the last years of the Civil War, North Carolinaís Outer Banks
provided the last, best route for blockade-runners bringing
supplies to the failing Confederacy.
Fisher, on Cape Fear just to the south, protected the
vital port of Wilmington, until it fell to repeated Union attacks
in January of 1865. The amphibious attack that took the fort
was one of the first in U.S. history, with Confederate cannon
and Union ironclads wreaking devastating damage on the opposing
remnants of Fort Fisher are now a North Carolina Historic
Site. Recently, a much-enhanced exhibit hall opened detailing
Fort Fisherís role in the Civil War - and also WWII when the
NC coast came under attack by U-boats.
Centerpiece of the exhibits is a 16-ft. fiber optics map using
5,000 lights, a 9-minute narration and battle sound effects
to interpret the final bloody hours before the fort fell to
antiquity collection recently acquired three historic swords
associated with the Fort, including a diamond-incrusted Tiffany
blade belonging to the Union commander who led the final attack.
exhibits include "Blockade Runners" with antique raisins
and other items smuggled into Wilmington, and "The Ladies
of Ft. Fisher" including the famous Confederate spy, Wild
Rose, who drowned nearby.
digital interactive display on Civil War flags is sure to please
about 10 percent of the original fortifications survive, most
having washed away in the Atlanticís violent storms. However,
restorers were greatly aided by a series of pictures taken by
photographer Timothy OíSullivan immediately after the
quarter-mile trail circling the remains of the fort uses OíSullivanís
photographs and numerous historic illustrations to interpret
new trail leads to Shepherdís Battery equipped with a
fully functional, 32-pound reproduction seacoast cannon. This
cannon, along with reproductions of a Napoleon fieldpiece and
a Coehorn mortar, all present at the fort during the Civil War,
are fired for the public on special occasions.
pictures and much, much more including time lines, extensive
battle maps, a gallery of period illustrations and the complete
history of Fort Fisher and the Cape Fear Coast, can be found
at the Fortís excellent website, awarded 5 stars by Civil
War Interactive. The website, with the daunting
address of www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/sections/hs/fisher/fisher.htm,
is part of the NC
Office of Archives and History website,
which also has links to all of the stateís other historic sites.
Fisher is located on US 421 south of Kure Beach,
NC, and is open year-round (closed Mondays Nov.-March). Admission
is free. Info: 910.458.5538.
North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher
the grounds of Fort Fisher lies a state-of-the-art branch of
the North Carolina Aquarium which reopened after an expansion
that tripled it in size. Themed around "The Waters of Cape
Fear," the aquarium explores the rich diversity of plant
and animal life in and around the Cape Fear River.
include the huge Cape Fear Shoals, a 2-story, 235,000-gallon
salt-water tank containing 50 different species.
The quarter-acre Cape Fear Conservatory displays the
areaís rich freshwater habitat including carnivorous plants,
alligators, aquatic snakes, fish, turtles and dragonflies.
new exhibits explore the lives of seahorses and endangered loggerhead
NC Aquarium also maintains branches at Roanoke Island
and Pine Knoll Shores along the coast. Visit www.ncaquariums.com
for more information.
here to view a live webcam from the North
Carolina Aquarium at Roanoke Island.]
of the North Carolina Aquarium's current projects is Turtle
Trails which uses satellites to track endangered
loggerhead turtles across the ocean.
Aquarium at Fort Fisher is open daily, year-round.
Admission: $4-$6. For more information, visit http://www.aquariums.state.nc.us/newsite/ff/ffindex.htm
or call 800.832.3474.
receive a free Visitors Guide for Historic
Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast, visit www.cape-fear.nc.us
or call 800.222.4757. -RWright