From the very beginning, the North Carolina coast has been feared by mariners because of its treacherous coastline and hidden shoals. The Cape Fear in particular has haunted the nightmares of those sailors who have had the bad luck to be on its waters when the whitecaps churn or when the cannons roared. James Sprunt served as purser aboard the blockade runner Lilian when just a teenager, during the American Civil War. During those years he became intimately acquainted with the daring men and fast ships that challenged the might of the Union navy and its blockade of North Carolina and Cape Fear ports. There were Captains John Newland Maffitt, John Wilkinson and Joseph Fry. Jim Billy Craig and others piloted the sleek steamers carrying the life blood of the Confederacy into the port at Wilmington with steady hands. Characters like Thomas Taylor, Daisy Lamb, and the Reb spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow all played parts in the drama that took place off the Cape Fear between 1861 and 1865. And then there were the men and ships of the U.S. Navy: Porter and Lee, Cushing and Braine, and all the enlisted sailors and Marines who stood watch on fog-slick decks, trying to plug a bottle with two openings. Too often they were unsuccessful, but if they could close the Cape Fear and the rest of the North Carolina coast, they just might end a long and costly war. These are their stories, told by a man who saw it all happen first-hand.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR..
James Sprunt was a cotton exporter, historian, and philanthropist who arrived in Wilmington, N.C. from his native Glasgow, Scotland in 1854. At age 14 he secured a berth as purser aboard ships running the Union blockade off Cape Fear during the Civil War. After the war, Sprunt's firm became the largest cotton exporters in the world. Sprunt owned Orton Plantation in Brunswick County, N.C., and authored four books of N.C. history.