March Meeting – Medal of Honor Recipients of the Lower Cape Fear

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, March 20, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month John Moseley will present his talk “Medal of Honor Recipients of the Lower Cape Fear.”

By the summer of 1861, the US Congress created the only award to recognize the acts of bravery by Union enlisted Navy, Marine Corps, and Army personnel during the Civil War. By war’s end, this award would be issued to 1,523 members of the Federal Army and Navy.

Between June 1864 and January 1865, seventy-two sailors, soldiers and Marines awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions at Fort Fisher. During the Civil War the US Marine Corps were awarded 17 Medals of Honor.

The struggle on the beach in front of Fort Fisher witnessed 6 of those Marine Medals of Honor. In addition, 35% of the recipients of the Medal of Honor for actions at Fort Fisher were foreign nationals.

Today, the Medal of Honor is the highest distinction that can be awarded by the President, in the name of the Congress, to members of the Armed Forces who have distinguished themselves conspicuously by gallantry and courage at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty. In its history, 19 North Carolinians have been recognized for their actions with the Medal of Honor. New Hanover County recognizes four citizens of our Nation’s highest award.

John Moseley is the Assistant Site Manager at Fort Fisher State Historic Site. He received his undergraduate degree in History from The Citadel in Charleston, SC, in 1989. He then spent the next decade and a half working in the for-profit and non-profit business world. During the 1990s, he spent large amounts of time researching North Carolina’s role in the American Revolution and 18th century medical and dental history.

He began working at Fort Fisher in 2011 and is currently in charge of the educational programming for the State Historic Site.

Since the summer of  2012, John has been the historian with “Tasting History” where he leads a walking tour of Carolina Beach focusing on the history of Federal Point and sampling local restaurants.

Currently, he continues working on Fort Fisher’s Medal of Honor recipients and the role of Fort Fisher during World War 2.

 

Society Notes – February, 2017

By Darlene Bright, History Center Director

Fort Fisher 152nd Reenactment – Fundraiser!

We had a great year at the Reenactment this year.  Sold 480 hotdogs along with tons of sodas, chips, and homemade cookies!

A huge THANKS goes out to everyone who donated time and energy to making this a very successful fundraiser.

 

At the Fort (ALL DAY!)                                           Baked Cookies

Darlene and Leslie Bright                   Juanita Winner                       Doris Bame
Demetria and Phil Sapienza               Jane Dugan                             Jean Stewart
Cheri McNeill                                        Kitty Slebodnik                       Elaine Henson
Jim Dugan                                             Nancy Gadzuk                         Ann Green
Jim Kohler                                             Demetria Sapienza                 Cheri McNeill
Paul Slebodnik                                      Darlene Bright                        Rebecca Taylor
Rodney Jones                                        Sylvia Snook

  • The History Center recorded 51 visitors in January. We had 49 in attendance at the January Meeting. The gift shop took in $141.00.
  • The History Center was used for meetings held by the Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club, the United Daughters of the Confederacy, The Carolina Beach Walk of Fame Committee and the Lewis Civil War Park Committee this month.
  • New Members: Linda Ogden of Carolina Beach, George Eckenrode and Candace Kelley of Wilmington, Don Hatch of Spring Grove, IL, and Frances and Daniel Parham of Wilmington.
  • Our sympathies go out to Nancy McGwier and her family at the loss of her son, Cam Miller.

Fort Fisher 152nd Reenactment

Saturday January 14, 2017

Fundraiser!

We’ll be selling hot dogs, sodas, snacks and homemade cookies again this year.  The reenactment is on Saturday January 14, from 10am – 4pm.

We need volunteers to “work the line” serving food as well as people to help set up and tear down.  We also need donations of homemade cookies to go with the meals for the reenactors.

If you can volunteer your time and/or bake a batch of cookies please call the History Center at 458-0502. Leave a message on the machine if Rebecca or Cheri isn’t there.

 

Seabreeze Part 5: The 40’s

By Rebecca Taylor

By the 1940’s Seabreeze had its own hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, and dance halls.  Drawing crowds from all over seabreeze-warfNorth Carolina it became known as the “National Negro Playground.” Among the local businesses – many of them run by Freemans or members of other families linked by marriage – were bathhouses where visitors could rent bathing suits for the day.

Daley’s Breezy Pier Restaurant was a two-story covered pavilion at the end of a pier where bands played and people fished and crabbed.

An amusement park opened in the summertime with a Ferris Wheel, a hobbyhorse (like a merry-go-round), chair planes, a carousel, the Octopus, and the Caterpillar. A fellow named Charlie ran the gambling tables. A Native American known as the Snake Man set up a sideshow tent, and one of the attractions he offered was “the Woman with No Body,” which was actually his extremely short wife in a darkened setting that only revealed her head. He also ran a candy store and a small circus and mounted an impressive snake display.

