Fort Fisher was the last major Confederate stronghold to fall to Union forces during the Civil War. It was the linchpin of the Confederate Army's Cape Fear Defense System, which included forts Caswell, Anderson and Johnston and a series of smaller batteries. Largely due to the tenacity of its defenders, the port of Wilmington was never entirely sealed by the Union blockade until January 1865. The Union bombardment of Fort Fisher was the heaviest naval demonstration in history up to that time. During the war, the fort, which stretched for 1.5 miles, was the largest and strongest earthen fort in the Confederacy. Today, the Department of Cultural Resources operates and maintains the remains of Fort Fisher as a State Historic Site.
The property boasts scenic easements of both the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. A half-mile tour trail surrounds the archaeological remains of the Confederate fort. Exterior exhibits, a reconstructed palisade fence and a partially restored gun emplacement enhance historic interpretation. The tour trail encircles the Western Bastion, including the partially restored Shepherd's Battery, which boasts a fully functional reproduction of a rifled and banded 32-pounder cannon. This huge gun is the only one in the nation said to be fired on a regular basis. On the north side of the fort, re-created palisades will be of interest to Civil War buffs. Because Fort Fisher is an archaeological site, metal detectors are prohibited. The tour trail is handicapped accessible.
Following your visit to the fort, walk across U.S. Route 421 to The Cove, where you'll find a live oak-lined area overlooking the ocean; it's a great place for a relaxing stroll. Swimming here is discouraged because of dangerous currents and underwater hazards. However, miles of unspoiled beaches are available immediately to the south at Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, complete with bathhouse showers, a visitors center and a concession stand.
Highlights of the Fort Fisher Historic Site's renovated visitors center include an upgraded theater, an enlarged gift shop, disabled-accessible restrooms, a free 15-minute audiovisual program chronicling the fort's history, a museum and a state-of-the-art, 16-foot fiber optic map. An eight-minute narrative accompanying the map describes the final Battle of Fort Fisher. Civil War enthusiasts will especially enjoy the expanded exhibits, dioramas, artifacts and an informative audio program. The surrounding grounds, including The Cove and earthworks, are open to the public and are available for tours daily. The site, about 19 miles south of Wilmington, was once commonly known as Federal Point. The state-operated ferry to and from Southport is a fun and time-saving way to get here from Brunswick County. From Memorial Day through Labor Day, the visitors center is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM and Sunday 1 to 5 PM; winter hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9 AM to 5 PM (closed Sunday and Monday and most major holidays). Call for more information, to schedule a guided tour or to inquire about group tours. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.
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