William H. Spencer’s Company of
Featured Character – 1864 Confederate
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
the occupation of eastern North
Union forces, the governor of North Carolina
commissioned several officers to raise
companies of partisan rangers.
Independent of regular Confederate Army command, these
behind enemy lines. In Hyde County, William H. Spencer
organized a company of Independent Rangers, known as
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
hands. The Union
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.