FALL OF WILMINGTON
Union assault on Hoke's
entrenched Confederates led to the city's fall, February 22, 1865.
|The Fall of Wilmington: Historical Marker
|(The Battle of Wilmington)
With the fall of Fort
Fisher (Second Battle of Fort Fisher) on January 15, 1865, the “seal of doom was put on the Confederacy,” according to author and historian
John G. Barrett. Gen. Braxton Bragg, commanding the defense of the lower Cape Fear, soon after relinquished other positions, beginning with Fort
Caswell and Fort Campbell on January 16. Gen. Robert F. Hoke was entrenched about three miles south of
Wilmington with his left
flank on Masonboro Sound and his right on the river. His line defending Wilmington was seen as impregnable and no effort was made to break it
until the latter part of February (Cape Fear River Map and Approaches to Fort Fisher, Fort Anderson, and
Wilmington.) The earthworks were considerably strengthened during that month’s time.
The march of Federal troops
toward the port city began in earnest on February 20. Initially meeting little resistance, the troops under overall command
of Gen. Jacob D. Cox found Hoke’s men in their trenches at Forks Road.
Among the Union forces were the 5th U.S. Colored Troops, six of whom were wounded by a shell
explosion. The Union field commander, A. H. Terry, ordered a frontal assault and one man was killed and forty-eight wounded.
The Confederates held the works through the night of February 20. The next day, with the support of a flotilla of gunboats
offshore, the Federals claimed victory. The Confederates abandoned the breastworks on the evening of February 21 and the next
morning Union troops moved into Wilmington.
|North Carolina Civil War Battles
|North Carolina Civil War Battlefields Map
the breastworks south of Wilmington have been largely lost to development. One well-defined section remains one-fourth
mile south of the intersection of Shipyard Boulevard
and Seventeenth Street. The conflict of February 20-21
is known locally as the “Battle of Jumping Run,” but there is no contemporary evidence that such a term was in
use at the time of the fighting.
|Fort Fisher (A) to Wilmington (B) Route Map
|Two Strategic North Carolina Civil War Battles
|Battle of Wilmington Map
|Wilmington & Cape Fear Civil War Map
References: Chris Fonveille, The
Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope (1997); Abraham J. Palmer, History of the Forty-Eighth Regiment New York
State Volunteers in the War for the Union, 1861-1865 (1885); John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963); The
War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, ser. 1, XLVII, pt. 2, pp. 509-510, 1234-1235.
Reading: The Wilmington Campaign and the Battle for Fort Fisher, by Mark A. Moore. Description:
Full campaign and battle history of the largest combined operation in U.S.
military history prior to World War II. By late 1864, Wilmington
was the last major Confederate blockade-running seaport open to the outside world. The final battle for the port city's protector--Fort Fisher--culminated
in the largest naval bombardment of the American Civil War, and one of the worst hand-to-hand engagements in four years of
bloody fighting. Continued below…
including 54 original maps drawn by the author. Fresh new analysis on the fall of Fort Fisher, with a fascinating comparison
to Russian defenses at Sebastopol during the Crimean War. “A tour de force. Moore's Fort Fisher-Wilmington Campaign is the best publication of this
character that I have seen in more than 50 years.” -- Edwin C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus, National Park Service
Reading: Gray Phantoms of the Cape Fear : Running the Civil War Blockade. Description: After the elimination of Charleston in 1863 as a viable entry port for running the blockade, Wilmington, North
Carolina, became the major source of external supply for the Confederacy during
the Civil War. The story of blockade running on the Cape Fear River
was one of the most important factors determining the fate of the South. With detailed and thought-provoking research, author
Dawson Carr takes a comprehensive look at the men, their ships, their cargoes, and their voyages. Continued below…
the small city of Wilmington, North Carolina, literally found itself facing a difficult task: it
had to supply Robert E. Lee's army if the South was to continue the Civil War. Guns, ammunition, clothing, and food had to
be brought into the Confederacy from Europe, and Wilmington
was the last open port. Knowing this, the Union amassed a formidable blockading force off storied Cape Fear. What followed was a contest unique in the annals of
warfare. The blockade runners went unarmed, lest their crews be tried as pirates if captured. Neither did the Union fleet
wish to sink the runners, as rich prizes were the reward for captured cargoes. The battle was thus one of wits and stealth
more than blood and glory. As the Union naval presence grew stronger, the new breed of blockade runners got faster, quieter,
lower to the water, and altogether more ghostly and their crews more daring and resourceful. Today, the remains of nearly
three dozen runners lie beneath the waters of Cape Fear,
their exact whereabouts known to only a few fishermen and boaters. Built for a special mission at a brief moment in time,
they faded into history after the war. There had never been ships like the blockade runners, and their kind will never be
seen again. Gray Phantoms of the Cape
Fear tells the story
of their captains, their crews, their cargoes, their opponents, and their many unbelievable escapes. Rare photos and maps.
