By Ty Rowell Member, Board of Directors, Friends of Fort Fisher
An extraordinary two day event was held at Carolina Beach, NC on January 15-16, 2015 when 175 descendants of both Union and Confederate soldiers, marines and sailors gathered to exchange family stories, research and lore about the massive battle for Fort Fisher in January 1865. Attendees represented both Union and Confederate forces and came from many eastern states and as far west as Texas and Colorado.
The event was planned to coordinate with and compliment the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Fisher and was sponsored by the Friends of Fort Fisher. Because of the large number of registered attendees it was held at the Carolina Beach Recreation Center. Wilmington’s John Golden coordinated the event which included Civil War music, lectures, genealogy research tips and story sharing.
Highlights of the two day event were presentations of The Wilmington Campaign and The Battle for Fort Fisher by Dr. Chris Fonvielle, Genealogy Tips by New Hanover County Library’s Jennifer Daughtery, Free Blacks and U.S. Colored Troops by historian Dr. John Haley and Blockade Running by John Golden. Representatives from the State’s Office of Archives and NC Museum of History and other experts were on hand to examine artifacts and give advice on preservation.
In addition to meeting and sharing stories a major component of the reunion was giving attendees the opportunity to write brief comments on their family member’s experience at Fort Fisher. Copies of their responses will be retained at Fort Fisher and also provided to the official North Carolina Civil War Museum being planned in Fayetteville, NC.
Mike Morris of Wilmington recalled that his grandmother told him “she rode to Fort Fisher from Tabor City all day in a wagon to see her father, Lt. Joshua Soles who was from Columbus County. David Hall from Kure Beach wrote that his ancestor, Private Malcolm McDonald Hall from Sampson County, NC survived the battle and the war and his descendants eventually founded Wilmington’s landmark Hall’s Drug Store at 5th and Castle Street. According to Billy Sellers of Franklin, NC his descendant Neil Stephen Kinlaw, originally from Robeson County, was captured at Fort Fisher and taken as a prisoner of war to Elmira, NY where he died one month later at age 38. Private James Larkin Bedsole from Cumberland County told his father that he drove an artillery wagon and the shells falling on Fort Fisher were so heavy it shot the ears off his mule. The Williamson family of Marion County, South Carolina sent five sons to the war and only one came home. Three died at Fort Fisher.
These and other stories helped to capture the horror and sacrifices made by men on both sides.
A reunion highlight centered around the attendance of the family of Union soldier Bruce Anderson, an African American solder serving in the white 142nd New York Volunteer Infantry regiment who was awarded the (Congressional) Medal of Honor for his actions during the January 15, 1865 assault on the Fort. The family has loaned his Medal of Honor and his GAR badges for an exhibit at the Fort Fisher Museum.
James B. Freeman of Paterson, NJ has his great great grandfather Pvt. William Henry Freeman, 169th NYVI, (Congressional) Medal of Honor on display at the Fort Fisher Museum as well as a signal flag he captured upon the fall of the fort. During the assault when the Brigade flag’s standard bearer fell, Private Freeman took up the Colors and moved forward putting himself in great danger. For his actions he was awarded the Medal of Honor which the Patterson family donated to Fort Fisher Museum.
All registered attendees at the Descendants reunion and all reenactors at the Fort Fisher event were presented commemorative medals whose slogan was “Fort Fisher: Glory enough for all" patterned after the original 1907 Fort Fisher Survivors Association Reunion ribbon.
BATTERY BOLLES SPONSORSHIPS Town of Carolina Beach
Adair Graham, Sr.
New Hanover County
Deedra & Brian K. Nunnally, Ph.D.
Sylvia & George Rountree, III
BATTERY BUCHANAN SPONSORSHIPS Margaret & Edward Barclay
Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard LLC
Griffin Estep Benefit Group
Town of Kure Beach
Petroleum Fuel & Terminal Company
Cason & C. H. Trask, Jr.
Lori & Troy Barbour
Bonnie & Jim Carper
Lauren & Christopher Loutit
Captain Carl Marshburn
Maggie & Hank Miller
Pepsi Bottling Ventures
Debbie & Bill Rudisill & the Rudisill Family Foundation
South State Bank
Elizabeth & Laurence Sprunt
Rountree Losee LLP, Attorneys at Law
George Trask and the Descendants of Major Charles Pattison Bolles, CSA
Nancy C. Allen
Don Bullard Insurance (Don Bullard, II)
Bonnie & Louis A. Burney, Sr.
Dianna & Tom Conaty
Catherine & Peter Davis
Margaret & Steve Diab
Beverly & Alan Hunsberger
Lt. General James M. Lee (Ret)
Margaret & Norman Melton
Perry Foundation (Rogene & Fraser)
Ruth's Kitchen (Don Mathews)
Denise & Dennis St. Andrew
US Waterproofing Systems, Inc.
Richard Wallace Builders, Inc.
Tee & Eugene B. Woodbury
Stephanie & Louis A Burney, Jr.
Patricia G.W. Bolander
Susan & John Craig
Janie & Carter Lambeth
Lillian & P.R. Smith
Park Sterling Bank
J. Michael's Philly Deli
Susan Taylor Block, Lynn & Benjamin Graham, Robert G. Greer, Donald L. Hatch, Jr., Bess & Jim Long, Roi & Howard Penton, Jr., Wanda & Dr. Robert Pool, Lillian & Michael P. Teer, Jr., Susanne & Robert Wagner, III, James Robert Warren, Dr. R. Bertram Williams, Jr.
Descendants Reunion & Ancestor Information Form
Fort Fisher and its defense of the port of Wilmington, North Carolina played a critical role in the Civil War. The Veterans who manned the Union naval blockade or Confederate coastal defenses, sailed on the Blockade Runners, fought in the two campaigns to capture Fort Fisher and the Wilmington port and rail hub, did their duty despite tremendous adversity and their stories are an important part of our Nation’s history. The 150th Anniversary of the Battles at Fort Fisher and the subsequent campaign to capture the Port of Wilmington, North Carolina was commemorated January 17-18, 2015 with over 30,000 citizens attending. North Carolina’s Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the Friends of Fort Fisher created a database of descendants of those veterans, Union and Confederate, in order to provide information on the commemorative anniversary events and conducted a Descendants Reunion on January 15-16, 2015 as a prelude to the Anniversary weekend events.
If you had an ancestor who participated in the building of the Fort and defenses along the Cape Fear River, was part of the Union Navy Blockade, ran the blockade, or was part of the December 1864 and January 1865 battles for Fort Fisher, follow-up operations to control the Cape Fear River, or the capture and occupation of Wilmington, please let us know. Please click the link below to fill out the form to submit your information: