Local Shows Feature Federal Point History

‘The Hermit of Fort Fisher’
by David Wright, Directed by Steve Vernon

Big Dawg Productions brings the story of Robert Harrell back for another run. If you missed it the first time, here’s your chance. The play will run at 8 pm for 5 nights, July 29-August 2nd,,2015 at the Greenfield Lake Amphitheater. Tickets ($20.00) can be ordered at the web site: http://www.bigdawghermit.com/ or purchased at the door.

Big Dawg will be keeping the same cast as the original Wilmington and Southport productions and the same director so the show is only bound to grow stronger as the cast and director are well versed in this history and truly immersed in the roles of their characters.

 

summers seabreeze #2‘Summers at Seabreeze’
Songs and Remembrances from Freeman Beach

TheatreNOW’s summer dinner theater show features a look at an often overlooked aspect of Federal Point’s history.

Shows run at 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays through July 25, 2015. Tickets are $34.00 ($26.00 for children and seniors) include dinner that includes a menu drawn from Seabreeze’s original cuisine – including the famous “clam fritters.” Or tickets for the show alone are $20.00.

To book tickets, and see the full dinner menu visit their website: http://www.theatrewilmington.com/

Wilmington Star-News Review:  “‘Summers at Seabreeze’ feels particularly timely, even as its focus is on the past. It’s a reminder that, no matter what those filled with hate may think, the history of the African-American community has a value, and a beauty, that can’t be taken away and won’t ever be forgotten.”~ John Staton.

 

4th Grade Essay Contest Winners

[Each school year Rebecca Taylor talks to the 4th graders at Carolina Beach School about the lighthouses of North Carolina and especially “our” own light, the Federal Point Lighthouse.The children then write essays. They read their winning essays at the May meeting]

“How do You Think the Lighthouse Foundation Should be Preserved?”
by Bailey Swails

I think that the Town of Carolina Beach should preserve the Federal Point lighthouse foundation by digging up the base of the Federal Point lighthouse and putting the base on display where the base was found. We should put the base of the lighthouse under a thick sheet of glass or plastic. To make sure no one stands on the glass or plastic there should be signs or rope around the foundation.

I believe there should be a sign to show how old the lighthouse is and just the facts on the Federal Point lighthouse. I believe that this move will make tourism grow and that means the Town of Carolina Beach will make more money. I would love for this to happen. I have always wanted to find a lighthouse on Fort Fisher and I have discovered that there is one.

 

“What Do You Think it Would Be Like to Live at the Federal Point Lighthouse in the 1800’s?”
By Hannah Lawrie

I think it would be hard to live at the Federal Point lighthouse because every day you would have to go up stairs and light the bulb. And if it was in the middle of winter it would be freezing up there! Also you have to try not to drop a lantern or the whole place will catch on fire! The house is made out of wood and the lanterns are filled with oil with fire in it! You would also have to pay for the bulb for the lighthouse, and they are probably over $1,000. Any way people in the 1800’s had to cook in very hot rooms because of the boiling water. And I don’t think the bulb upstairs that is over 100 watts helps very much.

But just getting food is truly hard. To get meat you have to go hunting and for fruit and vegetables you have to grow them. There was no Food Lion, Target, or anything like that so people had to be pretty darn applied to their work!

So as you can tell living here for me would be no walk in the park or sleeping on a bed of roses but you do get to be living in some famous history.

 

Speaking of Inlets… What Do You Think?

NC Rep. Michael Lee proposes doing away with “The Rocks”

Excerpted from StarNews Article by Gareth McGrath, April 28, 2015

For more than a century “the Rocks,” a breakwater built by the Army Corps of Engineers, has separated tMichael Leehe channels at the southern tip of New Hanover County from the Cape Fear River. But language added to legislation that would allocate funding to help North Carolina maintain the state’s inlets and waterways is looking to change that.

Senate Bill 160, which is currently before the NC Senate Finance Committee, calls for the portion of the Rocks south of Zeke’s Island – between Zeke’s and Smith Island – to be removed.

The language also would shift the boundary of the Zeke’s Island Reserve 200 feet eastward toward the Atlantic Ocean. The Rocks form part of the reserve’s boundary. According to the bill, the reason for the move would be “for ecosystem restoration and protection of navigational safety.”

