Fort Fisher commemorates 144th anniversary of Second Battle

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

KURE BEACH—2009 marks the 144th anniversary of the end of the Civil War.

To commemorate the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, the largest land-sea battle of the Civil War, the Fort Fisher State Historic Site will stage “Fort Fisher Then and Now,” an all-day event on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

This year’s program explores historic Fort Fisher through the lens of Civil War photography. Highlighting the event is a special 3-D show of famous Civil War photographs and rare, recently discovered wartime images presented by Bob Zeller, author and president of the Center for Civil War Photography.

Zeller’s show for the first time will include historic images of Fort Fisher taken by Timothy O’Sullivan, who photographed the fort shortly after its capture in January 1865. Wearing 3-D glasses, visitors will experience Civil War photography as it was meant to be seen—many images of the war were taken with stereoscopic cameras and meant to be viewed in 3-D with stereo viewers.

The 3-D show is set for 1-3 p.m. Tickets are required—$5 for adults and $3 for kids 12 and younger; all other activities are free.

Activities include wet-plate photography demonstrations, costumed interpreters explaining large-scale O’Sullivan images placed around the fort to illustrate the event’s “then and now” theme, and hands-on, take-home children’s activities for kids of all ages. Infantry and artillery demonstrations will occur throughout the day, and visitors are invited to stroll the grounds of the fort while enjoying period music provided by the Huckleberry Brothers and local musician John Golden.

Also opening on Jan. 17 is a new temporary exhibit on Civil War photography and O’Sullivan, who was recognized as one of the most important field photographers of his era. His images reveal the devastation wrought upon Fort Fisher by the Union naval bombardment.

Topping off the demonstrations is the firing of the 32-pound rifled cannon from atop Shepherd’s Battery.

This educational program affords visitors an opportunity to learn more about local history and Fort Fisher’s role in the Civil War. Visitors, residents, and motorists are advised of loud explosions during cannon firings and artillery demonstrations. Bring your earplugs.

Fort Fisher, the largest earthen fortification in the Confederacy, once protected the port of Wilmington and the vital blockade running trade on the Cape Fear River. After two massive bombardments, the fort fell to a Union infantry assault on Jan. 15, 1865. With the capture of Fort Fisher, Wilmington’s port was closed to foreign trade.

Visitors to Fort Fisher State Historic Site can tour the remaining portions of the historic earthworks. A shaded scenic tour trail winds around a portion of the fort’s land face and provides excellent views of the Cape Fear River. Exhibits in the visitor center include a fiber-optic battle map of the Second Battle for Fort Fisher and artifacts from the shipwreck of the blockade runner Modern Greece.

All demonstrations are subject to change. Admission is free; donations are appreciated. Fort Fisher State Historic Site is at 1610 Fort Fisher Blvd. S. in Kure Beach, and is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays from October to March and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1-5 p.m. Sundays April through September.

For more information, log onto www.nchistoricsites.org/fisher/ or call 458-5538.

It should also be noted the Southport/Fort Fisher ferry is closed through Jan. 31 for ramp replacement. To get to Fort Fisher, motorists should take U.S. 17/U.S. 76E to Wilmington, then Third Street to U.S. 421/Carolina Beach Road and go 12 miles south to Fort Fisher.