|The good times...|
|...and the not-so-good times...|
Fort Fisher National Battlefield Site.
As you already know, the Civil War pitted American vs. American in some of the most bloody and violent fighting this country's military has ever been involved in. Makes sense, we are pretty damn good at warfare as a country and fighting ourselves like that must of been one hell of a mess. The folks down in North Carolina would of been on the "other team" than my ancestors (my family has roots as New England Yanks) but that does not make the contributions of those people any less important in the history of our country.
Fort Fisher was a fort situated on the Southern tip of what is now called Pleasure Island at the mouth of the Cape Fear river that lead to the city of Wilmington. During the war the Union successfully blockaded most Southern ports to prevent supplies from Europe and other areas from reaching the Confederacy. One of the cities affected by this blockade was the confederate capital of Richmond, Virginian. Wilmington was its supply lifeline. Laying at the head of the river away from the guns of the blockade if a confederate runner could get past the blockade and into the Cape Fear river and behind the protective guns of the Fort it could safely unload its cargo up the river in Wilmington, and from there be transported over land to Richmond.
In a combined Naval and land assault over 3 days in January, 1865, Union forces finally captured this strategic piece of real estate and provided the final blow that strangled the supply line for the Army of Northern Virginia. General Lee would sign the treaty at Appomattox Court House after the final shots of the war just a scant 4 months later, ending the most bloody conflict in US history. It cannot be understated that most military conflicts in history have been fought on the front lines of the battlefield, but won on the logistical lines of the winning side.
|The main exhibit hall at the museum has a diorama of the battle|
|While much of the outer defenses have been reclaimed by the sea, many of the center ramparts are still available to be toured if you are up to walking on a hot, humid August afternoon...|
|They even have an actual MOH on display...|
North Carolina Military History Museum, Kure Beach, NC.
This museum located on a small MWR/North Carolina ARNG post is a hidden gem if you are in the area. Staffed by a single volunteer and open only for a few hours each week, I was shocked by the sheer number of exhibit items on display in this drab and otherwise drab cinder block building. One surprising exhibit was an actual German StG-44, the famous "Sturmgewehr" rifle of WWII. This rifle is considered the original assault rifle and many have contemplated if Hitler had gotten it into service much quicker than he did it could have made a difference in the wars outcome. I mean these things are rare and to find one tucked away in a small, part time museum on a postage stamp sized NCARNG post is simply amazing. Of course there were many other fine weapons from WWII and other times, Garands, M1919 machine guns, Enfield rifles, M1903's, Grease guns...this place had it all. While aimed mostly at the history of units from North Carolina, there was something that any military buff could enjoy there. The displays here were top notch and I shook the volunteers hand for helping to maintain such a little gem of a museum like that...and I dropped some green folding money into the donation jar as well. More info here..
|Not much to look at from the outside....|
|but a lot to look at on the inside!|
|Thats the StG-44 on top with some other cool rifles down below|
|Pretty typical of the density of items in each display...pretty damn cool for a free museum|
|hey look, a Huey with a huey.....and a Moni...|
The USS North Carolina, BB-55. "The Showboat"
This is considered one of the grand daddies of floating history in this country. The USS North Carolina was commissioned and launched as the first ship in a new class of heavy battleships just in time for WWII. She (I think all Navy ships are referred to as "she") saw action in every major campaign in the Pacific during WWII and while not having a claim on sinking a Japanese capital ship (WWII saw the advent of Naval aviation as the predominant offensive weapon) she did participate in many shore bombardments to support the Army and Marine Corps as well as plucking many Japanese aircraft from the sky. All in all, the sailors and marines that called the North Carolina home were one of the most decorated crews of the war. This success came with a price as 10 members of the crew never made it back to home port. This fact was not lost on me as I strolled her decks and passages with my daughter.
|that's a big "boat"!...|
|you should of seen the size of the bore snake for this SOB...|
|When she was active, if you made the North Carolina mad this was not something you wanted to be looking at ...|
|Think trying to figure out that rear sight on your CMP M-1 is difficult, this is the "computer" that was used to aim the mighty 16" guns of The Showboat..|
So there you go, while North Carolina military will often bring up images of brave paratroopers with maroon berets or snake eaters with painted faces there is a rich history of military service by the citizens of this warm, coastal state that should be reflected on and honored. North Carolina is not alone in this distinction either, take a look anywhere you may vacation and and you will find places to stop and reflect on the military heritage we share as Americans.