But the idea of removing the Rocks has left officials – many of whom didn’t know about the proposal until it was added to the bill in committee – scratching their heads, wondering if there is more to the dam’s removal than just what’s stated in the bill. State Senator, Michael Lee, one of the bill’s primary sponsors, said that’s not the case. He said removing The Rocks would simply help restore the area’s natural equilibrium. “The general idea is that they don’t need to be there, so let’s see if we can get them removed,” Lee said.

Zeke's Island #1Removing the Rocks, part of which extend more than 30 feet down, would change the dynamics of the ecosystem that now inhabits the lagoon.

But the increased tidal flow also would likely put into motion a process that would see New Inlet reopened.

That inlet, which was opened by a hurricane in 1761, closed in the late 19th century – although other channels, including Corncake Inlet, have opened and closed nearby over the decades.

Historically, New Inlet was popular with ship captains but a thorn to officials trying to keep the Cape Fear River shipping channel open. As early as the mid-19th century engineers had concluded that the best way to solve the shoaling woes was to close the inlet.

So in 1875 the Army Corps began work on the Rocks, finishing the 4.25-mile-long dam in 1891 at a cost of $766,000. Shutting off the inlet’s tidal flows stopped most of the sand washing into the shipping channel – and allowed subsequent deepening of the channel to be feasible, including today’s 42 feet.

“Partially opening up the structure would significantly increase the chances of inlet breaches in the vicinity of the opening, which would cause shoaling problems to immediately reappear,” said Spencer Rogers, a coastal engineering expert with NC Sea Grant. But the reopening of the inlet also could offer vessels, assuming the channel was deep enough, a much faster and safer route to the open ocean – a point championed in a column in the April 25, 1971, issue of the Wilmington StarNews. “Reopening of the inlet would have immediate and long-range benefits,” the article states. “The initial results would be to reopen the once available channel from Southport to the Atlantic at Fort Fisher and northward without the long voyage around the shoals which extend seaward from the tip of Bald Head Island.”

But while a reopened inlet could save shippers time and the government maintenance dollars, it also could have major impacts on the environment – and that has some Bald Head officials concerned.

“If you’re opening up an inlet, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Andrew Sayre, mayor of the island village.

Of chief concern is what might happen to the island’s now-healthy East Beach, which could be starved of sand if the sediment that naturally flows down from Pleasure Island gets washed out to sea or into the Cape Fear.

“This could have a devastating impact on our island,” said Suzanne Dorsey, executive director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which manages the Zeke’s Island Reserve, also are zeke's Island #2concerned about what the removal of the Rocks would do to the reserve’s ecosystem.

Then there’s the question of whether the federal government would approve a change in the reserve’s boundaries, since the reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

DENR spokeswoman Michele Walker said the state in 1980 used $1.18 million in federal funds to purchase most of the land that encompasses the reserve.

With so many questions out there, no one expects anything with the Rocks to happen quickly.

Lee said if the provision is approved by the General Assembly he expected a series of studies to take place to gauge the environmental and other impacts from any removal work.

“This wouldn’t be a quick process,” the state senator said. “We’d certainly want to know all of the potential impacts before we took any action.”

Removing the Rocks, part of which extend more than 30 feet down, would change the dynamics of the ecosystem that now inhabits the lagoon. But the increased tidal flow also would likely put into motion a process that would see New Inlet reopened.

That inlet, which was opened by a hurricane in 1761, closed in the late 19th century – although other channels, including Corncake Inlet, have opened and closed nearby over the decades.

But while a reopened inlet could save shippers time and the government maintenance dollars, it also could have major impacts on the environment – and that has some Bald Head officials concerned. “If you’re opening up an inlet, you never know what’s going to happen,” said Andrew Sayre, mayor of the island village.

Of chief concern is what might happen to the island’s now-healthy East Beach, which could be starved of sand if the sediment that naturally flows down from Pleasure Island gets washed out to sea or into the Cape Fear. “This could have a devastating impact on our island,” said Suzanne Dorsey, Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.

Officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which manages the Zeke’s Island Reserve, also are concerned about what the removal of the Rocks would do to the reserve’s ecosystem. Then there’s the question of whether the federal government would approve a change in the reserve’s boundaries, since the reserve is part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve system under the umbrella of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). North Carolina Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman, Michele Walker, said the state in 1980 used $1.18 million in federal funds to purchase most of the land that encompasses the reserve.

