On this day in 1865, Fort Fisher in North Carolina falls to Union forces, and Wilmington, North Carolina, the Confederacy's most important blockade-running port, is closed.
When President Abraham Lincoln declared a blockade of Southern ports in 1861, Rebel engineers began construction on a fortress at the mouth of New Inlet, which provided access to Wilmington. Fort Fisher was constructed of timber and sand, and posed a formidable challenge for the Yankees. The walls were more than 20 feet high and bristled with large cannon. Land mines and palisades made from sharpened logs created even more obstacles for potential attackers.
Union leadership did not make Fort Fisher a high priority until the last year of the war. After the Federals closed Mobile Bay in August 1864, attention turned to shutting down Wilmington. Union ships moved into place in December 1864 and began a massive bombardment on Christmas Eve. The next day, a small force failed to capture the fort, but the attempt was renewed in January. On January 13, a three-day bombardment began. On the third day, some 9,000 Yankee infantry commanded by General Alfred Terry hit the beach and attacked Fort Fisher. The Confederates could not repulse the attack.
The damage was heavy on both sides: the Union suffered more than 900 Army casualties and 380 Navy casualties, and the Confederates suffered 500 killed or wounded and over 1,000 captured. After the loss of this last major Confederate port, it was only three months before the war concluded.