From records, they already knew the lighthouse was built in 1816, long before the Civil War brought thousands of Confederate and Union soldiers to two bloody clashes here on the jut of land between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River.
Steele said that was the year the United States government acquired one acre square of property where the lighthouse stood and a boat ramp that probably aided transport of kerosene or oil from Wilmington to the light.
He said they also knew that it was remodeled about 1836 after a fire burned the top 10 feet of the lighthouse. Because the intense heat of the fire made the brick and coquina dangerously brittle, it’s likely construction workers decided not to re-build it to the original height.
The structure aided navigation through the early years of the Civil War. But then, Steele said, the fort’s commander, Col. William Lamb, decided it was just to much of a target for Federal gunships and he had his soldiers dismantle it in 1863.