StarNews 4/28/15:  The complete StarNews article

~~~~~~~

Updates:

Lumina News 7/14/15:  Rock wall removal could cause shoaling in shipping channel, some say

The Rocks, south of Zeke’s Island near the tip of New Hanover County, is more than three miles long and at some points 37 feet high and 120 feet wide, said Spencer Rogers, a coastal construction and erosion specialist with N.C. Sea Grant.

Its purpose was to hold back sediment flowing in from an inlet that was opened by a hurricane in the 1800s.

“It’s the most complicated section of oceanfront in all of North Carolina,” Rogers said.

During the Civil War, the inlet was an asset to Confederate forces because blockade runners could navigate the shallow water near the opening, allowing them to get around Union ships that blocked the main channel, he said. But after the war it impeded shipping up the channel.

~~~~~~

StarNews 7/29/15:   Plan to remove ‘The Rocks’ opposed

BALD HEAD ISLAND | Local governments and marine experts say the explanation being given for a bill removing the structure known as “The Rocks” doesn’t pass muster, and they’ll oppose it until they get a better one.

The removal of “The Rocks” between Zeke’s and Smith (Bald Head) Island  on the southern tip of New Hanover County, which would also shift the boundary of the Zeke’s Island Reserve 200 feet east toward the Atlantic Ocean, is part of N.C. House Bill 97, the 2015 Appropriations Act. N.C. Senate Bill 160, which originally proposed the action, passed the state Senate in May, but has been stalled in a House committee since. Sen. Michael Lee, R-New Hanover, is a sponsor of the Senate bill.

“Ecosystem restoration and protection of navigational safety” are cited in the legislation as key reasons for removing The Rocks, but local experts say such action could have negative effects such as increased shoaling in the Cape Fear River and erosion on Bald Head Island’s East Beach. Local experts and officials also don’t think the ecosystem restoration reason holds water.

“What I smell in this is that we’re not being leveled with about what’s really going on,” said Larry Cahoon, a professor and oceanographer at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. “Ecologically, I haven’t heard an argument about what’s broken that needs fixing.”

The ecosystem in that area, Cahoon added, has developed over the nearly 150 years The Rocks have been there, and any major changes could be disruptive, particularly if an inlet were to reopen between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River.

Oral History: Our River Farm Watermelon Patch – Federal Point – 1946 – 1956: Part 1

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett (2014)

by:  Howard HewettSubmitted September 13, 2014

Our daughter Georgianne called today on the way home for our 4th of July celebration to ask what method is the best to determine watermelon ripeness.  She was stopping in Hempstead, TX (Texas Watermelon Capital) to pick up a melon for our 2009 celebration.  Her dilemma was which ripeness checking method should be employed.  She asked if she should use the Thump Method or the Broom Straw Method.  Now, I am not quite sure what the Broom Straw method is, so I directed her to use the “Thump It Method”.

This discussion brought back a flood of memories of Dad’s watermelon patch over on our river farm at Federal Point.  In North Carolina, cool spring weather delays the planting of watermelons so it was usually the first of July before our watermelons were ready for the harvest.  Dad called his watermelons Georgia Rattlesnakes.

1951 Howard Hewett - 12 yrs - Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon grown on Hewett farm on Federal Point

1951 Howard Hewett – 12 yrs – Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon grown on Hewett patch in Federal Point

Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelons

Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelons

In doing a little research, I found that there was a type of watermelon grown in Eastern United States starting around 1870 that was named Georgia Rattlesnake.  I would not be surprised if some of Dad’s seeds were passed along through the hands of the Hewett- Lewis family using the same method that Dad used.

At the time of planting, a mound (hill) was created to plant the seeds.  A typical planting was three seeds per hill along with a little fertilizer.  As the plants grew, only the healthy plants were allowed to remain in the hill.  Planting was spread out over several weeks so all the watermelons would not ripen at the same time.

As the watermelons developed, Dad started taking notes on the growth of some of the melons in the patch.  The largest and best shaped melons were singled out by Dad placing an “X” on the topside with his fingernail.  As these melons continue to develop, he would place a second “X” and so on.  A three “X” watermelon was a very special watermelon.  By selection, the seeds from the three “X” watermelons were used for the next season’s planting.

