The Confederacy’s greatest bastion arguably was Fort Fisher located some 15 miles south of Wilmington, NC, on the ocean exposed dune-scapes of far eastern reaches of the Tar Heel State. When it fell into Union hands on January 15, 1865, after a desperate attack both by Union sea mortars and land forces, Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s starving men in the trenches of Petersburg, VA, some 250 miles away had no hope of supplies reaching them via sea after its capitulation.
A day after the fort was in Union hands a huge explosion rocked the massive dune walls adorned by wooden abatis killing some 200 Union soldiers and Confederate prisoners. Though never proven, the blast was most likely caused by celebrating Union victors who entered the powder magazines with lit torches.
In the early 20th Century veterans of the great battle lobbied Congress to make the site a National Battlefield Park, but attempts failed due to a lack of funds and political will. In 1961, it was named a National Historic Landmark and soon after was absorbed into the North Carolina state park system.
One hundred and fifty years of hurricane strikes and storm surge have all but obliterated the great bastion, but restored works and pounding surf still make it a battlefield site worth seeing.