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History Walking Tours of Old Wilmington

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Our leisurely tour takes us back in time as we talk about:

Three of the most historic homes in Wilmington. History of Wilmington's down town and how it developed. Cape Fear River and it's importance to the area. Wilmington during the Civil War, what life was like. Victorian customs, Folklore and Much More...

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Lori is an outstanding guide! Today she took Laura Heidel 's group on a tour of Old Wilmington. Her exceptional knowledge and enthusiasm were incredible. It was such a pleasure to be able to hear every word she said.
Lyle Sullivan 

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The Wilmington Campaign

While most aspects of the American Civil War have been examined in minute detail by an infinite body of historians, journalists, novelists, and writers in general, it actually is possible for a probing historian to break new ground while examining an important campaign of that great American tragedy. Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr., has accomplished this with his handsome volume on the Wilmington Campaign. Fonvielle has not simply duplicated other recent studies that focused on the more celebrated battles of the campaign. He has methodically reported and analyzed the campaign in its entirety by providing a full portrait of the war on North Carolina's southeastern coast. His study includes an examination of the background and importance of Wilmington and the Cape Fear River to the Confederate war effort, the construction and strength of the formidable Cape Fear fortifications, the two attacks on Fort Fisher, and the subsequent march on Wilmington.

As the war progressed, the river port of Wilmington took on increasing strategic importance to the Confederacy. Located thirty miles up the Cape Fear River, it had the unique geographic advantage of occupying a river that was perfectly suited to blockade-running. Frying Pan Shoals separated the river's two inlets, and the Union blockading fleet found it virtually impossible to blanket the sixty miles of coast between the inlets and prevent the continuous ocean traffic that went in and out of the city. By 1864, Wilmington had constituted the only major Confederate port remaining open to the outside world, and its railroad facilities transported the arms and provisions necessary to maintain Robert E. Lee's army.

During the war, blockade-runners made more than 400 trips into Cape Fear, bringing in some $65 million in supplies. In addition to clothing and other civilian merchandise, vast quantities of arms, munitions, uniforms, and other military supplies destined for Lee's army made their way northward through the port of Wilmington. In an effort to protect Cape Fear, a series of massive earthen forts was designed to guard the inlets and the river approaches to Wilmington. Fort Fisher extended along the coast from New Inlet north for 1,300 yards before projecting west for 480 yards toward the Cape Fear River to form a giant "7." It was the region's most formidable installation and became generally known as the "Gibraltar of the South."

Confederate authorities deemed the massive earthen fort impregnable, and one Union general proclaimed it to be the strongest fort he ever encountered. In an effort to close this last gateway to the outside world, Federal authorities late in 1864 ordered the capture of Cape Fear. A Union assault on December 24, 1864, featured an unusual effort to destroy the fort by exploding a ship loaded with 215 tons of gunpowder in the shallow adjacent waters. The powder ship made no impression on the Confederate defenders, and the subsequent naval bombardment and land invasion failed to accomplish its goal. The Federals' poor showing was partly due to the personal animosity between the Union naval and army commanders, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter and Major General Benjamin F. Butler. After the failed expedition returned to Virginia, Ulysses S. Grant became convinced that occupying Wilmington was critical to the Union strategy to end the war. With Grant's orders before them, Porter, with fifty-eight warships, and Major General Alfred H. Terry, in command of 9,000 soldiers, returned to Cape Fear on January 13, 1865. The resulting battle for Fort Fisher has been described as the greatest naval-land battle in the history of the world up to that point. More than 1,464 tons of metal was fired at the fort, and Union losses approached 1,450 killed, wounded, and missing. The pathetically small Confederate defensive force of 1,900 men under the command of Colonel William Lamb and Major General William Henry Chase Whiting fought valiantly against overwhelming odds before being completely overwhelmed in hand-to-hand combat on January 15. Southern losses totaled about 500 men killed and wounded. The remaining 1,400 were captured. The tragedy in the loss of Fort Fisher lay in the inexplicable behavior of Confederate General Braxton Bragg, commander of the Wilmington District, and his subordinate Major General Robert F. Hoke. They commanded a division of veteran troops at Sugar Loaf, not more than five miles from the fort, yet Bragg chose to sacrifice Fort Fisher rather than send reinforcements to support its defenders. After the fort fell, Bragg ordered his troops to withdraw from the remaining fortifications guarding the mouth of Cape Fear to installations closer to Wilmington. It took more than a month for the Union army to push the Confederates back into the streets of Wilmington. Two brigades of U.S. Colored Troops that had participated in both the attacks on Fort Fisher, acquitted themselves well in the Wilmington invasion. On February 22, Bragg ordered a complete withdrawal from Wilmington, and the Union army captured the city.

