The people of the Masonboro Sound community southeast of Wilmington, North Carolina, could hear in the distance the thundering cannon of an enemy fleet in January 1865 as it laid siege to Fort Fisher. After overwhelming the fort with millions of tons of shot and shell, “federal troops began to move inland, looting farms and houses as they went” as they re-asserted in North Carolina the political supremacy of the government in Washington.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com The Great American Political Divide
The Ghost of Masonboro Sound
“With the fall of [Fort Fisher], the Confederacy’s days were numbered. By late spring the four years of struggle were over. Gradually Masonboro men found their way home. Some were badly wounded, but all came back to do what John Hewlett had said he wished them to do – assist in building up the Kingdom of God at Masonboro.
It was late for plowing and planting, but there was no choice but to begin. Pine seedlings, briars, and honeysuckles had taken over the fields. Fish nets had rotted or disappeared altogether, and new ones had to be fashioned. Food everywhere was scarce, but persons on the sound fared better than most, they could find oysters, fish and shrimp at their doorstep. Some ex-slaves stayed to help them.
Many ex-slaves who had left plantations all over the Southland followed Yankee soldiers because they didn’t know what else to do. They became a burden to Northern armies, which could not care for them and feed them. Jim Irving, a South Carolina slave, followed Yankee soldiers to Wilmington, but soon found himself stranded in the city with nothing to eat and no way to earn anything. He met up with Elijah Hewlett, who told him to go with him down to the sound and he would give him work.
In a place such as Masonboro there would have to be a familiar ghost. And it would have to be in perhaps the oldest house on the sound. It was.
Sometime after the war, a soldier friend came to visit Dr. Anderson. He had been wounded in the war, had lost a leg, and had been fitted with a wooden leg. He was disturbed emotionally by his war experiences, and he would lapse into long silences. He would walk out on the pier and stand for hours, not moving, just gazing at the water.
The old pier was rotten and listing at a dangerous angle, but it was the habitual roosting place of a sad old egret, which, dull and gray like the weather at times, sat hunched over even in a blowing misty rain.
The old soldier often stood there looking just as forlorn and dejected as the sad old bird, and almost in the same spot. One morning the old soldier rose early and went out before the family was up. Hours later, they found him, lying face down in the water.
After that, members of the household thought they could sometimes hear the old soldier with his wooden leg thumping across the floor upstairs.”
(Between the Creeks, Crockette W. Hewlett and Mona Smalley, New Hanover Printing Company, 1971, excerpts, pp. 41-42)