On 7–8 February the Union general, Ambrose Everett Burnside, raised a coastal division to target North Carolina’s Roanoke Island, whose fortifications protected the Sounds, creating a passage for Confederate ships. By taking the island, Burnside believed that he would be able to lay siege to the Confederate naval base at Norfolk, Virginia. On 7 February Burnside launched an amphibious operation using converted tugs and steamers, which could manage the shallow waters of the Croatan Sound. The ‘warships’ fired on rebel ships and the island’s forts. Some 10,000 Union soldiers landed on the western part of the island where they engaged in combat with around 2,500 Confederates, who were under the command of Colonel Henry Shaw their previous commander, General Wise, had fallen sick with pleurisy and could not participate in the battle. Overwhelmed by the Union numbers, the Confederate troops fled to the northern part of the island, where they surrendered on 8 February.