On February 15, 1898, Charles L. Abernathy, editor of the Beaufort Herald-Dispatch, wrote to U. S. Senator Marion Butler to point out that North Carolina’s Fort Macon was “in a dilapidated condition with a lone sentry in charge of it.”
“In the event of a naval engagement, [it] would be of easy access,” Abernathy wrote, continuing, “as you are aware our bar has from 18 to 20 feet of water and this port,” referencing Beaufort. He pointed out that other ports along the coast had received defense appropriations “while this one has for some reason been passed by unnoticed.”
Ironically, that same night the battleship U.S.S. Maine exploded in Havana harbor under suspicious circumstances and became an important factor in the United States’ decision to declare war on Spain in April. “Remember the Maine” became a U.S. rallying cry during the war.
In Beaufort, residents were uneasy that Fort Macon, which guarded the entrance to Beaufort Harbor, had not been prepared for possible war. However, Fort Macon’s six remaining Civil War-era cannons were soon remounted. The fort was garrisoned for the Spanish-American War by part of a company of U.S. Artillery and the all-black 3rd N.C. Volunteers under Col. James H. Young.
Check out The Spanish-American War entry on NCpedia for more.
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