The 'Bloody Gate' at Fort Fisher - Crucial infantry assault through a sally port at the 'Gibraltar of the South'

Trooper "D"

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May 20, 2018
The defense of the sally port at Fort Point (technically the Fort at Fort Point) begins with defending the path leading to the fort. There is only one route, the one in use today, to approach the fort, and that is a roughly 20-foot wide road leading along the water. Coming down the road, one is facing the landward side of the east bastion of the fort. Howitzer embrasures on three levels provide forward fire down this road, and counterbattery cannon on the barbette tier of the fort would support these howitzers.
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As an attacker approached the fort, they would turn 90 degrees to the left (west) and approach the sally port parallel to the gorge of the fort. During this time there would have been a cliff to their left (south) and a ditch between them and the gorge wall of the fort. They would have been under fire from the loopholes along the gorge wall on three levels.
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As can be seen in the picture, the ditch has been filled in, but the loopholes are still present. As they traversed this route parallel to the gorge, they would have been facing a counterscarp gallery - unfortunately no longer extant. This gallery, detached from the fort, provided howitzer fire parallel to the gorge, firing from west toward the east, as well as guarding the west wall of the fort. The following historic photograph shows this counterscarp gallery prior to its demolition during the building of the Golden Gate bridge.
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Once the sally port itself was reached, the attacker was faced with a drawbridge and two massive doors. The drawbridge has subsequently been removed, but the holes in the façade are clearly visible where the cables passed through to the lifting mechanism inside the sally port.
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As can be seen, these doors were carefully designed. They are made from three layers of wood, with the grain of the middle layer perpendicular to the grain of the inner and outer layers. This made it difficult to chop through with an ax, as you would be chopping with the grain, then be faced with a cross grain. To complicate matters, every six inches in both directions were iron studs. If the attackers ax hit one of these studs, one of two things would happen. Best case, his back teeth would ring for an hour! Worst case, the hardened iron ax head would shatter, and the attacker would be left with only a handle to try to knock down the gate.
Once past the drawbridge and doors, the attacker would be in the outer chamber of the sally port. Here the attacker would be under fire from loopholes in the side walls of the chamber, in addition to forward fire from the second set of doors.
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The second set of doors were slightly different from the outer doors. While the lower half of the inner doors were the same design as the outer doors, the top half were an open lattice pattern. This allowed for rifle/musket fire through the top half of the door while the bottom half of the door protected the defender.
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If the attacker managed to breach these doors, there would have been a field piece loaded with canister on the parade of the fort facing the sally port.
As can be clearly seen, attacking this fort with infantry would be tantamount to suicide!
Great photos by the way. Do they still have the Colombiad in the parade?
 
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