SOUTHPORT, NC (WECT) - For most of the Civil War, the port of Wilmington played an important role in getting supplies from foreign countries to be used by Confederate forces. Merchandise goods and weapons were brought through a naval blockade that former President Lincoln hoped would choke off the south, and bring an early end to the conflict.
Now, a new display at the North Carolina Maritime Museum in Southport shows how blockade runners kept the south's hopes for victory alive until the fall of Fort Fisher.
Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, Bull Run are locations for some of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. While those battlefields are well inland, numerous efforts to cut off supplies needed for Confederate forces were taking place during the war along the east coast, including at Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
When the war began, Lincoln ordered Union naval vessels to begin a blockade at coastal waterways in an effort to cut off supplies Confederate forces needed for survival.
To get around the federal blockades, larger ships would bring goods earmarked for the Confederacy to be off-loaded onto sleek, shallow craft steamers for the last leg of the journey, the dash through the Federal lines and into the ports.
"Wilmington was the only port in the south that actually had two entrances, with Old Inlet and New Inlet at Fort Fisher, so blockade runners could choose one or the other," said Wayne Strickland, of the museum. "All of the items coming in for the south, all of the weapons, a lot of food stuff, and a lot of merchandise was coming in through the blockade," sai Strickland.
Pieces of old blockade runners continue to be found, and a new exhibit called Blockade Running: A Necessary Evil has just opened at Southport's Maritime Museum.
"This is the state's blockade running exhibit for the North Carolina Maritime Museum system, so we have this exhibit for the blockade running, and it will cover the state, as actually the Cape Fear region was the major blockade running area for the south," said Strickland.
The Southport museum is part of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, which operates other museums along the Outer Banks and in Beaufort. Each one features many different items, but all three telling the stories of North Carolina's rich maritime history.
There is no admission charge to visit the Southport Maritime Museum, open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
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