Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park

Park Was Dedicated on

Thursday, February 11, 2021
2:00 PM

(North of the Publix — old Federal Point Shopping Center)

Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.


Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr.

Mr. Lewis (1926-2010) was a Carolina Beach resident, U.S. Army veteran, long-time employee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society.

Keenly interested in his family’s history and that of the Lower Cape Fear, he donated 10 acres that included these Confederate earthworks of the so-called “Sugar Loaf lines,” to the Town of Carolina Beach for the public park in the late 1990s.



(Park is located North of the Publix — old Federal Point Shopping Center)

Hunter Ingram – Wilmington StarNews, Feb. 10, 2021:
Carolina Beach fulfills wish of late resident with opening of new Civil War Park

Island Gazette: – May 19, 2015

Island Gazette re: Park Developments

Oral History – Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr. – Part 1


A New Park for Carolina Beach

Walk, Stroll, Saunter, Picnic, Birdwatch, Commune with Nature, Discover Little Local History

Brought to you by the long, hard work of the staff of the Town of Carolina Beach, The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, and a dedicated group of historians and local history enthusiasts, the Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park will be officially dedicated on Thursday February 11, 2021, at 2:00 pm.

This new “passive” park will provide a quiet “off the beaten path” area for locals and visitors to get away from the hustle and bustle of the beach and spend a little time in the native natural setting of our original local Eco-system.

The new park is sandwiched behind the Dollar General and Sherwin Williams buildings on N. Lake Park Blvd. and the houses on Lighthouse Drive, which runs off of St. Joseph Street. The ten acre wetlands include boardwalks over local marshes was well as a gravel trail around the best preserved remnants of the earthen fortifications built along the “Sugar Loaf Line of Defense.”

Built by Confederate troops in late 1864 these defensive trenches were meant to defend the road to Wilmington if Union Forces were to ever take Fort Fisher.

The park can best be accessed from the gravel driveway just to the north of the Publix Grocery Store. It’s parking lot can be seen behind the large pond near the ABC store.

The Land: A Little History

The land that the park is now situated on was originally called the old Burriss Homeplace. The Burriss family were among the earliest settlers of the Federal Point area and owned a farm that encompassed much of this land throughout the nineteenth century. As late as the 1990s the stone fireplace of the original Burriss home could still be seen on the land, though is it gone now.

In 1907 Ryder Lewis’s grandparents bought about 150 acres of the Burriss land lying between the highway to Wilmington and  the Myrtle Grove Sound. As Ryder says in an oral history done by the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society, And the deed says they paid $400 for it and it was in the woods, in the jungle.  Right where our house was, was in the woods. 

My daddy had the house built from his World War II bonus or something. I think it was a $1000 and that pretty well closed the house in.  So I was probably 2 or 3 years old when we actually moved into the house.  That was part of the Lewis estate.  My grandparents, on the Lewis side deeded out parcels of land to their various children.” 

 According to Ryder, the family farmed sweet potatoes, collards and watermelons, primary for family use. At that time they were “out in the country” as Ryder remembers:  “My parents would not allow my brother and I, who was a couple years younger than I am, to go down there and roam around that beach, or to go up on the Boardwalk.  That’s when we were young, unless we were escorted.  You  see, a lot of this stuff that went on, well like, Jimmy Davis and Milton Warwick, who came along later than I did, they were right there in town where they were involved in everything.  I was in the country.  And we had a big garden out back of our house, pole beans, sweet potatoes, pig pen.  We had hogs, milk goats and milk cows and we did have a nanny goat.

We had a pump out in the yard, one you went out and pumped up and down, that’s where we got our water. We had an outhouse out back, that was your bathroom and we had a Sears and Roebuck catalog in there. I don’t remember when we got power.  I was probably 6 or 7 years old, or a little older, when we got electricity along there.  We finally got a well with an electric pump on it, but we had the outhouse as long as I was growing up. 

 “Let’s put it this way…I told you my grandparents, in about 1907, bought about 150 acres.  And they deeded out quite a bit of it to their different children.  But when they died, there was still 30 or 40 acres of it that had not ever been distributed.  And furthermore, I’m one of the few people in a big family that was able to go to college and get a good job. 

 The old shopping center down here, coming from 421 all the way to St. Joseph’s Street, belonged to two Aunts.  One of the Aunts had the old, original Lewis home and she had no income.  She was an old maid and the county was giving her something like $30 a month and putting a lease on the property.  So I told Aunt Rose that I’ll buy that place, I’ll take your house, and I’ll pay off that lease and I’ll put lights, electricity in the house, which they didn’t have, and I’ll take care of you as long as you live if you’ll deed this property to me.  Well, she trusted me enough, she did it.  So that was about 8 acres.