Summers were especially busy when church groups packed buses for a day’s amusement along the waterfront, then turned the beach over to the juke joint crowd at night. Farmers from inland counties would ride dozens of their field hands, on flatbed trucks, to Seabreeze for a day off. Seabreeze was so well known that it even attracted people from all over North Carolina and South Carolina. Some years people would even come on buses from Philadelphia and New Jersey.”

seabreeze-cabinsDuring segregation, Carolina Beach police refused to allow Seabreeze visitors to pass through the town to visit the ocean side of the Freeman property, known as Freeman’s Beach, so the family bought a boat to haul people there, letting them off in the marsh leading to the beach. You had to walk over the marsh lands – get mud in your feet and everywhere else.

Later Captain Rick Wilson – who later became the first black party-boat operator to get a slip at the Carolina Beach marina – ran a speedboat out of Seabreeze, offering rides for 50 cents a head.   Others, including Margaret Green, ran ferries to take visitors across the sound to the ocean beach on the outlying barrier  island. As the local economy recovered from the Great Depression, the Seabreeze community and its’ recreation area were fully developed.

Bruce’s Tavern was a two-story restaurant and dance hall with a fishing pier owned by Bruce Freeman. There was also Daley’s Pier with a restaurant and pier for fishing and crabbing. At Barbecue Sam’s, the proprietor raised pigs, butchered them, and smoked them on premises. Several bathhouses existed that seabreeze-womanallowed people to come out of the ocean, take a shower, get dressed, and go to the pavilions to dance.

There was a row of vine covered cottages which were used for overnight stays for people unable to drive and even an unofficial community jail. Photographers’ shops, where visitors could have their pictures taken as mementos of their summer visits to Seabreeze were scattered throughout the area.

William Freeman who was born in 1941 and grew up in Seabreeze says, “It was fun, it was fun, it was fun. For black people to be able to come to a place like this, they came and danced and kicked up and had fun the whole weekend. That had to be a great thing for us psychologically. All these places, blacks owned it all. It was far more valuable than we realized it was.”

WWII
In January of 1942 a meeting was called to inform “all negro citizens“ of the Sea Breeze area and to organize civilian defense units. The meeting was held at the Freeman church and Sheriff C. David Jones and the Mayor of Carolina Beach were the invited speakers.

In April 1942, the Federal Works Agency (FWA) allocated $12,800 for the construction of a bath house for the military. It included showers, locker rooms, and a lounge area.

In 1941, Camp Davis opened in Holly Ridge. It rapidly grew to include as many as 100,000 soldiers being trained in a variety of assault specialties. One section trained black soldiers in anti-aircraft artillery while an auxiliary base called Montford Point became the first training base for black Marines. wwii-marinesAs the war intensified the military presence became notable.

Black servicemen stationed nearby headed to Seabreeze on leave. There were even some training maneuvers that took place in the waterway. One long time resident reports that there were rumors among the residents that even the FBI trained along the undeveloped beach.

Black soldiers from the Fort Fisher training base would come up to Seabeeze. Some of the Freeman girls married some of the guys that used to be down at Fort. Fisher.

By the summer of 1943 a special “Jim Crow loading zone” was set up at the main bus terminal in Wilmington to handle the large crowds of black servicemen coming to Wilmington on leave. Another group was drawn to Carolina Beach, as well. Suddenly boys too young for the draft, but too old for parental supervision, flocked to Carolina Beach to work in the busy restaurants and hotels. White teenagers had learned to dance to ‘race music’ from blacks in the Hayti district of Durham.

While both Carolina Beach and Seabreeze owners were glad to cash in on the war boom, both beaches gained a reputation as somewhat “unruly.” As one white woman who was a teenager during the war remarked; “there was a general feeling that these boys were facing the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their country and therefore deserved to cut loose before being shipped out.” 

Walk the Civil War Sugar Loaf Line of Defense

SPECIAL EVENT!

Saturday March 12, 2016. 2pm – 4pm
Starting at Federal Point History Center
1121-A N. Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Donations requested to Ryder Lewis – Sugar Loaf Civil War Park
Walk limited to 25 people – call 910-458-0502 to register.

Join Chris Fonvielle and John Moseley for a guided history tour of the Confederacy’s last line of defense on the Federal Point peninsula.

Chris Fonvielle Walking TourDr. Chris E. Fonvielle Jr. is professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. John Moseley is the Assistant Site Manager and Education Director at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

Walkers will gather at 2 pm at the Federal Point History Center behind the Carolina Beach Town Hall. They will then walk to the Carolina Beach State Park, ending at Sugar Loaf, along the Cape Fear River.  Along the way Dr. Fonvielle will point out the remains of this important remnant of our local history.  John Moseley, will be in Civil War costume and will demonstrate the firing a period gun.

