Visited 27 Jan 2010 – Fort Caswell is a coastal fort located on Oak Island on the North Carolina coast as a part of the Harbor Defense of Cape Fear and Wilmington, NC. The fort is fairly unique in several ways because it was first a masonry Third System Fort, started in 1826, that was overbuilt as an Endicott Period Fort in 1894 and, at the end of it’s military life in 1946, was purchased by the Baptist Convention of North Carolina. Access to the Fort is easy and the Baptist welcome visitors and have a small fee for a grounds pass.
The Baptist have been excellent stewards of the property and the Fort has the look and feel of it’s Endicott period heritage. The fort buildings probably look better than they did when the fort was in operation and that is no small feat. Most of the buildings are not open to the public because they are in use by the North Carolina Baptist Assembly.
Only a small portion of the old brick Fort Caswell remains. You can see parts of three walls and one corner sallyport entrance. The old fort continues to deteriorate and large cracks and crumbling bricks can be seen. At this stage of the game it would take a major effort to restore what remains and not enough remains to really make it worthwhile. The reason that not much remains is that a large concrete Endicott Period gun battery was built over the south side of the old fort. This battery was named Battery Caswell and was a two gun 12″ Barbette carriage battery built in 1898-99, it consumed about half of the old fort.
Battery Caswell itself suffered the major indignity of having both gun emplacements converted into swimming pools in 1937-38. There are a total of nine Endicott Period concrete gun batteries on the property in various states of repair. Considering their age and the exposure to the elements most of them are in pretty good shape.
The restored buildings are really the story at Fort Caswell and it is really a pleasure to walk along Officer’s row and imagine what it was like back in 1900. It is also fascinating to see what the key buildings on the fort actually looked like, the barracks, the guard house, the hospital and all the support buildings. This is a must-see fort if you are in this area.
This post was written by JohnStanton on March 24, 2010