Island Gazette

Col. William Lamb


With the 144th Anniversary of the second battle at Fort Fisher on its way seems appropriate to honor one of Fort Fisher’s heroes. Col. William Lamb’s intelligence, strategy, and dedication were the reasons Fort Fisher is known today.
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By: Stacey E. Faulk
Staff Writer

With the 144th Anniversary of the second battle at Fort Fisher on its way seems appropriate to honor one of Fort Fisher’s heroes.  Col. William Lamb’s intelligence, strategy, and dedication were the reasons Fort Fisher is known today.  In only two years he created what ended up being one of the largest and most defensive forts in Confederate history. 
Col. William Lamb was born and raised in Norfolk, Virginia.  He was brought up in a wealthy but very militaristic family which led him to gain a great interest in the military history at a very young age.  He performed vast amounts of research on different wars that were being fought in Europe among other places.  He studied their defenses and fortifications which later led him to create his legend, Fort Fisher. 
Col. Lamb’s command of Fort Fisher began the 4th of July, 1862, only 3 years before the monumental battle took place.  Right from the start he began remaking and remodeling fort to better withstand attacks from land but mostly from sea.  The constant threat of Union blockade runners sitting offshore made it a necessity to keep Fort Fisher as protected as possible.  With the control over the river and the ports, Fort Fisher became one of the most recognized areas in the Confederacy thanks to the hard-work of Col. Lamb and the builder and planner, General W.H.C. Whiting.  According to Fort Fisher stretched over682 yards across land and another 1,898 yards down the beach.  It was well fortified with 44 heavy cannons along with 125 additional cannons, and 1,500 soldiers.
The day finally came when Col. William Lamb would be able to see the well-functioning, well-prepared fort on Christmas Day, 1864.  A joint attack by the Union’s army and navy came stampeding into Wilmington lead by General Benjamin Butler.  Once Butler laid eyes upon the well fortified port area he retreated back to Virginia much to the disdain of General Ulysses S. Grant.  Grant put new commander General Alfred H. Terry in place of the cowardly Butler and on January 13th, 1865 the final attack of Fort Fisher began. “All day and night on the 13th and 14th of January, the navy continued its ceaseless torment.  It was impossible to repair damages at night on the land-face, the Ironsides and monitors bowled their shells along the parapet, scattering shrapnel in the darkness. 
We could scarcely gather up and bury our dead without fresh casualties,” explained Lamb himself according to  One of the largest and strongest forts of the Confederacy was about to fall. On January 15, 1865 the navy dealt its final blows distracting the Lamb and the other Fort Fisher Soldiers from Union army that was attacking on land.  On this day General W.H.C. Whiting was mortally wounded and he fell with his fort.  Lamb, still trying to hang on to his creation and one of the last standing forts fought with wounded soldiers trying to hold the pounding of the Union army and navy.  The north wall of the fort was the final straw and around 10:00 at night Lamb and the Confederate   soldiers surrendered. Though the battle of Fort Fisher was a loss to the Confederacy, it was also a great loss to the Union.  Out of their 10,000 soldiers the Union lost over 1,300 soldiers whereas the Confederacy only lost around 500 of their 1,500 soldiers.  Lamb and Fort Fisher was the David to the Union’s Goliath and they were able to hold off and hurt the Union army regardless of their small size.  Lamb was only 29 years old when Fort Fisher fell.  (Though around 100 of the Union’s losses was due to two drunken soldiers who accidently set fire to the magazine.)
Lamb was seriously wounded in the battle of Fort Fisher but was still able to carry on his political dreams as the Mayor of Norfolk, Virginia from 1880 to 1886 following his father and his grandfather.  In 1900 he was knighted into The Order of Wasa for his services in Sweden and Norway.  In 1906 Col. William Lamb died in Norfolk where he rests to this day.  Col. William Lamb was a true confederate hero.  He did not run when 10,000 soldiers threatened his home.  He held strong and stayed with his troop and with his fort until the very end.  His methods have been studied and practiced and have proven very effective.  He risked his life for his country, his beliefs, and for what is now known as Pleasure Island.
The information from this article can be found at,, and


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