The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Wilmington (North Carolina)
WILMINGTON, the principal seaport and largest city of North Carolina, county seat of New Hanover co., on the E. bank of the N. E. branch of Cape Fear river, at its junction with the estuary of that river, 20 m. from the sea and 110 m. S. S. E. of Raleigh; lat. 34° 11′ N., lon. 78° 10′ W.; pop. in 1850, 7,264; in 1860, 9,552; in 1870, 13,446, of whom 7,920 were colored; in 1876, locally estimated at from 17,000 to 18,000. It has a court house, city hall, and theatre. Street cars run through the principal streets to the railroad depots and to Oakdale cemetery. The Sound, a place of summer residence, is 7 m. distant. The city is the terminus of three railroads, viz.: the Wilmington and Weldon, the Wilmington, Columbia, and Augusta, and the Carolina Central. The last runs through the S. portion of the state to its W. border; the others connect with other lines running N. and S. Wilmington has an extensive commerce both coastwise and foreign; the latter has largely increased within the last three years. There are regular lines of steamers to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. Vessels drawing 16 ft. can load at the wharves; when the improvements on the bar now in progress are completed, the depth of water will be materially increased. The principal articles of shipment are lumber, turpentine, rosin, tar, pitch, spirits of turpentine, shingles, and cotton. Wilmington has long been the leading market for naval stores in the world. The value of imports from foreign countries for the year ending June 30, 1875, was $151,925; of exports to foreign ports, $3,015,069. The chief items of export were 3,553,606 gallons of spirits of turpentine, valued at $1,201,888; 14,623 bales of cotton, $938,501; 289,340 barrels of rosin and turpentine and 14,142 of tar and pitch, $710,108; and 6,809,000 ft. of boards, &c., and 2,960,000 shingles, $149,107. The number of entrances was 171, tonnage 46,074; clearances, 235, tonnage 61,958; entrances in the coastwise trade, 277, tonnage 149,475; clearances, 210, tonnage 129,249; belonging to the port, 66 vessels, tonnage 5,597. The shipments to domestic and foreign ports in 1875 amounted to about $10,000,000. There are three banks, marine railways, a cotton compress company, a cotton factory, five saw and planing mills, a rice mill, four flour and grist mills, nine turpentine distillers (running 29 stills), an iron foundery, and a sash and blind factory. The principal charitable institutions are a seamen's home and a marine hospital. There are 12 academies and schools, a library, five newspapers (three daily), and 22 churches.—Wilmington was laid out in 1733, under the name of Newton. The name was changed in 1739. It was incorporated as a borough in 1760 and as a city in 1866. During the civil war, and especially in 1864, it was the principal confederate port accessible to blockade runners. Although 50 blockading vessels were cruising off the adjacent coast, 203 vessels succeeded in entering the port, and 194 in leaving it, during the 15 months ending Dec. 31, 1864, while about 60 were captured or run ashore. New inlet, the principal entrance to Cape Fear river, was protected by Fort Fisher, an earthwork of great strength, and beyond it the narrow and intricate channel was filled with torpedoes and commanded by forts and batteries. In December, 1864, a combined naval and military expedition under Admiral Porter and Gen. Butler was sent against Fort Fisher. After an unsuccessful attempt to injure the fort by the explosion of several hundred tons of powder from a vessel, followed by a severe bombardment, the troops returned to Hampton roads. The fleet remained behind to coöperate with a new and stronger military expedition. This, numbering about 8,000 men, was committed to Gen. Terry. It reached its destination Jan. 12, 1865, and on the next day began to debark under cover of a heavy fire from the fleet. The bombardment was kept up until the afternoon of the 15th, when the fort was assaulted and taken. Of the garrison, 2,300 strong, 2,083 surrendered, the remainder being killed or wounded. The Union loss was nearly 1,000; besides which, on the next day, the magazine of the fort was accidentally blown up and more than 200 men were killed or wounded. Wilmington was now useless as a port for blockade runners, but was still held by a confederate force. Gen. Schofield had in the mean time been sent to North Carolina with 23,000 men. Moving up the bank of the river, he turned the fortifications commanding the city, which was abandoned Feb. 21. The Union loss in this operation was about 200, that of the confederates about 1,000, including prisoners.