Sugar Loaf defensive line in Carolina Beach NC - preserved earthworks

A. Roy

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
This Saturday I visited a small park dedicated to the preservation of part of the mile-long Sugar Loaf defensive line, which traversed Federal Point peninsula between Wilmington NC and Fort Fisher during the Civil War. I think it's a nice example of what a community organization can do to preserve fortifications as an historic and cultural resource. The park is in Carolina Beach and is called the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park, after the man who preserved and donated the 12-acre tract used for the park.

SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach5.jpg


After the Second Battle of Fort Fisher (Jan 13-15 1865), Gen Alfred Terry's forces advanced north up the peninsula to attack Wilmington, the only open Confederate port on the Atlantic, and the lifeline for Confederate forces in Virginia. To approach Wilmington by way of the peninsula, they had to get past Gen Robert F. Hoke's 6,400 defenders on the Sugar Loaf line, which ran east-to-west through what is now Carolina Beach. The forces clashed on 11 Feb 1865 in what has become known as the Battle of Sugar Loaf. Federal forces were not able to break through at that point, but they were able to force Hoke out of his works on 19 Feb by threatening his rear from the Cape Fear River.

This map shows the Sugar Loaf defenses in relation to Fort Fisher. The fortifications ran from Sugarloaf Dune on the Cape Fear side over to what is now Myrtle Sound:

FederalPointPeninsula_GoogleMaps.png


This Google sat map zooms in on Carolina Beach, showing the location of the Lewis Park:

SugarloafDefensiveLine_CarolinaBeach_GoogleSat_Markup.png


One of the most interesting things to me is that this park was created and its earthworks preserved in an area that is developing rapidly. No doubt long stretches of the Sugar Loaf entrenchments have simply disappeared due to commercial development. The park itself is actually accessed via the parking lot of a Publix supermarket. You can see the entrance to the park in the background in this photo:

SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach2.jpg


I'm certain that the historical society, town officials, and developers cooperated cheerfully to make sure this cultural resource would be made accessible to the public.

Here are some shots from inside the park. You'll see that it is nicely laid out with paths, protective barriers, interpretive signage, and some beautiful examples of preserved Civil War earthworks:

SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach4.jpg


SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach6.jpg


SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach7.jpg


SugarLoaf_CarolinaBeach8.jpg


I should add that I was at the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park on a cold day in February, but even so there were probably about 30 visitors during the hour or so I was there.

Roy B.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Thanks for your photos. By coincidence, I am finishing up Chris Fonvielle's The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope, so your posts couldn't be more timely. I requested the book for a Christmas gift after having heard good things about it here on Civil War Talk. I've been taking my time reading through it but should be finished in a couple of days.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
He's at UNC-Wilmington, right? I read a couple of his articles yesterday. He seems like the go-to guy for that campaign!

Roy B.

Yes, he seems to be the go-to guy on this. He is retired from UNC-Wilmington now, but still active. I checked his website today (https://www.chrisfonvielle.com) and he seems to have a new book Curious Tales from Old Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear: The Truth Behind the Legends.

I contacted him once recently via email and received a prompt and helpful reply. I am sure you would get a similar response.
 

A. Roy

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Wow, this place just opened up about 12 days ago. I got interested in the man behind the donation and found an interview with him here; http://federal-point-history.org/tag/joseph-ryder-lewis-jr/
You need to scroll down to the bottom of the page for Part 1, and upward to 5 at the top.

Thanks -- I hadn't seen these interviews with Mr. Lewis. If you visit the area of this park, you'll see that it's in the midst of a fast-developing area. I imagine he could have sold off this parcel and made some money from it -- I think it's admirable that he wanted to preserve it as an historical and cultural resource.

Roy B.
 

Lubliner

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Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Thanks -- I hadn't seen these interviews with Mr. Lewis. If you visit the area of this park, you'll see that it's in the midst of a fast-developing area. I imagine he could have sold off this parcel and made some money from it -- I think it's admirable that he wanted to preserve it as an historical and cultural resource.

Roy B.
What had interested me was his generosity. He and his family had been on the Island since 1907, and owned a huge swath of it. He inherited some and bought out a few of his relatives with very supportive humanitarian offers to them. He had worked in the Army Corps of Engineers and I am sure he knew some about the importance of the land. He has done Wilmington and the rest of us a great favor by this donation. I thought he should deserve some attention.
Lubliner.
 

Carol

Private
Joined
May 26, 2019
Location
Western North Carolina
The park looks fantastic and the photos you shared are great !! Everyone involved with this project should be smiling from ear to ear. Super great job and for me these small parks are the best platforms with preserving history. Love the layout, they really did an excellent job on this.
 

A. Roy

First Sergeant
Forum Host
Joined
Sep 2, 2019
Location
Raleigh, North Carolina
Super great job and for me these small parks are the best platforms with preserving history.

Yes, I like the idea of setting up small parks like this. This could work here in Raleigh, where we have small stretches of remaining earthworks -- that is, possibly, as they need to be studied by archaeologists to confirm their authenticity.

Roy B.
 

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