The Civil War represents one of the bloodiest and most bitterly contested military confrontations in the history of the United States. The eventual outcome of the Civil War is no secret; the Union forces successfully subdued the rebellious Confederates and forced them to surrender, thereby restoring the unity of the States. While the facts are evident, the cause of the Confederate defeat and Union victory is still a bitterly contested topic amongst historians and enthusiasts nearly one hundred and fifty years after the end of the War. There are several popular ideas as to the main contributing factor to the Confederate defeat including a crumbling internal economy, an inept circle of political leadership, lack of popular support for the war effort, and the crushed moral and resulting plague of desertion of the Confederate troops.
There is no denying that one of the most essential factors in any war effort is the ability to maintain a structured and reliable chain of supply to ensure continued access to an ample supply of munitions and, more importantly, provisions. As a result, the Union blockade of the South and the attempts to completely isolate the Confederate armies from their supply lines proved to be an essential piece of military strategy. The port of Wilmington, North Carolina, as an essential Confederate supply hub and safe haven for blockade runners, was therefore a prime target for the Union. By late 1864, Wilmington represented the only remaining open seaport of the Confederacy and as such was the most essential piece in the supply chain for the remaining Confederate armies, particularly the Army of Northern Virginia under the command of General Robert E. Lee. To this end, I believe that the fall of Fort Fisher to Union forces in January of 1865 represents an event of tremendous significance to the eventual outcome of the Civil War and played a strong role in influencing the Confederate surrender.
In order to gain some insight into the validity of this belief, it is vital to develop a sound and substantive understanding of Fort Fisher and its role in the Civil War. By analyzing the design and geographical location of Fort Fisher, the First Battle of Fort Fisher, the Second Battle of Fort Fisher, and the significance of the fall of the fort to both Confederate and Union strategy it is the intent of this exhibit to draw a valid conclusion to the role the Union capture of Fort Fisher played in the outcome of the Civil War. As references, this exhibit will draw upon a variety of interpretively rich primary sources in the form of newspaper articles as well as several scholarly secondary sources.