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Wilmington, NC and the Lower Cape Fear Area During the Civil War, 1864

Identifier: 04

Scope and Contents

From the Collection:

Excerpts of letters, diaries, papers, and published materials comprise the body of this research collection, which relate specifically to Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear (LCF) during the Civil War. Subjects include troop movements, civilian life, shipping, prisoners of war, and military engagements. Wilmington was the last Confederate port to be captured; blockading and blockade runners and the defense and capture of Fort Fisher are especially well represented. Items of local significance, about which the donors have written, are Confederate salt works and the Wilmington yellow fever epidemic.

The inventory summarizes the contents of some of the subject files and highlights particular items. Lengthy series of letters and the subject headings they are filed in are as follows: William Frederick Keeler to his wife, Anna, written while he was on board the U.S.S. Florida, blockading Wilmington (Blockading, 1863 and 1864); James Ryder Randall, a shipping agent for Power, Lowe & Co. in Wilmington, NC, to his fiancée, Kate Hammond, near Hamburg, SC (Civilian Life, 1863 and 1864); and Lt. George W. Gift, stationed on the C.S.S. Tallahassee at Wilmington, NC, to his wife, Ellen Augusta Shackelford Gift, of Cedar Spring, Early County, Georgia (Blockade Runners Ashore 1864).

Wilmington tax and war tax lists are filed in Civilian Life, 1861 and 1862. Specifically noted in the inventory, under various subject headings, are rosters and muster rolls. There are compilations of data on: deaths attributed to the yellow fever epidemic of 1862 (Yellow Fever, 1862); blockade runners to and from Nassau 1861 – 1864 (Blockade Running, 1864); Federal regiments occupying the LCF 1864 – 1865 (Fall of Wilmington 1865); soldiers captured at Fort Fisher (Prisoners 1865); Wilmington houses built before the Civil War and owner of occupant during the war (Civilian Life No Date); medical officers and doctors, military and civilian (Wilmington Defense No Date); and on soldiers who died in the LCF, one list organized by military company (Prisoners 1865), the other by date of deaths (Soldiers and Letters No Date).

Complete reproductions are included in these papers of two items: Reverend L.S. Burkhead’s “History of the Difficulties of the Pastorate of the Front Street Methodist Church, Wilmington, NC, for the yeah 1865” (Occupation 1865); and S.K. Wightman’s “In Search of my Son,” (Retreat Up River, Federal, 1865), both cited fully in the card bibliography.

Some of the subjects are subdivided to indicate the Confederate and Federal positions. The 1865 files are followed by those bearing no date. Generally, that means no date can be ascertained from the papers or their subject matter. In this group, however, it usually means that the material describes an activity spanning more than one year. The researcher may wish to read these files first, to gain an overall picture of the subject before looking for specific events in that area. There are four drawers of card indexes and files. Access to the excerpts is provided by a card index to subjects. As with the papers, the cards are arranged by year, then alphabetically by subject. However, within each subject, cards are filed alphabetically by originator of papers, as opposed to the chronological arrangement of the papers. In the subject index, one card was frequently used to list several excerpts about a topic found in the same source. However, in the papers these are filed as separate items in a chronological arrangement, so there are frequently fewer index cards than there are excerpts.

Another way to gain access to the papers is through the bibliography of sources (also on cards) read and excerpted. This annotated bibliography shows what subjects (corresponding with the headings used in the subject index) were excerpted from each source and the year of the event. This bibliography is especially helpful if one wishes to research a particular person or family throughout the war. This search will show all subjects the person was involved in. Two other bibliographies are also on cards: sources read but not excerpted and sources potentially useful but not read or excerpted.

There is a card file of biographical data, extracted from diaries, letters, and other papers still in private possession. The biographies are not complete and sources of information are not listed. Prominent persons, for whom published biographical data can readily be found, are not included.

There are also files which identify Confederate military companies stationed in the area locations of the city’s fortifications, and ships (both Confederate and Federal) which were in the vicinity. These files are further defined in the inventory.

There are also maps and a chart, drawn on posterboard. The maps are of the LCF area; the chart shows locations of troops in the LCF throughout the war.


  • Creation: 1864

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research use.


From the Collection: 5.38 Linear Feet (Contains 10 document boxes, 2 index file cabinets, and 1 map case folder)

Language of Materials

From the Collection: English

Repository Details

Part of the Randall Library Special Collections Repository