North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial

"A State Forced Out of the Union":

Future governor, Quaker and intense Unionist Jonathan Worth believed that his State was driven out of the

Union by the actions of the Lincoln administration, which was trying to force North Carolinians to not only

violate the United States Constitution, but also wage war on a neighboring State. On May 30th, he wrote:

“We are in the midst of war and revolution. North Carolina would have stood by the Union but for the conduct

of the national administration which for folly and simplicity exceeds anything in modern history.”


Writing on December 7, 1861, Worth concluded:

“This State is a unit against the Lincoln Government.  It is one great military camp. Some ten thousand troops

are in the field. The old Union men are as determined as the original secessionists. The State is totally alienated

from the Lincoln Government and will fight to extermination before they will reunite with the North.”

Secession Cockade

South Carolina's Independent Sentiment Affects North Carolina:

"Before [Lincoln's] election, Governor [John W.] Ellis was among many who believed that a Republican

President would find his hands tied by the Democratic majority in the Senate. But as one State after

another withdrew it was evident that Republican control extended over both houses of Congress.

Thus the power if not the will to take coercive measures was left to the North by the acts of secession.

Governor Ellis had indicated that the crisis would be reached when the General Government attempted to

employ military force against one of the States of the South.

Andrew Jackson had obtained the enactment of a "force bill" to back up his threat to use troops to keep

open the custom house and the Federal courts in South Carolina, and that precedent indicated the probable

course that Lincoln would follow."

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Archibald Henderson, 1941)

Upon the secession of South Carolina on December 20th, 1860, the Cape Fear Minute Men fired a

one-hundred gun salute in Wilmington as the streets became crowded with anxious citizens. The

schooner “Marine” at rest in the Cape Fear River let loose an equal salute, and Wilmington

shipbuilder Benjamin Beery did as well.

There was great concern in Wilmington that the election of Abraham Lincoln would trigger an

independence movement in the South, including North Carolina. The Rev. John L. Prichard noted in his

diary on November 7th: “The telegraph says that Lincoln is elected President! The deepest feeling is

manifested by all. Secession is talked of. O God, undertake for us, we beseech Thee.”

Later on the 16th of November he wrote: “The morning is bright and lovely, but the political sky is

dark and lowering! Men’s hearts tremble for fear; deep mutterings are heard from the South.

It does seem that a dissolution of the glorious Union is inevitable!”  

This question of Lincoln’s election and possible State secession had been discussed at a November 19,

1860 meeting in the New Hanover county courthouse, and newspaper opinion was divided along political

party lines. The Democratic “Daily Journal” was an advocate of departure from union with the North; the

Whig “Daily Herald” thought it better to hold a moderate course and remain in the federal union. The

Unionist elements in the city saw serious economic problems with secession as much of Wilmington’s

trade was with the North, especially New York.

Although many conservative North Carolinians denounced their neighbor’s precipitous action, Tarheels

were united in opposing any use of force to coerce South Carolina back into the voluntary union. One

conservative citizen stated, “I am a Union man, but when they send men South it will change my notions.

I can do nothing against my own people.”

Mrs. Parsley, postwar President of the Daughters of the Confederacy recalled: “In 1861, when, amid great

popular excitement and enthusiasm, South Carolina seceded from the Union of States, the people of Wilmington

were deeply stirred by conflicting emotions. Meetings were held at various local points, and speakers for and

against secession swayed the multitudes which attended them. At a town meeting, an address by

Dr. James H. Dickson, urging moderation and advising against hasty action as to secession…His speech was

followed by one from Mr. O.P. Meares, afterwards a colonel in the Confederate Army and later a judge”

North Carolina General Assembly Resolution Against Coercion::
"On December 12, the (North Carolina) Senate attempted to amend a resolution which had been introduced

on December 10 to declare the Assembly's judgment that the federal government had no right to coerce a seceding State.

(O)n January 10 (1860), Bedford Brown of Caswell County, member of the joint select Committee on Federal Relations....

reported the resolution as follows:

1. Resolved, that in the judgment of the General Assembly the Federal Government has no right to

coerce a seceding State, and South Carolina and Florida, acting in their sovereign characters, through

conventions, having seceded from the present Union, the federal authorities have (no) power under the

Constitution to make war upon and subjugate these States, or any other States which hereafter adopt like action.

