First Wednesdays – Fort Caswell

While some North Carolinians reacted to Lincoln’s election, and South Carolina’s subsequent secession, by debating politics and petitioning the governor and General Assembly, others in the state took a more radical approach.  In early January 1861, acting with no authority other than a patriotic sense of duty to the state of North Carolina, Captain Stephen D. Thruston ordered his Brunswick County militia company to seize and occupy Fort Caswell on Oak Island near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.  Upon receiving “unofficial word” of the seizure, Governor John W. Ellis ordered the local militia commander to return the fort to the possession of the United States and to investigate Thruston’s actions.  At this time, Governor Ellis, finding no legal justification to seize coastal forts, refused to validate the actions of citizens, like Captain Thruston, who were ready to sever ties with the Union.

Letter: J. S. Cantwell to Gov. J. W. Ellis, Jan. 1861

Governor’s Letter Book: copies of letters relating to the unauthorized seizure of Fort Caswell, Jan. 10-11, 1861

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