We asked Chris Fonvielle, a Civil War author who teaches history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Here’s his answer:
Unfor-tunately that is next to impossible to quantify, as the Confederate records do not exist. Itineraries for some Confederate units document their stations in the Lower Cape Fear, including Masonboro Sound, but do not record the number of soldiers that garrisoned them. Two Confederate encampment sites have been located at Masonboro Sound: one large early war encampment — perhaps called Camp Hedrick — at the headwaters of Hewlett’s Creek, and a small picket camp at Grainger’s Point. I do not doubt that there were others, but their locations have been lost to time and modern-day development.
The largest Confederate encampment in the general area was Camp Davis, located on the north side of Hewlett’s Creek, above Masonboro. Thousands of troops moved in and out of that camp with their regiments or battalions between 1861 and late 1864. Most of the soldiers were Tar Heels, but South Carolina and Virginia troops also garrisoned Camp Davis from time to time. Camp Davis was the largest Confederate encampment between Fort Fisher and Wilmington’s outer defenses at Virginia Creek, 25 miles north of the city. Indeed, Camp Davis was located roughly halfway between Fort Fisher and Virginia Creek.
The great fear of Confederate military authorities was that Union forces would attack Wilmington by way of Masonboro, Wrightsville or Topsail sounds. They could use the major creeks — Whiskey, Hewlett’s, Bradley, Pages, etc. — to assault Wilmington from the east, thus bypassing the strong defenses, including Fort Fisher, at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Thus Confederate forces were deployed along the sound areas to contest an enemy landing and slow their advance until reinforcements could arrive.
Date posted: November 12, 2012
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