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



Marker Text:

     J. L. Cassidey and Sons in 1863 built the CSS Raleigh, an ironclad steamer and among the most noteworthy of the Confederate blockade runners, at their shipyard at the foot of Church Street in Wilmington. Construction there complemented work at Beery’s Shipyard, on Eagles Island across from the Wilmington waterfront, where the CSS North Carolina was built in 1862. Iron plating for both vessels was acquired from Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond.

     The Raleigh was a Richmond-class ironclad, built to plans prepared by John L. Porter. Its dimension were similar to those of the North Carolina, 150 feet in length from stempost to sternpost and 172 feet overall, with a 32-foot beam and a draft of 12 feet. The Confederate Navy commissioned the ironclad Raleigh on April 3, 1864, under Lt. John Wilkinson. A short time later it was placed under the command of Lt. J. Pembroke Jones. The Raleigh’s armament consisted of four 6-inch rifled cannons.

     On May 6, 1864, the Raleigh steamed down the Cape Fear River toward New Inlet to engage the Union blockading fleet and, with the aid of the guns of Fort Fisher, was successful in breaking the blockade that evening. The next morning, the vessel ran aground at New Inlet. The severely damaged vessel was abandoned and her guns and equipment salvaged. Over the succeeding years the wreck of the Raleigh posed a navigation hazard. Further salvage efforts were undertaken in 1868 and 1881.

     In February 1865, as the fall of Wilmington was imminent, Confederates burned storehouses, foundries, shipyards, and vessels throughout the city. Cassidey shipyard as well as Beery’s on Eagles Island were among those torched.

James Sprunt, Chronicles of the Cape Fear River, 1660-1916 (1916)Federal Point Historic Preservation Society Newsletter, vol. 3, no. 6 (June 1996)
Fred Mallison, “Blockade Busters That Failed,” The State, December 26, 1959, 9-12
Chris Fonvielle, Jr., The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope (1997)
Wilmington Daily Journal, May 10, 1864 (quoted in Sprunt, pp. 482-483)
Donald G. Shomette, Shipwrecks of the Civil War (1973)

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north carolina highway historical marker program

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