FORT MACON 1834
During the 18th and 19th centuries the area around Beaufort and Beaufort Inlet was highly vulnerable to attack. The construction of Fort Dobbs was begun in 1756 during the French and Indian War, but when the war ended the fort was never completed. Early in the 1800s a small masonry fort was built that guarded the inlet during the War of 1812. Shoreline erosion and a hurricane had swept Fort Hampton into Beaufort Inlet by 1825.
The War of 1812 demonstrated the weakness of existing coastal defenses. The United States government began construction on an improved chain of coastal fortifications. This undertaking involved the construction of thirty-eight new, permanent coastal forts known as the Third System. As part of this system, pentagon-shaped 26-casemate Fort Macon, with a ditch separating its covertway and inner citadel, was designed by Brigadier General Simon Bernard and built by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. The fort was named for native North Carolinian Nathaniel Macon (1758–1837), who served in the Revolutionary War and as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, until he returned to his home state and served in the state senate. Construction began in 1826. Using brick made in the area and masons from Beaufort and other parts of the country, the US Army Corps of Engineers completed the fort in December, 1834. Total cost of the fort was $463,790.
The War Between the States began on April 12, 1861. Only two days elapsed before a local Beaufort militia, acting without state orders, arrived to seize the fort for the state of North Carolina and the Confederacy. North Carolina Confederate forces occupied the fort for a year, preparing it for battle and arming it with fifty-four heavy cannons.
Early in 1862, Union forces commanded by Major General Ambrose E. Burnside swept through eastern North Carolina. Part of Burnside’s command, under Brigadier General John G. Parke, captured Morehead City and Beaufort without resistance and then landed on Bogue Banks during March and April to operate against Fort Macon.
Colonel Moses J. White and 402 North Carolina Confederates in the fort refused to surrender even though the fort was hopelessly surrounded. On April 25, 1862, Parke’s Union forces bombarded the fort with heavy siege guns for eleven hours, aided by the fire of four Union navy gunboats in the ocean offshore and by floating batteries in the sound to the east. While the fort easily repulsed the Union gunboat attack, the Union land batteries, utilizing new rifled cannons, hit the fort 560 times. There was such extensive damage that Colonel White was forced to surrender the following morning. The fort's Confederate garrison was then paroled as prisoners of war. This battle was the second time in history that rifled cannons had been used against a fort and demonstrated the obsolescence of fortifications such as Fort Macon as a way of defense.
The Union army held Fort Macon for the remainder of the war, while Beaufort Harbor served as an important coaling and repair station for the Union navy.
During the Reconstruction Era, the United States Army actively occupied Fort Macon until 1877. For about eleven years during this era, since there were no penitentiaries, Fort Macon was used as a civil and military prison, until 1876.
Fort Macon was deactivated after 1877 but was regarrisoned by state troops once again during the summer of 1898 for the Spanish-American War. Finally, in 1903, the U.S.Army completely abandoned the fort. The fort was not even used during World War I and in 1923 it was offered for sale as surplus military property. However, at the bidding of North Carolina leaders, a Congressional Act on June 4, 1924, enabled the fort and surrounding reservation to be sold to the state for $1.00. Fort Macon and the surrounding property was the second area acquired by the state for the purpose of establishing a state parks system.
From 1934 to 1935 the Civilian Conservation Corps restored the fort and established public recreational facilities which enabled Fort Macon State Park to officially open May 1, 1936, as North Carolina’s first functioning state park.
At the outbreak of World War II, the United States Army leased the park from the state and actively manned the fort with Coast Artillery troops once again to protect a number of important nearby facilities. The fort was occupied from December 1941 to November 1944. On October 1, 1946, the Army returned the fort and the park to the state.
From 1998 to 2003 a large-scale restoration and renovation was completed. This huge undertaking included duplicating the original fort’s plans. Casemates were repaired which included furnishing them as they may have been in the earliest days of the fort. The ornate trim of the three stairways was also duplicated. During this renovation extensive structural repairs such as waterproofing and masonry repairs were also carried out. The total cost was about twelve million dollars.
Today, Fort Macon is one of North Carolina’s most visited state parks, receiving more than a million visitors a year. In 1970 Fort Macon was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2013 Concerts at Fort Macon 7:00pm - TBA
Fort Macon on Google+
Album of 1862 Drawings and Etchings
During April 21-26, 2012, well-planned realistic reenactments of life at the fort, leading to the siege and surrender, were held at Fort Macon State Park to mark the Sesquicentennial of the battle of Fort Macon.
Siege of Fort Macon Sesquicentennial video (turn down volume before opening, then adjust for comfort)
Fort Macon on Google+
Album of 1862 Drawings and Etchings