Fayetteville marks its Civil War role with special observances

Fran Severn-Levy

As the sesquicentennial of the Civil War draws to a close, Fayetteville, N.C., plans observances recognizing its role in the conflict.

For most of the war, Fayetteville’s major role was supplying arms and ammunition made at the Fayetteville Arsenal. It wasn’t until mid-March 1865, when Sherman’s March to the Sea turned north and arrived in North Carolina, that the city saw any fighting. After skirmishes outside the city, Sherman entered Fayetteville on March 11. Following another brief fight around the Market House, Confederate troops abandoned the town. When Sherman continued north a few days later, he ordered the arsenal destroyed.

Confederate and Union armies fought again on March 14–15 near Fayetteville at the Battle of Averasboro. Greatly outnumbered, 8,000 rebels delayed 30,000 Federals long enough for other Confederate troops to gather at Bentonville, where the last battle of the war in the east was fought on March 19–21. It was a futile effort. On April 9, the Confederates surrendered.

History lovers can retrace the action via a self-drive Civil War Trail. It includes roadside historical markers at important locations and stops by several homes and battlefields. Many of the buildings along the trail, particularly the homes, are closed to the public. Several that are open plan special events and exhibits for the observance.

The Museum of Cape Fear Historical Complex presents a fascinating picture of life in the area before, during, and after the war. Outside, the foundations and ruins of the arsenal invite exploration with interpretive panels showing photos of the arsenal’s operation during the war.

Another special exhibit centered on Sherman’s sojourn in Fayetteville is at the downtown Market House on the evening of March 27.

Learn about the occupation

At the Fayetteville Transportation and Local History Museum, visitors experience Sherman’s occupation through narratives and artifacts. One of the artifacts is the “Lilly Tray,” a silver tray taken from Fair Oaks Plantation house that was used for target practice by Sherman’s troops.

The museum is hosting two guided bus tours through the area’s Civil War heritage sites. The March 7 tour explores the general Civil War history. A second tour on June 20 visits the Averasboro and Bentonville battlefields. Reservations are required and space is limited. There’s a nominal fee.

The museum will also host a tour of the site of a battle at Monroe’s Crossroads on March 10, exactly 150 years after the engagement on what is now Fort Bragg. Registration is required. And, there will be a tour of Fayetteville’s oldest cemetery, Cross Creek Number 1, on May 10. Many Confederate graves and the state’s oldest Confederate monument are in the cemetery.

Call the museum at 910-433-1457 for reservations for the bus tours and information about the cemetery visit.

Battle commemoration

On March 14, the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Averasboro Commemoration will be held at the battlefield. No reenactment is planned. Instead, it will be largely ceremonial, but the schedule includes battlefield tours, speakers, and displays of artifacts important to the battle.

A map room inside the battlefield museum shows the progress of the fighting and the confusion, chaos, and desperation surrounding the troop movements during the final days of the war. Nearby, the Chicora Cemetery has the remains of the 56 Confederates who died in the battle. (averasboro.com)

The Living History Event marking the battle continues all weekend at Arsenal Park in Fayetteville. Members of the 17th New York Veterans and Volunteer/Palmetto Sharpshooters reenactment groups will encamp. Visitors can explore the camp and learn more about the Union occupation of Fayetteville

and life of the soldiers on both sides through demonstrations. (ncdcr.gov/ncmcf)

The weekend’s last official event is a presentation by author Wade Sokolosky at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre on March 16. In the Path of Sherman’s March tells the story of the soldiers, civilians, and slaves and the fate of Fayetteville and the surrounding farms and towns as the Union army marched into the city and destroyed the arsenal.

Many residents of the area kept diaries, and The Fayetteville Observer newspaper chronicled the war and life in Fayetteville. (The newspaper was so strong in its support of the Confederacy that Sherman destroyed its offices and printing plant.) All winter and spring, the Fayetteville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Facebook page is posting excerpts from the diaries, letters, and newspaper stories that were written on that date 150 years ago. You can follow the history “as it develops” on Twitter @FACVB. That’s also where additions to the schedule of events will be posted.

Learn more

Fayetteville Tourism: visitfayettevillenc.com

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