Why are all the streets in Pine Valley named for Confederates?

Published: Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Not quite all of them are – there’s Haig Drive, which more likely owes its name to a British field marshal, while Reagan Court might honor the 40th president of the United States rather than the Confederate postmaster general, John H. Reagan of Texas. Still, there are a lot of Confederate generals down there, and even an admiral. (Semmes Drive honors Raphael Semmes, commander of the raider CSS Alabama.)


Why is that? Well, Pine Valley grew up around the Pine Valley Country Club (founded in 1955), in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Pine Valley Baptist Church and Pine Valley United Methodist Church were both organized in 1961.

One of the big deals in 1961 was the centennial of the American Civil War.

In New Hanover County, street, road and drive names are normally named by the subdivision developers or, failing that, by neighborhood residents. (The City of Wilmington did not annex Pine Valley until 1983, and only then after a bitter court fight.) Given the time frame, it only seems natural that folks selling real estate would appeal to their potential customers’ sense of heritage. Presumably, the sellers weren’t counting on a lot of customers from North of the Mason-Dixon (or customers whose ancestors had been slaves). Or maybe they thought that "Grant Road" or "Sherman Lane" wouldn’t go over well around here.

Whiting Cove is named Maj. Gen. William Henry Chase Whiting (1824-1865), the commander of the Wilmington district for much of the war and the engineer behind the development of Fort Fisher and the Cape Fear River defenses. He was wounded in the Union attack of Fort Fisher, died as a prisoner of war at Governors Island, N.Y., and was reburied at Wilmington’s Oakdale Cemetery in 1900.

Bragg Drive, of course, is named for Gen. Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), a North Carolina native with a checkered military career, who succeeded Whiting as commander of the Wilmington defenses in 1864. (The Richmond Examiner, noting his appointment, commented simply, "Goodbye, Wilmington!") Whiting, in his last days, blamed Bragg for not releasing troops camped at Sugar Loaf dune, near Carolina Beach, to come to Fort Fisher’s aid.

Reilly Drive, given context, probably honors Maj. James Reilly, the Confederate officer who actually surrendered Fort Fisher to the Union after both Whiting and Col. William Lamb, the fort’s commander, had both been wounded. Ironically, Reilly – an artillery sergeant in the U.S. Army before the war – had ended up surrendering Fort Johnston near Smithville (modern-day Southport) to milita companies from Wilmington at the opening of the war.

Robert Hoke Road is for Maj. Gen. Robert F. Hoke (1837-1912), another native North Carolinian, who became a division commander in the Army of Northern Virginia. He participated in the Wilmington campaign. His division was the one camped at Sugar Loaf while Fort Fisher fell.

John D. Barry Road is one of the few "Confederate" streets named for a local boy: John D. Barry (1839-1867) was born in Wilmington, attended the University of North Carolina and rose through the ranks to become colonel of the 18th North Carolina. He was slated to be promoted to brigadier general, but his appointment was canceled after a disabling wound put him out of action late in the war.

By most reports, Barry was an able officer, but he was haunted by bad luck – specifically, companies under his command committed the most famous "friendly fire" incident of the Civil War, shooting and fatally wounding Stonewall Jackson at the battle of Chancellorsville. Tradition holds that Barry personally issued the order to open fire, mistaking Jackson and his staff in the dark for Union cavalry raiders. After the war, Barry returned to Wilmington in ill health and edited a newspaper for a while before dying short of his 38th birthday. Some Southern sources claim he "died of a broken heart" for shooting Jackson; traumatic wartime wounds might have played a role as well. He is also buried in Oakdale Cemetery.

– Ben Steelman

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