The reception accorded to the soldiers of the Republic by the inhabitants of Wilmington, N. C. was a great and pleasing surprise to the officers and men.
The inhabitants, male and female, came from their houses into the streets, waving their hats and handkerchiefs as greetings of welcome. “We have been looking for you for a long time,” said one. “You have got here at last,” exclaimed another. “God bless you.” And many like expressions. American flags were brought out and suspended over doors and from windows. One old lady expressed herself very glad to see Gen. Terry and his staff, for, said the ancient dame, “when I first seed you I thought you were Confederate officers come looking up tobacco.” The colored people seemed beside themselves with joy; they sang and jumped, and shouted for joy.
The sight of the colored troops filled the measure of their ecstatic joy. The men danced in jubilation, the women screamed and went into hysterics, then and there, on the sidewalks. And their sable brethren in arms marched past, proud and erect, singing their “John Brown” hymn, where it was never sung before. Some of the larger houses were closed and abandoned; the people inhabiting these dwellings were affiliated with treason and rebellion. To their imagination, and their guilty consciences prompted the imaginings, our soldiers were not deliverers, but the avenging agents of the government which they had wantonly and without cause outraged and insulted.
Even from some of the finest mansions came forth the inmates with smiles of welcome for the defenders of the Union. What houses were closed or abandoned were of the first class. The middle class are nearly all loyal and four years; experience of secession has convinced even many of the slave-holding aristocracy that they committed a grave mistake, as well as a great crime, when they attempted to sever the bands of our common Union.