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Fort Fisher

Until its capture by the Union army in 1865, Fort Fisher was the largest earthwork fortification in the world. The “Gibraltar of the South” protected the port of Wilmington and ensured that the Confederacy had at least one “lifeline” until the last few months of the Civil War.  Confederate blockade runners had little difficulty eluding the U.S. blockade, and Colonel William Lamb, the fort’s commander from 1862 to 1864, organized their efforts. The runners delivered goods in Wilmington, and The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad transported these goods to supply Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.

Fort Fisher was a formidable post.  Several times Lamb and his men withstood Union attacks.  In December 1864, for instance, the Union had loaded a warship with 185 tons of gunpowder and floated it approximately 200 feet from the “L” shaped fort.   The fort withstood the explosion and the ensuing barrage that has been described as “the most awful bombardment that was ever know for the time.”

Confederate fortune ran out in January 1865.  On January 12, Union ships bombarded the fort.  Some have estimated the Union firepower to be approximately 100 shells per minute.  The incessant Union fire continued until mid-day on January 15, when Union troops stormed the fort from all sides.  Hand-to-hand combat ensued.  A few hours later, Union troops captured the fort.  With the fort’s capture, the Confederacy lost only remaining supply line to its infantry protecting the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia.     

Sources:

John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1963); John S. Carbone, The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (Raleigh, 2001); William S. Powell ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 2006); William S. Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (Chapel Hill, 1989).


See Also:

Related Categories: Civil War
Related Encyclopedia Entries: John W. Ellis (1820-1862), Bunker Hill Covered Bridge, Secession, Salem Brass Band, Confederate States Navy (in North Carolina), United States Navy (Civil War activity), James Iredell Waddell (1824-1886), CSS Neuse, USS Underwriter, Warren Winslow (1810-1862), Prelude to the Battle of Averasboro, The Battle of Averasboro-Day One, Louis Froelich and Company, Louis Froelich (1817-1873), North Carolina Button Factory, CSA Arms Factory, Ratification Debates, Peace Party (American Civil War), Braxton Bragg (1817-1876), Daniel Harvey Hill (1821-1889), Battle of Bentonville, Bryan Grimes (1828-1880), Fort Hatteras, Fort Clark, Fort Macon, Daniel Russell (1845-1908), The Impending Crisis of the South: How to Meet It, Union League, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Levi Coffin (1798 – 1877), Battle of Forks Road, Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), Harriet Jacobs (1813-1897) , Fort Anderson (Confederate), Battle of Deep Gully and Fort Anderson (Federal), James T. Leach (1805-1883), Sarah Malinda Pritchard Blalock (1839-1903), Thomas Bragg (1810-1872), Curtis Hooks Brogden (1816-1901), John Motley Morehead (1796-1866), David Lowry Swain (1801-1868), Zebulon Baird Vance (1830-1894), Alamance County (1849), Gates County (1779), Clay County (1861), Lenoir County (1791), Union County (1842), Teague Band (Civil War), Fort Hamby Gang (Civil War), Shelton Laurel Massacre , Parker David Robbins (1834-1917), Henry Eppes (1831-1917), Washington County (1799), Hertford County (1759), Rutherford County (1779), Granville County (1746), Salisbury Prison (Civil War), Stoneman's Raid, James City, Fort York, Asa Biggs (1811 - 1878), Thomas Clingman (1812 - 1897), Matt W. Ransom (1826 - 1904), St. Augustine's College, Peace College, Election Case of Joseph Abbott and Zebulon Vance, Stephen Dodson Ramseur (1837 - 1864) , Vance Birthplace, Matthew Calbraith Butler (1836-1909), Wade Hampton III (1818-1902), The Battle of Monroe's Crossroads (March 10, 1865), Carolinas Campaign (January 1865-April 1865), William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), Confederate Surrender at Bennett's Place (April 17-26, 1865), Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (1836-1881) and the Carolinas Campaign, Joseph Eggleston Johnston (1807-1891) and the Carolinas Campaign
Related Commentary: Toward an Inclusive History of the Civil War: Society and the Home Front, Edward Bonekemper on the Cowardice of General McClellan, Freedmen’s Bank Served Blacks in Post-Civil War Economy
Related Lesson Plans: Discussion of the Lunsford Lane Narrative
Timeline: 1836-1865
Region: Coastal Plain

The sketch above illustrates the defense of Fort Fisher from the Mound Battery. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archive and History, Raleigh, NC.

The sketch above illustrates the defense of Fort Fisher from the Mound Battery. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archive and History, Raleigh, NC.


Union troops captured Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. Fort Fisher was the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

Union troops captured Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. Fort Fisher was the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.



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