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Restoration of Fort Branch Civil War Fort Interpretive Signs

By spring 1862, the Union Navy and Army had secured footholds along the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina. With control of Port Royal, Pamilico, and Albemarle Sounds, Confederate engineers engaged in an aggressive program fortifying and protecting rivers and railroads. In North Carolina, the Roanoke River presented an aquatic dagger into the interior threatening the critical Wilmington–Weldon Railroad. Plans were laid and work started on an earthen fortification near Hamilton with a commanding position on a bluff overlooking the river, Fort Branch.

As the war progressed, Fort Branch was outfitted with eleven guns. Such significant protection allowed the nearby construction of the ironclad ram C.S.S. Albemarle, which would go on to help regain control of the lower Roanoke River and Albemarle Sound. Several efforts were made to capture the fort, but serious combat was not her fortune. When the war ended, the Confederates dismounted the artillery pieces and dumped them into the river.

Time has been good to the fortifications, and the site is in pristine condition. For more than 30 years, reenactment groups have sponsored the site and used it to train encamped reenactors. The owner and his heir are farmers who have managed the property and created a museum with the recovered guns and artifacts. Active archaeology is revealing more secrets. The fort is open to visitors on weekends, and the site is staffed by volunteers. A “Friends Group” looks out for the interests of the site.

The BGES’s board of directors has approved a partnership to install interpretative signage in the park and fort. A meeting with the Friends Group’s board of directors has produced an agreement to develop, acquire, fund, and install the signs telling the story of the fort and the mission along the Roanoke River. We expect to install between 20 and 30 signs similar to those installed for the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. Our working budget is $12,000, adjustable when we have a final number of signs.

The Friends Group presents their interpretative plan by May 31, 2018, and the project fundraising starts on or before July 1, 2018. Sign sponsorships will be $500 for large signs and $300 for small signs. Sign sponsors will include recognition on the signs with the name and state of the sponsor. A presento of the final sign will be provided to sponsors after the project is completed. Undesignated donations are also welcomed and will be used to fill in administrative expenses and to purchase a set of replacement signs to cover the unlikely event of vandalism or damage from natural causes. Funds will be solicited online, on Facebook, and by direct mail to past sign sponsors and members of the BGES. Contact us if you would like to be notified when donations are being accepted.