2. Resolved, that it will be the duty of the constituted authorities of North Carolina to resist by force the

passage of federal troops through her territory to coerce and subjugate a seceding Southern State, and that

North Carolina ought to resist any attempt at coercion, whether by land or sea, by all means of her power."

(North Carolina in 1861, Boykin)


Smithville Residents Cheer Secession:

Just to the south of Wilmington, the citizens of Smithville (now Southport) “irrespective of party” affiliation

held a “large and enthusiastic meeting” on December 29th, just 9 days after the secession of South Carolina.

A strong speech in favor of self-determination was presented by Col. George Wortham of Granville County,

and records of the proceedings were sent “to each of our representatives in the General Assembly and…to

the Wilmington Journal and the Raleigh State Journal with a request to publish – and…to be copied by all

papers friendly to Southern independence.” The meeting adjourned “with three cheers for Secession, and

three cheers, long and loud, for the Old North State.”

Early in January 1861, Wilmington’s Vigilance Committee led programs of speakers, cheering and cannon-firing

as they sensed a final separation with the North---raising a “lone-star flag” [white star on field of red] as well.

The model for this “North Carolina Secession flag” quite likely was the red flag hoisted the previous month by

Charlestonians, and emblazoned with the palmetto tree and crescent.

Wilmingtonians desired their own symbol of political independence.

Already concerned about the presence of the US military in local forts, a committee including

Honorable W.S. Ashe, Captain Edward D. Hall and Captain John J. Hedrick took a special train to Raleigh

on January 1st to consult with the Governor “on the propriety of taking Fort Johnson on the Cape Fear River

about two miles from its mouth.”

Early January, 1861---The Cape Fear Forts:

The “Star of the West” relief expedition sent by President Buchanan to strengthen Fort Sumter greatly

alarmed patriots in the Cape Fear. That ship entered Charleston Harbor on January 9, 1861 and was fired

upon by Citadel cadets manning batteries on Morris Island, driving the ship back to the north.

A meeting of prominent Wilmingtonians met at the Courthouse after the Star of the West incident with

merchant Robert G. Rankin, Jr. as the speaker. This group formed a Wilmington Committee of Safety

patterned after the one formed to resist British invasion 86 years earlier, and they called for volunteers

to join a defensive force called the “Cape Fear Minutemen” commanded by Major John J. Hedrick. Their

primary concern was the two fortifications guarding the Cape Fear, Forts Johnston and Caswell -- the

former named for Royal Governor Gabriel Johnston and ceded by North Carolina to the federal government

in 1794 on the condition that a fort was to be erected there within three years. This never occurred and

only a barracks was to exist there. The latter fort was named for Richard Caswell, North Carolina’s first

governor under the United States Constitution.

Forts Johnston and Caswell Seized by Wilmingtonians:

Major Hedrick and his small force departed from the Market Street dock early on January 10th on a

schooner bound for Smithville, where they arrived at 3PM. They marched to the US military barracks at

Fort Johnston then in the charge of Ordnance Sergeant James O’Reilly, and took charge of the supplies.

Fort Caswell on Oak Island near Smithville (now Southport) was a bastioned, masonry fortress commanding

the main entry into the Cape Fear River, and it only mounted two decrepit 24-pounder cannon. After the

ill-advised Star of the West incident by Buchanan, this fort being reinforced with a strong Northern garrison

and guns, controlling maritime traffic in and out of Wilmington was not to be allowed. It had to be taken.

With twenty men from the Minutemen and Captain S.D. Thurston’s “Smithville Guards,” Major Hedrick sailed

to Fort Caswell about three miles distant and took charge of the fort from the sergeant posted there.

Governor John Ellis

This seizure of federal forts and stores was a preemptive strike on the part of the Cape Fear Minutemen

and Hedrick was not under the orders of Governor John Ellis who was the commander of all North Carolina

Militia. Hearing of the seizure of Forts Johnston and Caswell, he ordered Colonel John Lucas Cantwell

and his 30th North Carolina Militia to proceed to Smithville to restore the forts to federal control.

Ellis wrote that although Hedrick and his men were “actuated by patriotic motives,” that “in view of

the relations existing between the General Government and the State of North Carolina, there is no

authority of law, under existing circumstances, for the occupation of the United States forts

situated in this State.”