Normally, XXX melons were not sold, but served to family and friends.  The rule when eating a XXX melon was no seeds went on the ground.  Dad collected all the mature seeds.  They would be washed and dried on a screen.  The seeds would end up in a Mason jar and stored for the next year’s planting.

It is interesting that not all one X melons made it to two Xs or two Xs to three Xs.  Dad’s marks were based on potential.  During the growing season some would not meet his expectations and would be sold for a lesser valve.

1951 (l-r) Thomas Hewett(8) - Wayne Hewett Bell - Jackie Hewett (8) - Alex Hewett Bell - Photo by: Howard Hewett Brownie Camera

1951 (l-r) Thomas Hewett (7) – Wayne Hewett Bell (5) – Jackie Hewett (3) – Alex Hewett Bell (8) – Photo by: Howard Hewett using a Brownie Camera

The size of the patch was around four to five acres.  It is probably evident to the reader that the size of our watermelon patch produced a lot of melons and there were always enough melons for the family, along with some to be sold commercially.

We sold some in front of our home in a stand.  My brother Thomas and I would alternate watching the stand while one of us would put one watermelon in a wagon and haul it up to the beach and sell door-to-door.  We worked the beach from the Fort Fisher gates to the light at Kure Beach.

We actually had regular customers who would purchase one melon a week but sometimes more while they were available.  Dad’s watermelons had dark and light green alternating stripes.  Maybe that is how they got their name.  Most of the larger melons weighed 35-45 pounds. The large two “X” ones sold for $5.00.

We would make a sale and go back a get another one. My brother and I would make five to six trips a day until we had cleared all the melons out. When our inventory became low, we would pick again.  A lull between picking allowed a little break for us to swim and fish.

Now anyone who has operated a watermelon patch or had first hand knowledge what an enticement a watermelon patch can have on a bunch of young boys with a lot of time on their hands.  On occasion, we had visitors at night.  In most cases, their little foray into the night failed.  All roads leading in or out of the river farm were inhabited by our relatives, the Lewises and the Davises. So the whole family was a large security force for the patch.  During watermelon season, the Kure Beach police would come to the rescue when called.  Once the intruders were sent on their way, Dad would reward the police with a large watermelon the next day.

My sister Jackie is holding a custom watermelon knife in the photograph above. It is still a family heirloom and will be passed on to future generations for the traditional watermelon cutting on the 4th of July.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

[Editor: After Howard submitted the above article, we followed up with a series of clarifying questions.  Howard’s detailed responses provided an additional story about the Hewett family in Federal Point during the 30’s – 50’s. Continue reading … Part 2 ]

 

My Friend the Enemy

The Battle at Fort Fisher as recalled by Colonel Lamb, CSA and General Curtis, USA

Colonel William Lamb – Confederate Commander of Fort Fisher and General Newton Martin Curtis leader of the Union force meet again at Fort Fisher as great friends after more than thirty years.

The American Civil War marked a new era in military science and technology. More powerful rifled artillery and ammunition along with armored gunships created a need for stronger coastal defenses throughout the Confederate South.

Col. William Lamb

Col. William Lamb

This challenge faced Colonel William Lamb upon his taking command of Fort Fisher, a vital part of North Carolina’s lower Cape Fear River defense system on July 4, 1862. Colonel Lamb’s competence and natural engineering skills enabled him to build Fort Fisher to become the strongest bastion in the South by the end of the war.

After two assaults by the largest fleet yet assembled by the United States military forces, the Fort Fisher garrison of 1,900 men and boys were eventually overpowered by 8,000 Union soldiers and sailors on January 15, 1865, during one of the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the War Between the States.

Lamb distinguished himself in the January action, leading the Confederate forces in an ill-fated defense of the Fort till he was felled by a gun shot wound that fractured his hip bone. In the ranks of the opposing forces and equally conspicuous in the vanguard of the assault was Brevet Brigadier General Newton Martin Curtis.

General Newton Martin Curtis

General Newton Martin Curtis

Despite receiving several lesser wounds during the contest, Curtis continued to command his brigade of Federal troops until he was struck by a shell fragment that destroyed his left eye. Neither Curtis nor Lamb would fight in that war again; they were each just twenty-nine years of age.

