WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — The Cape Fear area is full of history, especially from the Civil War era, including a remarkable story of escape.
William Gould was a slave who worked on the Bellamy Mansion during the Civil War, but he made history when he and others fled to Orange Street and took three rowboats. They rowed from Orange Street 28 miles to the mouth of the river, where the Union blockade was waiting. They took the group onboard the USS Cambridge and offered them protection and their freedom during the war.
The newly freed men enlisted in the cause for the Union Navy and became sailors, as Gould notes in his diary.
In 2010, a kiosk was dedicated on Orange Street to commemorate the events for future generations. Two generations of Goulds were there to tell their ancestor’s tale.
“I think he would be surprised, and I think he would be on the whole pleased,” William B. Gould IV said.
“I think it’s a powerful experience,” William B. Gould V said. “You know, Wilmington is a big part of our family, and seeing all the people here today was just fantastic.”
The eldest Gould continued to recount his experiences in the Navy throughout the war, and is known as one of only three diaries written during the Civil War by former slaves.
It’s a tale fit for the movies, right here in the Port City.
In all, there were 22 slaves who rowed down the river to freedom.
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