Tuesday 26th. Having sent my Carriage across the day before, I left Wilmington about 6 oclock accompanied by most of the Gentlemen of the Town, and breakfasting at Mr. Ben. Smiths lodged at one Russ’ 25 Miles from Wilmington—an indifferent House.
GW crossed the Cape Fear River in a “Revenue-barge, manned by six American Captains of ships, in which the standard of the United States was displayed.” As previously arranged, the gentlemen of the town attended him in “boats from the shipping in the harbour, under their national colours,” while in the background could be heard “the firing of cannon, accompanied by the acclamations of the people, from the wharves and shipping” (Columbian Centinel [Boston], 11 June 1791).
Col. Benjamin Smith (1756–1826) of Brunswick County lived at Belvidere plantation about four miles west of Wilmington on the Brunswick River, an arm of the Cape Fear. Owner of 221 slaves in 1790, Smith was, despite a hotheaded tendency to duel, a prosperous and influential planter. He represented his county in the legislature for many years and from 1810 to 1811 was governor of North Carolina. During the early days of the War of Independence, he apparently served under GW in some capacity—as an aide it is often said—although he was not a commissioned officer in the Continental Army; his rank of colonel was a militia appointment made in 1789 (N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 22:358). In forwarding some letters to GW six days after this visit, Smith took the opportunity to profess his great attachment to him—“that Attachment with which I was inspired at New York & Long Island in 1776” (Smith to GW, 1 May 1791, DNA: RG 59, Misc. Letters; ASHE description begins Samuel A. Ashe et al., eds. Biographical History of North Carolina: From Colonial Times to the Present. 8 vols. Greensboro, N.C., 1905–17. description ends , 2:401–5; HEADS OF FAMILIES, N.C. description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: North Carolina. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1966. description ends , 190).
From Belvidere GW was escorted for ten miles by the Wilmington troop and Col. Thomas Brown (1744–1811) of neighboring Bladen County, commander of the horse for the district of Wilmington (Columbian Centinel [Boston], 11 June 1791). Russ’s tavern, run by Francis, John, or Thomas Russ of Brunswick County, was typical of the “very bad” public accommodations that GW had been warned to expect between Wilmington and his next major stop, Georgetown, S.C. (“memorandum of distances,” 1791, N.C. STATE REC. description begins Walter Clark, ed. The State Records of North Carolina. 16 vols., numbered 11-26. Winston and Goldsboro, N.C., 1895–1907. description ends , 15:380; HEADS OF FAMILIES, N.C. description begins Heads of Families at the First Census of the United States Taken in the Year 1790: North Carolina. 1908. Reprint. Baltimore, 1966. description ends , 189).
At Russ’s this evening Congressman William Barry Grove (1764–1818) of Fayetteville arrived with an address from “the Merchants, Traders, and Principal Inhabitants” of that town. Grove had expected to present it to GW at Belvidere, but reaching that place about an hour after GW’s departure, he had been obliged to ride on to Russ’s (Columbian Centinel [Boston], 11 June 1791). The address dated 15 April 1791 and a copy of GW’s reply to it are in DLC:GW.