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Ironclads and Columbiads recounts the exciting battles and events that shook the coast of North Carolina during America's bloodiest war. Throughout the Civil War, North Carolina's coast was of great strategic importance to the Confederacy. Its well-protected coastline offered a perfect refuge for privateers who sallied forth and captured so many Union merchant vessels in the early days of the war that maritime insurance companies in the North went into a panic, forcing the government to mount an expedition against Cape Hatteras. North Carolina's coastal counties and the state's coastal railroad system were vital to the feeding and resupply of Robert E. Lee's army. And even after the tightening blockade and powerful Federal assaults closed off the ports of Charleston, New Orleans, and Mobile, Wilmington continued to provide a haven for blockade runners. That city eventually became the most strategically important location in the entire Confederacy. To subdue Fort Fisher, which stoutly defended Wilmington, the Union was forced to assemble what was then the largest naval and amphibious landing force in American history.