Fort Fisher was a Confederate fort during the American Civil War from 1861 through 1865. Strategically important, Wilmington was a vital port for the delivery of goods to the Confederacy. Wilmington had ready railroad access from its port into Virginia that fed supplies to General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
Fort Fisher kept the port of Wilmington open to blockade runner vessels that supplied necessary goods to Confederate armies and its civilian population. It was visited by Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In 1865, the supply route through Wilmington was the last significant supply line that could deliver needed munitions, clothing and food to General Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.
On January 15, 1865, on orders from President Lincoln’s General-in-Chief Ulysses S. Grant, who had previously visited the site but did not leave his warship, the Union conducted a successful massive amphibious attack on the fort in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. The fort was captured by the Union Army. Following the fall of Fort Fisher, the blockade-runners’ trading route to Wilmington and supply line for General Lee’s Army ended. Shortly thereafter, in February 1865, the Union Army took control of Wilmington.
This fort was the largest in the Confederacy. It was named for Colonel Charles Frederick Fisher, of Salisbury, North Carolina, who died leading a charge on a Union Army battery at the First Battle of Bull Run also known as the Battle of Manassas in 1861.
The fortress is located on the peninsula between the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. Colonel William Lamb designed the final version in the shape of a number 7. It had a sea face that stretched a mile long and a land face the width of the point. Much of it was 30-feet high with walls 40-feet deep. It had more than 15 batteries with some as high as 60 feet. Diagrams show that it ran from today’s Fort Fisher Aquarium to the visitor center building. About 10% of the fort remains.
The fort became a National Historic Landmark on November 5, 1961, the first in North Carolina. It is part of the Fort Fisher State Historic Site operated by the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.
Visitors to the historic site are invited to tour the fort complex, museum, visitor center, and scenic trails.
Guided tours and exhibits including a replica of a 150-pound Armstrong cannon provide historical orientation. This is a must-see for Civil War enthusiasts.