Tuesday, January 19, 2010

145th Anniversary of the Second Battle of Fort Fisher

Wow! Two weeks since my last post, but what a two weeks it's been. This late winter/spring is proving to be much busier than I thought (and I knew it would be busy). Spring semester is underway now at both colleges and I have four online classes I'm teaching. However, the big story for the next few months is the ongoing 145th anniversary of many Civil War events in eastern North Carolina.

Fort Fisher got the ball rolling in style this past weekend with a three day long program that focused on US Colored Troops in North Carolina and the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. Friday evening there was a panel discussion held at UNC-Wilmington featuring Dr. Chris Fonvielle and Dr. John Haley of UNCW, Dr. Mark Elliott of UNC-Greensboro, and Dr. Richard Reid of the University of Guelph in Ontario. The panel was well-attended and made me miss my old alma mater more than I have in a long while. I was reminded especially of how much I miss my old advisor Dr. John Haley. To continue the focus on US Colored Troops, Dr. Reid gave a lengthier presentation at the historic site on Saturday. There were also a nominal number of US Colored Troop reenactors in attendance at the event.

On Saturday, it was all about the battle. Saturday morning we conducted small arms inspections, the Union Army conducted battalion drill, and there were artillery demonstrations. After lunch the troops formed up for the battle scenario, reenacting the Union breakthrough at the River Road sally port, which sealed the fate of Fort Fisher on January 15, 1865. I took the field with the Union Army in order to function as a safety officer and the battle went off quite well. There were a few glitches which are to be expected, but overall I think the public was well pleased with the action they witnessed. The program continued into the evening with lantern tours of the fort. Tour groups stopped at seven stations along the tour trail to encounter different "characters" from the fort's history. I played the part of Robert Watson, a Confederate sailor who served on one of the guns at the fort during the battle. The program closed with a night firing of the site's big 32-pounder cannon.

Due to heavy rains Saturday night into Sunday morning, the site staff decided to call off Sunday's activities. Aside from the fact that many of the reenactors had left, there was ankle deep standing water over much of the grounds. It was decided that having huge crowds out there would do more damage to the grounds and so the program was shut down early.

Still, I think that Fort Fisher has set the bar high for the rest of the 145th events going on this spring. Next up is the reenactment of the Battle of Fort Anderson, February 20-21.


NCMeekins said...

I was at the panel on Friday and just have one question: when are we going to declare Chris Fonvielle a State Treasure? He by far out shone his fellow panel members.

Chris Meekins

Andrew Duppstadt said...

I think you are correct, but John Haley was right on his heels. I really miss hanging out with those two. I told them that if they had managed to get Alan Watson there, I would have had my three biggest mentors in the room together. I have many fond memories of hanging out with Haley and Fonvielle. Watson wasn't so much the "hanging out" type, but definitely a big influence.