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The Civil War on the Atlantic Coast 1861-1865 The U.S. Army Campaigns


The Civil War on the Atlantic Coast 1861-1865 (The U.S. Army Campaigns of the Civil War)
The Civil War on the Atlantic coast began in comic-opera fashion. While much of the South rejoiced over South Carolina’s secession and cursed yet-to-be inaugurated President Abraham Lincoln, fervent North Carolinians seized two Federal forts on the Cape Fear River. Reacting to rumors of Federal ships headed for the North Carolina coast, a newly formed Wilmington militia company, dubbed the Cape Fear Minute Men, set out to capture the dilapidated forts, each garrisoned by a caretaker sergeant. Early in the morning of 9 January 1861, the enthusiastic if ill-equipped militiamen pounded on the outer doors of Fort Johnston, a collection of decayed U.S. Army buildings situated near Smithville, on the entrance channel of the Cape Fear River. The startled Army sergeant quickly surrendered the fort to the invaders, but not before demanding and receiving a receipt to ensure proper accountability of government property. The next day, the Minute Men, flushed with victory, continued downriver to secure the much more imposing, if crumbling, Fort Caswell at the mouth of the Cape Fear, another post held by a lone ordnance sergeant who duly signed it over. The victory proved short-lived. Although likely to secede soon, North Carolina still remained in the Union, and thus the militiamen had unlawfully seized the forts. North Carolina Governor John W. Ellis, maintaining strict legalities, ordered the intruders to find the ordnance sergeants, give them back the forts, and go home. The Cape Fear Minute Men relinquished their conquests and returned to Wilmington, devoid of the glory they imagined should be theirs. The restored caretakers reported the forts none the worse for their ordeal, a dubious qualification given their state of disrepair.  64  pages

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