At the beginning of the American Civil War, the Confederates built a fort. It was in southern North Carolina. It was constructed in 1861 near the mouth of Cape Fear River. Fort Fisher is the largest historic fort in the South. It protected important trading routes in Wilmington. There were two main battles fought at the location. They ended up with Union forces winning and taking control of the fort in 1865. The fort was destroyed over time, partly with the soldiers and wear and tear from nature.
The civilian population along the peninsula was minimal. There were only small family farms in the area. The region had a lot of pine woods which Confederate pilots would climb to spot blockade runners. They would meet the ship and guide it through the Wilmington defenses.
The batteries were first placed in the artillery in 1861. Colonel Seawell L. Fremont was the commander in the summer of 1861. He belonged to the North Carolina Volunteer Artillery and Engineers. In his time, he added more batteries to the artillery.
Colonel Charles F. Fisher lost his life at the First Battle of Manassas. The fort was named in his honor. Fisher served in the 6th North Carolina Infantry.
The fort had a lot of powerful artillery. It all came from Charleston. It helped keep Union forces at bay and away from the shoreline. The fort was constructed mainly using soil. It was designed to resemble the Tower of Malakoff. Malakoff was built in Russia during the Crimean War.
More than 1000 individuals worked on the fort during its construction. In 1864, the complete 36th North Carolina regiment held quarters inside the fort.
The fort was equipped with coastal artillery. This meant Union warships could not go near the shoreline. The Region was defended by land and sea.
There were twenty-five guns placed 32 feet high. They were put in mounds that extended to 1,800 feet. The mound remained connected underground. This prevented any penetration using artillery. The underground space was also used to store weapons. A tall stake fence was in front of the walls as added protection.
By sea, the defense had 22 guns reinforced at the ends with 2 large batteries. There were a bomb-resistant hospital and telegraphic office. These were built as two ancillary pieces in two mounds.
Union forces marched against Fort Fisher for the first time on December 24, 1864. They started with a naval bombardment. Fort Fisher faced problems when their gun positions exploded. They were temporarily silenced because of this. The Union was able to land their infantry due to this hiccup. However, the Confederates received additional troops which defeated the Union’s efforts. Union forces retreated on December 27 with 1000 soldiers who were already on the beach. The commanding officer was relieved from duty due to this failure.
The second attempt occurred on January 12, 1865. Union forces began with bombing the Confederate ships before shifting to the fort. The battle lasted 6 hours before the Confederate's General surrendered. He had been wounded in battle. He was captured and imprisoned only to die on March 10, 1865. Captured Confederate officers who were imprisoned at Elmira Prison in New York.
In 1961, Fort Fisher became the first National Historic Landmark in North Carolina. It belongs to the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The Fort Fisher State Historic Site includes;
· The main fort complex
· A Museum
There is a map of the battle in 1865. It includes three-dimensional models of the fort and batteries. There are fiber-optic lights and a narration to depict the activities of both troops.
The museum also exhibits what life was like at the fort. It shows the clothing of soldiers from both sides, armaments, and weapons from the time. It depicts the local cultural and natural history of the region.
There are artifacts that have been excavated from around the fort area.
· A visitor center
A section of the land fence was reconstructed. Some of the original sand mounds that survived the sea waters can be seen in the area.
The site offers daily tours around the fort’s earthworks. There are trail marker displays and a restored seacoast cannon that is 32 pounds heavy. The cannon is fired on special occasions.
There are many programs to get involved in at Fort Fisher. These include;
1. The Museum
There are hundreds of artifacts in the exhibit hall. They feature stories of men stationed at the fort during the Civil War and Second World War. The museum has an orientation film for those who have no clue about the fort. It has all the basic information about Fort Fisher.
2. Self-Guided Tours
The quarter-mile tour trail features history on panel exhibits. The trail is wheelchair accessible and is perfect for all ages.
3. Basic Tours
This contains information on the battles at Fort Fisher.
4. Garrison Life and the School of the Soldier
This is a program that informs on what life was like for the soldiers. Participants are taught the manual of arms, how to wear their uniform, and marching.
5. Ready. Aim. Fire!
Participants learn about the small arms used in the Civil War. There is an interpreter in uniform ready to answer all questions.
6. Cannoneers, Attention!
This program teaches participants about the use of cannons. They use the site’s 12- pound bronze Napoleon fieldpiece at the museum.
Historic Fort Fisher is a location that holds a lot of America’s history. Freedom was attained at the fort, giving it the importance it deserves. The location has been restored and rebuilt to the best of its former glory. The fort is a great reminder of the heroes of North Carolina and the US. It is a great opportunity to learn about the Civil War and World War II. It is an ode to freedom and an opportunity for younger generations to gain information on the past.