Battle of Albemarle Sound

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Battle of Albemarle Sound
partof=the American Civil War

caption=USS "Sassacus" ramming CSS "Albemarle"
date=May 5, 1864
place=Dare County, North Carolina
combatant1= flagicon|USA|1863 United States (Union)
combatant2= flagicon|CSA|1863 CSA (Confederacy)
commander1=Melancton Smith
commander2=James W. Cooke
strength1=9 ships
strength2=3 ships

The Battle of Albemarle Sound was an inconclusive naval battle along the coast of North Carolina during the American Civil War.


In April 1864, a Confederate Army, with the aid of the CSS "Albemarle", forced the surrender of the Union garrison at Plymouth. Robert Hoke, commander of a Confederate Army in North Carolina, encouraged by his success at Plymouth attempted to retake New Bern which had been in Union control since early in 1862. For his proposed attack on New Bern Hoke again turned to the aid of the CSS "Albemarle", which had been a decisive factor in the Battle of Plymouth.

The battle

James W. Cooke, commander of the CSS "Albemarle" sailed out of Plymouth in early May 1864. Steaming south toward New Bern, Cooke ran into a Union fleet at the mouth of Albemarle Sound, commanded by Captain Melancton Smith. Smith with an advantage in numbers could do little damage to the single Confederate ship. Shots glanced off the "Albemarle's" sides. The USS "Sassacus" rammed the "Albemarle" at top speed and caused some significant damage. The "Albemarle" began taking on water but the "Sassacus" had also sustained damage from the impact and a shot burst one of the boilers scalding the crew. The rest of the Union fleet managed to recapture a converted steamer called the "Bombshell". The "Sassacus" by now too damaged to function drifted down river while the "Albemarle" was also damaged enough not to continue the fight and made its way back to Plymouth.


The battle itself was a standoff, but the events that followed had more decisive results. The "Albemarle" had held its own against greater numbers but the damages caused the during the battle had forced the ship into port for the next several months prevented it from being used in General Hoke's planned assault on New Bern. Hoke went ahead with his campaign even without the "Albemarle". He achieved nothing before being recalled to Virginia to help defend Petersburg and Richmond. The events in October had a greater impact on the situation when William B. Cushing led a naval raid and detonated a torpedo beneath the hull. The removal of Hoke's force and the destruction of the "Albemarle" allowed both Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina, to fall back into Union hands.

Order of battle

Union Navy

Captain Melancton Smith
*USS Syracuse
*USS "Commodore Hull"
*USS "Ceres"
*USS "Miami"
*USS "Wyalusing"
*USS "Sassacus"
*USS "Mattabesett" - flagship
*USS "Whitehead"

Confederate Mosquito Fleet

Commander John W. Cooke
*CSS "Albemarle"
*CSS "Bombshell"
*CSS "Cotton Plant"


*Chaitin, Peter M., editor, "The Coastal War: Chesapeake to the Rio Grande" (1984)
* [ National Park Service battle description]
* [ Albemarle Sound Order of Battle]

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