With the occupation of North Carolina's largest city and the closing of Cape Fear to foreign commerce, the fate of the Confederacy was sealed. Lee had warned Bragg that without the port of Wilmington, he could not sustain his army in the field. Less than seven weeks after the fall of Wilmington, Lee's Army of Northern Virginia surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

 The Wilmington Campaign is thoroughly researched, well written, and accessible. It features a vast array of excellent photographs and maps, many of which were previously unpublished, along with a serviceable index, notes, and a full bibliography. Fonvielle takes great care to develop his characters and provide insight into the officers and men involved in the engagements. He includes unique vignettes, such as an incident in which a colored soldier captured his former master and brought him into camp at gunpoint. He also relates a well-documented account of a Union soldier who stopped at his boyhood home to greet his mother during the approach to Wilmington only to find that his "Johnny Reb" brother had visited there hours earlier as his Confederate unit retreated toward Wilmington. For Civil War scholars particularly interested in a complete identification of the units involved and their commanders, along with the ships, their guns, and their commanding officers, the orders of battle are included as a form of appendix. The text is replete with the details of battle, the type of weapons used by each participant, and the strategy (or the lack thereof) of the commanding officers.With all this detail, the narrative reads well. This volume is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in the Civil War, North Carolina history, or really any good, historically accurate story.DonaldR.Lennon East Carolina UniversityBook Review: The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope (James R. Arnold and Roberta Wiener) : AH Originally published by American History magazine. Published Online: August 11, 2001 The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope, by Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr., Savas Publishing, Campbell, California, (800) 848-6585, 623 pages, $32.95. Posted by Tour Old Wilmington at 2:44 PM Labels: Boats on the Cape Fear River, civil war, education, fort fisher, haunted cotton exchange, history walking tours, north carolina, things to do in Wilmington tour old wilmington, tour old wilmington Location: State Historic Site, 1610 S Fort Fisher Blvd, Kure Beach, NC 28449, USA

The Kenan Fountain

The Kenan Fountain

Market Street & Fifth Avenue

An architectural gem, the Kenan Memorial Fountain was erected in 1921 in the middle of the large intersection of Fifth Avenue and Market Street. Wilmington native, William Rand Kenan, Jr., gave the fountain to the city to memorialize his parents, William Rand and Mary Hargrave Kenan.  Carrere and Hastings of New York, a respected architectural firm that designed the New York Public Library, drew the plans for the fountain.  It was made out of Indiana limestone and cost $43,000.   The fountain was sculpted in New York, then dismantled and shipped to Wilmington where it was rebuilt.

When Mr. Kenan gave the fountain to the city most residents still walked or took a streetcar. However, some pessimistic citizens predicted that it would become a traffic hazard.  Their forecast came true as the city grew and automobiles became a preferred mode of transportation.  

 Source: A Pictorial History of Wilmington by Anne Russell
To purchase the book please visit the Two Sisters Bookery @ the Cotton Exchange in Wilmington NC

Great review for Tour Old Wilmington

Just a quick note to say thank you for an awesome tour.  Clyde and I had such a good time!  You are a walking encyclopedia of historical facts.  It's so obvious you have a passion for history.  Keep up the good work!
Our best wishes for you always,

Railroad History

Owned primarily by the state of North Carolina, the North Carolina Railroad stretched 223 miles, beginning in Goldsboro, leading to Salisbury, and then turning south and ending in Charlotte.  The railroad was the largest internal improvement effort in North Carolina during the antebellum era.  It was chartered in 1849 and leased to the Richmond and Danville Railroad in 1871.

Antebellum North Carolina (1820-1850) acquired a reputation of backwardness and closed-mindedness.  For this reason, the state was nicknamed the “Rip Van Winkle State”--meaning it had been asleep and needed to awake and take advantage of economic opportunities.  Promoters of the North Carolina Railroad considered it a duty to do so, and to remain in Rip-Van-Winkle condition was considered “evil.”  Compared to Virginia and South Carolina, North Carolina played, at best, a minor role in regional trade.  Many Tar Heels, as a result, emigrated to enjoy a higher standard of living.  Some railroad boosters considered abandonment of their native place as an “evil,” too.

Advocates of internal improvements believed the North Carolina Railroad was the first step in rescuing their home state from its slothful, economic condition and dependence.  They also predicted increased urbanization and industrial growth.

As with most internal improvement legislation, the North Carolina Railroad charter bill of January 1849 inspired intense and prolonged debate.  One reason is that boosters asked for a sizable amount of money: a $3 million charter, of which the state paid $2 million after $1 million had been raised privately.  Many legislators were aghast.  Promoters therefore had to convince legislators that this alternative was preferable to allowing other railroad connections to build in North Carolina, with no cost to the taxpayer.  In the end, legislators deemed the construction of the North Carolina Railroad, although costly, most beneficial to the overall economic health of the state.  They hoped that, after the construction of the railroad, Tar Heels could produce their own products and crops and ship them to fellow North Carolinians; an intrastate economy, it was hoped, would wean the state from economically dependence.

