During the years I have written several articles of Fort Fisher, but just recently I came across a lengthy article written by Confederate Colonel William Lamb, the real builder and commander of Fort Fisher. It was written at Norfolk, VA on January 15, 1901.
Fort Fisher was built for the defense of New Inlet, which had become the main inlet for ships entering or leaving the Cape Fear. By 1864 it was the largest earthen fort ever built. In 1861, President Lincoln ordered a blockade of all Confederate ports, but more than 400 trips were made by blockade-runners to Wilmington during the War.
The land face of Fort Fisher was 682 yards long and the sea face was 1,898 yards long. The parapet was 25 feet thick and the outer slope of the fort was 20 feet high and sodded with grass. There were approximately 56 guns, all mounted in barbette on Columabiad carriages. One mile below Fort Fisher Battery Buchanan was located on New Inlet with two 11-inch guns with 24-pound shells facing the sea.
An expedition of 10,000 men under General Benjamin F. Butler landed in front of Fort Fisher on December 25, 1864, but they were repulsed and went back aboard the transports. In fact, the expedition was so unsuccessful they went all the way back to Hampton Roads, VA.
Officers in command at Fort Fisher besides Colonel William Lamb were: Major James M. Stevenson of the 36th N.C. Regiment with 796 men; Major James Reilly of the 10th N.C. Regiment with 120 men; Captain George D. Parker, Adjutant on special duty; and Lt. Charles H. Blocker, aide to commanding colonel.
There were 336 men from the 40th NC Regiment, 80 from the First NC Battalion, 60 men from the 13th NC Battalion, a naval detachment of 60 sailors and marines, 350 men from the 21st and 25th South Carolina Regiments and two surgeons and their staffs of about 53 men. Colonel Lamb states that there were never more than 1,900 officers and enlisted men at Fort Fisher.
On January 13, 1865, General Alfred H. Terry landed an army of around 8,000 between Fort Fisher and what is now Carolina Beach. The blockading fleet of more than 50 ships with 600 guns afloat was commanded by Rear Admiral David Porter. There were five ironclads, two frigates, five gun vessels, four gunboats, seven double enders, and other miscellaneous vessels. Admiral Porter reported that during the three-day battle at Fort Fisher, he expended more than 50,000 shells. That accounts for the fact that after storms today large numbers of fragments of shells and cannon balls are still uncovered along the beach at Fort Fisher.
General Terry’s command consisted of the Second Division of the 24th Army Corps under Brigadier General Adelbert Ames and the Third Division, 25th Army Corps under Brigadier General Charles J. Paine. The Union Army was well supplied.
There was bitter fighting on January 14th and 15th and later on the 15th Colonel Lamb surrendered the fort. General W. H. C. Whiting, a volunteer was wounded and died on Governor’s Island, New York, on March 10, 1865. The Union lost 184 killed, 784 wounded and 22 missing. Many of the Union dead were buried in the National Cemetery in Wilmington. There is some debate over the actual number of Confederates lost at Fort Fisher.
Fort Fisher is now a state historic site and there is no admission charge. With the addition of Interstate 40, it has become an increasingly popular destination for tourists and historians alike.
* Reprinted with permission of the Mount Olive Tribune.