In the wake of the battle both Lamb (as a-prisoner of war) and Curtis were evacuated to the U.S. Army’s Chesapeake Hospital near Fort Monroe in Virginia. Initially, it was feared that their wounds would prove mortal. In fact, at one point, a coffin had been ordered for Curtis.

In spite of their dreadful injuries, according to an article written by the Reverend WHT. Squires D.D. that appeared in the February 5, 1943 edition of the Norfolk-Ledger Dispatch, entitled, “Norfolk in By-Gone Days,” a curious introduction occurred at the hospital that illustrated the mettle of these two warriors.

Among the wounded taken to the Hampton hospital was General N. M. Curtis, the Federal officer who led the assault that had successfully conquered Fort Fisher. General Curtis was so badly wounded that he could not walk or stand alone; however, when he learned that Colonel Lamb was in the same hospital, he had two hospital attendants take him to Colonel Lamb’s room where he congratulated him warmly on his skillful defense and on his unsurpassed courage and fortitude. He said, “I am proud of you as an American.” Colonel Lamb replied, “I’m not an American I’m a Confederate.”

General Curtis then said, “We Will not discuss that subject. Your side or mine will control this country, it Will not be divided. You and I will be in it and I offer you my hand and friendship. Let it begin now, not years later.” They then joined hands.

In the remaining 44 years of Lamb’s life, General Curtis was to become one of his best friends, and they would work together to improve fraternal relations between the North and South.

William Lamb - Later Life

William Lamb
in Later Life

Eventually the Colonel would come to refer to the General as “my friend the enemy. But for the soldiers and the country it would take time for the scars and wounds of the War Between the States to heal. On May 1, 1865, having taken the Oath of Allegiance and with the conflict all but over, Lamb was released from the hospital, though he was far from well.

That September he was operated on to remove the bullet that was still lodged in his hip. He would require the use of crutches for the next seven years and would be frail in health for the rest of his life. For the bravery and leadership exhibited in the second Battle of Fort Fisher, the partially blinded Curtis would be promoted to Brigadier General, United States Volunteers. He mustered out of the army the following year, as a Brevet Major General, having served four years, eight months.

Finally, some thirty years later in 1891, Curtis was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions at Fort Fisher. He being, “The first man to pass through the Stockade, he personally led each assault on the traverses and was four times wounded.”

About a year and a half after Curtis was issued his medal, Lamb and a host of Confederate Veterans, with reporter T. W. Clawson of the Wilmington Messenger tagging along, revisited Fort Fisher.  It had been eighteen years since Lamb had last toured the site of his old command in 1875 and was only the second time that he had returned since its capitulation in 1865.

That evening at the Y.M.C.A. auditorium in Wilmington, NC, at the behest of the Cape Fear Camp No. 254 United Confederate Veterans, the old colonel delivered an address on “the history of Port Fisher.” That address was published in its entirety in the next day’s June 15, 1893 edition of the Wilmington Messenger.

A few months later in October, at the suggestion of General Curtis, Colonel Lamb joined him and again returned to the Fort.

With reporter Clawson once more in tow, the two old officers, one time nemesis and long time friends, inspected the works. At some point in the tour the party took to the Cape Fear River in a sail boat. While trying to put ashore the boat grounded in the shallows a few yards from the embankment. Intending to wade in, the robust Curtis simply stripped off his shoes, rolled up his pants legs and stepped out of the boat. Lamb on the other hand, ever cautious about his health, was reluctant to follow suit. In response to Lamb‘s dilemma, Curtis offered to carry him to dry land on his back. But before he could do so, Clawson interposed on behalf of the General, and so the Colonel rode the scribe ashore instead.

Afterwards Clawson, “…wanted to kick himself for not allowing Colonel Lamb to ride his ‘friend the enemy,’ for he could have witnessed the remarkable instance of a brave and distinguished Federal officer carrying on his back the distinguished Confederate, who, in the years that are gone, was raising Old Harry with shot and shell to keep the General at a safe distance.”

Before the year was out Curtis was working on his own version of the Battles of Fort Fisher. Referencing Lamb’s address, the General composed the definitive Yankee account of the expeditions to take the Fort. His paper was later presented to the Military Order of The Loyal Legion of the United States and published by the Commandery in 1900.

My Friend the EnemyNow for the first time the complete accounts of these two principle participants in the Battles for Fort Fisher are juxtaposed in publication. That their individual interpretation of events is not dissimilar is not surprising.

For in many respects, whether friend or foe, Lamb’s and Curtis‘ lives often mirrored one another. They were roughly the same age, both having been born in 1835. Both attended college and each studied law. And though neither was a military man per say prior to the out break of hostilities, each exhibited a natural military acumen.

After the war both men pursued a career in politics. Lamb was elected mayor of his home town of Norfolk, Virginia, for three terms; while on the other hand, Curtis became a state legislator for New York and a three-term member of Congress. Naturally, they were active in veterans’ organizations.

Sadly, they were both widowers, Curtis lost his wife in 1888, Lamb in 1892. Neither ever remarried. In March of 1909 William Lamb died. Newton Martin Curtis did not last much longer, the following January he too passed away. But their legacy would live on inextricably bound on the common ground of Fort Fisher. Forever and anon, from their respective provinces north and south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Colonel Lamb and General Curtis would be regaled as the “Hero of Fort Fisher.”

Ray Flowers, Site Historian – Fort Fisher Historic Site,  May 2007

My Friend the Enemy
Produced by Federal Point Historic Preservation Society

[Additional resources]

My Friend the Enemy – is available at the History Center Bookstore

Col. William Lamb
William Lamb (1835-1909)

Newton Martin Curtis

W.L. DeRosset, of Wilmington, Explains Early Defenses of Confederate Point, 1861

[Source: The Wilmington Weekly Star, Wilmington, N. C., July 22, 1881, provided by Bill Reaves]

Wlliam Lord DeRosset Image courtesy of Cape Fear Historical Institute

Wlliam Lord DeRosset
Image courtesy of Cape Fear Historical Institute

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: “Mr. Editor – In your editorial on Fort Fisher, in this morning’s issue, the “facts” have gotten a little “mixed,” and as I had official connection with the defense of Confederate Point in its earliest stages, I have concluded to state what I know of my own knowledge and what I heard actors on the scene.

Capt. C.P. Bolles, under orders from headquarters, erected a battery on the Point in April and May, 1861, a short distance nearer the river than the point at which the famous Blakely gun was mounted in 1864. This battery was intended for two 24-pound Barbette guns, and about May 13th I was ordered with my company (the Wilmington Light Infantry) to proceed from Fort Caswell and occupy and complete the defenses then proposed.

I found the battery entirely devoid of everything necessary for its defense and for preparing therefore, and was told that the guns were lying near low water mark in the river, about one mile from the battery.

The boys went for them with a will, and without implements of any kind, save about 100 feet of seine rope and four pieces of 4×4 scantling, the evening of the second day found the two guns in position and ready for the enemy, as soon as we were supplied with ammunition.

The battery was known as “Battery Bolles,” I think by orders from headquarters. My men constructed breast works for fifty yards on each side of the battery, and thus, the works stood when I was promoted to Major of Third NC Troops and was ordered to Garysburg to take command of the camp of instruction.

At some time during the summer, Col. S.L. Fremont was placed in charge of the construction of other works on the Point, and the result was the casemate battery you refer to and a covered way connecting with Battery Bolles, and the name of the whole works was then changed to Fort Fisher.

My recollection is (having visited the Fort) that there were no rifled guns, but the casemates were supplied with three or four either Dahlgren or 8-inch Columbiad guns.

Fort Fisher, as it finally stood, with the exception of the a mound battery, was planned by General Whiting, I have no doubt. The mound was suggested and built by Colonel Lamb, and is still a monument to his skill and perseverance.

Two 10-inch Columbiads were first mounted there, and no doubt prevented any attempt on the part of the enemy’s ships to enter. The battery at Zeke’s Island was built in part by the engineer forces, and improved and completed by Col. I.J. Hedrick, and commanded by him until he was transferred to Bald Head to build Fort Holmes.

The bricks and stones referred to I understood to have come from the foundation of the old Light House. You will see from the above recollections, which are verified by several of my old command, that accounts of doing on Confederate Point have got a little mixed, and that this statement will serve to give credit to each one interested at any time where credit is due.”

signed: Wm. L. DeRosset.

