11 October 1863: “Cape Fear or “Bald Head” 30 miles south of this is the most desolate point I suppose on the Atlantic Coast”

Item Description: Letter, 11 October 1863, from Benjamin Lewis Blackford to his father, William Matthews Blackford, describing his life and developments at his camp near Wilmington, NC. Benjamin Lewis Blackford was born 5 August 1835, and as a child, was called “Benny.” At some point, he began to be called Lewis. Lewis attended school at Mount Airy and at the University of Virginia. Before entering the Civil War as a private in Samuel Garland’s regiment, Eleventh Virginia Infantry, he had worked as a civil engineer. Later he was a lieutenant of engineers, stationed in Wilmington, N.C. After the war, Lewis went into the insurance business in Washington, D.C., and in 1869, married Nannie Steenberger (d. 1883). They had four daughters: Elizabeth Padelford “Lily”; Mary Berkeley “Daisy”; Alice Beirne; and Lucy Landon Carter. Lewis died in 1908.

[Transcription available below image]



Item Citation: From folder 85 of the Blackford Family Papers #1912Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item Transcription:

Wilmington Oct. 11 1863

My dear Father

I sent home two sheets foolscap a few days ago, which I hope have been received, they were addressed to Mother. I came up from my Camp yesterday, and am going with part of my Corps to Cape Fear this morning to make a reconnaissance. I intend to start the work, and return in a day or two to my old Camp at Wrightsville.

Cape Fear or “Bald Head” 30 miles south of this is the most desolate point I suppose on the Atlantic Coast, but of great importance in the defence of this town. Every thing is bustle here now. Gen Whiting having reason to apprehend an immediate attack. Three steamers ran in yesterday. I saw the Advance came in the broad twi-lights; she made from 18 to 20 knots and came through a perfect hail of shell without being touched. This port averages an arrival and departure Every 24 hours.

I am getting on famously now, living on sweet potatoes, hog fish and oysters. I dated my last letter Wrightsville and dont know if I gave my address. There is no P.O. at Wrightsville, and my address is “Engineer Office” Wilmington.

The steamer is waiting for me and I must close, your affectionate son

B Lewis Blackford

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