The communities of Cumberland County can boast countless historic markers, monuments, and memorials that tell the stories of those service members and esteemed units who have fought on either U.S. soil or abroad. While we have been home to the largest U.S. Army base, Fort Bragg, for over 100 years now, Cumberland County’s history predates the Revolutionary War. For that reason, you truly can’t turn a corner here without tripping over our vast military history.
Just in the last two years alone, the communities of Cumberland County have organized dozens of Heroes Homecoming events; hosted two traveling wall war memorials; celebrated the centennial anniversaries of World War I and Fort Bragg; and held too many other significant, military-focused events to list here. No matter what time of year you visit our historic area, though, there are endless sites of interest to discover.
Since May happens to be when we recognize National Military Appreciation Month, I’d like to introduce our visitors to a few patriots whose lives of service have been forever memorialized here. In Part I of this two-part series, you'll learn about an African-American fifer who was buried with full military honors, a Union officer who went against his family's loyalties, and our first hometown patriot to be killed in action in World War I. These are the stories of bravery and sacrifice, devotion to country, and the relentless pursuit of freedom that make up the fabric of what we proudly call “America’s Hometown.”
An African-American Fifer & Freedom Defender
As I mentioned, Cumberland County’s history predates the Revolutionary War, and our American Independence Trail highlights some of the most interesting history pertaining to our revolutionary roots. Stop #3 on that trail is Fifer's Grave, otherwise known as the Isaac Hammond Memorial, which you will find located on the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (F.I.L.I.) Parade Grounds in downtown Fayetteville.
We only know a few facts about Isaac Hammond, and one of those is he was an African-American fifer who served in the 10th NC Regiment Continental Line during the Revolutionary War. He then became the first fifer in the F.I.L.I., which is the oldest existing volunteer militia company in the South, and he served for 30 years.
Remarkably, although he was an African American who couldn’t vote, Hammond was a free man who became a barber in town and was active in politics. Before he died, in 1822, Hammond asked to be buried on the F.I.L.I. Parade Grounds, so “he could be near the Company in spirit.” He was buried with full military honors, and now visitors to those grounds will find his memorial resting on that lovely plot of land, near Cross Creek. (Intersection of North Cool Spring Street and Meeting Street, Fayetteville)
Discover More —> On that same American Independence Trail, you'll find nine other sites of interest to explore, and just one of those is the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex, where exhibits tell the broader story of southern North Carolina and its fight for independence in the Revolutionary War. (801 Arsenal Avenue, Fayetteville)
A Loyal Union Officer from a Confederate Family
The Civil War arrived on Cumberland County's doorstep when General Sherman's troops marched into town on March 11, 1865. Our Civil War Trail paints a vivid picture of how our communities were impacted by this war by guiding visitors to 28 sites of significance all over the county. Since that trail was first organized, a newer historic marker, the Captain Alexander McRae Marker, was put in place on the grounds of our Old Historic Courthouse, and the story behind it is one of a previously unacknowledged Civil War hero.
Captain Alexander McRae, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, was commissioned as a lieutenant in the U.S. Mounted Rifles, which was later re-designated the U.S. Cavalry. What makes this West Point graduate’s story so remarkable? Well, it’s one of a few documented cases of the Civil War dividing a family’s loyalty. While Captain McRae’s four brothers chose to serve with the Confederacy, McRae served with the Union, retaining his federal commission. His father even wrote to him at one point during the war and begged him to switch his loyalties, but this officer never swayed.
McRae took command over an artillery battery and was assigned duty in the Southwest. While fighting in the Battle of Valverde, New Mexico, McRae’s battery encountered Confederate troops from Texas and was overrun. McRae was wounded twice before succumbing to a third and fatal wound to the head on February 21, 1862. Sadly, the Fayetteville Observer didn’t report his death in a story on that very battle, and his service record was not celebrated in his own Confederate home state. The U.S. Army and New Mexico, though, honored him as one of the war’s early heroes.
McRae’s body was eventually exhumed from its resting place in New Mexico and given a hero's escort on a trek across the country, from Army base to Army base. He was then laid to rest at the U.S. Cemetery at West Point, just four gravestones from General Armstrong Custer, while his four brothers had all been buried in Cumberland County. In 2013, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War ensured the McRae Marker was placed on his grandparents’ old homestead, the land where Fayetteville’s Old Historic Courthouse now stands. As his Commander, Colonel Canby, wrote, “Captain McRae died as he had lived, an example of the best and highest qualities that a man can possess.” (130 Gillespie Street, Fayetteville)
Discover More —> There is so much to learn about Cumberland County’s Civil War history on the Civil War Trail, but you do not want to overlook stop #28, the Averasboro Battlefield and Museum, where the Battle of Averasboro was fought after General Sherman’s troops had razed the Fayetteville Arsenal. (3300 Highway 82, Godwin / Dunn)
The 1st Cumberland County Patriot to Die in WWI
Visitors to downtown Fayetteville might notice a small park at a busy intersection, across the street from the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. That would be Freedom Memorial Park, which is stop #25 on the Patriots, Past & Present Trail. Here you’ll find several war monuments, but the 6-foot-tall Cumberland County World War I Memorial is an especially striking one.
The well-known “In Flanders Fields” poem is inscribed on the left side of that monument. On the right side, 17 soldiers’ names are listed underneath “In Memoriam to Cumberland County’s Fallen Sons.” The very first name you’ll see on that list is that of “Adcox, Cyrus P (Private, Army).” Born on April 19, 1894, Private Adcox served in the U.S. Army’s 1st Division. He entered the service from Georgia and was sent to France, where he was killed in action during the Battle of Cantigny, on May 28, 1918.
As a clipping from the Fayetteville Observer’s weekly edition on August 28, 1918, states, a memorial service was held “in honor of Cyrus P. Adcox, who died on the battlefield in France, and was first Cumberland County man to make the supreme sacrifice for humanity in the present strife.” That service was held at Calvary Methodist Church, and the reverend and others spoke on Adcox’s character, as well as “his life and death as a patriot.”
Sadly, as was the custom in WWI, Adcox’s body was never returned home. If you visited Picardie, France today, you’d find his grave-site, marked by a cross, in the Somme American Cemetery and Memorial. However, thanks to Freedom Memorial Park, Adcox’s name is forever memorialized in his hometown now. (Intersection of Hay Street and Bragg Boulevard)
Discover More —> Stop #19 on the Patriots, Past & Present Trail is our Fayetteville Area Transportation and Local History Museum, which is currently displaying the Fayetteville “Over There” – Centennial of World War I exhibit; artifacts, pictures, and more tell the stories of our own WWI veterans, such as Adcox, and their service. (325 Franklin Street, Fayetteville)
Interested in discovering more? Part II of this blog series reveals the fascinating stories behind three more memorials. Also be sure to check out the Fayetteville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau's other Cultural Heritage Trails and Military Sites, as there's an endless list of fascinating historic sites to be explored here. Additionally, the FACVB's Calendar of Events features our communities' military events and other visitor-friendly happenings that occur here year-round.