By Adrian Gerth
Nearly a month after the fall of Fort Fisher, Union gunboats were slowly making their way up the Cape Fear towards Wilmington. Confederate General Johnson Hagood and his motley garrison at Fort Anderson commanded two artillery batteries; along with the torpedo mines waiting in the river, this was the last line of defense for the Port City. There were just over 2,000 men were stationed at the fort, mostly made up of Junior Reserves and additions from South Carolina units.
In the second week of February, 1865, Union vessels began to make their push towards the fort and two weeks of trading artillery fire. Major General Jacob D. Cox’s division of 6,000 men approached the fort from land on the 17th, while the unmanned monitor Montuak was floated up the Cape Fear in an attempt to destroy the torpedo mines. Cox was delayed by Confederate cavalry and intense fire from Fort Anderson’s land face, but quickly regrouped and took his men around Orton’s Pond to encircle the fort. Early in the morning of the 18th, Hagood recognized his position and evacuated his men so quickly that powder magazines and guns were left behind. Shelling from the Union gunboats was so intense it had continued through the night and only stopped when Federal troops were seen atop the fort’s walls, frantically flagging for the bombardment to cease.
While the battle not as much of a dogfight as Fort Fisher, the fall of Fort Anderson completely sealed Wilmington’s fate. Union ships could now use the port to reinforce General Sherman’s troops and effectively split the Confederacy in two.
You can come relive the events of 150 years ago this February 14th and 15th. Perfect for the romantic history buff, the reenactment runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, reenactors will guide visitors through the battle from both sides, showing the order of battle, artillery demonstrations, and personal effects of the men. There will also be a demonstration of how the battle might have gone had the fort not been abandoned before the Union troops arrival.
Guests are invited for the free reenactment and tours, though donations are very much appreciated. The Fort Anderson Historic Site is located at 8884 Saint Phillips Road Southeast in Winnabow. For more information, visit their website www.nchistoricsites.org/brunswic/brunswic.html.
The event is sponsored by Friends of Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson and organized by Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site.