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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Castrioti

January 15th, 1865 - The Second Battle of Fort Fisher

Conflict: American Civil War

Combatants: Confederates vs. Federals

Location: South Carolina (USA)

Outcome: Federal victory

In the closing days of the American Civil War, Fort Fisher near Wilmington, North Carolina, became the last link to overseas supplies for the Army of Northern Virginia. In December of 1865, the Federal army began operations to close down this vital source of supply. Admiral David Porter's squadron of warships coordinated an assault on the fort with General Benjamin Butler. But, after a exploding a powder-filled vessel near the fort and briefly landing troops, Butler retreated.

Battle of Fort Fisher by Kurz & Allison

Butler was replaced with Major General Alfred H. Terry. On January 13th, Terry landed north of Fort Fisher with 8,000 Federal troops. The Confederate fort, under command of General William Whiting, held 2,000 defenders plus another 6,000 solider led by General Robert Hoke.

General William H.C. Whiting by an unknown photographer

On January 15th, a land and sea bombardment of the fortifications began. Federal Marines assaulting from the sea were repulsed, but Terry's forces stormed over the battlements. Hoke's troops were driven off and Whiting was mortally wounded in the fierce fighting. After a seven hour battle, Confederate Colonel William Lamb surrendered Fort Fisher to the Federals. The Confederates had lost around 500 men. The Federal forces 1,341 killed, wounded, or missing.

Colonel William Lamb by an unknown artist

Points of Interest:

  • The fall of Fort Fisher signaled the inevitable end of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Without this source of supply, the Confederate war effort was doomed.

  • Benjamin Butler's ignoble actions at Fort Fisher were not out of the ordinary. Butler was a lawyer with a lackluster military career. After the war, he became a politician serving in the House of Representatives and as Governor of Massachusetts.



Bowman, John S. (Ed.) (1983). The Civil War Almanac. New York: World Almanac.

Dupuy, Trevor N., Johnson, Curt, & Bongard, David L. (1992). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military Biography. New York: Castle Books (HarperCollins).

Dupuy, R. Ernest & Dupuy, Trevor N. (1993). The Harper's Encyclopedia of Military History. New York: HarperCollins.

Eggenberger, David (1985). An Encyclopedia of Battles: Accounts of Over 1,560 Battles from 1479 B.C. to the Present. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

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