[Feb. 2015: The above text was originally published in the April 1997 – FPHPS Newsletter (pdf)]

Colonel William Lord DeRosset – Cape Fear Historical Institute

William Lord De Rosset – NCpedia – a Wilmington native

Walking Tour of “The Sugar Loaf Line of Defense” with Dr. Chris Fonvielle

Chris Fonvielle Walking TourAgain this year, on Saturday March 21, 2015, our esteemed Society member and UNC-W History professor, Chris Fonvielle, will lead a fascinating walk through the remnants of General Robert Hoke’s Sugarloaf-line-of-defense.

These embankments and earthworks, which kept the Union army from taking Wilmington for over 30 days, is still largely intact and can be seen if you know where to look. Dr. Fonvielle’s walk will take the group through these lines and discuss Hoke’s defense of the east bank of the Cape Fear River.

This walking program will leave from the Federal Point History Center parking lot (just south of the Carolina Beach Town Hall at 2:00 pm.)

Due to the overwhelming popularity of this program we will be taking reservations (by phone or in person) this year. To reserve your spot call the History Center at 910-458-0502 and leave a message. We will call you back to confirm your reservation. Or e-mail your request to rebecca@federal-point-history.org.

A donation of $5.00 (minimum) is appreciated and will go to the Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks Preservation Group Project.

 

Oral History – Howard Hewett – Federal Point Methodist Episcopal Church, Part 2

By Howard Hewett, November 2014

Howard Hewett

Howard Hewett

There is one story about my grandfather, Albert Walker Hewett, and my grandmother, Addie Jane Hewett, that occurred when my father Howard Curtis Hewett was around 12 years old and my Aunt Ethel Virginia Hewett Bell would have been 14 years old.

They had all gone to church on a Wednesday night.  When the kerosene lamps were turned off at the end of the service, it became quiet and dark in those Federal Point woods.

The story goes that Grandfather and Dad went out to the Model T, set the magneto, turned the crank, and when it fired, they jumped in and headed for home, which was about 2.8 miles away.

The road home from the church ran down what is currently called the Dow Road (built in 1916), but instead of making the 90-degree turn at K Ave., the road continued straight and ran almost parallel to the river passing Uncle John and Aunt Rebecca Davis’ home.  It then continued past the Lewis homestead on down to the home that Grandfather and Grandmother moved into when they married in 1911. Their original house was located in what is currently the Air Force recreational facility.

Since the Hewetts are known for not having the gift of gab, Grandfather and Dad headed home without comment.  Upon

Federal Point Methodist Church 1935 Foreground - A Hewlett Grave

Federal Point Methodist Church 1935
Foreground – A. Hewlett Grave
(click)

arriving at home, it was determined that Addie and Virginia were not in the back of the Model T.

In rural North Carolina, there were not that many paved roads so you may have thought it impossible for them to drive 2.8 miles on a sandy rut-filled road without Grandmother saying “Albert, please slow down.”  I think the Hewett women must have picked up a more “talkative gene” along the way.

In telling this story my dad once said, that “Wash Foot Methodists were not very talkative.” Dad never related what Grandmother said when they got back to the church that night, but when telling this story, he would always grin.

I remember the church having a ‘T’ shaped floor plan with the sanctuary being the longer section with two rooms on each side.  There were windows on the back wall on each side of the pulpit.  In the room on the right side there was a bellows-type organ. This room was completely open to the sanctuary. It most likely served as a classroom.  On the left side toward the cemetery there was another classroom.

My remembrance indicates that there was a relocation of the original church sanctuary with an addition to the original building transforming it into a ‘T’ floor plan.  The time period of these changes had to be between 1935 and early 1940. By 1945, the church was as I remember it.

As reported on April 3, 1938 by the Wilmington Star, the family of A. W. Hewett (Albert Walker Hewett) gave the Federal Point Methodist Church a silver communion service in his memory.  (Wilmington Star, 4-7-1938, 4-8-1938) I did not learn of this until I read the “Federal Point Chronology 1728-1994” compiled by Bill Reaves.  It was published by the New Hanover Library and the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society in 2011.

During the writing of this document, I learned from my brother Thomas Walker Hewett that the communion service consisted of a serving tray with glass communion cups and a plate for the bread with each having a cover.  At the closing of the Federal Point Methodist Church, our grandmother obtained possession.  Following Grandmother’s death, my Aunt Virginia Hewett Bell took possession until her death in 1992.  Several years after Aunt Virginia’s death, the serving pieces were given to the St. Paul Methodist Church at Carolina Beach, N.C. by Alex and Wayne Bell.  The communion set now resides in their historical display case.