CB Earthworks Clearing - March 2014The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is currently working with the Town of Carolina Beach and other local history organizations to create a park around some of the remnants of this line of trenches that are located between N. Lake Park Blvd. and St. Joseph St.  Donations to the walk will go into the fund for use in establishing this park.

The importance of the Sugar Loaf Line:
As Union forces prepared to attack Wilmington by way of Fort Fisher in the autumn of 1864, Major General W. H. C. Whiting expanded existing defenses to meet the threat. He selected a “strong position” stretching from the sound (modern Carolina Beach canal) to Sugar Loaf hill on the Cape Fear River, for an extensive line of earthworks.

Engagement at Sugar Loaf - MapSugar Loaf itself was a natural sand dune that stood 50 feet in height on the riverbank. Whiting planned to place a battery of artillery on the summit of the hill.

By December 1864, the earthen fieldworks of the Sugar Loaf line ran for more than one mile from the sound to the river. Confederate forces continually strengthened them in the winter of 1864-1865.

During the first Union attack on Fort Fisher at Christmas 1864, approximately 3,400 Confederate troops defended Sugar Loaf, including 600 Senior Reserves commanded by Colonel John K. Connally.

General Lee sent Major General Robert F. Hoke’s Division of 6.400 Confederate troops from Virginia to try and prevent the fall of Wilmington.

General Alfred H. Terry’s forces that captured Fort Fisher quickly turned upriver to strike Wilmington. They reconnoitered and probed the Sugar Loaf lines for a weak spot. On January 19, 1865, the Federals attacked with two brigades of troops, including Colonel John W. Ames’ regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. Unable to break through, they launched an even bigger assault on February 11. U.S.

Colored Troops played a major role in what became known as the battle of Sugar Loaf, although the Confederate defenses again proved to be too strong to overrun.  [Source: “Historical Significance of the Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks” by Chris Fonvielle]

For more information call: Rebecca Taylor, Manager, Federal Point History Center, 910-458-0502 or email: rebecca@federal-point-history.org

More Memories – Howard Hewett

by Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Being Staked Out on the Beach  

When I was very young, no more than two or three, my mother was a “Fisher Woman” extraordinaire. Mother and Clara Danner loved to surf fish on the beach in front of the house for blues, trout and Virginia mullets.

The problem that arose was what to do with the new kid on the block. Mother’s solution was to tie a rope around my ankle and connect it to a stake so I could play at the water’s edge; occasionally, I was washed back and forth by wave action. I know this story is true because I heard it from several relatives later in life. Today, they’d probably arrest a mother for child endangerment; although, the treatment had no ill effect on me.  Mother’s solution resulted in creating a water bug. Being around water was part of my developmental process and fostered my appreciation and love for the Atlantic Ocean. I became an excellent swimmer and could work magic with my belly board.

Pig for a Pet

After my father Curtis’ death in 1995, a photo surfaced of my Dad and his pet pig. A description on the back confirmed that he not only had a pet pig, but he had named it. That Dad had a pig does shed light on the fact that in later years we were also allowed to have a pet pig.  This occurred sometime before the Army closed the base.

Pig as a PetNow this was not an ordinary pig. Our pig thought he was a dog. He was put in a pen at night, but during the day he would follow us around. Being a city girl, mother was a little embarrassed when the pig would follow us down the road when she went visiting the neighbors. She would tell us to make the pig go home.

The service guys from Fort Fisher would pass by in their Army jeeps and would honk their horns, hoot and holler and bang on the doors. To mother’s chagrin, some would “oink, oink” at us as they drove by.

This story did not have a happy ending for the pig. Mother survived all the embarrassment, but unfortunately, the pig got too large to handle and, of course, he eventually ended up on the dinner table. Those experiences were all part of growing up.

Remembrances after the Army departed

After the war some of the barracks and buildings were sold as surplus. Some of these became beach homes at Kure and Wilmington beaches and some were used in place.

I recall that one of the warehouses was taken over by a seafood processing plant. My grandmother worked there while it was open. Their specialty was devil crabs. I remember the boiling vats along with the distinctive odor of crabs and spices. The picking and processing room was a screened-in porch. Since there was no air conditioning, the product was moved to refrigeration as quickly as possible.

The Baptist Assembly

The Baptist Seaside Assembly took up residence in some of the buildings left by the Army, which became the summer headquarters for the North Carolina State Baptist Convention in 1948. They used some of the buildings and barracks for an administration building, assembly hall and dormitories. I was quite familiar with the facilities.

My step-grandfather, J. N. Todd, was the caretaker of the buildings for a short time while the Baptist Assembly was active at Fort Fisher. I stayed a number of nights with him and my grandmother. It was one spooky place at night for a 10-year-old. An opportunity to see the hospital morgue at one time did not help control my young imagination.

