The Siege of Fort Macon, 1862

Scenes from the April 1862 surrender of Fort Macon on the cover of an issue of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

On March 23, 1862, U.S. forces under Brig. Gen. John G. Parke began the siege of Confederate-held Fort Macon. At the time the fort was commanded by Col. Moses J. White of Mississippi, and was defended by 54 pieces of artillery and a garrison of five companies.

In January 1862, a Federal force under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside arrived off the North Carolina coast. After taking Roanoke Island in February and New Bern in March, Burnside’s next objective was Fort Macon. After White refused to surrender on Parke’s arrival, Parke laid siege to the fort with the support of the Union’s blockading squadron.

In mid-April Burnside arrived with reinforcements to take direct command of the siege. On April 25 the fort was bombarded from both land and sea. Although cannon blasts from Union ships did little damage because of the fort’s strong seaward defenses, the land bombardment did major damage. White surrendered the next day.

The fall of Fort Macon gave the Federals access to the sea via Beaufort and Morehead City, strengthening their control over much of eastern North Carolina.

The fort was constructed by the federal government from 1826 to 1834 to guard Beaufort Harbor, and was seized by North Carolina militia only two days shots were fired on Fort Sumter.

Visit: Fort Macon is now one 39 state parks. The park will commemorate its battle anniversary in April. 

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