As a young boy living at Carolina Beach I was fascinated by the protruding bones of a shipwreck lying less than a hundred yards offshore. We knew that it was a Civil War blockade runner. Later I learned that the ship was originally christened as the Havelock and launched in Glasgow, Scotland. During our Civil War it was renamed General Beauregard and converted to a blockade runner. It made more than a dozen successful runs prior to December 1863, the month that it was driven aground some miles north of Fort Fisher to avoid capture by Union naval patrols.
The General Beauregard was an iron hulled, sidewheel teamer, 223 feet in length, with three masts and square rigged forward. Like most blockade runners, it had a shallow draft and large fast engines that enabled it to outpace Union pursuers in the open sea. When approaching the Cape Fear River, entrance to the port of Wilmington, the usual tactic was come close to the shore north of Fort Fisher and run south toward the river’s new inlet. Once it reached the covering guns of the Confederate fort it would be safe. However, on the night of December 11th, 1863, the United States Navy cruiser Howquah was waiting in the shallow waters to the north of Fort Fisher. When the General Beauregard began receiving fire, the ship’s captain had no choice but to beach her. There the old blockade runner remains there till this day. The ravages of time, sea and storms have reduced her to a mere remnant of fine ship she once was. At low tide she still pokes her engine and other parts of her metal superstructure above the waves, and the wreck is known for providing some excellent surf fishing. It can also be fished from a boat, but care must be taken as parts of the ship’s machinery rise quite close to the surface.
There are other Civil War shipwrecks clustered around the mouth of the Cape Fear River, but this is the only one I know to be clearly visible from the beach.
P.S. My son Stuart recently made me aware of a book titled Encyclopedia of Civil War Shipwrecks by W. Craig James, Louisiana State University Press, 2008. Though several other sources indicate that this ship was trying to enter the Cape Fear River for a run up to Wilmington, according to author James the General Beauregard was leaving the Cape Fear for a run to England when she was trapped by Union ships and forced to ground Her cargo was said to be cotton, turpentine, and possibly a strongbox containing Confederate gold.