A smaller fortification east of Fort Hatteras and closer to the ocean, Fort Clark’s location provided a possible crossfire against Union invasion into the channel. The fort had five thirty-two pounders and two smaller guns.
African Americans played a significant role in building Fort Clark (as they did when building Fort Hatteras and Fort Fisher). While the fort was being constructed, soldiers earned a reputation for listless behavior; reports mentioned that many soldiers wasted time by drinking whiskey, fishing, and writing letters. Construction of the fort halted temporarily on July 10, 1861, when Harriet Lane, a Federal side-wheel steamer, fired shots at both forts. The forts, however, suffered little damage and their construction continued. In August, Major W. B. Thompson, the chief Confederate military engineer at Fort Hatteras, deemed that Fort Clark was fully operational.
While the fort was constructed, Union general Benjamin F. Butler, commander of Fort Monroe in Virginia, notified the U.S. War Department that North Carolinians were building fortifications at Hatteras Inlet. Butler suggested sending a small expedition to capture both forts. The War Department, however, disregarded Butler’s idea, and the fort continued to provide protection and a haven for Confederate privateers.
Eventually the Union attacked the forts protecting Hatteras Inlet, and in late August 1861, Fort Clark fell into Union hands.
John G. Barrett, The Civil War in North Carolina (Chapel Hill, 1963) and John S. Carbone, The Civil War in Coastal North Carolina (Raleigh, 2001).