north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
      Although his parents were from Massachusetts, William Henry Chase Whiting (1824-1865) was born in Biloxi, Mississippi, where his father was stationed. W. H. C. Whiting graduated from West Point in 1845 with the best scholastic record to that date, one surpassed only by Douglas MacArthur sixty years later. Trained as an engineer, Whiting supervised maritime improvements in California and the South. As the war approached, Whiting, who had married Katharine Walker of Smithville, North Carolina, cast his lot with the Confederacy. His rise through the officer ranks was hindered by feuds and personality conflicts.

      Confederacy Pres. Jefferson Davis attempted to have Whiting fired for his failure to implement Davis’s wish to reorganize troops by state. Gen. Robert E. Lee saved his position and reassigned him in November 1862 to the command of land forces in the Wilmington district. Gov. Zebulon B. Vance distrusted Whiting, believing him to be a drunk and a despot. The Confederate headquarters in Wilmington was in a house at the corner of Market and Second Streets. Whiting put his engineering skills to work in this strategically vital assignment with the design and development of the Cape Fear defense system, a series of forts and batteries along the lower Cape Fear River.

      Major General Whiting on January 15, 1865, waded into the violent chaos of the fall of Fort Fisher, shouting “Go to hell, you Yankee bastards!” Shortly thereafter, he took two minie balls in his thigh. Late that night Whiting and Col. William Lamb, at a point near Battery Buchanan, surrendered Fort Fisher to Gen. Alfred H. Terry. Taken prisoner, Whiting was transported to New York and held in a hospital. In letters written from his bed, Whiting blamed “the incompetency, the imbecility, and the pusillanimity” of his superior Braxton Bragg for the defeat. Although he recovered from the wound, he died of dysentery on March 10, 1865. Buried in Brooklyn, his remains were reinterred in 1900 in Oakdale Cemetery at Wilmington, the town where his widow resided.


References:
Rod Gragg, Confederate Goliath: The Battle of Fort Fisher (1991)
William R. Trotter, Ironclads and Columbiads: The Civil War in North Carolina, Vol. III, The Coast (1989)
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
Ezra J. Warner, Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders (1959)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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