Wilmington Fire of 1864

NC Minute Masthead

I would be correct to say that more buildings that would today be great historical building were destroyed by fire, surely the fire that destroyed our State House (capitol) in 1831 and the fire that almost destroyed Fayetteville, also in 1831 were two great losses to North Carolina.

The fire that occurred in Wilmington on April 30, 1864 was one of the state’s greatest losses. Looking at the date, you realize that North Carolina was a part of the Confederate States of America. Wilmington was the state’s largest shipping and receiving point. Blockade running was big business during the Confederate years, and Wilmington was the last seaport of the Confederate States.

In the early morning hours of April 30, 1864, a fire broke out in a warehouse on the West Side of the Cape Fear River. In short order the entire West Side of the river was in flame, with all the warehouses and building, plus the Wilmington and Manchester Railroad were in flame. One of the greatest loses as a result of this fire was cotton, which was to be shipped to England for the Confederate war effort. In all, over 4,624 bales of cotton were destroyed by fire, amounting to over 4 million dollars. The Wilmington newspaper stated; “when the true loss is know it is probable that the figure will reach over six million dollars.” As far as known, the fire officials do not know if the fire was accidental or not.