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Scarce map of the area around Wilmington and North Carolina coastline, published in London in 1781.

The map shows the lower Cape Fear River vicinity at a late point in the War. Wilmington was captured by the British in 1781 and plantations in the Cape Fear area were ransacked. The map shows numerous locations including Mount Misery, Wilmington, Brunswick and Lockwoods Folly with notations of their distance from Charlestown, from which General Cornwallis launched his attack on the region. Fort Johnson, which had been destroyed at the outbreak of the war, is also shown. 

The map shows the area at the high point of British control of the region, which would shift dramatically in the coming months. Ironically, on the date the map was copyrighted in London on March 31, 1781, Cornwallis had just arrived in the area and set up camp.  Within just a few short months, he would be driven out by American forces.

The town of Wilmington was important to the success of Lord Cornwallis's Southern Campaign. While Cornwallis was pursuing Nathanael Greene through the western part of North Carolina, on January 28, 1781, a fleet of 18 British vessels arrived in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, including 450 soldiers commanded by of Major James Craig. Thinly populated and largely undefended, there was no opposition as Craig took possession of the town and commenced fortifications, while also searching for Whig patriots, many of whom were captured or killed.

In opposition to the British and Tory sympathizers, General Alexander Lillington called out the North Carolina militia, fortifying a position at Heron Bridge, about ten miles up the Northeast River from Wilmington. Near the end of February, Craig made a surprise attack upon Lillington and his militia, but failed to take the position. After two days of bombarding the American position, Craig gave up and returned to Wilmington, leaving Lillington and his men in command of Heron Bridge.