Captain William H. Spencer’s Company of Independent Rangers

(Hyde County)

Featured Character – 1864 Confederate Decline

General Map of the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, Showing the Theatre of Operations of the Burnside Expedition, Harper's Weekly, March 1, 1862

Courtesy of the Museum of the Albemarle

After the occupation of eastern North Carolina by Union forces, the governor of North Carolina commissioned several officers to raise companies of partisan rangers.  Independent of regular Confederate Army command, these troops operated behind enemy lines.  In Hyde County, William H. Spencer organized a company of Independent Rangers, known as Spencer's Rangers.  In early 1864, Union General Henry W. Wessells heard that Spencer’s group operated out of Fairfield.  He dispatched the gunboat Foster and thirty men from the 101st Pennsylvania Infantry to attack the guerrillas.  On February 16, 1864, in the middle of a snowstorm, Federal troops surprised the rangers.  They used axes to break into the Baum House in search of weapons and Confederates supplies.  Spencer, his lieutenant, and at least seventeen men fell into Union hands.  The Union soldiers also captured a large stockpile of food, arms, and ammunition.  Spencer spent the next seven months in two different Union prison camps.  The capture of the partisan rangers effectively ended Confederate operations in Hyde County.