The Joys of Growing Up

One of the pleasures I recall in the late forties was when Uncle Crawford Lewis gave my cousin Joe Hewett a set of soap derby wheels.

We made a two-seat cart that required one to steer with his feet and one to act as a brake-man. Our first project was to add a mast and a sail to the cart. The best condition for this adventure was when the wind was blowing out of the northeast.  Highway 421 ran south and was a two lane narrow road which did not allow for Hewett Kidsany tacking. With a strong wind, it was a wild ride down south. On some occasions, our cart would start coming apart due to the stress and we would have to abort the run. There were several design changes before we could make a complete run.

With all the terrain being relatively flat on Federal Point, it was hard to find a good incline. My step-grandfather saved the day by allowing us to use the cinder block corridor that ran from the old Army hospital to the Baptist Assembly’s Administration building and assembly hall, which was approximately 100 yards away. The corridor was approximately eight feet wide and ten feet in height. It was basically a concrete cinder block structure with the windows missing. The original windows were spaced about every twenty feet.

As best as I can recall, the slope of the corridor was approximately two feet every 100 yards. This was a perfect place to use our cart especially for a couple of flatlanders. Traveling down this corridor while gaining speed with the sunlight filtering through the window gave a couple of 10-year-olds the illusion of traveling at a high rate of speed. We would spend hours riding our cart down the corridor. But, all good things must come to an end. As I described earlier, the administration building was at the end of our run so it was imperative that our brakes worked properly. When, as one might have predicted, our braking mechanism failed, we ended up going through a set of double doors into the Assembly Hall. The impact of the door did cause us to stop before hitting the exterior wall on the other side of the room. We were fortunate that the double doors did not have a center post. But, nevertheless, we had several cuts and bruises. This ended our favorite escapade down the corridor. We were admonished by my step-grandfather and were required to help with the repairs.

Money in the Sand at Fort Fisher

I am sure this event took place before 1952. The military was using some parts of Fort Fisher acreage for training again. The timing suggests that the activity may have been in preparation for or in response to the Korean War. Most of the World War II barracks had been sold to private citizens for homes and commercial offices so the Army set up temporary structures for barracks that had three-foot walls with canvas tent structures mounted on top. The floors were compact red dirt that was hauled in from somewhere in North Carolina.

I recall seeing these tent barracks many times over a period of a couple of years. Dad had a contract with the Army that gave him the rights to mess hall garbage. We would pick up the garbage every second day after the evening mess and would haul several 55-gallon drums to the pigpens on the River Farm. I have no remembrance of the number of pigs raised and or the numbers sold commercially, but I think Dad did well during this period.  I do remember going to the stockyard in Wilmington on more than one occasion.

When the Army left and things returned to normal, Dad, Grandmother and I were out one day looking for blackberries or wild peaches. We came across the location of the tent barracks and to our surprise, there was money setting on a little red dirty pedestal. Every time it rained more coins were washed to the surface. The denominations were varied in quantity but there were quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Our take may have been as much as a dollar to a dollar and a half at first. What developed over the next several months was a routine that became a family outing.

This speaks well of how easy it was to entertain a family in early 1950’s. After a good rain, we would load up the old beach buggy (a stripped-down 1938 Ford frame with exposed engine, radiator and firewall/windshield with wood deck designed to carry nets and a small boat) and head out to search for money left behind. Our take varied on each outing, but we found enough money to make the event like a big treasure hunt.

We finally stopped going when our reward and excitement of the search dwindled. I recall Dad would say, “Well, we found enough money to purchase a loaf of bread.”  In retrospect, I think you could buy a loaf of bread for 12 cents in those days, so on average our take was not very much, but the outing was what it was all about.

Providing for the Family

As noted in earlier writings, the family fished, farmed and raised livestock. Dad always had pigs that the family would slaughter and butcher on cold fall days.

This yearly event was a family affair with all hands on deck. Uncle Crawford Lewis and my Dad were the primary orchestrators of the slaughter and did all of the heavy lifting.

bowlAfter the pigs were shot in the head and their throats slit, the pigs were hung in a nearby large oak to allow proper bleeding.  From there they were placed in scalding water in a vat until the hair could be scraped off. The pig was removed to a workbench to complete the cleaning process. Sometimes more than one trip to the vat of scalding hot water was necessary.

Once the pigskin was almost pure white, it was hung again to remove the internal organs. The pigs were allowed to cool to the daily ambient temperature. If the weather was cold enough, the butchering process could take several days. The meat was either salted down and placed in boxes to cure or smoked in a smokehouse. A portion was made into sausage.

One of the by-products was “crackling,” a fried fat that was added to corn beard which gave the bread a bacon taste. Lye was added to the oil from the fat. This became grandmother’s laundry soap.