 The other Aunt, she had 8 or 9 on out to the highway.  I got hers in a similar way.  I bought it.  And that’s where part of this house was sitting.  And, that’s the way I got started in getting some of the Lewis property.  Then they were getting close to building that bridge up here and they moved the highway over some and they got on Lewis property.  A good bit of it was on undivided property.  So they wanted the Lewis’s to come up with one person to deal with the state.  Well, all my old uncles and aunts and my old cousins agreed that I should be the one to represent them.  So I did.”

 In the 1960s, as Ryder’s Aunts and Uncles got older and property taxes on the jointly held property went up, the family attempted to divide the land. Unfortunately, “And the thing about it was there were ten children and one had had 7 children, 2 of the ones holding out on me were 1/7th and one, his mother, had turned hers over to him, so he had a tenth.  So I had 1/10th, 1/7th and then there was another 1/7th.  She had given it to her sister so she had 2/7ths of a tenth!  Well, they couldn’t figure out how to divide it, so then they finally said they’d sell.  The tenth cost me $500 and then one of ‘em got a seventh of $500 and another one got two-sevenths of $500.  And that’s the way I wound up with roughly 50 acres of land.”

Then in the late 1990s Ryder donated a portion of the remaining land to the Town of Carolina Beach: “I gave the town a little over 10 acres of land, that most of it was classified as wet land, and I thought they were going to make a park area.  (But they wound up, it’s only a 100 ft. on the highway and goes back 400 feet.) That area is where they put those ponds out there on the highway.”



Oral History – Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr.

Ryder Lewis Jr. Civil War Park

Park to be Dedicated
Thursday February 11, 2021

2:00 PM

Entrance is North of the Publix — old Federal Point Shopping Center

A committee of historians and citizens dedicated to our local history, along with the staff of the Town of Carolina Beach have completed the preservation and development of the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr., Civil War Park located around the remnants of the fortifications of the “Sugar Loaf Line of Defense.”

This project was made possible by the Town of Carolina Beach, The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society and its volunteers, along with the following contributors: the Joseph Ryder Lewis Jr, Family; staff from the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Fort Fisher and Underwater Archaeology Branch; Brunswick Civil War Round Table; Cape Fear Civil War Round Table; Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War Foundation, Milford, Ohio; the Island Gazette; Dr. Chris E. Fonvielle Jr.; Daniel Ray Norris/Slapdash Publishing; and  SEPI Engineering and Construction.

[Click/tap for larger images]

Click/tap for larger images






Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park

Coming (Fairly) Soon Now

Work continues on the new Joseph Ryder Lewis, Jr. Civil War Park. The Town of Carolina Beach has installed the first bridge and the parking pad and we are just waiting for the historic interpretive signage to be installed to schedule a grand opening.  For those of you who have been asking, here is how you get to the park.

The park is behind the pond along N. Lake Park Blvd. (right)

(above) You get to it from a driveway at the north (left) side of the new Publix.

You can see the new Publix from the park’s parking pad.



The first sign and first bridge are in.

As soon as life goes back to normal we will get things finished up and schedule a grand opening.


Walk the Sugar Loaf Line of Defense with Chris Fonvielle!

Dr. Chris Fonvielle

Saturday March 21   (2 pm – 4pm)

$10.00 donation requested.  Limited to 30 people
Call 910-458-0502 for reservations

We’re doing it again this year!  This is your chance to discover the Civil War ruins that stretch from Myrtle Grove Sound to the Cape Fear River along the northern edge of the Town of Carolina Beach.

The world’s expert on the Battles of Fort Fisher and the Fall of Wilmington, Dr. Chris Fonvielle, will lead the group across the peninsula and through the Carolina Beach State Park pointing out what remains today of a line of entrenchments built by the Confederates in the late days of 1864 to protect Wilmington from Union Forces when it became almost inevitable that they would eventually take Fort Fisher.

On January 19, 1865, the Federals attacked with two brigades of troops, including Colonel John W. Ames’ regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. Unable to break through, they launched an even bigger assault on February 11. U.S. Colored Troops played a major role in what became known as the battle of Sugar Loaf, although the Confederate defenses again proved to be too strong to overrun.

Unable to breach the Sugar Loaf defenses, the Federals transferred their operations to the west side of the Cape Fear River. They attacked and forced the abandonment of Fort Anderson, directly across the waterway from Sugar Loaf, on February 19, 1865.

The Confederate evacuation of Fort Anderson enabled the Union navy to advance further upriver and threaten Sugar Loaf from the rear. Consequently, General Hoke abandoned the Sugar Loaf defenses on February 19 and withdrew toward Wilmington. Union forces temporarily occupied Sugar Loaf before beginning their pursuit of the rapidly retreating Confederates. They captured Wilmington on February 22, 1865.


May Meeting — Chris Fonvielle on the Battle of Sugar Loaf

Monday, May 20, 2019  7:30 PM

The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, May 20, 2019, at 7:30 pm at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.

