Historic Feature — Wilmington after the Occupation by Union Troops

[TAKEN FROM: The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies consists of 138,579 pages with 1,006 maps and diagrams assembled in 128 books, organized as 70 volumes grouped in four series, published between 1881 and 1901.]

District of Wilmington: March, 1865; Major-General Schofield directed the District of Wilmington to comprise all the territory under military control of the army operating from Cape Fear River as a base. Brig. Gen. J. E. Hawley, U. S.

Volunteers were assigned to the command and made responsible for the protection of the depot at Wilmington, Cape Fear Harbor, and the line of railroad in rear of the army and, also, appointed provost-marshal-general for the district. The Second Brigade, First Division, Twenty-fourth Corps was ordered to report to Brigadier-General Hawley for duty in the district. On the 1st of the month Major-General Schofield, with a portion of the Twenty-third Corps, and Major-General Terry, with the Provisional Corps, were in the district, but soon moved northward to combine with General Sherman at Goldsborough.

About 8,600 Union prisoners were released on parole, at Northeast Bridge, ten miles above Wilmington and cared for at Wilmington and, thence, transported north; several thousand of them were put into the hospital. This delivery was wholly unexpected, and the district was almost without proper material to care for them properly. They were in a frightful condition in all respects, and a camp or jail fever broke out among them. Besides, they were all sick of the commands of Major-Generals Schofield and Terry, and when Major General Sherman’s columns reached Fayetteville, he sent down 1,000 or 7,000 miserably destitute refugees, white and black, and 1,000 or 2,000 sick and wounded soldiers.

All the supplies that the rebels had left were seized; citizens and citizen physicians were set at work; a heavy force of contrabands were set at work cleaning the city (perhaps the dirtiest ever seen); requisitions were made for supplies, and the surgeons, Doctors Barnes and Buzzell, who died of fever contracted in the hospitals, and Doctor Jarvis, successively in charge, labored faithfully. A portion of the white refugees was sent to New York, as directed by General Sherman. A few blacks were sent to South Carolina, perhaps 500. A large colony of blacks was established at Fort Anderson and the usual efforts were made to get them food, clothing and work.

Brevet Brigadier-General Abbott (with four regiments) was assigned to the command of Wilmington; the battalion of the Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery was sent down the river; Major Prince to command at Fort Fisher; Captain Beach at Fort Caswell, and Captain Sheppard at Smithville. A company of engineers, under Captain McClure, assisted by a force of contrabands, was set at work on the railroad bridge over Smith’s Creek (Wilmington and Weldon Railroad), 280 feet long, and it was rebuilt substantially before the regular construction train could get around from Goldsborough to finish the Northeast Bridge.

Captured cotton and tobacco were collected and turned over to the treasury agent and afterward to the quartermaster. During the month about 7,000 men in detachments and provisional organizations reported here and were sent forward to Goldsborough and the front. A large amount of stores accumulated here, and the commands of Generals Terry and Kilpatrick were chiefly supplied, hence, before they started for Raleigh.

No important events occurred during the month. The organization of a company of police guard in each county was completed. A great many refugees (white and black) and paroled and released rebels were sent off toward their homes, public property gathered in, soldiers mustered out from their hospitals. The duties incident to such a district kept the forces busy. Major-General Sherman and Chief Justice Chase visited the district during the month.