The Outer Banks played a key role in yet another historical milestone, as the birthplace of aviation. The Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, a towering granite monument, pays homage to this history changing event, which occurred on the tall sand dunes of the Outer Banks just over a century ago.
If you're planning a trip to the Cape Fear area, make sure and include a visit to Fort Fisher - and keep an eye out for phantoms of the past!
Fort Fisher was first built in 1861 to protect Wilmington from Union troops. Started as several sand batteries with less than two dozen guns, in July 1862 Colonel William Lamb began to expand the fort, and by 1864 Fort Fisher boasted defense of over a mile of sea and protection of Wilmington, which was the last trade stronghold of the south. Consisting of mounds of earth, sand and wood, Fort Fisher guarded the Cape Fear River and allowed blockade runners to smuggle provisions to Wilmington and General Lee's Confederate Army.
In December 1864 Fort Fisher was besieged by the Union. In a battle that lasted two days, the fort repelled the attackers but lost almost thirty men. The Union Navy regrouped, and the next assault was launched on January 12, 1865. Attacked by both land and sea this time, a bloody battle ensued. Colonel Lamb was wounded on the 15th, and after heavy casualties (over 2200 soldiers and sailors) was forced to surrender. The city of Wilmington was taken, and three months later the war was over. Colonel Lamb was transported north to a Union prison, where he died of his injuries.
When such a small piece of land has such a violent and tragic past, is it any wonder that Fort Fisher remains the home of restless spirits?
The first recorded sighting of a supernatural sort was in the early 1900's, when the sentinel in the woods first appeared. He's still there, standing guard in a pine grove north of the fort itself and has been seen by park employees, tourists, and professional paranormal investigators.
Colonel Lamb seems to have returned, also! He's often been spotted standing on the parapet and walking the grounds. Maybe he wonders if a flaw in his design led to the loss of his country. Perhaps he still seeks a better outcome to the last battle of his life.
A locked and barred door has the habit of flinging itself open; footsteps are often heard on the wooden walkways when there's no one in sight. An apparition is seen walking from the ocean to the fort, and some say you can still hear the sounds of battle over the ocean at night. Wet footprints were seen, but not the feet that made them—and the impressions changed from bare feet to boots!
Fort Fisher today is a National Landmark, where you can walk among the mounds that once guarded the last stronghold of the south.
When the paranormal investigative group "Haunted North Carolina" spent a few hours at Fort Fisher one night, they came away with the distinct belief that the fort is indeed haunted. Three separate members of the team saw the soldier in the woods, and the temperature at the spot immediately dropped from 68 degrees to 43 degrees. Their equipment recorded footsteps in the woods at the same time, although a motion detector showed no movement.
They heard the sound of a gunshot. They heard a scream and a cry for help on the beach, but of course there was no one there. Their flashlights kept going off, even though they tested all the equipment before the expedition. Likewise, batteries drained at a rapid pace, cameras jammed, and flashes refused to flash. Photos taken show an orb moving through the trees. The photo of the door that opens shows only a glaring light.
Fort Fisher today is a National Landmark, where you can walk among the mounds that once guarded the last stronghold of the south. The bridge has been reconstructed, and on a clear day, you may see the skeletons of the blockade runners that didn't make it to safety in the Cape Fear River.
The live oak trees are twisted, perhaps by the violence and tragedy they've witnessed or the blood that once soaked their roots. You can stand on Colonel Lamb's parapet and look out to sea - if you don't mind the hazy officer standing next to you.
Whether you're vacationing or visiting, the Cape Fear area has much to offer. Fort Fisher is an attraction that many Civil War buffs certainly have on their "must see" lists, but with its unique structure of sand batteries, the fort is a also an educational place for every family to see. And while investigators of the paranormal also highlight Fort Fisher on their travel itineraries, the average family can spend hours learning history and having an adventure while touring the fort.
And for everyone who comes, keeping an eye open for apparitions and other visitors from the past can add to the mystique. All in all, Fort Fisher will make a lasting impression on all who visit, whether they encounter a spirit from the past or not.