1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wilmington (North Carolina)

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WILMINGTON, a city, a port of entry and the county-seat of New Hanover county, North Carolina, U.S.A., on the Cape Fear river, about 30 m. from its mouth, 10 m. in direct line from the ocean, and about 145 m. S.S.E. of Raleigh. Pop. (1890) 20,056; (1900) 20,976, of whom 10,407 were negroes and 467 were foreign-born; (1910 census) 25,748. It is the largest city and the chief seaport of the state. Wilmington is served by the Atlantic Coast Line and the Seaboard Air Line railways, and by steamboat lines to New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore and to ports on the Cape Fear and Black rivers, and is connected by an electric line with Wrightsville Beach, a pleasure resort 12 m. distant on the Atlantic Ocean. Below Wilmington the channel of the Cape Fear river is 20 ft. deep throughout and in some parts 22 and 24 ft. deep; the width of the channel is to be made 270 ft. under Federal projects on which, up to the 30th of June 1909, there had been expended $4,344,029. Above Wilmington the Cape Fear river is navigable for boats drawing 2 ft. for 115 m. to Fayetteville. The city lies on an elevated sand ridge and extends along the river front for about 2½ m. Among its prominent buildings are the United States Government Building, the United States marine hospital, the city and county hospital, the county court house, the city hall (which houses the public library) and the masonic temple. The city is the seat of Cape Fear Academy (1872) for boys, of the Academy of the Incarnation (Roman Catholic) and of the Gregory Normal School (for negroes). The city is the see of a Protestant Episcopal bishop. Wilmington is chiefly a commercial city, and ships large quantities of cotton, lumber, naval stores, rice, market-garden produce and turpentine; in 1909 the value of its exports was $23,310,070 and the value of its imports $1,282,724. The total value of the factory product in 1905 was $3,155,458, of which $893,715 was the value of lumber and timber products.

A settlement was established here in 1730 and was named New Liverpool; about 1732 the name was changed to New Town; in 1739 the town was incorporated, was made the county-seat and was renamed, this time in honour of Spencer Compton, Earl of Wilmington (c. 1673–1743). In 1760 it was incorporated as a borough and in 1866 was chartered as a city. Some of Wilmington’s citizens were among the first to offer armed resistance to the carrying out of the Stamp Act, compelling the stamp-master to take an oath that he would distribute no stamps. During most of 1781 the borough was occupied by the British, and Lord Cornwallis had his headquarters here. Although blockaded by the Union fleet, Wilmington was during the Civil War the centre of an important intercourse between the Confederacy and foreign countries by means of blockade runners, and was the last important port open to the Confederates. It was defended by Fort Fisher, a heavy earthwork on the peninsula between the ocean and Cape Fear river, manned by 1400 men under Colonel William Lamb. A federal expedition of 150 vessels under Admiral D. D. Porter and land forces (about 3000) under General B. F. Butler approached the fort on the 20th of December 1864; on the 24th the “Louisiana,” loaded with 215 tons of powder, was exploded 400 yds. from the fort without doing any damage; on the 24th and 25th there was a terrific naval bombardment, which General Butler decided had not sufficiently injured the fort to make an assault by land possible; on the 13th and 14th of January there was another bombardment, and on the 15th a combined naval and land attack, in which General A. H. Terry, who had succeeded General Butler in command, stormed the fort with the help of the marines and sailors, and took 2000 prisoners and 169 guns. The Union losses were 266 killed, 57 missing and 1018 wounded. A magazine explosion on the morning of the 16th killed about 100 men in each army. The city was evacuated immediately afterwards.