After the defeat of Confederate troops at Hatteras Island and the fall of Roanoke Island in February 1862, Gen. Burnside set his sights on invading water towns in North Carolina. Confederates built breastworks at Cobb’s Point near Elizabeth City. Many citizens set fire to their homes and retreated to the country. When Federal gunboats were spotted getting ready to come into the bay, Confederates began burning the city. Approximately two blocks of the city burned before Union troops arrived and were able to save the rest of the city.