Spotlight: Tranters Creek — Beaufort Co, NC
After Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside
’s army captured Roanoke Island in February 1862, Federal troops occupied New Bern the next month and then secured the undefended town of Washington on March 20. Although several weeks passed with only a few skirmishes between the opposing forces, by May 19 Col. George B. Singletary
’s 44th North Carolina Infantry was on picket duty west of Washington in the vicinity of Tranter’s Creek, where it threatened the Federal garrison. Singletary planned to attack the town and was awaiting several pieces of artillery to support his assault. Union Gen. Edward E. Potter
learned of Singletary’s plans and ordered the 24th Massachusetts Infantry to launch a spoiling attack. On June 5, Lt. Col. Francis A. Osborn
led the regiment from Washington, accompanied by the 1st New York Marine Artillery. The combined force met the Confederates a mile north of here at Myers’ Bridge, which spanned the Tranter’s Creek.
The Federal gunboat Picket shelled the Confederate forces from the river to support Osborn’s attack. Both he and Singletary had about 500 men. Within minutes, Osborn lost nineteen men killed and wounded in the action. The engagement quickly turned in the Federal’ favor, however, when a sniper’s bullet killed Singletary, his brother, Lt. Col. Thomas C. Singletary, took command, and after three hours, the Confederates withdrew, having lost four men killed. Osborn returned to Washington. Confederates forces reoccupied the town in April 1864.
Lt. William B. Avery, 1st New York Marine Artillery, later received a Medal of Honor for his bravery at Tranter’s Creek, where he “handled his battery with greatest coolness amidst the hottest fire.” North Carolina Governor Henry T. Clark commended Lt. Col. Singletary for his gallantry.