It is interesting for me to think about receiving communion using these serving pieces since this is a special part of the Christian tradition, my own connection with family history and our family’s special connection with the traditions of the Methodist Church.  But as I think about it, I most likely did not receive communion until joining St. Paul Methodist Church in Carolina Beach, N.C. in 1951 at the age of twelve.

Federal Point Methodist Members with Names - 1920

Federal Point Methodist
Members with Names – 1920
(click)

1920 – Federal Point Methodist Church – Some Members

 View images of the Federal Point Methodist Church Cemetery – taken on November 12, 2014

Read Howard Hewett’s full narrative about the Federal Point Methodist Church

 

 

Changes to the Federal Point Landscape

[Originally published in the March, 1995 – FPHPS Newsletter]

Erosion at Ft. Fisher

Erosion at Ft. Fisher

Mr. Gehrig Spencer, site manager at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site, presented a program at the February, 1995 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society on how the effects of weather and war have reshaped the southern end of Federal Point. Mr. Spencer also discussed how the current implementation of a Seawall is expected to prevent any further deterioration of the fort.

According to Mr. Spencer one of the earliest events having a major impact on the landscape of Federal Point occurred in 1761 when a hurricane opened the passage known as New Inlet between the ocean and the Cape Fear River. Over the years the relatively shallow inlet shifted course slightly to the south.

New Inlet played an important role during the Civil War as an entrance for sleek, fast, blockade runners to slip past the Union fleet and enter the river under the protective guns of Fort Fisher. These ships were able to successfully deliver their valuable cargoes to Wilmington and on to the rest of the Confederacy until late in the war.

It was the events of man that brought about the next major change to the Federal Point landscape. While natural erosion of Federal Point remained relatively stable during the Civil War, the construction of Fort Fisher drastically changed its appearance.

Sea Face - Fort Fisher

Sea Face – Fort Fisher

Under the supervision of Col. William Lamb, Fort Fisher with its massive land and sea faces took shape as the largest earthen fortification on the east coast.

The landscape of Federal Point changed forever as the builders used great quantities of sand and a covering of marsh and cut sod in the construction of the fort. One single mound known as Mound Battery rose sixty feet in height.

Following the war Federal Point again underwent a major transition in appearance when the US. Army Corps of Engineers began a decade-long process of closing New Inlet.

The Rocks 1

“The Rocks” from Zeke’s Island towards Battery Buchanan

The closing of the inlet allowed the currents to naturally deepen the river channel. During the 1870s, the Corps built a stone structure in two sections across the inlet and swash known as the “The Rocks.”

The length of the upper section of the dam extended from Battery Buchanan on Federal Point to Zeke’s Island, a distance of 5,300 feet.

The continuation of the lower section known as the Swash Defense Dam from Zeke’s Island to Smith’s Island, 12,800 feet, made the entire closure just over 3 miles in length.

The Rocks measured from 90 to 120 feet wide at the base. The average depth of the stone wall was 30 feet over three-fourths of its length. The Rocks still separate the Cape Fear River from the ocean.

Serious erosion problems occurred at Federal Point after the state removed coquina rock from the shore just north of the earthworks during the 1920s for use as road construction fill. Since that time approximately 200 yards of sea front has been lost to wave action.

This loss forced the state in the early 1950s to realign the very same highway that had been built with the use of the coquina rock. As a means of preventing any further erosion of what remained of Fort Fisher, the North Carolina Highway Department added concrete and other construction debris along the sea front during 1969 and 1970.

3,200-foot seawall completedat Fort Fisher Museum

3,200-foot seawall completed
at Fort Fisher Museum and Earthworks

The latest effort [1995] in the fight to protect Fort Fisher and Federal Point being claimed by the ocean will be the construction of a 3,200-foot seawall [revetment]. Work on construction of the seawall by a private contractor is expected to begin this spring [1995].

Sand re-nourishment of the beach will not be part of the preservation plan since it might damage or destroy ecologically sensitive areas along the Cape Fear River.

The seawall [revetment] is expected to halt ocean side erosion of Federal Point for the next fifty years.

 

March 1995 Newsletter (pdf) – Federal Point Historic Preservation Society (FPHPS)

Fort Fisher Revetment Project Nears Completion (March 1996)  (FPHPS)