The North Carolina Railroad charter bill created what contemporaries called a “log-rolling session.”  Most Whigs supported the charter bill, but many Democrats supported it, too.  Democrats were mostly divided by region (forty-percent of eastern Democrats supported the bill and only two legislators from the Piedmont backed it).  The bill narrowly passed the House and then passed the state Senate by only one vote.  The bill was passed because many political deals were made.  Despite allegations of graft and pork-barrel legislation, the North Carolina Railroad eventually served as a symbol of sectional compromise.

The North Carolina Railroad was chartered in 1849, and stockholders formed the company on July 11, 1850.

Boosters were surprised by the extra cost and effort needed to construct the railroad.  For construction to continue in a timely manner, the state granted the North Carolina Railroad Company an additional $1 million and exempted $350,000 of company bonds from taxation.  The railroad was completed after five years.  In 1856 Tar Heels celebrated the opening of the railroad, for it was a human accomplishment previously deemed impossible and fostered hope in a growing economy.  Some Tar Heels even thought that, by fostering economic growth, the railroad would close the financial gap between the rich and the poor.

The North Carolina Railroad was indeed a financial success.  Each year, revenue increased; consequently, state revenue grew, for the Old North State was the largest company stockholder.  Although it had a vested interest in the success of the rail, historians contend that the state government played a passive role in the rail company’s dealings.

The company’s financial success made some wonder whether politicians and their friends unduly benefited from the railroad’s construction.  For instance, the North Carolina Railroad passed through Hillsborough, Salisbury, and Concord--all three, hometowns of politicians, who strongly supported the construction of the railroad.

Many public benefits resulted from the North Carolina Railroad, however.  The foremost benefit was expanded trade.  Consumers had more choices and raised their standard of living.  Also, farmers imported new fertilizers to increase crop yields.  In particular, wheat, cotton, and tobacco production soared, but this crop growth resulted not from the increased purchase of slaves; the percentage of slave population growth (9%) was less than in the 1840s (15%).  In addition, the state experienced rapid urbanization.  New towns, such as High Point and Durham, were created along the rail line, and consequently, such towns operated as hubs of the growing textile and tobacco industries.  An interesting crop expansion was dried fruits.  Farmers barely produced $1,000 worth of fruit in 1850, but by 1880, dried-fruit farmers rivaled wheat farmers in production (almost $233,000).  Unsurprisingly the value of land near the railroad increased, too.  And another benefit of the railroad was less cultural isolation and more travel opportunities for work and leisure.

Those in the mountains and the coast realized the benefits of the North Carolina Railroad.  After its construction, they lobbied for connectors to be built in their regions, for they wanted expanded trade, urbanization, and economic growth.  Future generations credited the railroad for rescuing the state from cultural isolation and economic depression.

But the railroad brought unexpected outcomes.  Although consumer choices increased, it ensured that North Carolina remained mainly a supplier of staple crops in a larger system of free trade.  New Englanders, some scholars assert, benefited more from the North Carolina Railroad than did Tar Heels, who chose to import goods instead of diversifying their agricultural economy.  Instead of keeping Tar Heels at home, the railroad inspired many to leave the state: possibilities in the West and in Northern cities were calling them.

By the late 1860s, questions about the state-owned railroad ultimately led to its being leased and sold to private corporations.

Allen Trelease, The North Carolina Railroad, 1849-1871, and the Modernization of North Carolina  (Chapel Hill, 1991) and Alan D. Watson, Internal Improvements in Antebellum North Carolina (Raleigh, 2002).
By Troy L. Kickler, North Carolina History Project

Getting away with murder during the Civil War Part Three

 Getting away with murder! Part Three
The battlefield claimed many a brave officer, but there were a few others who met not-quite-so-honorable ends.

The Civil War was fought in an age when flair counted for nearly as much in society as character—and a number of generals outdid themselves. The North had Custer. With his starred sailor's blouse, silk cravat and broad-brimmed hat, the "boy general" cut an unmistakable figure. But for sheer flamboyance, no one outdid the soldiers of the romantic South. Many, including J.E.B. Stuart, John Hunt Morgan and the diminutive "Gray Ghost" John Singleton Mosby, affected the appearance of the beau sabreur. George Pickett's curly locks were so heavily perfumed that the scent was said to precede him into a room. But the pantheon of cavalier dandies would not be complete without General Earl Van Dorn. What he lacked in height—he stood only 5 feet 5 inches tall—he more than compensated for in overweening self-satisfaction. A fine horseman and self-styled poet and painter, Van Dorn cultivated his appearance to reflect his talents. A photograph of Van Dorn shows a reasonably handsome man with styled pomaded hair, a flowing mustache and collar, and velvet cape and waistcoat. The portrait suggests Lord Byron rather than a professional soldier—an image cultivated to further his other main interest: Married though he was, Van Dorn loved the ladies, and apparently it didn't matter whether they were already spoken for. One Vicksburg reporter branded him "the terror of ugly husbands and serious papas." Ultimately, the womanizing proved the general's undoing.

As a soldier, Van Dorn proved something of a disappointment. His military career had started brightly enough. He fought in Mexico, where he was twice wounded and his gallantry in battle earned him two promotions. After the Mexican War, Van Dorn fought the Seminoles in Florida, and the Comanches in Texas and the Indian Territory. He was wounded four more times—twice seriously—by Comanche arrows.

Van Dorn resigned from the U.S. Army when his native Mississippi left the Union. In April 1861, as commander of the Confederate forces in Texas, he so impressed the South's War Department that they brought him back to Richmond and gave him command of Virginia's cavalry—the pride of the Confederacy. By the turn of the year, he was a major general in charge of the new Trans-Mississippi District. Earl Van Dorn's star was clearly on the rise.
Soon, however, cracks began to appear in the plaster. Van Dorn played a significant part in the Southern defeat at Pea Ridge in early 1862. It was one of the rare instances in which Rebel forces outnumbered Yankee troops and lost. While Van Dorn was a fine cavalry officer, strategy was not his forte, and he was proving incapable of handling high command. Nor could he accept responsibility for his failures. In his official report, Van Dorn excused his role in the defeat by claiming "a series of accidents entirely unforeseen and not under my control and a badly-disciplined army defeated my intentions." Writing to Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin, Van Dorn indulged in semantics: "I was not defeated, but only foiled in my intentions." So poorly did he perform at the Second Battle of Corinth that he was accused of drunkenness, negligence, disregard for his men's welfare and failure to adequately plan his charges. After his costly defeats at Pea Ridge and Corinth, Van Dorn's embittered troops gave him a nickname: "Damn Born." He was brought before a court of inquiry and, although acquitted, Van Dorn had commanded his last army. From then on, he was restricted to smaller commands, where his talents were better used.
Meanwhile, Van Dorn's extracurricular activities did not go unattended. Assigned to command a cavalry division in the Army of Tennessee in early 1863, he made his headquarters in Spring Hill, Tenn., at the mansion of a local resident. In the vicinity lived a prominent middle-aged physician, land speculator and slave trader named George B. Peters, whose young wife, Jessie, had caught the general's roving eye. They reportedly carried on a torrid affair, until one day in early May, when the outraged doctor walked up behind Van Dorn as he sat writing at his desk and shot him in the back of the head.
The details of the killing are shrouded in mystery. Some versions have Van Dorn writing a pass for Dr. Peters when he was shot. Other versions suggest there had been no illicit affair, and Peters was simply a Federal sympathizer acting for political reasons or profit. In any case, the shot was instantly fatal, depriving the Confederacy of a decent cavalry officer, Mrs. Van Dorn of her husband, Jessie Peters of a lover and the general himself of the opportunity to redeem his reputation in the field.
Peters was arrested but escaped prosecution, claiming Van Dorn had "violated the sanctity of his home." This was an offense the South could not forgive, and the Southern press was brutal in its condemnation. "It is a happy riddance," the Atlanta Confederacy trumpeted. "He was unfit to live." And according to the Montgomery Weekly Advertiser, "The impression around Spring Hill is that Van Dorn was rightly killed." The Advertiser goes on to say that Mrs. Peters—on hearing of Van Dorn's death—exclaimed that "she was a widow indeed, as her husband had fled, and her sweetheart was dead." The couple did, in fact, divorce, but later reconciled.
Throughout the war, there was no lack of enmity between generals—especially among the Confederates. Thin skins, the constant stress of war and the cultural expectation of manly conduct ensured that honor was easily offended.
Conflicts generally stopped short of bloodshed, but the possibility of mortal confrontation was never far removed. In a time when the horror of war was everywhere, and when violent death was an accepted part of daily life, it was inevitable that the fine line between defensible conduct and homicide would be crossed. Given the circumstances, it is not remarkable that three generals were murdered; it is, however, more than curious that none of the murderers—for murderers they clearly were—was ever punished.

·      Read more inAmerica's Civil War magazine
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Rose O'Neal Greenhow

Rose O'Neal Greenhow
Original name: 
Maria Rosetta O’Neale


Montgomery County
Maryland, USA
Sep. 30, 1864
North Carolina, USA
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The "Rebel Rose" of the Civil War. "I employed every capacity with which God has endowed me, and the result was far more successful than my hopes could have flattered me to expect." Rose O'Neal Greenhow. She was born Maria Rosetta O’Neale in Montgomery County, Maryland to John O'Neale and Eliza Henrietta Hamilton and was orphaned as a child. When she was a teenager, she was invited to live with her aunt who ran the exclusive Congressional Boarding House in Washington, D.C. and was introduced to important figures in the Washington area. O’Neale was considered beautiful, educated, loyal, compassionate, and refined. Many were surprised when she accepted the marriage proposal of Dr. Robert Greenhow, a quiet physician and historian, who worked in the U.S. State Department and married him on Tuesday, May 27, 1835. Their marriage record lists her as Miss Rose Mariea O’Neale. Through her husband, she came to meet the leading southern politicians of the day, including Jefferson Davis, who was to become the first and only president of the Confederate States of America.

