This Week in Civil War History: NYS Volunteers Head to Wilmington, N.C after Union Capture

Today, we check back in with our Civil War Soldier David W. Nelson of Company A, 117th Regiment N.Y.

Nelson and his fellow soldiers would head to Wilmington, North Carolina days after its capture, which occured on February 22nd, though Nelson wouldn’t hear of it until February 26th. Wilmington was the last major Confederate seaport open to blockade-running traffic which was ultimately captured by William T. Sherman following a bombardment by gunboats under the command of Rear Admiral David Porter.

“The loss of most of the North Carolina coast and coastal waterways was a blow both to Confederate morale and the young nation’s ability to supply its armies in the field. By late spring 1862, Union soldiers occupied the towns of Plymouth, Washington and New Bern. But aside from a few raids from those bases, the Union forces went no farther until the very end of the war when Sherman entered North Carolina in March–April 1865.

The one bright spot for the Confederates along the coast was Wilmington. Protected by strong fortifications at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, the port remained open, shipping supplies to Lee’s army in Virginia until they fell to Sherman in early 1865.”
(Via Civil War Traveler)

Also of significance, the same day as Wilmington’s capture, Voters approve a new constitution, including the abolition of slavery, in Tennessee.


Capture of Wilmington, North Carolina, 1865

22 February: The weather continues warm and pleasant.  But there is an appearance of rain soon.  I am tired of this place  We get hardly enough water to drink to say nothing of washing ourselves & clothes.  I am getting out of money having spent nearly all I had for eatables-small squads are continually coming and going here.

23 February: Rain again today and it dismal enough.  A large No of men come during the day, many of whom have to lie out through the night, their not being tent room for all-  Am feeling quite a depression of spirits today.  My mind is wandering back to the past and sad thoughts are springing up.. But such is life a mingling of joys grief and sorrow.  There is no sign of our leaving here yet.

24 February: The weather clears a little this morning and a little colder.  Large squads of men are arriving today.  No boat here for us yet.  Wilmington is today said to be evacuated by the Rebs.  37 Reb Deserters pass here today—the flag of (…..)boat passed up the River for an exchange.

25 February: A rainy dismal day.  This morning squads are sent to the front.  A transport lies at the wharf & it is thought we will get away today.  At dark we march to the River & go on board.  Transport  Admiral Dupont which moves out in the stream & cast anchor for the night.

26 February: At break of day we get under way down the River, arriving at Ft Monroe at 9PM.  Ft Fisher is now said to be ours with Wilmington.  We put out to sea at sun set.  We are a colored guard doing down.

Interior of Fort Fisher after Union capture in 1865.

Interior of Fort Fisher after Union capture in 1865.

27 February: Out to sea this morn.  Pass Cape Hatteras at 8AM.  Sea is quite calm for this time of the season.  Many of the Boys are seasick.  We expect to get in to Fisher in the morning.  A man overboard, but he is rescued.