| Marker Text: |
"Confederate breastworks were constructed in this vicinity in 1862 to protect Wilmington from an attack from the north and for coastal defense."A set of defensive earthworks constructed in the fall of 1862, Topsail Battery was designed to thwart an attack on Wilmington from the north down the old New Bern road (the approximate route of present US 17). A secondary purpose was to guard New Topsail Inlet and Topsail Sound, keeping them open to blockade runners. The attack from the north never materialized. However, plans were made for such an attack by Union Gen. J. G. Foster while he occupied New Bern and reinforcements of troops and artillery were sent to the site in 1864 by Confederate Gen. W. H. C. Whiting.
Topsail Battery did see action on several occasions in the defense of the inlet and sound areas. On October 22, 1862, Lt. William B. Cushing entered New Topsail Inlet and destroyed the blockade runner Adelaide. A week later he set fire to a large salt works and was fired upon by artillery at the battery. In August 1863 Lt. Cushing, termed “Lincoln’s commando” by his biographers, made another attempt to enter the sound but was driven away by Confederate artillery. That same month Cushing set fire to the blockade runner Alexander Cooper and captured several of her men. Cushing went on to his greatest notoriety by sinking the ram Albemarle at Plymouth in October 1864.
Today the remains of the breastworks of Topsail Battery are threatened by development. Extending for about six-tenths of a mile, the works in places are ten feet tall from the bottom of the trench to the top of the wall. Sections of the works were destroyed in the 1950s for the widening of US 17.
The War of the Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, ser. I, vol. 8, pp. 151-152 and 175-176; ser. I, vol. 9, pp. 177-178 and 300-301; and ser. I, vol. 18, pp. 476-477, 780, and 873
“Defences of Wilmington, Map of Country Between the Cape Fear Rivers and Topsail Sound” (1864?)
Wilson Angley, “An Historical Overview of New Topsail Inlet” (unpublished research report, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1984)
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (1963)
Related Themes: C.S.A., Confederate States of America, Confederacy
North Carolina Civil War Historical Markers.