Named in honor of Nathaniel Macon, a U.S. congressman and senator and a leading early-republic statesman from North Carolina, Fort Macon was built after the War of 1812 to defend America and North Carolina from foreign invasion. During the Civil War, Union Major General Ambrose E. Burnside planned to seize the fort and bring it under federal control.
Under the direction of General Burnside, Brigadier General John Parke was ordered as to occupy Morehead City and Beaufort. African American fisherman played a vital role in assisting the Union’s surprise attack; they guided General Parke and his army across the unfamiliar water during the night. After Beaufort was captured, the Union Navy blockaded the harbor.
With the land and sea forces under Union control, Fort Macon’s commander, Colonel Moses White, received tremendous pressure to surrender. Left only with four hundred and fifty men and fifty-four heavy guns, Colonial White still refused to surrender. After Moses ignored the second demand to surrender, the Federal batteries opened fire on Fort Macon. The bombardment lasted eleven hours. Colonel Moses surrendered on April 25, 1862.