Standing on Our Family’s Shoulders

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

by Nancy Gadzuk

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society hosted a special guest on Monday, November 2, 2015: Howard Hewett, who has chronicled details of his childhood in several articles on the History Center’s website.  Howard was visiting North Carolina recently and he shared memories of his childhood here in the late 1930’s up to 1956, when the Ethyl Dow plant closed and his family moved to Texas.

Hewett - Foushee - Kure - Winner

Hewett – Foushee – Kure – Winner

Howard gave us some family history, beginning with Hewett ancestors arriving first in Massachusetts and then moving to Brunswick County in the 1700’s, and eventually to Federal Point in 1900. As Howard put it, ‘We stand on our family’s shoulders. It’s important to know your history.’ Indeed, the large audience included many Hewett, Lewis, and Davis family members.

Howard shared recollections about farming and fishing, and by the time he got to Myrtle Grove School and Carolina Beach Elementary School, others began chiming in with their own recollections of school and agreed: ‘We really ripped up our britches there.’

Hewett - Foushee - KureWomen in the audience recalled taking their ironing boards down to the beach and using them as surfboards. They needed to take care to keep the pointed end of the  board above the sand; otherwise the point would stick in the sand and flip them off the board. Of course their mothers were not to find out about these adventures!

Howard’s story of the mullet run was one of many memorable tales from the evening. In an area where people depended heavily on the sea for sustenance, a successful autumn mullet run was an important economic event, and could determine how well, or how much, a family would eat all winter long.

When Howard’s father noticed the swell of a large school of fish in the water after church one Sunday, it caused a temporary theological crisis for the family. Howard’s grandmother was, as he put it, a wash foot Methodist, and the family relied heavily on Scripture to define daily life.

Sunday was supposed to be a day of rest, but Grandmother (who also had a hankering for mullet roe and grits) reminded them of the need to provide for the family. With backing from the New Testament, Grandmother gave her approval to take advantage of what would turn out to be a boon for the entire community. Howard, his father, and Uncle Crawford Lewis headed for the beach.

The first person to see a school of fish would put a ‘spotter’ nearby to make claim to the fish. The fish run then belonged the spotter and his family. This was an unwritten rule, but one everyone in Federal Point knew and honored. Howard, age 9, served as spotter for the mullets while the men were getting the boat ready.

Fishing Nets on the Beach - Winner

Pulling Fishing Nets on the Beach Near Winner’s Place

This particular mullet run went right past Walter Winner’s place. Walter, also a fisherman, shouted out to Howard an offer of help should his father and his Uncle Crawford need it to manage the mullet run.

Howard climbed in the boat to help the men with the nets and they pushed off into the water, rowing hard against the surf. As it turned out, the mullet run was so large that many volunteers were needed on shore to help contain the fish.

When the mullet run was done, the Hewett family had all the mullet they needed, salted and stored for the winter. All the volunteers took fish home, and the remainder was sold to a fish house in Wilmington. Between 1000 and 1500 pounds of mullet were taken.

Henry Hewett (l) - 3 Generations

Henry Hewett (l) – 3 Generations

It had been a good day on the water, and the community, working together as one, got to share in the bounty.

Likewise, it was a good evening at the History Center sharing memories, and at least one person referred to the meeting as ‘a big old family reunion.’

 

Diary of Mary J. White (Age 15) – Part 2

Part 2 of 2
[Editor note: In Part 1, Mary J. described her family preparing to accompany her father, John White, on a buying trip for the Confederacy in England. Attempts to get out of the country by blockade runner had failed for two weeks. The remaining portion of Mary White ’s diary describes their continued efforts.]

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

Aug. 15, 1864 – Smithville, NC. I have just written a long letter to Bettie Hunter. The Cape Fear came up just a minute ago and Dr. Boykin, Hugh and Tom have gone to see if there are any provisions on board for us. They just returned and say there are none. We are nearly out of bread and don’t know where to get any.

This morning the pilot of one of the ships lying in the river died of yellow fever. Ships that came in the last few days, say that yellow fever is raging in Bermuda, so the Ad-Vance will not touch there but proceed to Halifax.

Aug. 16, 1864 – Smithville, NC. The boat came down today and brought abundant supplies of bread, bacon, pickles, corn meal, lobsters, tomatoes, watermelons, etc…. We went on the margin of the river and counted ten vessels lying in quarantine near here, besides an old ironclad which they say is worthless from the number of barnacles fastened to the bottom.

Aug. 19: 1864 – Smithville, N.C. Last night we had a most delightful serenade. The serenaders were a Mr. Everett and his violin, and two Mr. Laniers, from Georgia, one with a flute and the other a guitar. They played “Ben Bolt”, “Bonny Jean” and two very spirited waltzes besides two tunes which I do not recollect.

