The battle was the biggest joint navy/army/marine attack then in history. It involved over 60 warships bringing about 600 cannons up against Fort Fisher with about 50 cannons, but an incredible fortification that stretched a mile along the coast line and another 1/3rd mile along a land approach.
In that same battle 3 Medals of Honor were awarded that would come to Canadians and a 4th to a soldier with connections to Canada. Today's blog is about one of these recipients, Marine Corps' Private John Fisher, who was born somewhere in Canada in about 1830. The actual place has eluded researchers so far. And like many who would earn the medal, his life after the event is just as mysterious with few clues to expand upon. (Over the years of the medal there would be 2 Canadians and one with connections to Canada that would be awarded their medal while serving in the US Marine Corps.)
This very vessel, with an armament of 44 cannons of the 8/9/10 inch barrels, almost matched cannon for cannon with the Confederate fort's 47 cannons. And the Union admiral of the day still had another 60 warships to boot.
The Minnesota a few years early took part in the famous Monitor and Merrimac (Virginia) battle of the Ironclads of March 1862, and more of which you will hopefully read in a future blog. Her crew of about 650 officers and men include no less than 52 Canadians mostly from Atlantic Canada.
Fort Fisher is located along the Atlantic coastine in the state of North Carolina and where the Cape Fear River empties into the ocean. From the above map on the left you can see that the fort was ideally placed to protect the important Confederate city of Wilmington some 29 miles up the river. The map on the right gives an indication of the massive size of Fort Fisher. The image of course does not show all of the vessels involved in the battle.
The attack on the fort from the land side will be discussed in another blog. Shivers' attack came from the ocean side where some 2200 or more sailors and marines were landed after a two day fierce bombardment of the fort. The Preston blogs told of the sailor's landing, and Lt Preston's group of pioneers landing to make trenches for the Marine sharpshooters to take up their positions.
The above picture shows the beech in the foreground at the fort with the mounds in the background being the fort. Several mounds within the fort elevated some of their powerful guns upwards of 30' in the air. And that is what the Union forces faced that day. From the lower picture you can see a small portion of the fort wall, being some 9 feet in height. The ocean is off to the left.
The confusion of battle and panic resulted in most of the marines and sailors retreating from the battle and little more than a handful being stuck on the beachfront till dark when they managed to escape carrying their unit colours and several of the wounded and dead. Two of these were no doubt naval lieutenants Preston and Porter mentioned in the earlier blog. The Union would lose about 1000 sailors and marines and soldiers ot the battle through death, wounding, missing in action and prisoners of war.
The location of Shiver's medal is unknown, but to give an indication of what it would look like, I have shown to the right a seaman's medal from the same battle and even the same ship. The photo is courtesy of my friends at the Medal of Honor Historical Society of the US, of which I am a member, and at last check... the only Canadian member.
Nine months after the attack Shivers was listed as being a deserter. Sometimes the term is unkind as the individual may have actually not known when his enlistment was up (poor record keeping). Many were also ill or POW's and thus the term was inaccurate. Over 200, 000 in the Civil War were categorized as being deserters. Many were quite wrong.
Shivers' medal was awarded in June 1865 but apparently was never presented and was listed as still being held by the US government in 1898 and not claimed by the marine. In 1989 it was finally listed as either having been claimed or then gone missing from the Navy department's museum. It's location still remains unknown.
In the case of deserters the medal is often rescinded, but it wasn't in Shivers' case.
His battle at Fort Fisher took place 148 years ago today.