Maritime History at Southport
The North Carolina Maritime
Museum at Southport helps
visitors understand the rich
natural and cultural history of
the lower Cape Fear. - North Carolina Maritime Museum in Southport.
North Carolina Maritime Museum
The Southport facility of the North Carolina Maritime
Museum interprets the natural and cultural history of
the Cape Fear Region of the state's coast.
Stede Bonnet and his Pirates
The museum tells the story of
the notorious "gentleman
pirate" Stede Bonnet and the
end of his outlaw career at the
Battle of the Cape Fear River.
Artifacts of a Seafaring Past
The museum features a wide
array of artifacts that tell the
story of the lower Cape Fear
region and its relationship
with the sea.
North Carolina Maritime Museum - Southport, North Carolina
Pirate Ships to Pilot Boats...
One of three facilities of the outstanding
institution, the North Carolina Maritime
Museum at
Southport interprets the natural
and cultural history of the lower Cape Fear
region of North Carolina.

Other facilities of the outstanding museum
include the
main branch at Beaufort and the
Graveyard of the Atlantic facility at Hatteras.
All three locations are operated by North
Carolina's DIvision of State History Museums.

The Southport facility features a self-guided
tour that takes visitors on a fascinating walk
through the history of the Lower Cape Fear.
Displays range from a piece of a 2,000 year
old Indian canoe to exhibits explaining life
along the coast today.

The canoe is one of the most remarkable
ancient artifacts in the United States. Thought
by archaeologists to have been made at
about the time that Christ walked the Earth,
the craft was an amazing 54 feet long and
would have been seaworthy for voyaging
along the Atlantic Coast.

Another popular exhibit explores the days
when the lower Cape Fear River was a
hiding place for some of the most notorious
real pirates of the Caribbean. Blackbeard, for
example, is thought to have once sailed
these waters, but the Cape Fear is better
known for its association with the infamous
"gentleman pirate," Stede Bonnet.

His nickname originated from the fact that he
was born into moderate wealth on the island
of Barbados, but it did not mean that all of
Bonnet's actions were by any means
"gentlemanly." For a time he joined forces
with the notorious Blackbeard and together
they ravaged ships along the Atlantic Coast.

Bonnet was finally cornered in the lower
Cape Fear River in 1718 by a naval force led
by Colonel William Rhett of South Carolina.
With no choice but to fight or try to escape by
fleeing inland, Bonnet sailed his ship,
, into battle on the morning of
September 27, 1718. What is remembered
today as the Battle of the Cape Fear River
lasted for as long as 6 hours before Bonnet
and his pirates knew they were beaten.

Stede Bonnet wanted to go down (or rather
up) with his ship by blowing up the powder
magazine as Rhett's men closed in, but he
was overruled by his crew and the pirates
surrendered. Stede Bonnet was hanged at
Charleston on December 10, 1718.
From the exhibit on Bonnet and the days of
the pirates, the self-guided tour takes visitors
on through history. There are models of
ships, artifacts discovered or preserved in
the area and even a 200 pound Confederate
torpedo or mine found in the Cape Fear River.

The lower Cape Fear was a major Southern
port during the Civil War. Until it was finally
clamped shot by Union forces at the Battle of
Fort Fisher in January of 1865, the river had
been a vital harbor for a fleet of blockade
runners that brought vital goods and military
supplies into the Confederacy. Even after the
Union Navy had closed almost every other
Southern port, the lower Cape Fear provided
shelter for these sleek vessels that risked all
on daring runs out past the flotilla of enemy
warships riding offshore.

The museum also features exhibits on noted
shipwrecks and on the pilots and pilot boats
that once bravely went out into the waters of
Cape Fear to bring ships safely into port.

The museum is open in new facilities

Please click here to visit their website for
more information.
Photos by Heather LaBone
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.