North Carolina’s Civil War Sesquicentennial Commemoration
North Carolina was the last state to secede from the Union, doing so on May 20th 1861. The state contributed about 125,000 soldiers to the Confederacy, and of these, 19,673 were killed in battle and another 20,602 died of disease. This combined total of over 40,000 dead was the largest number of deaths of any Confederate state in the war.
There was a great deal of fighting along the North Carolina coast early in the war. Federal troops captured and occupied the Outer Banks in August 1861. In February 1862, an expedition led by General Ambrose Burnside captured Roanoke Island and later took New Bern and Beaufort. The Union maintained control of these portions of coastal North Carolina throughout the war. Although raids and other actions were conducted inland, no full scale movement into the interior of the state was undertaken from the coast until late in the war.
Wilmington was an important port city for the Confederacy. Located on the Cape Fear River a few miles inland from the Atlantic Ocean, the entrance to the harbor was guarded by Fort Fisher. Wilmington was the last port open to blockade runners until Fort Fisher fell to Union forces in January 1865.
Major General William T. Sherman’s army entered North Carolina in March of 1865 after sweeping through South Carolina. Sherman was headed north towards Virginia where he planned to join forces with the Army of the Potomac. The last large scale fighting in North Carolina was the March 19th-21st Battle of Bentonville, where Sherman’s Federals fought Confederate forces under General Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston surrendered his command to Sherman on April 26th at the Bennett House near Durham.
The website for North Carolina’s Civil War Sesquicentennial has information on commemorative events, a detailed timeline and articles on North Carolina’s involvement in the war, and some excellent battlefield maps. Follow this link to reach the site.