Wilmington And Fort Fisher

The interior of North Carolina adjoining the Sounds is largely swamp land, and the broad belt of forest, chiefly pines, which parallels the coast all along the Atlantic seaboard. Through this region the railway extends southward from Virginia past Weldon to Wilmington, an uninteresting route among the swamps and pine lands, showing sparse settlement and poor agriculture, the wood paths exhibiting an occasional ox-team or a stray horseman going home with his supplies from the cross-roads store, a typical representative of the ” tar-heels of Carolina.” The railway crosses the deep valley of Roanoke River, and then over the Tar and Neuse Rivers, traversing the extensive district that provides the world’s greatest supply of naval stores—the tar, pitch, turpentine, rosin and timber that are so largely shipped out of the Cape Fear River from Wilmington. This is the chief city of North Carolina, having about twenty thousand people, and is located ,on the Cape Fear River twenty-six miles from its mouth. The city spreads along the eastern shore upon the peninsula between it and the ocean. The first settlement ante-dates the Revolution, when the inhabitants, who were sturdy patriots, drove out the royal Governor and made Fort Johnson, at the mouth of the river, an American stronghold. Upon the secession of the Carolinas in 1860–61 this fort was occupied by the Confederates and replaced by the larger work on Federal Point, between the river and the sea, known as Fort Fisher. Owing to the peculiar location and ease of entrance, the Cape Fear River became famous in the Civil War as a haven for blockade-runners, the effective defense made by Fort Fisher fully protecting this traffic. As the Union blockade of the Southern harbors became more completely effective with the progress of the war, this finally was about the only port that could be entered, and an enormous traffic was kept up between Wilmington and Nassau, on the British island of New Providence, in the Bahamas, not far away, some three hundred fleet foreign steamships safely running the blockade into Cape Fear River, during 1863 and 1864. The notoriety of this traffic, from which enormous profits were made, became world-wide, and it was decided late in 1864 that Fort Fisher had to be captured, in order to make the Southern blockade entirely effective. A joint land and naval attack was made by General Butler and Admiral Porter in December, 1864, but they were obliged to retire without seriously damaging the fort. Then General Butler in-effectively attempted to blow up the fort by exploding a powder-boat near it. Finally a new expedition was landed in January, 1865, under General Terry, and in cooperation with the navy, which made a fierce bombardment, they captured the fort on the 15th, after severe loss, the works being partially destroyed the following day by the accidental explosion of the powder magazine. This capture ended the blockade-running at Wilmington, and had much to do with precipitating the fall of Richmond in the following April.