South Mills, NC

Date(s): April 19, 1862

Campaign(s): Burnside’s North Carolina Expedition [January-July 1862]

Battles in Campaign:



  • Union: Brig. Gen. Jesse Lee Reno

  • Confederate: Col. Ambrose Wright

Principal Forces:

  • Union: 21st Massachusetts and 51st Pennsylvania (3,000)

  • Confederate: 3rd Georgia (750)


  • Learning that the Confederates were building ironclads at Norfolk, Burnside planned an expedition to destroy the Dismal Swamp Canal locks to prevent transfer of the ships to Albemarle Sound.

  • He entrusted the operation to Brig. Gen. Jesse Lee Reno’s command, which embarked on transports from Roanoke Island on April 18th. By midnight, the convoy reached Elizabeth City and began disembarking troops.

  • On the morning of April 19th, Reno marched north on the road to South Mills.

  • At the crossroads a few miles below South Mills, elements of Col. Ambrose Wright’s command delayed the Federals until dark.

  • Reno abandoned the expedition and withdrew during the night to the transports at Elizabeth City.

  • The transports carried Reno’s troops to New Berne where they arrived on April 22nd.

Slide Presentation1: Burnside's North Carolina Expedition

Classification2: D


  • Union: 114

  • Confederate: 25

Results: Inconclusive

Battlefield Websites:

Lodging and Restaurants: North Carolina Tourism

Recommended Resources:

1 National Park Service summary.

2 Classification:

  • A - having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war

  • B - having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign

  • C - having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign

  • D - having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives

3 Casualties are someone killed, injured, wounded, captured or missing.

Revised 02/08/2013