Longstreet [CS]
Forces Engaged: Divisions (45,000 total)
Estimated Casualties: (1,160 entire siege)
Description: The town of Suffolk was of considerable strategic importance during the Civil War. On May 12, 1862, Col. Charles C. Dodge's 1st New York Mounted Rifles rode into Suffolk and began the Union occupation that would last throughout the war. Mayor Benjamin Riddick surrendered the town to Dodge with the assurance that peaceable citizens' rights would be protected. Additional Federal troops from Camp Butler, under the command of Brig. Gen. J.K.F. Mansfield, quickly moved into Suffolk as local Confederate troops withdrew west to the Blackwater River.

When the Union IX Corps reinforced Fort Monroe in February 1863, Robert E. Lee countered by sending Lt. Gen. James Longstreet with the divisions of John Bell Hood, George Pickett and Samuel French to the Tidewater region to block any possible advance against Richmond via Petersburg from Suffolk. It was Longstreet's first independent command. After an unsuccessful expedition in North Carolina, Longstreet began his operations against Maj. Gen. J.J. Peck's 15,000-man force in Suffolk on April 11, 1863. The Confederates drove the Federals into their fortifications and began erecting their outer ring of earthworks around the town. Longstreet believed that Suffolk could be captured in a few days but felt that the Confederates could not "afford to spend the powder and ball" or spare the men to hold onto it. During the following weeks, Peck's force was reinforced to 29,000 men and the Federal gunboats blocked any Confederate advance across the Nansemond River. The siege was a series of skirmishes between the opposing forces highlighted by the Union capture of Fort Huger on the Western Branch of the Nansemond River.

Longstreet abandoned the siege on May 4, 1863, to help Lee defend against Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker's move towards Richmond. Even though the siege was unable to dislodge the Union control of Suffolk, it was considered a success since the Confederates were able to forage valuable supplies from the surrounding rich countryside and contain any Federal Southside advance against Richmond.

In cooperation with D.H. Hill’s advance on Washington, North Carolina, Lt. Gen. James Longstreet with Hood’s and Pickett’s divisions besieged the Union garrison at Suffolk commanded by Brig. Gen. John Peck. The Union works were formidable and manned by 25,000 men, opposed to Longstreet’s 20,000. On April 13, the Confederate troops pushed their left flank to the Nansemond River and constructed a battery on Hill’s Point, which closed off the garrison to Union shipping. On April 14, Union gunboats attempted to run the batteries at the Norfleet House slightly upstream, but Mount Washington was crippled. The Federals, at the same time, constructed batteries to command the Confederate works at Norfleet House. On April 15, these batteries were unmasked and opened fire, driving the Confederates out of this important position.
Results: Inconclusive

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