The Greenhows had four daughters: Florence, Gertrude, Leila, and little Rose. Dr. Greenhow died in 1854, soon after little Rose's birth. As the country moved toward war, Greenhow continued to host parties for both southern and northern politicians, but she made her views clear, that she was a southerner first, last, and always. A young lieutenant from Virginia named Thomas Jordan knew that Greenhow was probably the best-placed southerner in Washington and, after meeting with her, he proposed that she spy for the Confederacy, acting on behalf of Gen. Beauregard and she accepted. On July 9 and 16, 1861, Greenhow passed on secret messages to Confederate General Pierre G. T. Beauregard containing critical information regarding the 1st Bull Run (known in the South as the Battle of Manassas) campaign of Union General Irvin McDowel.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis credited Greenhow's information with securing victory at Manassas for the South. On August 11, 1861, she was able to send a report several pages long, detailing the complete Washington defense system. Every fort in the Washington area was described in detail, along with the number of guns, their caliber and range; weak spots in the earthworks; regiments identified by state origin and their strengths; the level of troop morale; number of officers and their experience; the political beliefs of the officers; the number of muskets issued to each regiment and the number of shots and grape issued for each weapon; the number of mules for freight-hauling available and the condition of the animals; itemized lists of wagons, ambulances and stores for each fort. 

This was the kind of information she delivered. She was arrested as a spy by Allan Pinkerton on August 23, 1861. Mrs. Greenhow was kept a prisoner in her home, which had been labeled "a clearing house for spies." Her home was officially made her prison by government decree on August 30, 1861. When guards discovered a Confederate plot to free Greenhow, the government acted, ordering her and her daughter, "Little Rose" transferred to the Old Capitol Prison on January 18, 1862. For five months, she and her daughter remained at the Old Capitol Prison, however, even her imprisonment did not deter her from continuing to provide information to Southern loyalists. This prompted Federal authorities to banish her south.

On June 2, the New York Times recorded her release and removal under close custody. On June 6, 1862, she and her daughter arrived in Richmond to wildly cheering crowds. Asked by the government to act as a courier to Confederate diplomats, she assumed the role of blockade runner and traveled to England and France. In September 1864, she boarded a blockade-runner, the Condor, bound for North Carolina. Spied by a Union gunboat in the waters just off the coast near Wilmington, North Carolina, the Condor raced ahead up the Cape Fear River hoping to avoid confrontation. Instead, the Condor ran aground on a sandbar. Desperate to escape, Greenhow boarded a lifeboat that capsized in the rough water and drowned.

In the afternoon of Saturday, October 1, 1864, her body was carried in a long funeral procession through the streets of Wilmington, a guard of honor accompanying her horse-drawn casket which was draped with a huge Confederate flag. Thousands of soldiers marched behind it, led by Admiral Hampden and many other Confederate officers, to Oakdale Cemetery. A squad of Confederate soldiers fired their muskets over her grave as the guns of Fort Fisher boomed in her honor. 

Note: A great white stone was later placed above her grave, purchased by the Ladies Memorial Association of Wilmington. On it bears the legend: "This monument commemorates the deeds of Mrs. Rose Greenhow, a bearer of dispatches to the Confederate government. She was drowned off Fort Fisher from the blockade runner ‘Condor' while attempting to run the blockade on September 30, 1864. Her body was washed ashore at Fort Fisher Beach and brought to Wilmington."
 (bio by: Debbie)

Family links:
  John O'Neal (1770 - 1817)
  Eliza Henrietta Hamilton O'Neal

  Robert Greenhow (1800 - 1854)*

  Rose Greenhow Duvall (1853 - ____)*

*Calculated relationship

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William Hooper 1742-1790

A representative of North Carolina at the signing of the Declaration of Independence, William Hooper was born on June 28, 1742, in Boston, Massachusetts.  His Scotch immigrant father, also named William Hooper, was initially a Congregationalist minister but converted to the Anglican faith five years after his arrival in the colonies. Reared in an Anglican household, the young Hooper’s parents wanted him to enter the clergy. Refusing to do so, young William matriculated at the Boston Latin school for seven years and earned an M.A in theology from Harvard University.

He then moved to Wilmington, North Carolina and eventually supported American independence. His Loyalist father was displeased and disowned his patriotic son. Hooper went on to study law under James Otis, a published political radical. Hooper eventually married Anne Clarke, the daughter of an early settler to the area. They had three children: a daughter and two sons. The family remained in the Wilmington area, because Hooper had established a professional network, developed a wealthy clientele, and served as a circuit judge.  The increasingly popular Hooper was appointed Deputy Attorney for the Salisbury district in 1769 and later Deputy Attorney General for North Carolina in 1770.

