The Fall of Wilmington

February 22, 1865 – Federals under Major General John M. Schofield captured Wilmington, the last major Confederate port city, without a fight.

Federal Maj Gen John M. Schofield | Image Credit: Flickr.com

Federal Maj Gen John M. Schofield | Image Credit: Flickr.com

By February 19, two Federal armies had invaded North Carolina: Schofield’s from Tennessee and Major General William T. Sherman’s from South Carolina. Schofield targeted Wilmington on the Cape Fear River to close the port to Confederate supplies and create a new Federal supply base. The outnumbered Confederates abandoned Fort Anderson farther up the river, and Schofield’s Federals arrived at Wilmington the next day.[1]

General Braxton Bragg, commanding at Wilmington, ordered an evacuation to save his 6,500 Confederates from capture. Meanwhile, Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard (commanding forces in South Carolina and Georgia) proposed a “grand strategy” to concentrate “at least 35,000 infantry and artillery” to defeat Sherman, then move into Virginia and defeat U.S. General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant’s Federals at Petersburg, and “then to march on Washington and dictate a peace.”[2]

Bragg’s Confederates destroyed or evacuated most of their supplies on the Weldon & Wilmington Railroad before slipping away into North Carolina’s interior, and Schofield’s Federals entered Wilmington. Federals intended this port to serve as another base of supply for operations against General Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia under siege at Petersburg. Wilmington’s fall also freed Schofield to join Sherman for a northward advance across the Roanoke River, the last strong defensive line south of Virginia’s Appomattox River.[3]

Believing that Sherman intended to follow up the fall of Wilmington with an attack on Charlotte, Beauregard issued a proclamation urging Charlotte residents to volunteer their slave labor to “destroy and obstruct” the roads to the city. However, Sherman only feinted toward Charlotte and soon headed east instead. Meanwhile, Lee responded to Beauregard’s grandiose plan of concentrating 35,000 troops for a counteroffensive: “The idea is good, but the means are lacking.” The Confederacy did not have 35,000 troops to concentrate.[4]

—–

  • [1] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 641; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 444
  • [2] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 641-42; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16705-16725
  • [3] Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 641-42; Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 61; Pollard, Edward A., Southern History of the War (New York: The Fairfax Press, 1990), p. 444; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16755-16765
  • [4] Korn, Jerry, Pursuit to Appomattox: The Last Battles (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 61; Foote, Shelby, The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 3: Red River to Appomattox (Vintage Civil War Library, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2011-01-26), Kindle Locations 16715-16725
Advertisements

Tagged: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: