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Posts Tagged ‘Fort Fisher’

From left to right, state Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., Cultural Sec. Susan Kluttz, state Sen Thom Goolsby and state Rep. Susi Hamilton stand with the new highway marker

From left to right, state Rep. Ted Davis, Jr., Cultural Sec. Susan Kluttz, state Sen Thom Goolsby and state Rep. Susi Hamilton at the unveiling of the new Modern Greece highway marker

The New Year started off with a bang as a crowd of more than 5,000 people turned out at Fort Fisher State Historic Site in Kure Beach Saturday for the 148th anniversary of the Civil War battle that took place there.

The battle was instrumental in ending the war as it resulted in the closing of Wilmington’s port, which was then called “the Lifeline of the Confederacy” because of its role in supplying the Confederate army.  It was prominently featured in Steven Spielberg’s recent film Lincoln.

The day’s activities included re-enactors talking with visitors about camp life during the January 1865 campaign, infantry and artillery units conducting drills and firing demonstrations and speakers on an array of Civil War-related topics.

The day also included the dedication of a new historical highway marker for the Civil War blockade runner Modern Greece. Research on the Modern Greece led the State of North Carolina to establish one of the nation’s first underwater archaeology programs—now part of the Department of Cultural Resources—and eventually resulted in the recovery of thousands of artifacts.

Click here for pictures of the event and here to learn more about the Battle of Fort Fisher.

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Rose O’Neal Greenhow was a widowed Washington socialite turned Confederate spy.  While well known for her pro-states’ rights and slavery expansionist views, she also maintained friendly relationships with leaders from the North.

Image of Rose Greenhow from the book My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule At Washington, by Rose Greenhow, 1863.

When war broke out, Col. Thomas Jordan and General Pierre G.T. Beauregard recruited Greenhow to lead a Confederate espionage ring. In July 1861, she provided Beauregard with details concerning the strength and route of Union forces headed towards Richmond. The information helped Beauregard secure a victory at the first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas).

Allan Pinkerton, the head of the Federal Secret Service, caught onto Greenhow’s activities and placed her under house arrest. This only forced her to get more creative in her system of communication.  In January, 1862, she and her daughter were transferred to the Old Capitol Prison. During her time there, she still managed to relay messages to the South. In June 1862 the Federal government tried her and sent her to the South where she was welcomed as a hero and awarded $2,500 by President Jefferson Davis.

Davis sent her to Great Britain and France in 1863 to raise support for the Confederacy. Her return trip a year later was aboard the blockade-runner Condor, which ran aground near Fort Fisher. Greenhow was carrying dispatches for the Confederacy and $2,000 in coins, secured in a heavy purse worn around her neck. Fearing imprisonment, and contrary to the captain’s advice that the ship would rise with the tide, she fled in a lifeboat with five crew members to escort her ashore. The lifeboat capsized and she drowned, pulled under by the weight of the purse.  Everyone else from the Condor escaped capture.   Greenhow was buried with full military honors in Oakdale Cemetery in Wilmington.

Fort Fisher state Historic Site is hosting a special 2nd Saturdays program on August 11.  Spies, Signals, and Secrets: Civil War Communication” includes a presentation about Rose  Greenhow, plus coding activities, signal flag demonstrations, and tours by costumed interpreters.  The visitor center includes Greenhow in their interpretive panels.  The state archives houses Greenhow’s European diary and a cipher code that were among her possessions aboard the blockade runner.

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Underwater archaeology in North Carolina has received a lot of press lately thanks to the Queen Anne’s Revenge project.  But the state’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) actually got its start because of a ship that went down 150 years ago this month—the Confederate blockade runner Modern Greece.

Wreck of the Modern Greece

Painting depicting the wreck in 1862.

A rare tour of the UAB, which is located in Kure Beach, will take place June 27.  The free open house will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a special noontime program at the Oceanside Gazebo at nearby Fort Fisher State Historic Site.   It is a cool chance to see some of the thousands of artifacts recovered from the Modern Greece.

On the morning of June 27, 1862, the doomed blockade runner was spotted near the eastern entrance to the Cape Fear River.  Heavy fire from federal ships forced the ship aground.  To keep the cargo of clothing, cutlery, ammunition, and thousands of rifles out of Union hands, soldiers at Fort Fisher opened fire on the stranded vessel.

