Jefferson Davis’s Visits to Wilmington
From “Wilmington’s Distinguished Visitors” at www.cfhi.net:
“While a Mississippi Senator, Jefferson Davis passed through Wilmington while accompanying the remains of Senator John C. Calhoun for burial at Charleston. He would again visit the city as President in May 1861 enroute from Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the American Confederacy, to the new capital in Richmond, Virginia.
Near the end of a 2750-mile inspection tour of Southern defenses against invasion, President Davis arrived Wilmington from Charlotte on January 4, 1863. While here, he addressed citizens and assembled troops with an appeal for civilized warfare in response to reports of Northern atrocities, stating: “Soldiers, I charge you always to be kind to prisoners. Fight the enemy with all the power God has given you, but when he shall surrender remember that you are (gentlemen) and treat him with courtesy and kindness. Never be humble to the haughty, and never be haughty to the humble.”
He returned to Richmond the following day.
In February 1863, Davis "dispatched his nephew and personal aide Lieutenant John Taylor Wood to inspect the defenses of Wilmington" in response to the strengthening of the Northern blockading fleet off the coast of North Carolina.
Davis visited Wilmington once again on November 5, 1863, escorted to the city by a delegation of citizens who met him in Florence, South Carolina the day before. He arrived early in the morning of the 5th and was received as a guest of General William H.C. Whiting at his residence on the north side of Market Street between Front and Second Streets. Upon his reaching town, he was greeted with a salute from Captain Thomas J. Southerland’s “Wilmington Horse Artillery” battery. President Davis was here to inspect the defensive works for the protection of the port of Wilmington.
At nine o’clock he appeared on the balcony of General Whiting’s residence in response to the cheers of the assembled residents. After an introduction by William A. Wright of the Wilmington bar, he delivered an address and complimented the town as “the ancient and honored town of Wilmington,” stating that he had given to Wilmington one of the best soldiers in the army, General Whiting. He appealed to the people to stand up for the Confederate cause and do their fullest duty, giving them assurance of ultimate and glorious success.
After delivering his address, the streets were made quiet and the President retired to his quarters for some much needed rest.
Later in the day a regiment of soldiers were marched to the corner of Front and Princess Streets where the President addressed them from the Princess Street entrance of the Bank of the State of North Carolina. The soldiers were under the command of Colonel Edward D. Hall. The bands were playing, the horses of the officers were prancing, and the whole scene was inspiring to lovers of military display.
Accompanied by General Whiting the following day, the President left Market Street Dock for the boat journey to the tip of Federal Point below Fort Fisher, and rode on
horseback to the Mound Battery. Davis enjoyed the commanding view from atop the towering battery as he surveyed the earthen fortress flowing northward from the Mound.
Colonel William Lamb recorded: “As soon as he reached the top, the sea-face guns being manned for the purpose, gave him the Presidential salute of twenty-one guns. We doubt whether many of the forts in the South could claim the distinction of having fired such a salute."
After returning to the city, Davis boarded the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad cars and departed for Richmond.