Aug. 20, 1864 – This morning between ten and eleven o’clock, we saw the Ad-Vance coming down beautifully from Wilmington, but she stuck on the bar and had to remain there till the next high tide, which was a little after seven, when she got afloat and came opposite this place and anchored. Father and Mr. Morris came ashore from the Ad-Vance while she was aground.

Aug. 22, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance – Another attempt will be made tonight to run the blockade. About 13 steamers are in now. Eight large Yankee ships are so near that we can distinctly see them with the naked eye, but we will not encounter them as we go in the opposite direction, but there are five where we will have to go.

Aug. 23, 1864 – Last night at about 8:30 we started off to make the attempt. We went very well until we got to the inner bar and there, as usual, we got aground and while we were vainly attempting to get off, the moon rose and shone very brightly and then of course we were effectively prevented from trying any more. After awhile, we got off and got back to Smithville, where we are lying now.

Aug. 24, 1864 – The Lillian started out last night and it was thought she got through safely, but is not certainly known. We stayed on the cotton bales to see it go out, saw the Yankees throw several rockets, then saw the flashes and heard the reports of 15 guns.

Aug. 26, 1864 – Last night we heard a quantity of guns firing and the occasion was not known until this morning, when it was found that the Hope was aground at Fort Fisher and a couple of sails were raised on board to get her off. The Yankees saw her then for the first time and began firing into her rapidly. The crew thought all was over and deserted the ship. One shot only struck the ship and that knocked a hole in the deck about the size of a man’s fist. The blockaders were fired on from Fort Fisher and that kept them in a measure… They got her off and came down here to quarantine ground to lay. It is a tremendous vessel, carrying 2000 bales of cotton, double the cargo the Ad-Vance carries, and does not draw as much water as the Ad-Vance, but this is thought to be the most trustworthy vessel at sea. The privateer, Tallahassee, is reported to have come in last night.

Aug. 28 1864 – This is Sunday and promises to be more dull than any other day. This morning we saw a little torpedo boat coming down the river…. It is a regular little steam propeller, has an iron rod projecting from the bow to which a torpedo is attached. When they get it near enough to the Yankee ships, the torpedo is made to explode by pulling a string – I think – and the vessel is blown to pieces.

Aug. 30: 1864 – An attack on Wilmington is daily expected. There are nineteen blockaders in sight of here and a turreted monitor.

SS AD Vance

SS Advance

Sept-2, 1864 – Ad-Vance – Last night we got up steam about twilight and started out. We went splendidly, got over the rip as nicely as possible without touching and thought we would certainly go through, When the 1st Officer discovered something on the bar, and when the glasses were turned on, a large blockader was distinctly seen lying directly in our path. She saw us and flashed her light, so of course we had to put back to Smithville. It was supposed to be a monitor, as no masts were seen, and if it was, we would have passed so near that we would have been blown to atoms. On our way back to Smithville we passed the Coquette just going out, but she soon came back also.

Sept 3, 1864 – Last evening we got up steam, heaved the anchor and were just on the point of starting, when Capt. Wylie had a telegram sent him by a physician on shore, saying that he might not be well enough to navigate today if we got out to sea and consequently just had all the steam turned off and the vessel anchored again… It is reported that the Lillian was taken in the Gulf Stream, and the Mary Barnes ran into some obstacle going into Charleston.

Sept. 4, 1864 – Last night we started out, as Capt. Wylie is still unwell, with another navigator to steer in case our Capt. should have a relapse. We got beyond the bar and the range lights were set, so we had to turn back, intending to try again, but the ship was so hard to turn that she had to be anchored and let the tide swing her around. We started out again, but by the time she got to the rips the tide had gone down so much that we could not cross them, so are back again for the night. The City of Petersburg missed the channel and got so far aground that she had to stay there until morning and was slightly injured.

Sept. 5: 1864 – Wilmington – Last night for the 7th time an attempt was made to run out. We got to the rip, got aground and had just started off and were going at half speed, when the Old Dominion, which had started a little after us, actually ran into us. Mother and the small children were down between the cotton bales, while Mrs. Boykin and I were on top of them. One of the stewards, who was on the cotton bales with us, seeing the Old Dominion coming along at speed, said, “Look at the Old Dominion, she’s coming into us. Get a hold, get a hold.” And with that he tumbled off. Mrs. Boykin and I were much nearer the shock, and we thought he was in fun and stayed up there. We saw the boat booming but thought, of course, that they would take care and not run into us, but the first thing we knew there was a most fearful crash…. The bow of the Old Dominion was very sharp and strong, but our ship was so strong that it did not run in until it had scraped the length of three feet and a half… They say if this vessel had not been remarkably strong, it would certainly have gone down.

Sept. 7, 1864 – Ad-Vance – This morning we came down to Smithville and anchored at our same old place. The Will-o-the-Wisp, the Helen, the Owl and the Lynz and other vessels are lying here in quarantine, having just come in.

