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Fort Anderson played an important role in the history of North Carolina during the Civil War. It was the Confederacy’s largest interior fortification in the Lower Cape Fear, and guarded the Cape Fear River and western land approaches to Wilmington. Beginning in late March 1862, Confederate engineers built massive earthen defenses at Brunswick Point, the site of the colonial port town of Brunswick, located halfway between Wilmington and the mouth of the river. The works comprised elevated artillery emplacements mounting heavy seacoast cannons and an adjoining line of imposing fieldworks that extended westward for more than a mile, from the Cape Fear River to Orton Pond.


The army initially named the work Fort St. Philip for St. Philip’s Anglican Church, the only standing colonial structure at the site of Old Brunswick. In July 1863, the army renamed it Fort Anderson, in honor of North Carolina Brigadier General George Burgwin Anderson, who had been mortally wounded at the battle of Sharpsburg (Antietam) the previous September. In early November 1863, Confederate President Jefferson Davis visited Fort Anderson.


By early 1865, General Ulysses S. Grant was so determined to capture Wilmington, the Confederacy’s principal seaport and most important city, that he traveled from Virginia to the Cape Fear to finalize plans for an attack by way of Fort Anderson. His forces had recently captured Fort Fisher and sealed the harbor to blockade running. Grant now wanted to take Wilmington as a means of assisting General William T. Sherman’s legion on its march through the Carolinas toward Virginia to help defeat General Robert E. Lee’s beleaguered, but strongly entrenched, army at Petersburg.


A Union combined operation against Fort Anderson lasted for more than two days, February 17-19, 1865. Wilmington fell three days later. Historians have also drawn intriguing connections between Fort Anderson and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.


  • 205pp., 9"x11", hardcover with case binding and dust jacket, 184 B&W and color images, 14 maps, and Order of Battle.
  • ISBN: 978-0-9834175-0-7
  • Price includes $6.99 shipping

To Forge a Thunderbolt: Fort Anderson and the Battle for Wilmington

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