FORT FISHER When the Battle Ended, a New Nation Emerged
At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861 and continuing through 1864, thousands of soldiers, civilians and free and enslaved men labored to construct an earthen fort to provide protection for sleek blockade running vessels entering the Port of Wilmington, N.C.
Over a mile and a half of connected traverses and gun batteries mounting 47 heavy coastal cannons, Fort Fisher was the “Gibraltar of the South” and Wilmington was known as the “Lifeline of the Confederacy.”
According to Fort Fisher’s commander, Colonel William Lamb, “General (Robert E.) Lee had sent word that if the fort (Fisher) fell he could not maintain his army, (and that meant the loss of our cause) ….” Federal General Ulysses S. Grant and the Lincoln administration realized the strategic importance of Fort Fisher and Wilmington and sent a combined army-navy-marine force to capture the fort in December, 1864. Poorly executed, this first thrust failed.
The combined force returned on January 12, 1865 and began the largest bombardment and amphibious campaign in U.S. history up to WWII. Nearly 3 million pounds of navy projectiles from the Federal fleet's 600 plus cannons were hurled against the fort dismounting most of the fort’s landface artillery.
The Federal force of 10,000 soldiers, sailors and marines attacked the fort with its garrison of roughly 2,500 soldiers. The bloody hand-to-hand combat lasted eight hours and resulted in Fort Fisher’s capture and almost 4,000 casualties.
Seventy Medals of Honor were awarded as testimony to the valor exhibited there. Following the fall of Fort Fisher and closure of the Port of Wilmington, General Lee’s prophesy was realized when the Civil War ended within 90 days.
WALK OF HONOR
The Walk of Honor is an opportunity for you to honor veterans, loved ones, friends or organizations with a permanent engraved paver. Each paver will become part of a plaza located in front of the Fort Fisher Museum and Visitors Center.
Donations will be acknowledged with a letter and gift receipt.
An engraved paver will be placed in the “Walk of Honor” in recognition of your gift. Pavers may honor any appropriate individual or entity.
Inscriptions and logos must be submitted with the Paver Information Form. Paver inscriptions are subject to the approval of the Friends of Fort Fisher Board of Directors.
Donations are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
"Whitworth" Engraved Paver Sample
Fort Fisher's Walk of Honor is your opportunity to join the ranks of heroes in preserving this hallowed ground for future generations.
Help us give the rich history of Fort Fisher a voice–from the laborers who constructed the fort and the soldiers who trained and fought there to the blockade runners who supplied the Confederacy.
Help us “Tell Their Story”and your story with a donation to the Walk of Honor project. Click and submit the Paver Information form below, or contact Paul Laird (email@example.com) for assistance, or to request a printed order form. Thank you!
Here are a few of the thousands of stories to be told...
Freeman Medal of Honor
Pvt. William H. Freeman, 169th NY Infantry, from Troy, NY volunteered to carry the 3rd Brigade flag in the successful assault on Fort Fisher’s landface traverses. Freeman survived the battle and his heroism was rewarded with the Medal of Honor, now on display at Fort Fisher State Historic Site.
Under intense fire from the Federal fleet, nineteen-year old Pvt. C.C. “Kit” Bland, Co. K, 36th NC Troops shimmied up the Mound Battery flag staff twice to hoist the Confederate flag during the Christmas 1864 battle. Bland was wounded and captured at the January 1865 battle. He survived amputation of his lower left leg and Point Lookout POW Camp to become a respected post-war circuit riding preacher.
Pvt. George W. Benson with Co. H, 36th NC Troops faithfully served his 32-pounder on the fort’s landface and saw his comrades perish one by one from the fleet’s bombardment and then by the Federal infantry attack. Benson was taken prisoner, survived Point Lookout POW Camp and came home to live a long productive life. George Benson was the last survivor of Fort Fisher’s garrison when he died in 1948 in Charlotte, NC.
Seaman Henry Sands of the U.S.S. Tacony volunteered to accompany a party of small boats led by “Lincoln’s Commando” Lt. Cmdr. William B. Cushing to sound New Inlet during the Christmas battle of 1864. Discovered by Confederates at Battery Buchanan, the boats were fired upon with one shell severing both of Sands’ legs at the knees. He bled to death returning to the Tacony.
Captain James Izlar with Co. G, 25th SC Volunteers arrived with several companies the afternoon of January 15, 1865 to reinforce the shrinking fort garrison in repelling the Federal assault. Izlar and his men joined in a holding action until completely overwhelmed. Capt. Izlar was captured and sent to Fort Columbus in NY harbor as a POW. His two brothers were captured at Town Creek in February and they were sent to Elmira POW Camp in NY. All survived the war and returned home to South Carolina.