On March 10, 1865, members of the Confederate and Union armies clashed on a small farmstead in North Carolina. Nothing was unusual about this sort of skirmish, as the two armies had been fighting each other for four years.
This battle is special because it is the only Civil War skirmish to have been fought on Fort Bragg lands. Monroe’s Crossroads, the site of the battle, was part of the land sold to the U.S. War Department to begin building up the installation in 1918. Faculty members from Fayetteville Technical Community College (FTCC) visited the site March 12 to commemorate the battle.
“I always thought it would be fun to bring a bunch of instructors out here and actually see the historical site and experience it for themselves,” said Dr. Daniel P. Stewart, history and humanities professor at FTCC.Stewart, a retired master sergeant, helped to organize the visit with Fort Bragg’sCultural Resources Management Program (CRMP). He invited any professor that wanted to experience the battlefield. Biology, psychology, philosophy and history instructors took him up on his offer.
“Back when I was in the Army and working on my master’s thesis, Fort Bragg Cultural Resources was instrumental in helping me do a lot of the field research that I actually had to do, taking me out here showing me around, giving me tips on some of the local folklore, and I always remembered that,” Stewart said.
Jonathan Schleier, Geographical Information System and database manager, CRMP, gave the group of educators a tour of the historical site. He talked about the importance of bringing history to the community, and said he hoped this was another step in that direction.
The day began at Longstreet Church, the oldest building on Fort Bragg. The cemetery attached to the church is the final resting place for several repatriated Confederate soldiers. The tour then continued to the site of the battle itself.
Monroe’s Crossroads had been the homestead of Charles Monroe on what was once Morganton Road, near a springs. People would often stop and use the springs as a resting place before continuing on to Fayetteville’s bustling markets.
Maj. Gen. Hugh Kilpatrick of the Union Army liked the site for his cavalry, and camped out on the homestead March 9, 1865.
The Confederate cavalry under the direction of Lt. Gen. Wade Hampton and Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler made the initial attack March 10, and were initially met with great success.
“It was a normal looking morning for the (Union soldiers), and then all of a sudden there was a bugle call. It was a charge. Quickly on the heels of that, you have a hammer. The Confederates just blasted into camp. It was a complete surprise to the sleeping Union Army. The effect was prolific,” Schleier said during the tour.
The Union soldiers rallied while Confederates were looting the camp, resulting in an equally devastating day to the Confederate camp. The entire battle lasted a day, and ultimately achieved the Confederate goal of slowing the Union Army down on their way to Fayetteville.
The FTCC instructors listened to Schleier describing the battle with maps and a detailed walk around the battleground. Stewart spoke about the battle as well, giving insights into where the armies were during the skirmish. The faculty members stopped at memorial markers around the area.
“I’ve been really interested in trying to find out more about the community,” said Hattie Presnell, history professor. Presnell recently moved to the area, and began teaching at FTCC in January.
“Since I do teach American history and cover the Civil War, I thought this would be a fantastic way for me to learn what is going on in the area,” she said.
The teachers were treated to Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) to finish out their Monroe’s Crossroads experience. During the meal, Stewart joked that their “provisions” were quite a bit better than what the Civil War soldiers would have experienced around the time of the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads. He spoke about his hopes to make the trek out to the site an annual event.
“There are a lot of historical resources available on Fort Bragg that a lot of people don’t know about and I’d like to see more of that collaboration between Fort Bragg and local educators,” Stewart said.