Hooper supported Governor Tryon when the Crown put down the Regulators, commonly referred to as backwoodsmen. These Piedmont farmers opposed excessive colonial government taxation, excessive legal fees, and corruption—a charge levied against Edmund Fanning, clerk of court for the Salisbury district. Taxes for the construction of the Tryon Palace in New Bern especially enraged the Regulators, who deemed an ostentatious palace as unnecessary and a symbol that the colonial administration cared more for pomp and circumstance than about the backcountry’s economic needs. After years of legal and extralegal protests and demands for regulation, the Piedmont farmers engaged Tryon’s troops on a field near Alamance in 1771. 

In the 1770s, Hooper’s political influence increased even more.  In 1773 he was elected representative for the Scots settlement of Campbellton (later called Fayetteville).  He then went to the Colonial Assembly serving New Hanover County and was soon appointed to the Committee of Correspondence and Inquiry. He was unanimously elected recorder of the Cape Fear region in June 1776, and one year later became the Deputy Attorney General of the Salisbury District.  No doubt his political success encouraged the political success of his son, also named William, who represented Wilmington in the North Carolina Colonial Assembly from 1773-1775, a time when the Assembly attempted to increase the powers of the courts.  The Act included a provision authorizing the Assembly to confiscate colonial property owned by foreign debtors, including that of the British.  When the Colonial Governor vetoed the Bill, William Hooper supported Tryon and the Crown against the Colonial Assembly.

However, as a result of his support for the Crown at Alamance, his success was short lived. He was dragged through the streets of Hillsborough and his home destroyed.  (Whether these experiences started his evolution from a Loyalist to revolutionary is not clear.) Even so, he helped organize a conference in Wilmington after the Royal Governor dissolved the Colonial Assembly and assisted in establishing a new Colonial Assembly more favorable to the Crown. By 1774 he had established his bona fides  (information that establishes one’s credit or honor) and was appointed one of North Carolina’s three delegates to the first Continental Congress. With Thomas Jefferson, Hooper then served on a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, but private affairs prevented his attendance when the document was approved;  he later signed it on August  2, 1776. 

In support of American independence, he donated his fortune and future professional income as a lawyer. When he entered the Second Continental Congress, he opposed British rule. While members of his family remained Loyalists he was appointed in 1776 to a committee with Benjamin Franklin and Phillip Livingstone, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, to honor General Richard Montgomery, who had recently fallen at Quebec.  Hooper left Congress, however, when he contracted yellow fever in 1777.

His participation in the struggle for independence included his service with the General Assembly until 1783; he was still a member of the Continental Congress and used his legal expertise in helping establish a state government. As a result of his changing loyalties, the Crown decided to "educate" Hooper so that all rebels would understand the consequences of their actions.  His plantation, Finian, on the Masonboro Sound was destroyed.  Suffering from malaria and a badly injured arm, and fleeing from home to home, Hooper soon found refuge in Hillsborough, where he was able to serve as a state legislator.

After independence, Hooper pursued a conservative, or federalist, political ideology, which many disagreed with. As per the treaty ending the war, he forgave loyalists and protected their rights even when a majority in his jurisdiction wanted revenge; the fact that the British reneged on their obligations only made matters worse. Plus, his aristocratic status and fear of mob rule fostered distrust among average Americans. His adherence to the letter of the law also angered many.  As a result, the average American Democratic-Republican mistrusted him in 1787, when he promoted state ratification of the federal constitution.    
He was appointed a federal judge in 1789 and served for one year, before his bad health forced him to retire.  He died shortly thereafter on October 14, 1790 at the age of forty-eight. His wife died in August 1795.  They were initially interned in Orange County, North Carolina.

Edward J. Cashin, William Bartram And The American Revolution In The South (Columbia, 2000); John, Frehling, A Leap In The Dark: The Struggle To Create The American Republic (New York, 2003); Robert Charles Knief,  “ William Hooper, 1742-1790, Misunderstood Patriot” (Ph.D. diss., Tulane University, 1980); William Powell, North Carolina: A History (Chapel Hill, 1988); Edward C. Quinn, Signer Of The Constitution Of The United States (New York, 1988); Phillip Roth, Masonry In The Formation Of Our Government, 1761-1799 (New York, December, 2005); “William Hooper, Signer Of The Declaration of Independence," (accessed 12 June 2006).
By Arthur Steinberg, Catawba College

History of Wilmington

According to the Julian calendar, Wilmington, North Carolina, was incorporated in 1739.  Located on the east bank of the Cape Fear River, the original town is 28 nautical miles from the Atlantic Ocean.  Built on several rises, more like sand dunes than hills, the town ascends 50 feet from the river shoreline.  Despite navigational difficulties along the river, the town grew to become the largest city in the state before the Civil War.  It remained so until the second decade of the 20th century, when the state’s Piedmont tobacco and textile towns rose to prominence. 

Wilmington’s historical significance is reflected in the variety of architectural styles, streetscapes and in other aspects of its material culture.  The Colonial town is most visible in the original grid pattern of the streets, the numbered streets running from north to south and the named streets running from east to west.  Several periods of rapid growth have altered the city’s passage through time.  Very few buildings remain from the early town because of the large fires and antebellum growth stimulated by the 1840 opening of the railroad. 

Three other periods of sustained growth are also noteworthy.  Recovery from the Civil War with increased port and rail expansion precipitated substantial commercial activity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Increased business and industry, particularly of cotton and fertilizer, provide a building boom both commercially and residentially, including moves to the first suburbs.  This economic activity spread across the region, evident most notably in the development of the nearby beaches.  After a period of decline during the Great Depression, Wilmington experienced another burst of growth during World War II Military facilities and the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company brought an unprecedented number of new residents who needed housing as well as a myriad of businesses to support their daily lives.  The most recent growth can in the 1990s, after Wilmington was connected to the rest of the country by Interstate Highway 40. 

Source: Wilmington Lost But Not Forgotten by Beverly Tetterron

Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher
Until its capture by the Union army in 1865, Fort Fisher was the largest earthwork fortification in the world. The “Gibraltar of the South” protected the port of Wilmington and ensured that the Confederacy had at least one “lifeline” until the last few months of the Civil War.  Confederate blockade runners had little difficulty eluding the U.S. blockade, and Colonel William Lamb, the fort’s commander from 1862 to 1864, organized their efforts. The runners delivered goods in Wilmington, and The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad transported these goods to supply Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Fort Fisher was a formidable post.  Several times Lamb and his men withstood Union attacks.  In December 1864, for instance, the Union had loaded a warship with 185 tons of gunpowder and floated it approximately 200 feet from the “L” shaped fort.   The fort withstood the explosion and the ensuing barrage that has been described as “the most awful bombardment that was ever know for the time.”

Confederate fortune ran out in January 1865.  On January 12, Union ships bombarded the fort.  Some have estimated the Union firepower to be approximately 100 shells per minute.  The incessant Union fire continued until mid-day on January 15, when Union troops stormed the fort from all sides.  Hand-to-hand combat ensued.  A few hours later, Union troops captured the fort.  With the fort’s capture, the Confederacy lost only remaining supply line to its infantry protecting the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.     

John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1963); John S. Carbone, The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (Raleigh, 2001); William S. Powell ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989).

See Also:
Related Categories: Civil War
Related Encyclopedia Entries: John W. Ellis (1820-1862), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Union League, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Raleigh E. Colston (1825 - 1896) , Thomas Fentriss Toon (1840-1902), Robert Fredrick Hoke (1837-1912), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), John Motley Morehead (1796-1866), David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1770), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904), St. Augustine's College, Peace College
Related Commentary: Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1836-1865
Region: Coastal Plain

Omar Ibn Said (1770-1864)

Also known as “Uncle Moro” or “Moreau,” Omar Ibn Said was born in Northwest Africa to a wealthy, and possibly royal, family.  In 1807, a year before the Constitution made the international slave trade illegal, he was captured as a result of African warfare, sold to slave traders, and shipped to Charleston, South Carolina.  Fleeing his abusive South Carolina master, he fled north and eventually arrived in Fayetteville, where he was captured while praying in a church.  Later purchased by James Owen, the future president of the Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad and major-general of the militia, Said, a house slave, openly condemned the “wicked” slave trade and the actions of “depraved” masters. According to contemporary magazines, however, he lauded Owen for his benevolent paternalism and Christian charity.  Said lived out the rest of his life in Bladen County and died in 1864.

Since 1995 when his autobiography, the only American slave narrative known to exist in Arabic, was found, Said has gained national attention.  Many scholars contend Said was a devout Muslim until his death.  Said, however, made a Christian profession of faith and joined the Presbyterian Church.  Said could have written approximately fourteen Arabic manuscripts.

By Troy L. Kickler, North Carolina History Project

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Society and the Home Front

The course of the American Civil War (1861-1865) has occupied the attention of generations of historians, with much of the literature concentrating on battlefield engagements and political and military leadership.  The field of social history, first coming into light in the 1960s and 1970s, however, inspired a new wave of scholars to explore the lives of ordinary, everyday individuals, the collective experiences of previously neglected social groups, and largely ignored themes such as labor history.  This “bottom up” approach to the past opened up new doors in the area of Civil War that, since 1990, historians have only begun to enter.  Such studies offer a broader view of how the war affected American life and its people and demonstrate that the conflict was more than just booming cannons and “notable figures.”  These studies explore a wide range of topics--from the reorganization of family life and changes in race relations to children’s reactions to war and transformations in ethnic communities--in an effort to demonstrate the war’s far reaching influence on American life.  Moreover, stories of the home front illuminate the role of noncombatants in sustaining the military effort and their endurance of the emotional and material hardships caused by war.  An examination of the social history of the war should not come at the expense of understanding military engagements and those who led the charge of battles.  On the contrary, we should move toward a more inclusive approach to understanding the Civil War, one that embraces civilians and soldiers, home and battlefronts.

