Second Battle of Fort Fisher

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The Second Battle of Fort Fisher was a joint assault by Union Army and naval forces against Fort Fisher, outside Wilmington, North Carolina, near the end of the American Civil War. Sometimes referred to as the "Gibraltar of the South" and the last major coastal stronghold of the Confederacy, Fort Fisher had tremendous strategic value during the war, providing a port for blockade runners supplying the Army of Northern Virginia.[1]



Wilmington was the last major port open to the Confederacy on the Atlantic seacoast. Ships leaving Wilmington via the Cape Fear River and setting sail for the Bahamas, Bermuda or Nova Scotia to trade cotton and tobacco for needed supplies from the British were protected by the fort.[2] Based on the Malakoff Tower in Sevastopol, Russia, Fort Fisher was constructed mostly of earth and sand. This made absorbing the pounding of heavy fire from Union ships more effective than older fortifications constructed of mortar and bricks. Twenty-two guns faced the ocean, while twenty-five faced the land. The sea face guns were mounted on 12-foot-high (3.7 m) batteries with larger, 45-and-60-foot (14 and 18 m) batteries at the southern end of the fort. Underground passageways and bombproof rooms existed below the giant earthen mounds of which the fort consisted.[3]

The fortifications were able to keep Union ships from attacking the port of Wilmington and the Cape Fear River. On December 24, 1864, Union forces under Major General Benjamin F. Butler and Rear Admiral David D. Porter launched a two-day attack, but were beaten back.[4]


The Union Army returned in January, this time under Major General Alfred Terry. Terry was chosen by Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant to lead a Provisional Corps of 9,000 troops from the Army of the James. Rear Admiral David D. Porter returned with 60 vessels of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron to the North Carolina coast after the failed December attempt.[1]

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