Civil War Attractions

Visit the area's historic and war-focused attractions including historic homes, museums and battle sites just to name a few.  Each attraction features a different perspective on the events and consequences of the Civil War and highlights the important role that Wilmington played in shaping the war.  To view a map of all local attractions, check out our Civil War Attractions map.  

Bellamy MansionBellamy Mansion
The Bellamy Mansion is one of North Carolina's most spectacular examples of antebellum architecture built on the eve of the Civil War by free and enslaved black artisans, one of which was local William Benjamin Gould whose escape to freedom is documented on the National Underground Railroad Network Freedom Marker. After the fall of Fort Fisher in 1865, Federal troops commandeered the house as their headquarters during the occupation of Wilmington. In addition to the mansion, the site features a rare survival of a once important urban building type, and one of the best preserved examples in the country. Such buildings were generally referred to as servants’ quarters. Before the American Civil War there were hundreds of urban slave quarters housing thousands of enslaved people throughout the South. Through the Bellamy Mansion Slave Quarters restoration, these people will be honored and the lives and contributions of not only Sarah, Joan, Maryann and the children who lived in the Bellamy Mansion quarters, but all enslaved people who lived in such dwellings. Learn More

Cameron Art MuseumCameron Art Museum
The Cameron Art Museum’s location on Independence Street is also home to the significant Civil War site of the Battle of Forks Road fought on February 20, 1865. The Confederate loss at the Battle of Forks Road directly following the Fall of Fort Fisher marked the beginning of the end for the Confederacy. The loss at Forks Road placed the Cape Fear Port in the hands of the Union cutting off supply lines to General Robert E. Lee in Northern Virginia and leading to the final surrender of the Confederate Army. The museum grounds are lined with Confederate revetments built during the Battle of Forks Road and every year the museum commemorates the lives lost on its property with a reenactment of the battle followed by lectures, workshops, and artillery demonstrations. Learn More

Cape Fear Museum of History & ScienceCape Fear Museum of History & Science
In March of 1898, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) first opened the museum in one room on the second floor of the Wilmington Light Infantry’s (WLI) building. Since its founding, the museum has moved around the city. Originally, the institution was founded to preserve Confederate objects and Confederate memories of the Civil War. After the reopening in the 1930s, many new objects were collected, broadening the museum's holdings to include a wider range of historical items.  In the late 1970s, Cape Fear Museum’s mission re-focused on the region’s history, science and cultures. Today, the Museum draws on a collection of more than 52,000 items including an interactive diorama of the Battle of Forth Fisher and Civil War artifacts. Learn More

Carolina Beach State Park and Sugarloaf Sand DuneCarolina Beach State Park and Sugarloaf Sand Dune
Sugarloaf sand dune in Carolina Beach State Park was of strategic significance during the Civil War as part of the Confederacy's defense of the Port of Wilmington. Up to 6,400 Confederate troops under Major General Robert F. Hoke were encamped in defensive positions on or near Sugarloaf during the siege of Fort Fisher, the massive sand fortification only six miles south, constructed to help protect Wilmington. Shortly after, it was determined that the main Confederate works along the Sugar Loaf Line were too strong to be captured by frontal assault so General John Schofield decided to concentrate his efforts to capture Wilmington from the western side of the Cape Fear. Come and view Carolina Beach State Park’s Sugarloaf sand dune, a Civil War landmark on the banks of the beautiful Cape Fear River. Learn More

Fort Fisher State Historic SiteFort Fisher State Historic Site
Until the last few months of the Civil War, Fort Fisher kept North Carolina's port of Wilmington open to blockade-runners supplying necessary goods to Confederate armies inland. By 1865, the supply line through Wilmington was the last remaining route open to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. When Fort Fisher fell after a massive Federal amphibious assault on January 15, 1865, its defeat helped seal the fate of the Confederacy.  The site is free and open to the public as a Civil War battlefield and museum year-round and offers a visitor center, gift shop, outdoor monuments and a 1/4 mile interpretive trail around the fort.  Programs offered throughout the year include guided walking tours, guest speakers, artillery demonstrations, reenactments and special exhibits. Learn More

Fort Fisher Underwater Archeology CenterFort Fisher Underwater Archeology Center
Naval warfare in the waters of the state has left a legacy of shipwrecks and other underwater archeological sites. The Fort Fisher Underwater Archeology Center has spent years uncovering historic gems, many Civil War related.   Along the southeastern coast of North Carolina underwater archeologists have investigated the remains of 29 Civil War period shipwrecks. Most of these wrecks were blockade runners attempting to evade the Union ships and enter the Cape Fear River. Wilmington, situated 20 miles up the river, served as the last major Confederate port open to blockade runners and the valuable cargoes they brought to the south. In addition to the blockade runners, divers have located the remains of four Union warships and two Confederate gunboats. Learn More

Oakdale CemeteryOakdale Cemetery
Oakdale Cemetery was established in 1852 and was open for burials in 1855.  Oakdale was part of the Rural Garden Cemetery movement that created beautiful settings for the burial of the dead. If nature's contribution defines its beauty, the monuments and sculptures contained within enhance Oakdale's reputation as a place of history and wonder.  Within the grounds you will find the graves of Civil War Generals such as Whiting, Barry and MacRae to name a few.  Confederate spy Rose O'Neale Greenhowe's grave is a popular stop as well plus the majestic monument to the Confederate Dead which overlooks the 367 graves within its enclosure. Learn More

Orange Street LandingOrange Street Landing
The marker, entitled "Orange Street Landing on Cape Fear," marks the location dedicated in May 2005 by the National Parks Service as part of its National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. The Orange Street location had the distinction of being the 200th commemorative Underground Railroad site to be listed in the network.  Wilmington's largest known escape took place in September 1862, when 22 freedom-seekers confiscated 3 sailboats at the foot of Orange Street and successfully rowed 28 nautical miles to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. During the escape, Union ships provided the freedom-seekers with protection. The freedmen subsequently enlisted in the Union Navy. One of the slaves, William B. Gould, recorded the journey in a diary from October 13, 1863 through September 5, 1864. Learn More

Poplar GrovePoplar Grove
A new permanent exhibit to be unveiled in June 2014 titled "From Civil War to Civil Rights: The African American Experience at Poplar Grove" will chronicle the lives of African Americans on-site at Poplar Grove from slavery to the early civil rights movement. By 1860, Poplar Grove owner Joseph M. Foy owned fifty-nine African American slaves with ties throughout the local Scotts Hill community. Looking out onto the plantation complex, one would have seen a working area very different from the gardens and lawn we see today. Outbuildings dotted the landscape, while a large hog killing yard was located behind the existing root cellar. The ten original slave quarters for field slaves were most likely located to the rear of the modern Agricultural Barn, far enough away from the main family home, but still within reach of supervision. Slaves held many roles on the plantation; domestic servants cooked, cleaned, and cared for the Foy family. Skilled artisans such as carpenters, plasterers, weavers, and blacksmiths crafted the house, outbuildings, and other useful items. Field slaves worked on the day-to-day operation of plowing fields, planting, and harvesting cropssuch as peanuts and sweet potatoes.  Upon the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, the Foy slaves remained at Poplar Grove and were managed by hired overseers in 1862 and 1863. While evidence does not indicate that any of the Foy’s slaves attempted self-emancipation during the Civil War, Wilmington and the surrounding area experienced significant social upheaval during the conflict. Learn More

Thalian Hall Center for Performing ArtsThalian Hall Center for Performing Arts

Since its construction in 1855-1858, the City Hall/Thalian Hall building has had the unusual distinction of serving as both the area's political and cultural center. During the Civil War, Thalian Hall was in almost constant use as a place of amusement for soldiers and locals alike. It was built by freed and enslaved Africans. The theatre’s main stage makes an appearance in the upcoming Smithsonian Channel documentary “Lincoln’s Last Day.” Thalian Hall’s designer John Montague Trimble is believed to have been involved in the design of Ford Theatre which may explain why they look so similar. Learn More

Wilmington National CemeteryWilmington National Cemetery
In February 1867, the U.S. government purchased five acres of land from a local Wilmington resident for the construction of a national cemetery.  Civil War remains were removed from the Wilmington City Cemetery, Fort Fisher, and the surrounding area and reinterred in the new cemetery.  The remains (55 known, 502 unknown) of the 557 U.S. Colored Troops who died on the advance to Wilmington are buried in the northwest corner of the cemetery. Their grave markers are identified with the inscription “U.S.C.T.” or “U.S. Col. Inf.”  Learn More

Wilmington Railroad MuseumWilmington Railroad Museum

In 1840 the longest railroad in the world opened in North Carolina, running from Wilmington in New Hanover County to Weldon in Halifax County via Goldsboro and Rocky Mount. The Wilmington and Raleigh Railroad Company designed and built the railroad which, at 161½ miles, was longer than any other track in the world. In 1858, among the early employees was assistant engineer William G. Lewis, the future General of the Civil War. The Wilmington and Weldon line was essential to the Confederacy during the Civil War, becoming known as the “Lifeline of the Confederacy.” The line moved goods and supplies from the single open Confederate port of Wilmington to Robert E. Lee’s Army in Virginia and throughout the Confederacy. The fall of Wilmington, denying access to the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, was a major factor leading up to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. Learn More

Brunswick Town/ Fort AndersonBrunswick Town/ Fort Anderson
Located nearby Wilmington, Fort Anderson was constructed atop the old village site of Brunswick Town during the Civil War and served as part of the Cape Fear River defenses below Wilmington before the fall of the Confederacy. Colonial foundations dot the present-day tour trail, which crosses the earthworks of the Confederate fort. Learn More

Wilmington eTours Self-Guided History Tour App

An app tour is available for visitors who prefer a self-guided tour of Civil War sites. Wilmington eTours now offers a ‘Civil War Wilmington’ tour on its app. The app uses the technology of a cell phone or tablet to show history like you’ve never seen it before. Learn More