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Forgotten Forts Series - Fort Caswell

Discussion in 'Forgotten Forts & Places' started by NFB22, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Fort Caswell 1.jpg
    When many of us think of the defenses of Wilmington, North Carolina or the Cape Fear River during the ACW Fort Fisher comes to mind however there was another significant fortification nearby called Fort Caswell. Fort Caswell was a pentagon shaped masonry fortification at the mouth of the Cape Fear River on Oak Island. The fort was constructed between 1826-1836 and named after Richard Caswell who was the first governor of North Carolina.

    Fort Caswell was under caretaker status when North Carolina militia took the fort without a fight in 1861. During the war the guns at Caswell would serve as a safehaven to blockade runners headed for Wilmington. The fort's gunners would also occasionally duel with ships on blockade duty that were within range. When Fort Fisher fell in early 1865 Confederate forces saw Fort Caswell would be next and promptly abandoned the fort on January 17, 1865. Before leaving the position Confederate forces burnt a majority of the structures within and around the fort. One of the 5 walls of the forts was nearly destroyed by a magazine explosion after southern forces lit the magazine on fire to prevent its stores from falling into Union hands. However, mutiple guns were captured when Union troops arrived to garrison the fort which would remain in their hands for the rest of the war.
    Fort Caswell 2.jpg
    The fort would continue its service during the Spanish-American war as a coastal defense position with new batteries being constructed on the island. These batteries would continue to serve all the way through World War II when the position served as a submarine lookout post and supply depot for the U.S. Navy.
    Fort Caswell 3.jpg
    Following World War II the ground the fort sat on was sold to the North Carolina Baptist Convention who founded the North Carolina Baptist Assembly on Oak Island. Today the assembly runs the location as a retreat for various youth summer camps and also has a convention center on the site. From doing some research online I've found the site is off limits to the public however if you get in touch with the NCBA and let them know you're interested in the fort and genuinely interested in its historical value they can arrange a time for you to tour the site. The site still houses the ruins of the original fort, multiple Endicott period batteries, and buildings built by the military. If you search "Fort Caswell" on Google Earth the forts remains can easily be seen.

    http://www.fortcaswell.com/home/
    http://fortwiki.com/Fort_Caswell
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 20, 2017

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  3. unionblue

    unionblue Brev. Brig. Gen'l Member of the Year

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    NFB22,

    You do such an excellent job on presenting these "forgotten forts" and I always look forward to the next one you present.

    Good job, and thanks for taking the time and effort to do such.

    Sincerely,
    Unionblue
     
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  4. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I'll also include a map that shows the location of Oak Island and Fort Caswell in comparison to locations of Wilmington and other North Carolina coastal defenses from the ACW.

    ncmap.gif
     
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  5. CSA Expat

    CSA Expat Sergeant

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    Thank you sir for researching and sharing these valuable sites!
     
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  6. IanMC2009

    IanMC2009 Private

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    I have some family that live out towards Wilmington and have visited Fort Fisher but have never heard of this fort, thanks for sharing.
     
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  7. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    Thanks to each of you
     
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  8. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Lt. Colonel Member of the Month

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    Caswell was also the original primary defense for the Cape Fear... the Western Bar (or "Old") Inlet was the only entry to the Cape Fear River until a hurricane in the early-mid 1800s opened New Inlet to the northeast. During the Civil War, New Inlet was the more important of the two, and as such was protected by Fort Fisher. In the years since the war, New Inlet has filled in again, and the main entrance is once more past Fort Caswell.

    Capefear.gif

    (Smithville, by the way, was renamed Southport some time after the war in the expectation of getting a major rail line and becoming an important seaport. Unfortunately the rail line didn't happen.)
     
  9. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I knew the inlet that Fort Fisher and Battery Buchanan covered was open during the war however I dont know how shallow it was. Was it deep enough that it was accessible for any vessel?
     
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  10. FourLeafClover

    FourLeafClover First Sergeant

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    May I add my thanks for your series on "Forgotten Forts" NFB22. It is postings like these which keep the forum fresh. Can I also add, your photographs accompanying are all so clear and enhance the text beautifully.
     
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  11. Mark F. Jenkins

    Mark F. Jenkins Lt. Colonel Member of the Month

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    It was a bit shallower than the Western Bar/Old Inlet, and there were some tricky bars and shoals (one of these is where the ironclad CSS Raleigh ran aground and broke her keel), made even trickier by the removal of navigation aids. But the presence of Fort Fisher and Colonel Lamb's flying battery of Whitworths were good reasons for the runners to go for New Inlet.

    (Thomas E. Taylor's Running the Blockade has a few interesting accounts of entering by both inlets at various times.)
     
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  12. Union_Buff

    Union_Buff Captain

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    Thank you for taking the time to research these forgotten forts and bringing them to our attention :smile:
     
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  13. Roland

    Roland Sergeant

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    Thanks for posting!
     
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  14. Yankeedave

    Yankeedave 1st Lieutenant

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  15. CSA Today

    CSA Today Colonel

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    Fort Caswell and nearby Fort Campbell (located on Oak Island) guarded the western side of the “Old Inlet” at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Fort Holmes, located on Baldhead Island (wartime Smith Island) guarded the eastern approach to the inlet. A Coast Guard station now exists near where Fort Campbell once stood. There are no discernible remains of Fort Campbell and while I have never been to Baldhead Island I don’t think much remains of Fort Holmes -- both Fort Campbell and Fort Holmes were earthen forts.

    One of my great grandfathers spent the first two years of the war at Fort Caswell and then at Fort Holmes until he along with his battery (Company E, 40th NC regiment/ 3rd artillery) transferred to Fort Fisher just before the second attack on that fort in January 1865.

    "First at Bethel, Farthest to the front at Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and Last at Appomattox"
     
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  16. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I've looked into various forts in the area other than Fisher and Caswell...the really only remains I really found was the remains of Battery Buchanan which was south of Fort Fisher and Fort Anderson which was further up the Cape Fear River on its western shore. Both of which were earthwork fortifications.

    http://fortwiki.com/Fort_Anderson_(2)
     
  17. CSA Today

    CSA Today Colonel

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    Castle Pinckney [maintained by the South Carolina SCV Division]
    Charleston, South Carolina
    5475150361_3e874b9b2b.jpg
     
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  18. TinCan

    TinCan Captain Forum Host

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    Nate,
    another excellent post......am looking forward to more in the series.
     
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  19. NFB22

    NFB22 First Sergeant Trivia Game Winner

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    I've posted some messages about Pinckney before, sorry state its in.
     
  20. AFN

    AFN Cadet

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    There are some remains left of Fort Holmes, near the lighthouse are earthwork remnants of Battery #4. There are numerous markers explaining where each battery and the main part of the fort were once located. Most of the fort has eroded away after 150 years.
     
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  21. Seth VA/NC

    Seth VA/NC Retired User

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    My Great Great Grandfather was stationed at Fort Caswell in the early 1900's

    Here is a picture of his whole unit circa 1912

    31st-Co.jpg
     

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