Monday, March 1, 2021

Fort Fisher Prepares for Summer 2021-- Part 3

Across the Cape Fear River is Fort Fisher State Historic Park.  John Mosely said that they had launched a special exhibit on the role and experience of black soldiers from the USCT in the Civil War and at the fort during World War II.  That was just before the you-know-what hit and the fort was closed down.

"It is still up and in most cases, people haven't seen it," said Mosely.  "We hope people will come check it out."

"We have also been doing fund raising  for a new building (visitors center and museum to replace the current one built in the 1960s) and this exhibit is  talking about some of the stuff we are working on the grander  scheme of things."

I am also hoping they will start up their Beat the Heat Talks again.

The site, like most,  is still in a bit of a holding pattern as it awaits for directives from the state regarding gathering size restrictions as COVID-19 cases decline but the risk remains high as the nation waits to be vaccinated.

--Old B-Runner

Forts Anderson and Fisher Prepare for Summer 2021-- Part 2: Fort Anderson As a Quarantine Fort

The Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson site  (Fort Anderson was built across the ruins of the Colonial town of Brunswick during the Civil War) will also will be debuting a few new exhibits to encourage locals and tourists to make the trek out to Brunswick County, including an inciteful 3-D model of what the ruins of St. Philips Church would have looked like before the American Revolution.

"We're going to have another new exhibit based on Fort Anderson highlighting it as a quarantine fort," Said Jim McKee.  "It is really the only thing that is completely born out of  COVID because  it allows us to tell how the fort's  primary purpose was as a quarantine station along the Cape Fear River.  So it is totally appropriate  for the time."

Blockade runners coming into Wilmington during the Civil War would have to stop at Fort Anderson to make sure they didn't also bring in diseases.

--Old B-R'er

Fort Anderson and Fort Fisher Plan to Welcome Visitors Back Again This Summer-- Part 1

From the February 28, 2021, Wilmington (NC) Star-News  "Nature trails?  Markets? How Wilmington area  historic sites  plan to welcome  locals, tourists" by Hunter Ingram.

It's been nearly a year now since most were shut down by you-know-what, places like Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson and Fort Fisher state historic sites and historic homes like  Bellamy Mansion and Burgwin-Wright are all prepping new programs, revamped layouts and ham-packed calendars to welcome the folks back after that dismal summer of 2020.

The staff at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson (site of a colonial town and Civil War fort) on the west side of the Cape Fear River has been hacking away at some of the overgrown parts of the site.  They have 120 acres of land  nut only about 40 have been accessible and viewable by the public.

They want to  revive a few nature programs  to give visitors a new perspective on the site's Revolutionary and Civil War aspects of the site.

"We're trying to  rebuild old nature trails and put in new nature trails," said site manager Jim McKee.  "There are  some beautiful, drop-dead gorgeous viewscapes out  here in the woods and this is us trying to open them up a bit."

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks-- Part 1: Wilmington, 'The Lifeline of the Confederacy'

From the March 24, 2014, Federal Point  Historic Preservation Society by Chris E. Fonvielle.

As we know, the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park is now a real thing after a whole lot of work.  Congratulations to all involved in the arduous effort.

The Sugar Loaf  earthworks served as an auxiliary line of defense for Fort Fisher, about four miles to the south of them.  Fort Fisher was built to protect the Confederate port of Wilmington, North Carolina, a haven for blockade runners bringing in supplies to the new country.

Over 100 of them operated in and out of Wilmington alone.  With the exception of Charleston, S.C., Wilmington became the most heavily fortified city along the Atlantic Coast.  Wilmington became so important to the South that it became known as "The Lifeline of the Confederacy."

In late 1864, even Gen. Robert E. Lee warned, "If Wilmington falls , I cannot maintain my army."

--Old B-Runner

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Battle of Sugar Loaf Line-- Part 5: Decision Made Not to Attack It

By late afternoon, Schofield and Terry had overrun the Confederate skirmish line but then concluded that the main Confederate line along Sugar Loaf was too strong to be captured by frontal assault

It was decided that Wilmington would have to be captured from the western side of the Cape Fear River.

Major General Jacob  D. Cox's 3rd Division, XXIIIrd Corps was ferried to the west bank of the Cape Fear River to attack Fort Anderson, the main fortress guarding Wilmington on that side of the river.

--Old B-Runner

Military Activity at Fort Fisher This Weekend

From the Feb. 26, 2021, News 12 ABC Wilmington, N.C.) "Military training this weekend  in Kure Beach" by Annette Weston.

