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).

Fort Fisher MarinesSurrender Nanna Hubba Bluff

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-martiaied 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}

1865: The Appomattox campaign

After the collapse of the Richmond-Petersburg line the Marine field battalion at Drewry's Bluff joined in the general retreat towards Appomattox on April 2, 1865. As part of the Naval Bde commanded by Cdre John R.Tucker, they were assigned to the rearguard of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during the withdrawal. Four days later the Federal army intercepted and cut off the rear of Lee's army, which resulted in the battle of Sayler's Creek. During this action Tucker's brigade was the only Confederate unit that did not break under the first Federal charge. After repulsing the attack the brigade, which numbered only about 350 men, was surrounded by six Federal divisions. Rather than surrender, Tucker counter-attacked and drove into the 37th Massachusetts and 2nd Rhode Island Infantry. According to BrigGen Truman Seymour, commanding the Federal 3rd Div, 6th Corps, "The Confederate Marine Battalion fought with peculiar obstinacy, and our lines, somewhat disordered by crossing the creek, were repulsed in the first onset." A member of Phillip's Georgia Legion, which stood in line of battle just behind Tucker's brigade, later recalled, "Those marines fought like tigers and against odds of at least ten to one." Eventually withdrawing to a wooded thicket, Tucker held off several more attacks, but was ultimately talked into surrendering towards the end of the day. However, many of his men, including Marines, escaped to rejoin the Army of Northern Virginia, with which they remained until Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House three days later.

A number of Confederate Marines fought on until the beginning of May 1865. As the senior officer present, Lt David Raney Jr surrendered himself and 24 Marines of Co D as part of the Mobile Squadron, at Nanna Hubba Bluff on the Tombigbee River, about 35 miles upstream from Mobile, on May 5. Lieutenants J.R.Y.Fendall and John L, Rapier surrendered on the same occasion; and at around the same date 19 enlisted men from the same company were captured as part of LtGen Richard Taylor's command at Citronelle, Alabama. The last Confederate Marines to surrender were 14 men of Co D, who were paroled at Meridian, Mississippi, on May 9, 1865.

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  • Richard Triebe
    Lt. Henty Doak. Could you please tell me where you got the information about Lt. Henty Doak. Thank you!<br /><br />Richard Triebe
    8 years ago

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