Civil War Sites
The southern landscapes of eastern North Carolina played a significant role during the Civil War, as small strategic battles were fought to gain control of the vital rivers and waterways of the region. Wilmington was a primary port of entry for supplies to the South, making the forts of Brunswick County of great importance to the defense of the Confederates' position. Many sites in our area played part in protecting the mouth of the Cape Fear River during this pivotal time in history. The Cape Fear would soon become known as the "lifeline of the Confederacy."
Fort Anderson - Constructed at the abandoned site of Brunswick Town, the large sand fortification of Fort Anderson was built by the Confederate States of America as part of the river defense of Wilmington. The Cape Fear River was vital to General Lee's army as a supply route from Wilmington to Richmond and Petersburg. Fort Anderson (originally named Fort St Philip's) contained two batteries, each equipped with five cannons which overlooked the shipping channel and provided protection to blockade runners.
Fort Johnston - In 1861, coastal fortifications that had long been without troops were once again called into service. Located overlooking the Cape Fear River on the banks of Smithville (now Southport), Fort Johnston's original role was seen as being a depot for troops and supplies held for general harbor defense. That crucial role would be important to the Confederates but not the only role this fort would play. Not only Fort Johnston but the town of Smithville as well, with their mariners and pilots, would become heavily relied on as blockade running became increasingly necessary to the South's defense.
Fort Caswell - The batteries at Fort Caswell were named in honor of Richard Caswell, the first governor of NC to be elected by the General Assembly of the state following the Declaration of Independence. This defensive armament was contructed as a 2,750-acre military reservation on the eastern tip of Oak Island. With it's strategic location, Fort Caswell played an essential role as protector of the blockade runners, of Fort Johnston, and of the crucial port of Wilmington.
Fort Holmes - This fort was built in 1863 with the help of slave labor from Carolina plantations. Fort Holmes, located on Smith Island (now Bald Head Island), was constructed of sand, marsh soil, and palm tree logs, but it was never finished. Although unfinished, it was still active during the Civil War, with 15 to 18 guns placed there and as many as a thousand soldiers. Following the fall of Fort Fisher to the north and Fort Anderson nearby, Fort Holmes was evacuated and destroyed and the troops there were carried to Smithville.
Fort Johnston Hospital - 413 E Bay Street, Southport. ca. 1852-1860. Originally located on the western edge of the military installation, this two story structure once served as the hospital for Fort Johnston. The downstairs area was used as a doctor's office, steward's room, and a small dispensary, while the upstairs provided space for a twelve-bed sick ward. In 1889, the hospital was moved to its present location and converted into a private residence. This property remains privately owned and can only be viewed from the street.
Saint Philip’s Episcopal Church - 205 E Moore Street, Southport. ca. 1843, 1860, 1894-96. In 1843, under the auspices of Colonel Thomas Childs, commander of Fort Johnston, the Chapel of the Cross at St Philip’s Church was constructed. Located directly across the street from Fort Johnston, it is believed that Col. Childs desired a church to serve the fort and enlisted the labor of his soldiers to help in it’s construction. In early 1865, after the evacuation of Fort Johnston by Confederate soldiers, the church was seized and occupied by Union forces, where it was used as a hospital for their wounded and later as a school.