16. The crews delivered other things to Wilmington besides their ship’s cargo
The crews of the ships which arrived in Wilmington were allowed liberty in the town, and provided a boost to its economy. As noted, blockade runners were well paid, and the bars, saloons, and brothels of the city were frequented by the visiting sailors, especially early in the war. Officers purchased goods in shops, and were welcomed into the homes of the more genteel members of Wilmington society. Often the visits were extended. Ships had to wait not only for a cargo, but for coal to power their engines. Refitting and maintenance only able to be completed in port took up weeks, especially when parts needed to be fabricated for the engines, or boilers repaired or replaced.
In 1862, blockade runner crews brought to Wilmington the Yellow Fever which was rampant in the Caribbean. Nearly 1,000 people, about 10% of the city’s population, were stricken with the disease, and the bustling harbor was brought to a standstill. Those who did not contract the disease refused to go out, such was the fear of being stricken. Over 300 townspeople and visitors died before the epidemic ended later in the year. Wilmington was not the only port which was exploited by blockade runners, but it was the most important to the economy of the Confederacy until late in 1863, when some blockade running firms changed their focus.