Battle of Elizabeth City
Following the fight off Roanoke Island Flag Officer William Lynch took the surviving vessels to Elizabeth City in search of ammunition and supplies. Finding only enough to resupply two vessels he sent CSS Raliegh up the Chesapeake Canal to Norfolk with a request for help. With the two resupplied ships , the flagship Seabird and the Appomattox, Lynch turned back toward Roankoe Island planning to render "what assistance we could." Before they could reach the island they were hailed by a small boat and learned that the battle was over and the Confederate forces surrendered. He changed his plans and headed toward a floating battery hoping to rescue the crews there. This mission also had to be cancelled when 13 Union ships appeared at the head of the river. He ordered the two ships turned around and headed up the Pasquotank River evading the Union fleet in the growing darkness.
Returning to the Elizabeth City docks he devised a plan to block passage of the river with his 6 vessels. He redistributed the available ammuniton and strung the boats across the river diagonally just above the small fort at Cobb's Point. Lynch then went to the fort to coordinate their efforts with his ships. Instead of help he found the fortification nearly empty. Only seven militia men were on hand to man the three 32lb guns. He was told that although the call had gone out for the militia few had answered the call. Lynch stripped CSS Beaufort of all but those necessary to move the boat up the canal to safety and manned the battery.
The Union fleet arrived on the morning of the 10th and at the first shot the militiamen at the fort fled. LT Commander Parker, of Beaufort, was forced to reduce the firepower at the fort to just two guns. It hardly made a difference. The Federal gunboats made quick work of the enemy boats. In only slightly more than an hour the tiny Confederate fleet was in ruins. Only CSS Appomattox managed to escape. Seabird was sunk, Ellis was captured, Fanny was run aground and burned by her crew, and Forrest, tied up for repairs, was burned at the wharf. The Union ships continued on and gained position to enfilade the fort. Unable to move the guns the crews spiked the guns and abandoned the fort.
In the city, the local commander, Colonel Henningsen of the 55th Virginia Infantry, ordered the town burned to prevent anything of value from falling into Union hands. Distressed at the decision, Reverend E. M. Forbes rushed to the docks with another prominent citizen to broker a deal with the Union commander. Forbes declared the city "open" in hopes that it could be spared. It was of no use. Hardliners, led by Colonel Lucien Starke, continued to push for application of the torch. In order to speed the destruction Sgt Scruggs was sent to spread the word that the inhabitants were to torch the town. Scruggs mission was short lived when he ventured into a patrol of Union sailors and was captured. When they learned the nature of his mission they were ordered back to their boats. Commander S. C. Rowan feeling that they "would be charged with vandalism as incendiaries" banned further visits to shore. Fortunately only a two block area was burned destroying several houses and the county courthouse. When the flames were extinguished crews were sent ashore to destroy the fort, public property, and the railroad. About two weeks after the fight on the river the town was occupied by a regiment of Union soldiers and used as a base to conduct further operations and prisoner paroles.