Sept. 8, 1864 – Last night as our pilot, Mr. Morse, had been ordered on another shift, another pilot was detailed to carry us out. He got on a spree and was not notified he was to go out on the Ad-Vance until about an hour before time for him to come on board. When he did come, the guard had to wake him up and bring him on board as drunk as a fish. Of course, we could not risk ourselves with him and have to wait until tonight.

Sept 15, 1864 – Warrenton, N.C. – On the 8th we made our 9th attempt and failed. We got to sea that night and the pilot had just given the ship over to the Capt, when it was discovered that we were about to be surrounded… She was anchored in sight of the Yankees all day, and everybody thought it would be so perfectly desperate that Father and Dr. Boykin took their families off.

The Ad-Vance got out that night, on the 10th. 35 shots were fired at her were heard at Smithville…. We went to Mr. Parsley’s where we got dinner and started home on a freight train at 4:00 pm … and got home a little after 8:00. Father went to Raleigh yesterday and came back today, He expects to go out on some other vessel on the next moon, but is very doubtful about taking his family.

Father has decided not to take us with him as blockade running is so dangerous now….

Dec. 1864 – A few days after I last wrote in my diary, we were shocked to hear of the capture of the Ad-Vance. She was captured on Saturday, Sept. 11th, off Cape Hatteras.

Father left home on Oct. 22nd, and we remained. He wrote us on Oct. 26th from Smithville, on board the Virginia, that he expected to go out that night and have heard nothing from him since he sailed, which has been about a fortnight, so we suppose he is safe…

He arrived in Bermuda on the 28th, and did not go ashore but stayed on board the Virginia that night and started for Halifax the next day.


[Additional resources:]

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.  p. 7-10 ….. an excellent narrative.

Ad-Vance
Advance

Mary White’s diary was originally published in the FPHPS Newsletters of Feb 1998 and March 1998

 

Diary of Mary J. White (age 15)

John White, Warrenton NC

John White, Warrenton NC

[Editor’s note:  In 1864 John White, a merchant of Warrenton, NC, was sent abroad by authority of the NC Legislature and Governor Zubulon B. Vance to buy supplies for the NC State Troops during the American Civil War.

He planned to take his family with him through the Federal Blockade at Wilmington on board the state-owned blockade runner, Advance, in August, 1864.

The following was extracted from a diary by John White’s daughter, Mary J. (age 15, born July 21, 1849).  It portrays the difficulties they and others encountered in attempting to run in and out of the federal blockade of Wilmington.

It’s highly recommended that you read the following book excerpt (link) written about Mary White’s diary. It’s a well written narrative inspired by Mary J. White’s diary. It describes well the cultural and social anxieties of 1864 in Wilmington and Smithville.

Culpepper, Marilyn Mayer. Women of the Civil War South: Personal Accounts from Diaries, Letters and Postwar Reminiscences, Jefferson, NC:  McFarland, 2004.]


Mary J White’s diary:
Part 1 of 2:    August 2, 1864 – August 14, 1864

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 1864 – I left our home in Warrenton, NC for England with Father, Mother, Bro. Andrew, Hugh, Kate and Sue.  Father had to go to buy supplies for the NC Soldiers, and things were so awful here and Mother and he suffered so much being separated and our baby sister Lizzie died while he was away, so he promised Mother he would never leave her again. . . . It all seems very strange, but we are going with Father and I hope everything will be all right.

Aug. 8, 1864 – We left Raleigh, Friday the 5th, for Wilmington, where we arrived safely the same night about 10:00 o’clock. . . . We left there Saturday morning for the S.S. Ad-Vance, which was lying in the Cape Fear River, near Wilmington. We expected to run the blockade that night, but there was some mistake in the ship’s papers and before they could be corrected, we were too late for the tide and had to cast anchor and lie there all night. Our family and Dr. Boykin’s went ashore and spent the night. Mr. Parsley said we shouldn’t try the poor hotel accommodations, so we went to his house and spent the night there and started again the next morning about 8:00 for our ship. . . .

We passed Forts Fisher and Caswell and all went well for a time but finally went aground. . . . Not far behind us is the Mary Celestia from Bermuda, in quarantine. It is reported that the yellow fever is in Bermuda and a man died on the Mary Celestia this morning, it is thought from yellow fever. There is also an ironclad to our right.

We passed a good many obstructions in the river, that were put there for the purpose of entangling the Yankees, if they should try to go to Wilmington. The Little Hattie went out the first night that we intended to go. . . . The Helen, which had been lying near us all day, went out, and as no guns were heard and no news from the ship, it is supposed that she escaped uninjured. Today, three more cases of yellow fever were reported on the Mary Celestia.

Aug. 9, 1864 – It is thought, as we did not get out last night, we will try once more tonight, but this will certainly be the last time. Last night the Annie came safely from Bermuda and is now in sight of us. We saw a small boat carrying a coffin to the yellow fever boat, so another of the poor fellows must have perished. . . .

Blockade Runner Advance

Blockade Runner Advance

The Ad-Vance is a very fine steamer, 235 ft. in length, 22 ft. in width, a very fast ship and successful blockade runner. It was fitted up splendidly, for passengers, before it was put to its present use and was named the Lord Clyde. The saloon was removed and cotton bales put in instead and the accommodations for ladies are very poor.

Aug. 10, 1864 – on board the Ad-Vance. Last night, we made a last effort to run the blockade and were over the rip, and it was thought that we would get out without much difficulty, but they did not steer properly and we missed the channel and fastened in the sand.

Aug. 12, 1864 – Wilmington, NC.  Yesterday morning about twelve o’clock, we got off the sand bar and came back to Wilmington. All the passengers came ashore, our family to Mr. Parsley’s again. This morning at 9:00 we expect to go to Smithville with Dr. Boykin’s family, to stay until the Ad-Vance sails. Smithville is a small village on the Cape Fear River, about 30 miles below Wilmington. . . . The house we are staying in belongs to a family named Cowan. . . . It is a very comfortable house with six rather small rooms and three piazzas. . . . The City of Petersburg came in today.

Aug. 14, 1864 Smithville, NC.  Father and Capt. Wylie have just left for Wilmington. Father expects to go home to Warrenton before he returns. He expects to be back the last of next week.

…. Continued in Part 2 ›››

Fort Fisher during World War II Oral History

by:  Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

The Fort Fisher area was used as a military training base during World War II.

The main highway in the area was U.S. 421. The Hewett house was located on the Atlantic side of the road, one block north of the Fort Fisher Gates.

The highway ran maybe 75 yards parallel to sand dunes on the ocean side until it reached the historic ruins of Fort Fisher. At this point (currently The Riggins), the road curved out closer to the Atlantic and was located east of the old civil war main battery and then crossed in front of the Civil War Memorial. From there the road ran south to Federal Point ending at the Buchanan Battery.

In early 1941, the Army started anti-aircraft training along the beach and down on the sandy flats by the bay. The arriving trainees were faced with the sometimes harsh conditions on Federal Point as were those who were in Fort Fisher’s original ww2-machinegunCivil War garrison. A member of the 558th AAA Battalion stated the area was “a forlorn spit of sand and scrub growth pinched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River; a quagmire of sand, sand, and more sand. It was strictly a no-nonsense place designed to put grit and fire in the bowels and brains of its trainees. They had to learn to coexist with the ubiquitous sand and mosquitoes to survive on Federal Point.” I will share a story later about our Federal Point mosquitoes.

There were barracks, mess halls, recreational facilities, warehouses, radio and ww2-soldiersmeteorological stations, a post exchange, photo lab, outdoor theater, guardhouse, an administration building and infirmary.

Passageways made of cinder block and concrete connected some of these buildings while boardwalks connected others.

By the time training operations ceased in 1944, the base covered an area of several hundred acres and had grown to include an 80-seat cafeteria, a 350-bed hospital and a dental clinic.

My early remembrances are just snapshots of what I actually saw during 1941-1944 because I was only two to five years old; what I recall are just flashes of events. Of course, there was evidence of the army being there long after they left the area.

Gun Emplacements Along the Beach
Starting just in front of our house and running south along the beach almost to the historical grounds of Old Fort Fisher were gun emplacements.

I later read that most were 40-millimeter automatic cannons and 50-caliber machine guns. I recall that some of the gun bunkers were quite large. There were at least three large guns between our house and the two large houses just south of the gates.

Actually, there was a 50-caliber machine gun nest just outside of our yard and a 40-millimeter anti-aircraft battery with a searchlight within 30 yards of the edge of our yard on the south side.

Thinking back on it now, it seemed strange to me why the gun emplacements were located outside of the gates and they were located so close to our residence.

FF- WWIII do not remember how long the 50-caliber gun emplacement was located in the edge of the yard. I do have some recollection of the noise and the searchlights at night.  The searchlights were used to help locate the targets. There were also blackouts from time to time.  I never asked Dad about how he was able to sleep in the early days of shift work at Ethyl Dow.

Target sleeves on long cables were towed up and down the beach by airplanes for the gunners to develop their gunnery skills.   South of Old Historical Fort Fisher was a target range for gunnery practice on stationery as well as moving ground targets.  This mechanized target range enabled gunners to receive versatility training and learn to be effective against tanks and other armored vehicles.

After the Army left, there was evidence that the target sleds were pulled across the target range by a cable hooked to pulleys so a bulldozer could pull the target from a safe distance. The targets were rigged so it could be pulled both ways. The mechanized target range was located slightly north of the training facilities’ ammunition bunkers, and the “Rocks” were located a little farther south of the bunkers.