There will be a lot of  activity at the Fort Fisher National Guard Training Center in Kure Beach this weekend.  The training center is located just north of Fort Fisher in the Fort Fisher U.S. Air Force Recreation Area.

The Marines and Sailors of the 24th Marine Expeditionary  Unit based at Camp Lejeune will be doing  training during the day as part of their regular-scheduled training before  they deploy overseas.

The training will take place  in the grass field south of the RV park.

Officials say people in the area could see military aircraft flying overhead and  around 150 Marine Corps personnel in uniform and 100 Marines role-playing in Middle Eastern attire or civilian clothing.

--Old Jarhead

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Battle of Sugar Loaf Line-- Part 4: One of Three Battles to Take Wilmington

The Battle of Sugar Loaf Line was part of three major thrusts by Union forces in the overall campaign to capture Wilmington, North Carolina.  Fort Fisher fell on January 15, 1865, but Wilmington, about 22 miles upriver, held out until February 22.

A Confederate division under Major General Robert Hoke occupied the Sugar Loaf Line, just south of today's Snow's Cut where the bridge crosses over the cut.  Snow's Cut is part of the Intercoastal Waterway and connects the Cape Fear River with Myrtle Sound.  It was completed in 1931.

On February 11, Schofield attacked the Sugar Loaf Line with Alfred Terry's Corps.  The engagement started in the morning  with a bombardment from the Atlantic Ocean side of the line by Union gunboats.  A half hour later, Terry started his advance, but his left wind was  hindered by a swamp located along the river.

--Old B-Runner

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Nine USCT Regiments Opposite the Sugar Loaf Line After Fort Fisher

I honor of Black History Month, I would like to point out that there were nine black regiments of the United States Colored Troops opposing the Confederate along the Sugar Loaf Line in February 1865.

These would be the troops of Wright and A. Ames as shown on the map of the Sugar Loaf battle.

They were under the overall command of  Brigadier General Charles J. Paine of the XXV Corps.

Wright's troops were the 3rd Brigade under Elias Wright and consisted of the 1st, 5th, 10th, 27th and 37th USCT.

A. Ame's troops were the 2nd Brigade of John J. Ames and consisted of the 4th, 6th, 30th and 39th USCT.

There was also a white brigade along the line commanded by Joseph C. Abbott of the XXIV Corps, 1st Division.

Playing a Major Role.  --Old M-Runner

The Battle of Sugar Loaf Line-- Part 3: The Move on Goldsboro Goes Through Wilmington

The Union general-in-chief of the Union war effort at this point was U.S. Grant.  he wanted to use Wilmington as a base for an advance on Goldsboro, North Carolina.

Railroad lines from the coast and, of course, the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad (which ran from Wilmington to Goldsboro), could be used to resupply the Army of William T. Sherman as it moved through the Carolinas heading for Goldsboro.

In February 1865, the Union XXIII arrived from Tennessee to reinforce the Fort Fisher Expeditionary Corps commanded by Major General Alfred H. Terry.

Major General John M. Schofield took command of the combined force and started moving toward Wilmington in mid-February.

--Old B-R'er

The Battle of Sugar Loaf Line (Wilmington Campaign)-- Part 2: Gen. Hoke at Sugar Loaf and Bragg at Wilmington

After the fall of Fort Fisher, Wilmington was closed as a haven for blockade runners.  There would be no further runs in or out of that port city.  This closed the Confederacy to the world as they had no more Atlantic ports.

The Confederates evacuated the other defensive positions along the Cape Fear River.

While the Confederate defeat at Fort Fisher the previous month had affected morale somewhat and led to an increase in desertion, the remaining soldiers reported morale to be quite high.

General Bragg commanded the defenses of Wilmington.  His field forces were Robert Hoke's division from the Army of Northern Virginia and some artillerymen from the abandoned Confederate defense in the lower river and some home guard.

Hoke commanded three of his brigades on the east side of the Cape Fear River along the Sugar Loaf Line north of Fort Fisher.  His fourth brigade occupied Fort Anderson on the west side of the river.

Bragg remained in Wilmington in order to oversee the removal of the government stockpile supplies and stores and also to prevent Union forces on the coast from reinforcing Union General Sherman as he marched through the Carolinas with his army.

--Old B-Runner

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Battle of Sugar Loaf Line in the Wilmington Campaign-- Part 1

From Wikipedia:  The Battle of Wilmington.

