November 20, 2009

Wilmington Star: Fort Fisher Dig Uncovers Pre-Civil War Lighthouse

For the first time in probably 146 years, someone picked up a broom and swept the floor of the small lighthouse. But this time it wasn’t the lightkeeper. It was Julep Gillman-Bryan, a worker with the N.C. Underwater Archaeology Department.

She and a dozen or so others uncovered the foundation and a few artifacts left behind from what was once a 40-foot tall structure standing in what is now called Battle Acre at Fort Fisher State Historic Site...

From records, they already knew the lighthouse was built in 1816, long before the Civil War brought thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers to two bloody clashes here on the jut of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River...

...they also knew that it was remodeled about 1836 after a fire burned the top 10 feet of the lighthouse. Because the intense heat of the fire made the brick and coquina dangerously brittle, it’s likely construction workers decided not to re-build it to the original height.

The structure aided navigation through the early years of the Civil War. But then, Steele said, the fort’s commander, Col. William Lamb, decided it was just to much of a target for Federal gunships and he had his soldiers dismantle it in 1863.

Read the complete Wilmington Star article (with photo)
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