The History of Fort Caswell

Fort Caswell, named in 1833 for the first Governor of North Carolina, Richard Caswell, is located in Brunswick County on the Fort Caswell - Located on Oak Island, NCEastern tip of Oak Island. Congress authorized construction of the fort in 1825 because the area was vulnerable due to its lack of defenses. One of the main reasons for the need of defenses was that Oak Island, nearby Smith Island (now known as Bald Head Island) and Smithville (now known as Southport) were popular pirate refuges. Construction on the main fort, located near the end of the island, lasted from 1826 to 1836. The construction of the fort, built of stone and earthworks, was considered one of the strongest in the world. Most of the construction of the main fort still stands today. The rest of the fort, including seven long cement batteries, barracks, officer’s quarters, a bakery, horse barn, prison, firehouse, hospital and morgue were built around the turn of the century.

One of only three masonry forts in the state of North Carolina, the Fort was used in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II, as well as the Persian Gulf War and the Haitian War. After the Civil War, the fort remained in ruin until money was appropriated for its reconstruction in 1896. By 1916 Fort Caswell was rebuilt and was considered a very important military post to the East Coast. Fort Caswell served as a training camp for World War I. After World War I, thinking that the world was at peace, Fort Caswell was abandoned. During World War II the fort was used as an army base and submarine lookout post. The Fort then went on to house personnel who worked nearby during the Persian Gulf and Haitian Wars.

In 1946,the federal government designated Fort Caswell as war surplus and it was therefore assigned for disposal. In 1949 the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina purchased the 250-acre property from the federal government for $86,000. The property, including 77 buildings, is surrounded on three sides by the Cape Fear River and the Atlantic Ocean. The Baptist Convention purchased the property because they wanted to offer North Carolina Baptists a quiet place for peace and relaxation. Today the North Carolina Baptist Assembly at Fort Caswell is used as a religious retreat and is also used as a convention center. Guests staying at the Baptist Assembly can enjoy over a mile of unspoiled beaches, volleyball, softball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, fishing, swimming and many more outdoor activities. Baptists can rent the convention center for retreats and other activities. Religious groups other than Baptists can rent the convention center as well, as long as their objectives are not contrary to those of the Baptist Assembly. Accommodations range from private rooms to large bunk style housing as low as $15 per person per night.

Unfortunately, because Fort Caswell is located on private property, the area is not accessible to tourists. Only guests of the Baptist Assembly and those renting the premises are able to tour this historical treasure. For more information on Fort Caswell, the Baptist Assembly, or renting the convention center, you can contact the Baptist Assembly directly at 910-278-9501.

Copyright © 2004. All Rights Reserved.

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