The Battle of Wilmington, North Carolina, was fought February 11-22, 1865, mostly south of the city of Wilmington.  The union victory at the second Battle of Fort Fisher on January 15, meant that Wilmington, 30 miles up the Cape Fear River, could no longer be used as the Confederacy's last major contact with the outside world.

However, there was still lots o supplies in the city that needed to get sent to Lee's Army in Virginia.  What was necessary was a delaying action for as long as possible.

The action essentially revolved around three theaters, with the Sugar Loaf Line (part of which can now be seen at the Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park in Carolina Beach, North Carolina) being the first.

The Confederates were fortunate in that the Union forces did not follow up immediately on the offensive after the fall of Fort Fisher.  Even so, when Braxton Bragg withdrew from Wilmington over a month later, there were still large amounts of tobacco, cotton, equipment and military supplies that had to be destroyed.

--Old B-Runner

Thursday, February 18, 2021

How the Joseph Ryder Lewis Park Came to Be-- Part 3: Part of a Master Plan

The site, which includes approximately 150 yards of Civil War earthworks, has been carefully cleared by a total of 26 volunteers working in excess of 450 hours.  An existing map delineating the site has been secured and an update on the wetlands is forthcoming.

The committee is now working with Erik Jelinsky, Carolina Beach Parks and Recreation Director, to provide a park site plan with trails and other park features as well as interpretive signage.  He is currently updating the Carolina Beach and Parks and Recreation Master Plan (20160-2021) and hopes to include  the project  for possible additional support.

Interest in  the proposed Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr.  Park is growing as the work progresses.

You Can Never Have Too Many Historical Parks.  --Old B-Runner

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

How the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park Came to Be-- Part 2: A Very Hands-On Project

A supervised work began clearing the brush, committee members and history professor Chris E. Fonvielle Jr of UNCW, provided a comprehensive plan  research document that determined the site to be a part of the Sugar Loaf Line of Civil War earthworks built across Federal Point Peninsula in late 1864 to provide communication and a  backup line for the defense of Wilmington in case Fort Fisher )at the tip of Federal Point) fell to Union forces.

Over the past two years,  seven planning sessions and numerous  informal meetings were held at  the History Center and at the site.  Brush removal was tedious   as it was done by hand and carried by hand some distance before it was removed by city heavy equipment.

--Old B-R'er

How the Joseph Ryder Lewis Park Came to Be-- Part 1

From the May 19, 2015, Island Gazette "Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park."

On May 7, 2013,  a group of individuals from all over New Hanover County met at the Federal Point History Center to discuss preservation of earthworks known to be located  on property owned by the Town of Carolina Beach, N.C., by Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr.

The property covers about 12 acres near the Federal Point Shopping Center on U.S. Highway 421.

A committee was formed consisting of  local professional historians, Civil War scholars, archaeologists, town officials, members of the Federal Point  Historical Preservation Society, interested citizens and three members of the Joseph Ryder Lewis family.

Goals were set to document historic features and its significance to Civil War history, accurately locate the site on a map, determine proper means of preservation, and explore  the utilization of the site as an interpretation, educational and recreation park.  Also plans were developed to properly remove overgrowth on the site without damaging the integrity of the site.

--Old B-Runner

Monday, February 15, 2021

Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Park--Part 6: How the Park Came to Be

Chris Fonvielle  led the research into the site, documenting its history  on six informational panels that have been placed throughout the park. Daniel Ray Norris of Slapdash Publishing  worked with Fonvielle to design and develop the panels.

Henson said Lewis Jr. considered giving the land directly to the Federal Point Historical Society, but knew it was clear  the by-the-bootstraps society didn't have the financial resources to make the park happen.

Instead, the town took on  the responsibility of Lewis Jr's vision with the society's assistance.  In total, Pierce said, the town contributed $120,000 to construct the wooden bridge and complete grading and land clearing.

"I'm so excited to have this open green space in the middle of all the town's development," she said.  "Not many towns own their own park.  Other than the boardwalk, this is something we can own and it's beautiful."

Although some will likely take issue with the designation of the park as a Civil War site in today's hyper-vigilance of that era's history, Henson said the park's purpose-- and Lewis Jr.'s intention -- is to preserve history so it survives for others to tell  the stories today and tomorrow.

"This is a very long time coming  for us and for him," she said.    "This was the way he wanted the land used."

--Old B-R'er