Upon his arrival at Smithville after dark on January 12th, Cantwell sent Hedrick the Governor’s orders to

restore the forts to federal control. Major Hedrick responded in writing the next morning with:

“Sir, Your communication, with the copy of the order of Governor Ellis demanding the surrender of this post,

has been received. In reply, I have to inform you that we, as North Carolinians, will obey his command.

This post will be evacuated tomorrow at 9 o’clock a.m., John J. Hedrick, Major Commanding.”

Sergeant Walker, formerly in charge of Fort Caswell, was restored to his post.

This re-occupation of the two forts would remain the status quo until April, though military units were steadily

recruiting and arming to resist an expected invasion of Wilmington and the Cape Fear. The “Minutemen” of

Major Hedrick was reorganized as the “Cape Fear Artillery,” a name they served under for the rest of the war.

Citizen Meeting in Wilmington in Mid-January, 1861:

The Wilmington Daily Journal of January 16 reports on a citizen meeting and resolution, and what concerns

motivated Wilmingtonians to take action. “At a meeting held in the Court house this evening, B.W. Beery in the chair,

the following preamble and resolutions were formally adopted:

“Whereas from information deemed reliable that Federal troops were on the way to garrison Fort Caswell

at the mouth of the Cape Fear River, which was regarded as a menace to our people and State, a portion of

the citizens of Brunswick and New Hanover Counties, took possession of said Fort in order that the State for her

protection, might obtain peaceable possession of the same. Therefore, Be it---

Resolved, first, That we highly approve of the patriotic spirit and pure motives which prompted

our fellow citizens of the above counties in their action, and that a Committee of Three be appointed

to make arrangements for presenting them with some tangible evidence of our regard.

Resolved, second, That in the prompt evacuation of said Fort by order of the Governor of North Carolina,

they have proved themselves to be good and loyal citizens of the Old North State.

Resolved, three, That the dilatory action of our Legislature in calling a Convention may, in view of the

imminent danger now threatening us and our sister Southern States, force the State into revolution, and this can

only be secured by the speedy action of the Legislature in trusting this great question with the people, by doing which

and by placing the State in a proper condition for defense, they may make secession peaceable.”

B.W. Beery, Chairman, James O. Smith, Secretary”

Safety Committees and Resolutions:

North Carolinians historically were no strangers to a danger of invasion, as in 1774 and 1775 eighteen counties and

four towns set up safety or vigilance committees. The committee members were usually chosen by mass meetings

of citizens, and their goal was to direct the effective defense of the city and region with militia, weapons and supplies

in the event of conflict. Predictably, these committees were denounced by Royal Governor Josiah Martin

as “motley mobs” and “promoters of sedition.”

The Wilmington-New Hanover Safety Committee even regulated trade to the extent of seizing British cargoes, fixing the

price of imported goods and urging all merchants to not sell or export gunpowder. It also called upon all householders in

Wilmington to sign an agreement not to trade with the British nor allow their slave ships to enter the harbor. The Halifax

County Committee resolved to have no more dealings with Loyalist merchants; and Tryon County’s Committee denounced

the “barbarous and bloody actions committed by British troops on our American brethren near Boston.”

By the late 1850’s, many North Carolina counties were calling meetings of their citizens “to take into consideration the

wicked projects of the Northern abolitionists and fanatics…and counteract the horrid evils which they are meditating

against the South.”

Sampson County adopted resolutions calling for a commercial embargo against the North and inflicting the death

penalty for anyone circulating incendiary publications that would incite race war. North Carolinians were familiar with

the results of Northern incitement of slave insurrection, the earlier Nat Turner massacre and Denmark Vessey revolt

portended a grim future of continued union with the North..

As early as 1857, the Asheville News had called for a suspension of trade with the North, maintaining that the only way

to stop the infernal whining of Northern abolitionists is to cut off the supplies on which they grow fat. Let us trade at home,

drink at home, travel for business and pleasure in the South; learn to supply each other’s wants and to rely on ourselves.”

At a public meeting in Palmyra of citizens from Halifax, Martin and Edgecombe Counties on November 15, 1860, it was

resolved that “It is the sense of this meeting…that in the event Alabama and Mississippi join South Carolina and Georgia

in a secession movement, we favor the withdrawal of North Carolina from the Federal Union.”

