The early Civil War actions in northeastern North Carolina centered around commerce raiding, blockaide running,protecting the inlets along the Outer Banks, and controlling Roanoke Island, the key to the backdoor of Norfolk, Virginia.
Governor Ellis of North Carolina began assembling a shallow water navy te protect the vast sounds and numerous inlets along the state’s northeast coast before the state had even seceded. Five ships were purchased and two had been outfitted and commissioned before they were sold to the Confederate government in July of 1861.
The Winslow enjoyed success as a commerce raider operating out of Hatteras and Ocracoke Inlet. The Beaufort, a former tugboat, enjoyed much less success, being too slow to compete with swift side-wheelers like the Winslow, Gordon, and Mariner. The Ellis, Raleigh, and Edwards (Forrest) were commissioned after the ships were turned over to the Confederacy and never saw duty as commerce raiders.
The squadron, often referred to as the “mosquito fleet,” was commanded first by Samuel Barron and then by William F. Lynch. It participated in the battles of Hatteras, Roanoke Island, Elizabeth City, and Hampton Roads.