Fort Fisher (2)

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Fort Fisher (2) (1861-1865) - A Confederate Coastal fortification established in 1861 as Battery Bolles during the U.S. Civil War on the peninsula between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean in New Hanover County, North Carolina. Battery Bolles was named for Captain Charles P. Bolles and it was later included in the Fort Fisher complex that was named for Captain Charles F. Fisher, who was killed at the battle of First Manassas (21 Jul 1861). Fort Fisher was captured by Union forces on the second attempt on 15 Jan 1865 and remained in Union hands until abandoned at the end of the war in 1865.

Fort Fisher Shepard's Battery Replica Cannon
Fort Fisher Battery Buchanan
Fort Fisher Earthworks

U.S. Civil War (1861-1865)

Armstrong Gun at Fort Fisher

The fortifications on Federal Point were made necessary by the Federal blockade of the entrance to Wilmington harbor. By fortifying the point, Confederate gunners could keep Federal gunboats far enough away to enable blockade runners to slip into the harbor.

Constructions began early in 1861 on what became Battery Bolles. Major Charles P. Bolles started the fortifications and the battery was named for him. A series of officers oversaw a piecemeal expansion of the batteries until the arrival of Colonel William Lamb in July 1862. Colonel Lamb designed an "L" shaped fortification with a sea face almost a mile long and a land face that spanned the width of the point. He incorporated the existing batteries into the plan and built new batteries to fill the gaps. At the end of the sea face he built a towering 43 foot high battery that came to be known as the Mound Battery or Battery Lamb. The completed fortifications included bombproofs, magazines, covered ways, massive traverses and protected gun positions. A separate 4 gun Battery Buchanan was built at the south end of the point to guard the inlet. By October 1864 the works were essentially complete and the batteries mostly armed. The list of batteries and armament indicates that this was a formidable fortification.


Fort Fisher Confederate Batteries & Armament
Waterside Batteries Landside Battery
  • Battery Buchanan 2 - 11" Brooke Smoothbore, 2 - 10" Columbiad
  • Mound Battery (Battery Lamb) 1 - 10" Columbiad
  • Battery Hedrick 2 - 10" Columbiads
  • Lenoir Battery 1 - 7" Brooke Rifle, 1 - 6 3/8" Rifle 32
  • Battery Roland 2 - 10" Columbiads
  • Purdie Battery 1 - 8" 150 Pounder Armstrong Rifle
  • Battery Bolles 2 - 6 3/8" Rifle 32
  • Columbiad Battery 5 - 8" Columbiads, 1 - 7" Brooke Rifle
  • Battery Cumberland 1- 10" Columbiad
  • Battery Meade 3 - 10" Columbiad, 1 - 6 3/8" Rifle 32
  • 2 - 10" Columbiad
  • 4 - 8" Columbiad
  • 1 - 7" Brooke Rifle
  • 3 - 6 1/2" Rifle 32
  • 7 - 6 3/8" Gun 32
  • 1 - 5 7/8" Gun
  • 2 - 5 1/2" Coehorn Mortar
  • 1 - 4 1/2" Parrott Rifle
  • Main Sally Port 2 - Light 12 pounders

First Battle of Fort Fisher

Fort Fisher was successful in keeping the port of Wilmington open to Confederate blockade runners through the end of 1864. In October 1864 pressure was mounting to take Fort Fisher and to close the last Confederate port at Wilmington. Wilmington was playing a major role in keeping Richmond and Petersburg supplied and in the war.

Planning for the taking of Fort Fisher included both naval and ground forces. The U.S. Army was reluctant to participate, knowing that it would be difficult to reduce the extensive earthworks. Rear Admiral David D. Porter was in command of the naval forces and General Benjamin F. Butler commanded the Union army forces.

General Butler came up with a scheme to fill a ship with gun powder and explode it near enough to the North Bastion and the earthworks to create an opening. That plan failed on the 25th of December when the ship drifted too far away to do any damage and exploded without any effect. Union ships then bombarded the Fort and the landing zone north of the Fort, Union troops landed and moved toward the landside defenses of Fort Fisher. Heavy Confederate fire drove off the attackers and bad weather stranded part of the expedition on the beach. The Union forces on the beach made good their escape and the first attack was over. General Butler was replace with Major General Alfred Terry by General Ulysses S. Grant.

1st Attack Casualties
Forces Killed Wounded Captured/Missing Total
Union Navy 20 63 83
Union Army 1 11 1 13
Confederate 8 74 307 389
Total 29 148 308 485

Second Battle of Fort Fisher

Union Attack on Fort Fisher, 15 Jan 1865

The second attack began with a bombardment by the 58 ship Union fleet on 12 Jan 1865 followed by the landing of Union troops on the north side of the land face. The Union navy bombardment succeeded in destroying most of the heavy guns along the land face and the Union troops made their way to the front of the land face. The land side attack was supplemented by a naval storming party at the North Bastion. The Union force eventually took the traverses and poured through the riverside gate into the fort. By 10 pm on the 15th the fort was taken.

The following day at dawn the main powder magazine exploded killing about 200 troops of both sides. The cause of the explosion is unknown but it was rumored that Union souvenir hunters entered the magazine with lanterns.

The loss of Fort Fisher was quickly followed by the capture of Wilmington and that was followed by the fall of Richmond and Petersburg and the surrender at Appomattox.


2nd Attack Casualties
Forces Killed Wounded Captured Missing Total
Union Navy 88 271 34 393
Union Army 209 815 35 1,059
Confederate 500 1,400 1,900 *
Total 797 2,486 1,969 *

Current Status

State Historic Site, New Hanover County, North Carolina


USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry:

  • Name: Fort Fisher State Historic Site Type: Class: Park ID: 985320
  • Location: New Hanover County, North Carolina, US, FIPS Code: 37129
  • Latitude: 33.9698958, Longitude: -77.9180417, Elevation: 13 Map: Kure Beach
  • As Of: 17 Jun 1980
Source: U.S. Board on Geographic Names

Location: Fort Fisher State Historic Site, New Hanover County, North Carolina.

Maps & Images

Lat: 33.9698958 Long: -77.9180417

Sources:

Links:

Visited: 27 Jan 2010

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