Fort Fisher

New Hanover County

Fort Fisher, in New Hanover County south of Wilmington, was the largest earthwork fortification in the Confederacy and for four years (1861-65) played a vital role in the Southern war effort. Located at Confederate Point (now called Federal Point) the fort guarded the New Inlet entrance to the Cape Fear River and kept the port of Wilmington open to the blockade-runners, upon whom the Confederacy heavily relied to supply its armies. With the fall of Fort Morgan on Mobile Bay in August, 1864, Fort Fisher became the last important coastal fortification under Confederate control. When the fort fell to Union forces on January 15, 1865 -- after the heaviest naval bombardment of land fortifications known to that date -- the only remaining link between the already-doomed Confederacy and the outside world was broken.

Since the end of the Civil War, Fort Fisher has experienced substantial alteration, both man-made and natural. During World War II, when the site again became an active military post, the construction of a landing strip and adjacent highway (US 421) destroyed part of the land face of the L-shaped fort. More than one hundred years of erosion by sea and wind has obliterated the corner bastion and much of the sea face. Beginning in 1960, the State of North Carolina has acquired and managed the site through direct purchase and lease from the Federal Government. Though erosion remains a serious problem on the sea face, portions of the land face of the fort have been cleared and is open to the public.

Fort Fisher is now a State Historic Site and has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is also a National Historic Landmark.

by: Dolores A. Hall, NC Office of State Archaeology

Reprinted by permission from the NEWSLETTER of the Friends of North Carolina Archaeology, Inc., Winter 1987, Volume 3, Number 1. © North Carolina Archaeological Society 1987