N.C. Highway Historical Marker to Recognize Battle of Forks Road


In February 1865 drives were launched against Confederate forces from both sides of the Cape Fear River as the Union Army sought to control Wilmington. Two brigades of U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) joined that effort at Forks Road south of Wilmington. A N.C. Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated to commemorate the Battle of Forks Road, June 19, 11 a.m., at the intersection of South 17th Street and Independence Boulevard in Wilmington.

Wilmington was no longer a haven for blockade runners that had supplied the Confederate Army, having fallen to Union forces in January. But with his capture of Savannah, Maj. Gen. William Sherman's began a march through the Carolinas to Virginia to defeat completely the Confederates and take Richmond, seat of the Confederate States of America. The Federals needed to control Wilmington's ports to supply the Union Army on the march to Richmond.

Under Brig. Gen. Charles Paine, Col. John Ames led the brigade including the 4th, 6th, 30th, and 39th USCT Regiments. Col Elias Wright's brigade included the 1st, 5th, 10th, 27th and 37th Regiments (formerly the 3rd Regiment North Carolina Colored Infantry).

The USCT 5th Regiment led the advance and pushed the Confederates into earthworks at Forks Road, the present site of the Cameron Art Museum. With swamps on either side, the road only opened up within range of the Confederates. The Confederates, supported by artillery, blasted the 5th with rifle and cannon fire. Wright's brigade attempted to break through the Confederate line, but the terrain made success virtually impossible.

The soldiers fought gallantly, but one brigade suffered 53 casualties, including one officer killed and three wounded (including Wright himself). The other suffered one man killed and 48 wounded. Skirmishing continued the next day, and on Feb. 20 the Confederates withdrew, thus assuring Union capture of the city. The fighting at Forks Road was the last Confederate effort to keep Wilmington from Union control. It was all in vain as the days of the Confederacy were numbered.

The City of Wilmington Commission on African-American History will lead the dedication program. For information, please call (910) 341-7816. For information on the N.C. Highway Historical Marker Program, please call (919) 807-7290. The Highway Marker Program is a collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Cultural Resources and Transportation. 

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