I have chosen to concentrate on women and gender to illustrate the benefits of casting our analytical net wider to include social history.  Prior to the conflict, women held few legal, political, and economic rights.  Social prescriptions of the antebellum era valued women for their maternal and domestic roles and encouraged patriarchal dependency.  They gained some degree of property and educational rights in the prewar era and found a public role through benevolent work.  Nevertheless, these advancements did little to alter their overall rights as citizens or change popular sentiment concerning the “proper” place of women.

The Civil War, however, created new opportunities for women.  When men left the home, their wives, daughters, and mothers assumed many of the male-oriented roles in and outside the household, becoming plantation managers and running their husbands’ businesses.  The economic exigencies of war also brought women into new areas of paid employment.  Southern women, for example, who faced increased supply shortages and inflation by 1863, sought work outside the home to supplement the family income.  As a result, women from all class ranks found jobs such as government clerks and teachers.  The need to supply soldiers on both sides also demanded the participation of civilians.  In response, women entered new areas of public activism through the soldiers’ aid societies in the South and U.S. Sanitary Commission in the North.  In addition to their material contributions, women played an essential role in sustaining ideological support for the war, joining in public displays of patriotism such as parades and community pageants.  African American women likewise seized the opportunities that war created.  Northern black women served in a number of wartime organizations assisting African American communities while hundreds of female slaves in the South fled to Union camps, where many found jobs as washerwomen and cooks.

The economic, political, and civic roles created in the Civil War era became a defining moment for women.  At the end of the war, many willingly supported a return to the prewar gender status quo.  But, the conflict had changed the course of women’s lives.  In the following decades, they underwent numerable changes, including mobilizing the suffrage movement, expanding women’s participation in the workforce in areas such as teaching, and participating in civic organizations ranging in interest from the soldiers’ memorial movement to social reform.    

Recent studies on the interaction between women and soldiers demonstrate how the intersection of gender and military policy shaped the course of the war.  The southern female population in occupied New Orleans, for example, continually resisted submission to Union General Benjamin Butler and his men.  Defying the enemy at every turn, they avoided the federal flag and, in one instance, dumped chamber pots from their balconies onto the heads of passing Union soldiers.  In response, Butler issued his famous General Order no. 28 which prohibited women’s public demonstrations against the federal soldiers and United States government.  Jacqueline Glass Campbell, in her study of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march from the sea through the Carolinas, offers an innovative approach to a subject traditionally covered in military studies.  Campbell argues that the interaction of Sherman’s men with southern women helped politicize the home and helped reenergize civilian morale during a time of material deprivation.  The Union’s policy of foraging the countryside for supplies greatly affected the domestic life of southern women.  The personal contact with soldiers, moreover, riled the animosities of southern women toward the enemy, helping to sustain their enthusiasm for the Confederate mission despite their war weariness.

Some Civil War historians have joined the cadre of scholars focusing on the cultural meaning of gender.  Moving beyond an analysis of male-female relationships, these historians explore how notions of masculinity and femininity shaped political discourse, social ideology, and economic roles, all of which greatly affected the course and outcome of the war.  For example, Stephen Kantrowitz’s essay on ideals of manhood among male abolitionists in Massachusetts illustrates how the Civil War produced conflicting assumptions of masculinity between white and black men.  White abolitionists, according to Kantrowitz, defined their masculine duty based on secret, subversive associations while African American males sought to legitimate their anti-slavery activism through more formal means, such as enrollment in the federal military.

Exploring the lives of women during the war as well as changing gender relations and identity demonstrates that the conflict was more than just great battles and great men.  In fact, if we cast our gaze to the thousands of men and women who occupied the home front, we can see how much the war affected everyday individuals as well as the paramount role noncombatants played in sustaining the military cause.  

Jacqueline Glass Campbell, When Sherman Marched North from the Sea: Resistance on the Confederate Homefront (Chapel Hill, 2003); Joan E. Cashin, ed., The War Was You and Me: Civilians in the American Civil War (Princeton, 2002); Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, eds., Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War (New York, 1992); Stephen Kantrowitz, “Fighting Like Men: Civil War Dilemmas of Abolitionist Manhood,” in Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War, Catherine Clinton and Nina Silber, eds. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006); Maris Vinovskis, ed., Toward a Social History of the American Civil War (Cambridge, 1990).
By Victoria E. Ott, Birmingham-Southern College

See Also:
Related Categories: Civil War, Women
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Related Commentary: Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan
Related Lesson Plans: Civil War in North Carolina, Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1836-1865
Region: Statewide An Online Encyclopedia, “Lunsford Lane” (by Troy Kickler), (accessed August 15, 2005).
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