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T H E C I V I L WAR • LTHOUGH THE SENTIMENT for secession was far from unanimous in North Carolina, once a decision had been made it was either generally supported or tacitly accepted by the people as the policy of the state. About two dozen men in the lower Cape Fear acted prematurely. On 31 December 1860 some citizens of Wilmington wired Governor John W. Ellis seeking his permission to seize Fort Johnston and Fort Caswell, located on the west side of the Cape FearRiver near its mouth on eachsideofthe Elizabeth River. Each fort was occupied by a single United States ordnance sergeant who guarded a small store of military supplies. Permissionwasdenied since North Carolina wasstilla part of the Union, but the next day a delegation arrived in Raleigh to make the same futile request in person. Returning home, they found secession meetings being held almost every night and young men wearing "rosettes made of small pine cones" to signify their allegianceto North Carolina. Under the local militia commander "Cape Fear Minute Men" were organized. On 8 January 1861 a rumor spread that an armed United States vesselwason its wayto Fort Caswell. It wasfeared that asizablecontingent oftroops might soon control the mouth of the Cape Fear River. The Minute Men, with their personal arms—mostly shotguns —and a week's supply of provisions, boarded a small schooner and sailed down the river. The next day at four o'clock in the morning, they went to the door of the quarters of Sergeant JamesReilly (destined to become a major in the Tenth North Carolina Regiment) at Fort Johnston and demanded the keysto the magazine. Telling him how useless it would be for one man to resist the determination oftwenty men, they persuaded him to complywith their demand. But he did so only after the contingent from Wilmington consented to give him a receipt for the supplies in his care. The same process was repeated across the Elizabeth Riverto obtain Sergeant FrederickDardingkiller's cooperation at Fort Caswell. When Governor Ellis learned of this he sent a regiment of state militia to restore the forts to Federal control. Where the sergeants had been in the meantime isnot clear, but on 14 JanuaryReillyreported: "They came backto both me and Sergeant Dardingkiller and asked us to take back the public property. I 349 19 A 350 North Carolina, through Four Centuries answered, yes; if there was none of it broken, or none of the ammunition expended . It wasreturned in good order." The governor, in the interim between the forts' seizure on 9 January and their return on the fourteenth, kept President James Buchanan informed. Buchanan assuredthe governor that hehad no intention ofgarrisoning the forts. This rather comical episode, nevertheless, was serious in that it occurred during the time when additional states were seceding from the Union, and it contributed to the excitement in North Carolina. Following the taking of Fort Sumter in South Carolina on 14 April and the subsequent withdrawal from the Union byNorth Carolina, eventsmoved rapidlyto active warfare—the CivilWar. The conflict between North and South wascalledacivil war, but ifthe South had been victorious it would have been regarded as a revolution. Nevertheless, during the war it wassometimes referred to asarebellion, and many Northerners spoke of the "War of the Rebellion." Southerners, on the other hand, called it the "War for Southern Independence," the "War Between the States," or even the "War of Northern Aggression." Comparison of Resources andAims Neither side expected that the war would last very long. The first Union soldiers were recruited for just three months. North Carolina's first new troops were enlisted for six months. Recruiting officers predicted that they would be able to wipe up with asilk pocket handkerchief all the blood that would be shed. A Southerner, boasting of the military experience of his friends, their skill in hunting, their fondness for riding, and the active outdoor life they led, said Southerners could "whip the Yankees with cornstalks." Reminded of this after the war,he sheepishlyobserved: "But theywouldn't fight with cornstalks." The two sides, in fact, wereso unevenlymatchedthat observerswereamazed that the South held out for four years. Northern resources were clearly superior. With a government alreadyin existence, the North had the nucleus of an army and navy, an established foreign trade, money and banking regulations, and other features contributing to stability. The new Confederate government, on the other hand, had none of these and had to createthem. Whatever the Southern statesmight have paid...


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