This month Chris E. Fonvielle, Jr. will talk about “Sugar Loaf and the Battle for Wilmington, NC, 1865.” Learn about the strong Confederate defenses at Sugar Loaf and Union army efforts to overrun them to capture Wilmington, the Confederacy’s most important city.

Chris E. Fonvielle Jr. is from Wilmington, North Carolina, where he was born in 1953. He attended local public schools, including New Hanover High School, class of 1971. Chris was the first soccer-style placekicker in North Carolina football history when he kicked for Coach Glenn Sasser’s New Hanover High School Wildcats in 1970.

Chris also attended UNC Wilmington, graduating with a B.A. in Anthropology in 1978. He then served as the last curator of the Blockade Runners of the Confederacy Museum at Carolina Beach, North Carolina, before going off to graduate school in 1983. He received a M.A. in American history from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where he studied with Dr. William N. Still Jr., the foremost authority on the Confederate States Navy. Chris subsequently studied Civil War history with Dr. Thomas L. Connelly at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, and from where he received his Ph.D. That makes Chris a Wildcat, Seahawk, Pirate, and Gamecock.

Fonvielle Explaining the Earthworks

Dr. Chris Fonvielle

Dr. Fonvielle is the author of articles and books on the Civil War and North Carolina history, including The Wilmington Campaign: Last Rays of Departing Hope; Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear: An Illustrated History; Louis Froelich: Arms-Maker to the Confederacy; Fort Fisher 1865: The Photographs of T.H. O’SullivanFaces of Fort Fisher, 1861-1864; and To Forge a Thunderbolt: Fort Anderson and the Battle for Wilmington.





Walk the Civil War Sugar Loaf Line of Defense


Saturday March 12, 2016. 2pm – 4pm
Starting at Federal Point History Center
1121-A N. Lake Park Blvd., Carolina Beach, NC 28428

Donations requested to Ryder Lewis – Sugar Loaf Civil War Park
Walk limited to 25 people – call 910-458-0502 to register.

Join Chris Fonvielle and John Moseley for a guided history tour of the Confederacy’s last line of defense on the Federal Point peninsula.

Chris Fonvielle Walking TourDr. Chris E. Fonvielle Jr. is professor of History at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. John Moseley is the Assistant Site Manager and Education Director at the Fort Fisher State Historic Site.

Walkers will gather at 2 pm at the Federal Point History Center behind the Carolina Beach Town Hall. They will then walk to the Carolina Beach State Park, ending at Sugar Loaf, along the Cape Fear River.  Along the way Dr. Fonvielle will point out the remains of this important remnant of our local history.  John Moseley, will be in Civil War costume and will demonstrate the firing a period gun.

CB Earthworks Clearing - March 2014The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society is currently working with the Town of Carolina Beach and other local history organizations to create a park around some of the remnants of this line of trenches that are located between N. Lake Park Blvd. and St. Joseph St.  Donations to the walk will go into the fund for use in establishing this park.

The importance of the Sugar Loaf Line:
As Union forces prepared to attack Wilmington by way of Fort Fisher in the autumn of 1864, Major General W. H. C. Whiting expanded existing defenses to meet the threat. He selected a “strong position” stretching from the sound (modern Carolina Beach canal) to Sugar Loaf hill on the Cape Fear River, for an extensive line of earthworks.

Engagement at Sugar Loaf - MapSugar Loaf itself was a natural sand dune that stood 50 feet in height on the riverbank. Whiting planned to place a battery of artillery on the summit of the hill.

By December 1864, the earthen fieldworks of the Sugar Loaf line ran for more than one mile from the sound to the river. Confederate forces continually strengthened them in the winter of 1864-1865.

During the first Union attack on Fort Fisher at Christmas 1864, approximately 3,400 Confederate troops defended Sugar Loaf, including 600 Senior Reserves commanded by Colonel John K. Connally.

General Lee sent Major General Robert F. Hoke’s Division of 6.400 Confederate troops from Virginia to try and prevent the fall of Wilmington.

General Alfred H. Terry’s forces that captured Fort Fisher quickly turned upriver to strike Wilmington. They reconnoitered and probed the Sugar Loaf lines for a weak spot. On January 19, 1865, the Federals attacked with two brigades of troops, including Colonel John W. Ames’ regiments of U.S. Colored Troops. Unable to break through, they launched an even bigger assault on February 11. U.S.

Colored Troops played a major role in what became known as the battle of Sugar Loaf, although the Confederate defenses again proved to be too strong to overrun.  [Source: “Historical Significance of the Sugar Loaf Civil War Earthworks” by Chris Fonvielle]

For more information call: Rebecca Taylor, Manager, Federal Point History Center, 910-458-0502 or email: