Saturday, August 20, 2011

River Runaways in the Wilmington Area-- Part 1

From the August Our State Magazine by Philip Gerard.

This was the story of a 24-year old master brick mason and plasterer by the name of William B. Gould, a slave from the Wilmington, North Carolina area. The son of a white Englishman and a slave woman, on September 21, 1862, he led a group of seven fellow slaves on an escape down the Cape Fear River to the Union blockading fleet offshore.

The trip down the Cape Fear from Wilmington took all night and great care had to be taken as they passed Confederate fortifications. It was daybreak before they got past Smith Island, where they finally hoisted the sail and were quickly spotted by lookouts on the USS Cambridge.

In the logbook, it was noted: "Saw a sail S.W.S. and signaled same to other vessels. Stood for strange sail and at 10:30 picked up a boat with eight contrabands from Wilmington, N.C.."

Union General Benjamin F. Butler, commander of the First Attack on Fort Fisher, had earlier in the war coined the term contraband for escaped slaves.

More to Come. --Old B-Runner

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