Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Friday, May. 04, 2012

Fort Macon State Park, bastion of war era, has timeless appeal

By Gary McCullough
Published in: Southeast Excursions
  • Details

    Fort Macon State Park opens daily at 9 a.m.; closing time varies by season. Fort hours:

    9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily. Admission: free.

    Details: 252-726-3775;

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    The roar of cannon and musket fire was heard again last month when the 150th anniversary of the siege of Fort Macon was commemorated with a variety of Civil War-related events. But Fort Macon State Park, at the eastern tip of Bogue Bank, is a great trip any weekend. With about 1.4 million visitors annually, it is the most-visited park in the state.


    From Charlotte, Fort Macon State Park is slightly less than 300 miles, a six-hour drive.

    To see and do

    The masonry fort is named for the N.C. statesman who helped secure the funding to get it built. U. S. Sen. Nathaniel Macon supported a $464,000 federal appropriation for the fort’s construction, which began in 1826, and the installation was first garrisoned in 1834. When North Carolina seceded from the Union in 1861, Confederate forces seized the fort without so much as a single shot being fired. Things weren’t nearly as quiet, however, when Federal forces under Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside recaptured the fortress April 26, 1862. A monthlong siege culminated with an 11-hour bombardment that forced the Confederates to capitulate. The garrison’s inability to defend itself against large-bore, rifled artillery fire proved that Fort Macon and similar masonry fortifications were antiquated. Fort Macon then served as a coaling station for Union ships until the war’s end. Garrisoned briefly during the Spanish-American War, Congress gave the fort and surrounding land to the state in 1924. Fort Macon was the second park established in a state system (after Mount Mitchell), but was the first to actually function as a state park. It opened in 1936 after a two-year restoration.

    Go on a guided tour of Fort Macon or roam the site on their own. Several areas are enclosed and feature interpretive displays of the enlisted men’s living quarters, the commander’s quarters, and life during different eras when the fort was used, right up through World War II. A map of the five-sided fort guides you from the sally port (fort entrance) through the casements (vaulted rooms), powder magazines (weapons/ammo storehouse), and the storage rooms that surround the parade ground. Among the fort’s armament is a rifled 32-pound replica cannon specially made for the site. The wide ramparts above the casements can be reached via a number of stairways, and from the elevated ramparts visitors can see Bogue Sound, Shackleford Banks and the ocean. You can also walk out onto the dry moat that surrounds Fort Macon.

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