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Cape Fear River and Orange Street
Escape to Freedom
On the drizzly night of September 22, 1862 twenty-two African American slaves dangerously escaped from Confederate controlled Wilmington by stealing three boats docked here on the river. Under the cover of darkness, they made their way downstream to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Upon contact with Union forces stationed near Fort Caswell they became members of the United States Navy.

One of these men was twenty-four year old William B. Gould. Both educated and literate, he was a skilled artisan, and his initials can be found today in the plasterwork of the Bellamy Mansion. He kept a journal of his experiences as a Navy Sailor, and his journal is but one of three known journals by African Americans who served in the Civil War.

Today, this site is part of the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, and is one of only six such sites in North Carolina.

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