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Letter from Gen. W. H. C. Whiting to Sect. James Seddon, September 8, 1863


Letter from Gen. W. H. C. Whiting to Sect. James Seddon, September 8, 1863


In this correspondence, the Commander of the Confederate Forces at Wilmington and in the Cape Fear River area contends that the recent siege of Charleston, South Carolina has magnified the importance of Wilmington, North Carolina as a Confederate Port. He uses this logic to suggest that Wilmington should receive more support from the Confederate Government - at least as much as it provides for Charleston. Whiting also compares Wilmington to Vicksburg, suggesting that he perceives of his charge as being extraordinarily important. An endorsement from Jefferson Davis is utilized by Whiting to influence Seddon's perception of Wilmington.


W. H. C. Whiting


The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume 29, Series 1, 0755.




York, Robert




Wilmington, North Carolina

Original Format



Wilmington, September 8, 1863.

Honorable JAMES A. SEDDON,

Secretary of War, Richmond:

SIR: The city of Charleston may not be taken, but as Confederate port it has well nigh ceased to belong to us. The new of to-day settles that question. In this crisis the importance of this place grows hourly. At this moment there is absolutely nothing to prevent, say 3,000 of the enemy from landing at Lockwood's Folly, 23 miles from Wilmington, and turning all our positions.

In any such event the harbor and the ports must go. We shall have a repetition of the Morris Island business, perhaps worse. The danger here is not from naval attack, I believe, as against monitors and fleets; if that is the enemy's line, I am able to maintain my position and beat them. It is against land forces. As Charleston is closed in the danger increases. If the Department considers this position as worth anything, I beg that troops may be gathered here. At no time in the history of this war has it been so entirely stripped, or in so great danger.

It is my earnest conviction and opinion that from this moment to the close of the war there should be an army always here. All-important as Vicksburg was to us, the presence of an army was always deemed necessay to its defense. The importance of Vicksburg then is not greater than that of this place now, the last outlet to the Confederacy. I repeat, however, that at no time has this place been so unprotected by supporting forces.

The artillery garrison is not adequate to man the works. The infantry force is nothing. I am endeavoring to occupy Smith's Island. I have neither the troops nor the labor.

I beg that you will lay all my letters before the President; as he has intrusted me with this defense he will consider my opinions for what they are worth.

I am not an alarmist, but I see danger not far off, and my only desire is to provide against it.

Very respectfully,



P. S.-Unless some great disaster occurs to the enemy, Charleston, as a Confederate port, is closed. The enemy have it in their power to hold their position and transfer in any two nights their operations here. It will not do to trust to work to be done and force to be gathered afterward.



General Clingman's brigade cannot now be withdrawn from Charleston. Martin's brigade, if full and well instructed, would afford a garrison, or, if it be better suited to an interior position, the brigade of General Ransom would be entirely reliable for protection of approaches to Wilmington. Pickett's brigades when filled up will be able to extend farther on the railroad, and the local-defense men of North Carolina, it is hoped, will soon be in the field.

The importance of Wilmington is evident, and it is desirable to have troops in position to cover the country and its proper defenses.



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W. H. C. Whiting, Letter from Gen. W. H. C. Whiting to Sect. James Seddon, September 8, 1863, Civil War Era NC, accessed April 17, 2024,