On November 25, the report of a Sampson County citizens’ meeting held at Clinton was sent to Senator Thomas J. Faison

and expressed “a strong belief in State sovereignty and the right of a State to secede, when a majority of the people in

convention agree that there has been a violation of the federal contract.”

In nearby Whiteville on December 21, “over two hundred persons, Whigs as well as Democrats,” met in the courthouse.

Local leader John Meares “was called out and made a good and patriotic appeal to his fellowmen in favor of the Union.” The

resolutions committee offered the resolution that “Every effort was urged to preserve the Union,” and that the existing state of

affairs between North and south should be resolved through prudence, moderation and patriotism.

The committee expressed “opposition to immediate and separate secession” at that time.

A December 28th, a letter in the pro-Union Fayetteville Observer stated that “We are now for the Union as it is. Some

difference of opinion as to the guarantees we ought to insist upon. If there is cause for disunion now, it has existed for eight

years. But as the question is now placed upon us it ought to be settled now and forever, but let reason and forbearance prevail…”

To demonstrate the severity with which Wilmington’s safety (or vigilance) committee operated, visiting British

newspaperman William Howard Russell was denied access to the telegraph by Vigilance Committees who suspected

him as a spy in the employ of Northern radicals as he travelled through the city enroute to Charleston on April 16th and 17th.

Also, Ada Amelia Costin’s diary mentions the “Committee of Safety” requesting “the ladies of Wilmington to meet at the

Town Hall…on Wednesday afternoon at 5 o’clock to devise ways and means of providing [for] destitute soldiers at the

forts (Johnston and Caswell) with necessary articles of clothing.

Ironically, Wilmingtonians were once again in a state of excitement over affairs with the general government.

On June 19, 1775, residents assembled at the old courthouse which stood in the intersection of Front and

Market Streets, and proclaimed that “We, therefore, the subscribers, inhabitants of New Hanover County, having

ourselves bound by that most sacred of all obligations, the duty of good citizens towards an injured country, and,

thoroughly convinced that, under our current distressed circumstances, we shall be justified before God and Man in

resisting force by force; do unite ourselves under every tie of religion and honor and associate as a band in her

defence against every foe; hereby solemnly engaging that, whenever our Continental or Provincial Councils shall

decree it necessary, we will go forth and be ready to sacrifice our lives and fortunes to secure her freedom and safety.”

It was said of the old courthouse, now long gone, that if it “were still standing, it would be regarded as a shrine of

American devotion that would be treasured as a national possession.” (Howell, pg. 50)

Why Secession?  Prevailing Wisdom in North Carolina:

"The secession of Louisiana and Texas in the final week of January took all the "deep South" out of the Union.

When representatives from these six States assembled at Mongomery, Alabama, on Februrary 4, 1861,

and adopted a constitution and confederate cooperation, the process of achieving a separate "nation of the South"

was completed. THat action placed North Carolina's southern boundary upon the "Confederate States of America"

and it was no longer possible to avoid a decision as to whether this and the other "border States" would link

their destiny with the South or remain with the old Union."

(North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, Archibald Henderson, 1941)

Most Southern statesmen and military-trained leaders in the South (and the North) understood proper State

and federal relations from prominent constitutional scholars like William Rawle, who also authored West Point’s

text on constitutional law (used there from 1825-1840). Rawle held that “the secession of a State depends on the

will of the people of that State,” and if the will of the people in convention assembled deemed a change in

government was desired, no power outside the State could alter this---

the essence of Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

With Rawle’s sound interpretation of the Founders’ intent well ingrained, every Southern State would

follow Rawle’s legalistic and ritual outline for the solemn withdrawal of a State from the union each had voluntarily

acceded to, done with the consent of the governed, in convention assembled.

This was the common view in the 1850’s.

New York City was considering secession as well in January 1861 as Mayor Fernando Wood

addressed the Common Council on the national troubles and the new republic of States forming to the South.

He recommended that New York secede and become a “free city” and foresaw new republics in the Western

and Pacific States, something that Thomas Jefferson alluded to earlier.

US Congressman John McQueen of Robeson County had advocated Southern resistance to Northern

tariff schemes, and in the late 1850’s was convinced that secession was inevitable. He thought that the South

should risk the consequences of independence, as their patriot fathers had done, rather than abandon what

he considered to be Southern rights and liberties within the Union.

Edward Jenner Warren (originally of Vermont) was a Constitutional Convention delegate from Little Washington

in May 1861. He saw the sectional conflict as irreparable and “believed that compromise was no longer possible.”

He argued that the North had demonstrated that it was united in support of the infamous policy of Lincoln.

“They intend our subjugation (and) War exists---he contended that duty, self-respect, safety and liberty

required North Carolina to dissolve her connection with the federal government.”

As a member of the May 20th convention, Warren voted for secession.

Unionist Thomas McDowell of Bladen County was opposed to secession until Lincoln’s call for troops after

Fort Sumter’s fall, and as a member of the May Constitutional Convention he voted for the political

independence of North Carolina

Thomas McDowell

The venerable William A. Graham was a staunch Unionist who urged North Carolinians to rely on the Constitution

as a sufficient guarantor of their rights, and helped defeat the secession convention of February 1861.

After Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to subjugate South Carolina, he accepted the inevitable and was elected to

represent Orange County in May 1861. While upholding the right of revolution as the appropriate response to tyranny,

he cast his vote for North Carolina's self-determination.

William A. Graham

Governor Ellis Responds to the Lincoln Administration

North Carolinians watched with interest as events unfolded in South Carolina, and immediately after

Fort Sumter fell, Governor Ellis replied to the Secretary of War’s request for two regiments to invade South Carolina

with the following:

“I regard the levy of troops made by the administration for the purpose of subjugating the States of the South

as in violation of the Constitution and a gross usurpation of power. I can be no party to this wicked violation of the

laws of the country, and to this war upon the liberties of a free people.

You can get no troops from North Carolina.”

The Excitement in Wilmington:

Sprunt’s Chronicles of the Cape Fear relates the response to Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers to invade

South Carolina after Fort Sumter: “the whole of the Cape Fear section was fired, and with scarcely an exception

looked upon secession and war as the inevitable outcome. Rev. Prichard noted in his diary entry of April 13th:

“Fort Sumter bombarded all night! Every body is excited. War has commenced; when will it end? Sumter

surrendered unconditionally, by Major Anderson, commander!

Great rejoicing in Wilmington, flag raising, etc.”

The flag Rev. Prichard noted was no doubt the single white star on red background secession flag of

Wilmington. On 15 April he noted again the sense of alarm in the city:
“Lincoln’s proclamation received, saying he would order out 75,000 men to take the forts, etc.

Greatest excitement on the streets.”

Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17th, as did Arkansas on May 6th. On the following day in Nashville,

Tennessee declared independence from the United States and joined the Confederacy. Governor Ellis did not

wait for North Carolina’s official secession to put the State in a strong defensive footing. The Legislature was called into

special session on May 1st, prior to which Governor Ellis directed the seizure of forts, arsenals and other federal

property in the State. Fort Macon at Beaufort was held by Captain Josiah Pender;  The formation of military

companies from across North Carolina were offered to Governor Ellis, including

Col. Alexander Murchison’s large company of free blacks and slaves from

Cumberland county, nearly 200 strong.

On April 13th, Ellis telegraphed James Fulton at Wilmington to “Tell the Troops to await further orders,

hold themselves ready to move at shortest notice.”

On April 15th Colonel Cantwell was telegraphed from Goldsboro:

“I have recd the following---Hon. S.J. Person---Communicate orders to military of Wilmington to take forts

Caswell and Johnston without delay & hold them till further orders against all comers. Signed, J.W. Ellis. I will be

down at 7 o’clock & issue in his name necessary orders---Notify the Captains. Answer. Sam’l J. Person.”

The Wilmington Daily Journal of April 15th announced from Headquarters 30th Regiment, North Carolina Militia:

“The Officers and command of the Wilmington Light Infantry, German Volunteers, & Wilmington Rifle Guards,

are hereby ordered to notify their respective commands to assemble in front of the Carolina Hotel at (blank) O’Clock

fully armed and equipped, this afternoon. By Order, Col. Jno. L. Cantwell. Jas. D. Radcliffe, Adgt.”

Colonel Cantwell and his 30th North Carolina Militia were ordered on April 16th: “to take Forts

Caswell and Johnston without delay, and hold them until further orders against all comers.” Cantwell left for

the forts with Captain William Lord DeRossett’s Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI); Captain Cornehlson’s German

Volunteers, Captain Oliver Pendleton Mears Wilmington Rifle Guards, and the Cape Fear Artillery of Major John J. Hedrick

(under Captain James Stevenson as Hedrick was in Raleigh obtaining supplies).

The Wilmington Riflemen under the command of Captain M.M. Hankins was held in reserve and guarded the city.

Seizing North Carolina's Cape Fear Forts

Cantwell’s force left the Market Street dock aboard the steamer W.W. Harllee with the transport

schooner Dolphin in tow. Arriving at Fort Johnston at 4PM, Sergeant O’Reilly surrendered the post to Cantwell

under protest, which was then occupied by the Cape Fear Artillery; and Sergeant Walker surrendered Fort Caswell

at 6:20PM to the control of Cantwell’s remaining forces. Walker was placed in close confinement after

“repeated attempts to communicate with his government.”

The US Army sergeants and their families were transported to nearby Smithville where Cantwell’s

quartermaster was ordered to provide them with temporary quarters.

Now under local military control, the forts were prepared for active and effective defense with guns

mounted and expanded fortifications. In his official report of 17 April, Colonel Cantwell noted that seven 6-Pounder

cannon were found dismounted and stored at Fort Johnson, which were then placed in a new battery under the direction

of Major James D. Radcliffe.

At Fort Caswell, Cantwell reported:

“I find this fortification in a dismantled, and almost defenceless condition, there being but two Guns

mounted (their carriages being unserviceable) and no other carriages to be had within the

limits of the State so far as I am informed.”

Captain DeRossett’s WLI would soon be detached for work on a new battery at Confederate Point and under

the direction of Captain Charles Pattison Bolles. This would be Battery Bolles, and would grow into the mammoth

earthen Fort Fisher. Col. Cantwell would hold command of Fort Caswell until transferred on July 20, 1861.

Charles Pattison Bolles

In his diary entry for April 22nd, Rev. Prichard had observed:

“Companies from the West and South concentrating” in Wilmington.

On April 22, Vice President Alexander H. Stephens wrote upon reaching Richmond from Wilmington that:

“we are on the eve of a tremendous conflict between the sections. North Carolina is in a blaze from one

extremity to the other. Yesterday, Sunday as it was, large crowds were assembled at all the stations along the railroad, --

at Wilmington five thousand at least, the Confederate flag flying all over the city. I had to make them a

speech at all the places, -- only a few words at some, and longer at others; at Wilmington nearly half an hour.”

North Carolina Secedes From the Union:

The legislature set May 13th as election day for delegates to a State convention that would convene at

11AM on May 20th, the very day when, in 1775, North Carolina revolutionaries had signed the Mecklenburg

Declaration of Independence, and declaring themselves a free and independent people. In precipitating war with

North Carolina, the Lincoln regime had already begun blockading its coast---an act of war---even before the

legislature had convened. This left but little to discuss.

On May 20th, 122 delegates filed into the southern wing of the State Capitol to decide whether The Old North State

would join 10 other Southern States already out of the old Union. With the galleries crammed with onlookers,

the delegates argued the merits of leaving the union or staying a member despite the threats

emanating from Washington City.

State Capitol in Raleigh

The April 17th secession of Virginia caused even staunch Unionists in North Carolina to accept the

inevitability of a break with Washington, and debate ended at 6PM when by unanimous vote, the convention

adopted an Ordinance of Secession penned and presented by Burton Craige of Salisbury at the request of Governor Ellis.

Craige was a strong Southern rights advocate as was part of the 1860 Goldsboro convention of the Southern Rights

party which called for North Carolina’s secession.

Though rejecting a lengthy document which enumerated the reasons and justifications for North Carolina’s

sovereign action, including Lincoln’s unconstitutional and coercive actions against the States, Craige’s

ordinance simply repealed the one in 1789 by which the State had voluntarily joined the second union.

Secession Saluted by Artillery in Raleigh

Immediately after passage of the Ordinance, Major Graham Davee, private secretary to Governor Ellis,

threw open a window on the west side of the building and related the news to Ellis Artillery

Captain Stephen Dodson Ramseur. One hundred cadenced discharges marked the occasion of

North Carolina reclaiming her independence; and this was followed by a ten gun salute to the other

independent States. Within a short time it was announced that the convention had adopted the Constitution

of the Confederate States, whereupon a twenty-gun salute was commenced.