“This book is nothing shy of a must read.”
Recommended Reading: The Wilmington Campaign: Last
Departing Rays of Hope. Description: While prior books on the battle to capture Wilmington, North Carolina, have
focused solely on the epic struggles for Fort Fisher, in many respects this was just the beginning of the campaign. In addition
to complete coverage (with significant new information) of both battles for Fort Fisher, "The Wilmington Campaign" includes
the first detailed examination of the attack and defense of Fort Anderson. Continued below…
It also features
blow-by-blow accounts of the defense of the Sugar Loaf Line and of the operations of Federal warships on the Cape Fear River. This masterpiece
of military history proves yet again that there is still much to be learned about the American Civil War. "The Wilmington Campaign is a splendid achievement. This gripping chronicle of the five-weeks'
campaign up the Cape Fear River adds a crucial dimension to our understanding of the Confederacy's
collapse." -James McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
Reading: Fort Anderson: The Battle For Wilmington. Description: A detailed but highly readable study of the largest
and strongest interior fortification guarding the Confederacy's last major seaport of Wilmington,
North Carolina. An imposing earthen bastion, Fort Anderson was the scene of a massive two-day
Union naval bombardment and ground assault in late February 1865. Continued below…
fall sealed Wilmington's doom. More than a military campaign study, Fort
Anderson: Battle for Wilmington
examines the history of the fort's location from its halcyon days as North Carolina's leading
colonial port of Brunswick
to its beginnings as a Confederate fortification in 1862 and its fall to Union forces three years later. The fort also had
several eerie connections to President Abraham Lincoln's assassination. Today the fort is part of the tranquil Brunswick Town
State Historic Site. Fort Anderson: Battle for Wilmington is liberally illustrated
with maps and illustrations, including many previously unpublished soldiers' images. It also contains an order of battle,
endnotes, bibliography and index.
Reading: Confederate Goliath: The Battle of
Fort Fisher. From Publishers Weekly: Late in the Civil War, Wilmington,
N.C., was the sole remaining seaport supplying Lee's army at Petersburg, Va., with rations and munitions. In this dramatic
account, Gragg describes the two-phase campaign by which Union forces captured the fort that guarded Wilmington and the subsequent
occupation of the city itself--a victory that virtually doomed the Confederacy. In the initial phase in December 1864, General
Ben Butler and Admiral David Porter directed an unsuccessful amphibious assault against Fort Fisher that included the war's heaviest
artillery bombardment. Continued below…
try in January '65 brought General Alfred Terry's 9000-man army against 1500 ill-equipped defenders, climaxing in a bloody
hand-to-hand struggle inside the bastion and an overwhelming Union victory. Although historians tend to downplay the event,
it was nevertheless as strategically decisive as the earlier fall of either Vicksburg or Atlanta. Gragg
has done a fine job in restoring this important campaign to public attention. Includes numerous photos.
Reading: The Civil War in the Carolinas (Hardcover). Description: Dan Morrill relates the experience of two quite different states bound together in the defense of the
Confederacy, using letters, diaries, memoirs, and reports. He shows how the innovative
operations of the Union army and navy along the coast and in the bays and rivers of the Carolinas
affected the general course of the war as well as the daily lives of all Carolinians. He demonstrates the "total war" for
North Carolina's vital coastal railroads and ports. In
the latter part of the war, he describes how Sherman's operation
cut out the heart of the last stronghold of the South. Continued below...
offers fascinating sketches of major and minor personalities, including the new president and state governors, Generals Lee,
Beauregard, Pickett, Sherman, D.H. Hill, and Joseph E. Johnston. Rebels and abolitionists, pacifists and unionists, slaves
and freed men and women, all influential, all placed in their context with clear-eyed precision. If he were wielding a needle
instead of a pen, his tapestry would offer us a complete picture of a people at war. Midwest Book Review: The Civil War in the Carolinas by civil war expert and historian
Dan Morrill (History Department, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and Director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historical
Society) is a dramatically presented and extensively researched survey and analysis of the impact the American Civil War had
upon the states of North Carolina and South Carolina, and the people who called these states their home. A meticulous, scholarly,
and thoroughly engaging examination of the details of history and the sweeping change that the war wrought for everyone, The
Civil War In The Carolinas is a welcome and informative addition to American Civil War Studies reference collections.