Atlantic Beach, NC – The final fort that I visited during my South Carolina/North Carolina Road Trip was Fort Macon in the Fort Macon State Park near Atlantic Beach, NC. Fort Macon, like Fort Pulaski and Fort Clinch, is a Third System fortification, built between the War of 1812 and the Civil War. Just as Fort Pulaski and Fort Clinch are of different constructions, Fort Macon is of a different design as well. Fort Macon is almost like a smaller Fort Pulaski surrounded by an earthen fortification with the moat in between.
Fort Macon and Fort Pulaski share similar histories. Built between 1826 and 1834, Fort Macon was intended to protect the ports of Morehead City and Beaufort just as Fort Pulaski was intended to protect the Port of Savannah. At the beginning of the civil war, both were in the care of one or two caretakers and were easily taken over by the Confederacy. Likewise, both were retaken by the Union in April 1862. In both cases, fire from rifled guns caused damage to the forts, including damage to ammunition magazines, that forced the Confederates to surrender. While the fall of Fort Pualski didn’t result in the fall of the Port of Savannah, the fall of Fort Macon followed the capture of Morehead City and Beaufort and allowed the Union Navy the use of Beaufort Harbor for the duration of the war.
After the Civil War, Fort Macon would remain occupied by the US Army through 1877 and was used as both a military and civil prison. In 1898, it was reactivated for use during the Spanish-American War. It was abandoned in 1903 and sold as surplus to the State of North Carolina for $1 in 1924 for use as a state park. As part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, the Citizens Conservation Corps restored the fort and built recreation facilities and Fort Macon State Park opened in 1936 as North Carolina’s first functioning state park. During World War II, the Army once again utilized Fort Macon; leasing it from the state, it was used for coastal artillery from 1941 to 1944 and returned to the State of North Carolina in 1946.
If you’re interested in Civil War History or fortifications, you really should add Fort Macon to your list of places to visit. I found that it readily complemented my visits to Fort Pulaski and Fort Clinch and that it added to my knowledge of the Civil War along the Confederate coast. Even though most of Fort Macon’s Casemates are closed to visitors due to to hurricane damage, it’s very much worth visiting.