Navy divers

Navy divers prepare to explore the wreck in 1962.

The Modern Greece was thought destroyed until 1962, when a storm uncovered the wreckage. Divers found much of the vessel and its cargo intact. Historians and archaeologists from the State of North Carolina and the United States Navy joined forces to recover the artifacts.

When private companies started trying to salvage artifacts, the state stepped in.  A landmark court case led to a statute saying that North Carolina has sovereign right to “all shipwrecks, vessels, cargoes, tackle, and underwater archaeological artifacts which have remained unclaimed for more than 10 years.”

Nathan Henry and rifle

Nathan Henry, Assistant State Archaeologist, displays an Enfield rifle from a treatment tank that holds many more.

Artifacts from the Modern Greece allow people to better understand blockade running and its importance to the Confederacy.  The ship has two anniversaries this year – 150 years since it sank and 50 years since it was discovered.  A Highway Historical Marker commemorating the shipwreck and its importance to underwater archaeology will be erected later this year.

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Check out these free fun family events taking place over the Fourth of July weekend around the Department of Cultural Resources…

The N.C. Museum of History in downtown Raleigh will show the film “Friends in Liberty: North Carolina in the American Revolution,” on Friday, July 2, from 6-7 p.m.  Experience the American Revolution through the eyes of 14-year-old Hugh McDonald and his friend, Anne Taylor. The film is based on the original journal of McDonald, who joined the Sixth North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army in 1776.

Tryon Palace in New Bern will host a celebration of the Declaration of Independence on Saturday, July 3, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.  The fun-filled day will feature a Fife & Drum performance and the reading of the Declaration of Independence at 11 a.m.  There is free Garden admission from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., although Interior tours require the purchase of a ticket.

Fort Fisher State Historic Site in Kure Beach will host a celebration on Saturday, July 3. Independence Day crafts and activities will be available from 10 a.m. to noon, and again from 2-4 p.m.  The Fort Fisher staff invites you to come enjoy the museum, stroll the site’s historic grounds, and enjoy the holiday weekend.

The 14th Annual “Battleship Blast” fireworks show will take place on Sunday, July 4 in downtown Wilmington.  The Riverfront Celebration will begin with a street fair in downtown Wilmington at 5 p.m., with music provided by the 440th North Carolina Army National Guard Band.  Primary viewing for the fireworks will be from downtown Wilmington. The entire Battleship North Carolina complex on Eagles Island will be closed at 6 p.m., and all vehicles will be required to leave by 6:30 p.m.  Fireworks should begin about 9:05 p.m.  Sponsored by the City of Wilmington, U.S. Cellular, Food Lion, WECT TV-6, and 102.7 WGNI.

Roanoke Island Festival Park will hold a July 4th celebration that will feature East Carolina University, performing music by George M. Cohan at 8 p.m. The celebration will also include fireworks provided by the town of Manteo. Held at the park’s Pavilion, the celebration is free and open to the public. Gates open to the public at 6 p.m. Parking will be available at Roanoke Island Festival Park until the lot is full and in downtown Manteo. Handicap parking will be available at the park.

The State Capitol in downtown Raleigh will host a family-oriented Independence Day celebration from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 4, that features a patriotic concert. Take a trip to the Capitol’s “Old Fashioned 4th” area and see how people in North Carolina celebrated Independence Day long ago.  New to the program this year is a naturalization ceremony where 30 people will take the Oath of Citizenship and become Americans. Musical performances, food and historic demonstrators round out this day of patriotic fun.

The N.C. Symphony, led by Associate Conductor Sarah Hicks, will celebrate Independence Day with a free Summerfest Series concert on Sunday, July 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Koka Booth Amphitheatre at Regency Park in Cary.  The fun includes the Triangle’s largest Fourth of July festivities, including the Town of Cary’s special fireworks display.

The N.C. Museum of Art is open on Saturday and Sunday of Fourth of July weekend from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The Museum Park is open from dawn to dusk.  Visitors can join the daily docent-led tour that meets at the Information Desk each day at 1:30 p.m. This free tour is a wonderful introduction to the Museum’s permanent collection, and with a different docent each day, the tour is a new experience on each visit to the NCMA! No reservations are needed—just show up.

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