Defense of Fort Fisher

The US Army and Navy planned several assaults on Fort Fisher and the port of Wilmington, NC, but made no attempt until December 24, 1864. After two days of fierce fighting with little result, Federal commanders concluded that the fort was too strong and withdrew their forces. The garrison was reinforced by a number of CS Marines during this action. A detachment under Lt Francis M.Roby served two 7in Brooke rifled guns until they both burst, following which they were assigned to other guns, despite the casualties sustained. A company of Marines commanded by Capt Van Benthuysen also earned praise from Gen W.H.C.Whiting, commanding Fort Fisher, for the "welcome and efficient aid" they provided.

The Federal fleet returned for a second attempt to capture Fort Fisher on January 12, 1865. On this occasion Lt George H.Arledge was ordered to take 50 Marines from Battery Buchanan, at the tip of Federal Point, to take part in the desperate resistance to an enemy landing force consisting of about 11,000 Federal soldiers, sailors and Marines. During the assault on January 15, Lt Henry Doak commanded a battery of three 9in Dahlgren guns until they were dismounted and put out of action. He was then assigned with a squad of Marines to a mortar battery to the rear of the headquarters "bombproof," where he was wounded when a large Federal shell scored a direct hit. Doak later recalled:

"As I started to climb the breastworks to watch the effect of the next shot, a fifteen-inch shell from the fleet darkened the air - obscured me.

For a moment I thought I was dead - face smashed in. Feeling my blood-bathed face and finding my prominent promontory [his nose] intact, I rose and took a step forward - coming down on my right knee. I had a severe flesh wound in the calf of my leg. Sand had cut my face and so blinded me that I could scarcely see for several days. Eight of my [guncrew] had been killed or wounded."

Other Confederate Marine officers wounded included Lt David Bradford, by a shell fragment to his left hip; Capt Van Benthuysen received a head wound, and Lt Thomas St George Pratt was shot in the left foot. Of the 99 enlisted Marines thought to have taken part in the unsuccessful defense of Fort Fisher, 66 were captured and ten were wounded (three mortally).

George Fisher Mine

OPPOSITE Robert M.Ramsey served as a private in Co L, 1st Georgia Regulars until his father acquired a commission for him in the CSMC, dated October 26, 1861. He then served at Pensacola as Acting Quartermaster of Co B, following which he was moved to the Mobile Station, and then on to Camp Beall in Virginia, where he took part in the first battle of Drewry's Bluff. He was eventually court-martialed and discharged for being absent beyond a period of leave, during which time he had taken part in the battle of Malvern Hill. This damaged photo was taken in Richmond in 1861. He appears to be wearing a dark-colored kepi, and his coat has solid dark facings on collar and cuffs. Rank is indicated by collar bars and sleeve knots. (Photo courtesy of his great-grand-nephew Gerald Powell)

Lt John L.Rapier in undress uniform, with shoulder knots removed. Captured at Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island in Mobile Bay in August 1864, Rapier escaped and returned to Mobile in November. He would be one of the last CSMC officers to surrender, on May 5, 1865. (Courtesy Adelaide Trigg)

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