May 20th was a much-revered date in North Carolina---Ada Amelia’s Diary entry of Tuesday, May 21st, 1861

mentions that “the centenary celebration is near at hand. It is likely to be hereafter marked by a still more solemn and

important event in the history of the State. It will be known, we trust, as the anniversary not only of the first, but of

the second and crowning declaration and act of independence for the old State.”

Zebulon Vance on Lincoln’s Call For Troops:

“I was canvassing for the Union with all my strength; I was addressing a large and excited crowd, large

numbers of whom were armed, and literally had my hand extended upward in pleading for peace and the Union of

our Fathers, when the telegraphic news was announced of the firing on Sumter and the President’s call

for 75,000 volunteers. When my hand came down from that impassioned gesticulation, it fell slowly and

sadly by the side of a secessionist.

I immediately, with altered voice and manner, called upon the assembled multitude to volunteer not to fight against,

but for South Carolina. I said, if war must come, I preferred to be with my own people. if we had to shed blood I

preferred to shed Northern rather than Southern blood. If we had to slay I had rather slay strangers than my own

kindred and neighbors; and that it was better, whether right or wrong, that communities and States should get

together and face the horrors of war in a body---sharing a common fate, rather than endure unspeakable calamities

of internecine strife.” Zebulon Vance

Jonathan Worth

Future governor, Quaker and avid Unionist Jonathan Worth believed that his State was driven out of the Union

by the actions of the Lincoln administration, which was trying to force North Carolinians to not only violate the

United States Constitution, but also wage war on a neighboring State. On May 30th, he wrote:

We are in the midst of war and revolution. North Carolina would have stood by the Union but for the conduct of

the national administration which for folly and simplicity exceeds anything in modern history.”

Writing on December 7, 1861, Worth concluded:

“This State is a unit against the Lincoln Government. It is one great military camp. Some ten thousand troops

are in the field. The old Union men are as determined as the original secessionists. The State is totally alienated

from the Lincoln Government and will fight to extermination before they will reunite with the North.”

North Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, May 20th, 1861

An Ordinance to dissolve the union between the State of North Carolina and the other States united with

her, under the compact of government entitled "The Constitution of the United States."

We, the people of the State of North Carolina in convention assembled, do declare and ordain, and it is

hereby declared and ordained, That the ordinance adopted by the State of North Carolina in the convention of 1789,

whereby the Constitution of the United States was ratified and adopted, and also all acts and parts of acts

of the General Assembly ratifying and adopting amendments to the said Constitution, are hereby

repealed, rescinded, and abrogated.

We do further declare and ordain, That the union now subsisting between the State of North Carolina

and the other States, under the title of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved, and that the

State of North Carolina is in full possession and exercise of all those rights of sovereignty which belong and

appertain to a free and independent State.

Done in convention at the city of Raleigh, this the 20th day of May, in the year of our Lord 1861, and

in the eighty-fifth year of the independence of said State.


The Civil War in North Carolina, John G. Barrett, UNC Press, 1963
Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, Edwards & Broughton, 1916
The Heart of Confederate Appalachia, Inscoe & McKinney, UNC Pres, 2000

North Carolina, The Old North State and the New, A. Henderson, Lewis Publ'g, 1941

North Carolina in 1861, James H. Boykin, Bookman Associates, 1961
North Carolina, A History, William S. Powell, W.W. Norton, 1977
Wilmington, Port of North Carolina, Alan D. Watson, USC Press, 1992

The Book of Wilmington, Andrew J. Howell, Wilmington Printing Co., 1930

Thomas Lanier Clingman, Thomas Jeffrey, UGA Press, 1998
North Carolina, Lefler & Newsome, UNC Press, 1954
William Howard Russell’s Civil War, Martin Crawford, UGA Press, 1992

Stephen Dodson Ramseur, Gary Gallagher, UNC Press, 1985
Dictionary of NC Biography, William S. Powell
Antebellum North Carolina, Guion Griffis Johnson, UNC Press, 1937

Confederate Operations in Canada and New York, Headley, 1906
Memoir of Rev. J.L. Prichard, Rev. J.D. Hufham, Hufham & Hughes, 1867
Wilmington During the Civil War, McEachern, Vol. I---1861, UNCW SC



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