Bogue Banks Lighthouse 1855-1862



The following is an abbreviated version of an article written in 2004 by Fort Ranger/Historian Paul Branch for Fort Macon Ramparts. Link to the full article is at the bottom of this post.

“Although many people today are familiar with the lighthouses that dot the coast of North Carolina, few are aware that one of them once stood outside the walls of Fort Macon at the eastern end of Bogue Banks. Its existence was only a brief seven years. Its end was untimely – a casualty of war. Nevertheless, the story of the Bogue Banks Lighthouse remains an interesting part of the history of coastal North Carolina.


August 31, 1852 Congress appropriated a sum of $5000 to erect a small harbor lighthouse on the eastern point of Bogue Banks to assist vessels entering Beaufort Inlet…The work was under the superintendence of Captain Daniel P. Woodbury of the Army Corps of Engineers...

To build the Bogue Banks Lighthouse, Woodbury selected a site back from the shifting beach on a large spit of stable, dry land adjacent to the marsh about 200 yards northwest of Fort Macon. Construction began in the summer of 1854 … Plans called for a brick lighthouse tower with a two-story building attached to be used for storage of supplies. The plans originally depicted the tower as being circular. When constructed, however, the tower was built in an octagon. Also included in the lighthouse plans was a small, two-story keepers house, although it is unclear if this was ever built.
The Bogue Banks Lighthouse was given a fixed fourth order Fresnel lens… stood fifty feet above the sea. The light was visible 12-1/2 nautical miles out to sea…The two lights were put into operation for the first time on May 20, 1855.
For the next several years the lights operated successfully, guiding mariners through Beaufort Harbor. The 1860 census lists Thomas Delamar* as the Lighthouse Keeper. One year later, the War Between the States began in April, 1861.
…the lights in the Cape Lookout and Bogue Banks Lighhouses and the Bogue Banks beacon were all extinguished for wartime security…By June, 1861, it was decided the very valuable Fresnel lenses should be removed from these lighthouses and the beacon in order to safeguard them from any war danger. Beaufort Collector of Customs, Josiah F. Bell,** who was appointed Superintendent of Lights for the Beaufort District of the Confederate Lighthouse Bureau, had the lenses carefully taken down and placed in storage in a warehouse in Beaufort at a cost of $5 per month. He also spent $19.25 for the purchase of blanket in which to wrap the lenses.
Knowing that some manner of attack was only a matter of time, Colonel White and his men made what preparations they could to defend the fort. One of the key considerations for defense, of course, was that the fort’s cannons must have a clear field of fire in all directions. Tall structures outside the fort that in any way masked the guns, such as the Bogue Banks Lighthouse and beacon, had to go. On the evening of March 27, the fort garrison toppled the lighthouse over onto the ground. It broke apart into sections and lay in a crumpled heap in the sand. On the following morning the beacon was also pulled down.
Such was the brief existence of the Bogue Banks Lighthouse. Although the foundations of the lighthouse were mentioned as still being present in 1871, no artifacts or remains have ever been found of it. The site is now occupied by the United States Coast Guard base adjacent to Fort Macon…the Fresnel lens from the lighthouse was reused by the Lighthouse Board in another lighthouse. It probably still exists today in one of the many lighthouses that still remain guarding the coast of the United States.”
*Thomas Delamar's listing in the June 1860 Carteret County census shows Delamar, age 66 with Abigail (Pearce) Delamar 50 (married 1855), a domestic and John Delamar, age 10 - Post Office-Shepherdsville. The 1850 Beaufort census lists Thomas Delamar, age 56, ship carpenter, with Hannah Delamar 55, Nancy D. Delamar 25, James Delamar 18, Rebecca Smith 10 and William Mosely 13.
**Josiah Fisher Bell 1820-1890 also served as an agent in the Confederate Secret Service during the Civil War. Read full article...