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Fort Johnston, which was named for royal governor Gabriel Johnston, was established by a legislative act in April 1745. Fort Johnston was the first fort in North Carolina, the last residence of a royal governor of the colony, and part of a defense system which enabled Wilmington to stay open longer than any other major port of the Confederacy. Stirred by a Spanish raid and looting of Southport on September 3, 1748, colonists rushed to complete the fort by April 1749. Royal governor Joseph Martin fled to Fort Johnston on June 2, 1775 after aroused patriots learned that he was attempting to instigate a slave revolt. On July 19, 1775, the fort was burned to the ground by patriots who believed that Martin was still inside. In 1794, the Federal government sought its repair after realizing the strategic importance of its location. Lt. William B. Cushing, who would later be commissioned as the youngest Commander in the U.S. Navy for blowing up the Confederate ironclad C.S.S. ALBEMARLE at Plymouth, NC, rowed ashore alone on the night of February 28, 1864 to kidnap the commanding officer of the confederate fort, Gen. Hebert. Gen. Hebert was out, but Cushing managed to take his chief engineer and escape without notice.
The State (NoCar F 251 S77), Vol. 38 Issue 15, Jan 1971, p8-10, 63, il, por
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The burning of the British Fort Johnston by Patriot militia on July 19, 1775 is largely overlooked by historians of the American Revolution in the South. This incident is where the first shots of the American Revolution in North Carolina occurred, not at the battle of Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. This was an act of sabotage against property owned by King George III and of rebellion against the king of England. This event stopped Gov. Josiah Martin from changing his seat of government, a planned southern military campaign, and marked the end of the royal government in North Carolina.