Patriot Past & Present

Fayetteville’s place names reflect a rich sense of its patriotic culture. The city itself is named for a famous general of the American Revolution: the Marquis de Lafayette. Cumberland County also bears the name of a famous British military man, William Augustus, the Duke of Cumberland. William Augustus, a younger son of King George II, was the first to dispatch British soldiers to North America to defend colonies against the French and Indians.

The Fayetteville community has a longstanding military tradition, from the American Revolution to the men and women serving on Fort Bragg and Pope Field. In June 1775, two months after the battles of Lexington and Concord, a gathering of villagers signed a defiant document known as the “Liberty Point Resolves,” a precursor of the Declaration of Independence. Also, during the Revolutionary War, this area served as a supply point and rendezvous for soldiers on both sides. In February 1776, Loyalists rallied in Cross Creek to march south. They ended up at Moores Creek Bridge, where the Patriots were entrenched and waiting for their arrival. From then on, Patriots maintained control of this region. Many men from our community believed it was their patriotic duty to serve in the Continental Army. A free black man named Isaac Hammond served as a fifer in the 10th NC Regiment of the Continental Line. He may have been at Valley Forge in the spring of 1778 with this regiment. He was buried with full military honors at the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (F.I.L.I.) parade ground on the banks of Cross Creek in Fayetteville.

 In 1825, Fayetteville welcomed its namesake Lafayette during his Grand Tour of the United States. Lafayette’s tour was an important part of the Nation’s 50th-anniversary jubilee. In places like Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, crowds of 100,000 or more turned out to catch a glimpse of the “Hero of Two Worlds.” Although smaller, Fayetteville’s welcome was no less genuine and enthusiastic. Among Fayetteville’s citizens to greet Lafayette was Isham Blake, a former bugler and fifer with the Continental Army. Blake served in Lafayette’s honor guard at Yorktown in 1781 at the time of the British surrender. Further evidence of our town’s patriotism can be seen in the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry (F.I.L.I.), the oldest existing volunteer militia company in the South. F.I.L.I. was first mustered in 1793. The company’s history includes service in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World War I. As our country’s military developed, so did Fayetteville. In 1836, Congress chose Fayetteville as the site of a U.S. Arsenal, and by 1858, a compound of multiple workshops created a manufactory. The arsenal achieved full manufactory capabilities under the Confederate States of America. It produced rifles, gun carriages, and ammunition for the Confederate forces. Hundreds of Fayetteville men joined the Confederate ranks. Local women worked at the arsenal rolling cartridges. Fayetteville operated hospitals for wounded soldiers.

As Union forces under General Sherman approached Fayetteville, they clashed with Confederate troops at the Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads, now on land belonging to Fort Bragg. On March 11, 1865, General Sherman and Union troops occupied Fayetteville. They met with some resistance by a handful of Confederate soldiers at the Market House. Sherman ordered Colonel Orlando Poe, 1st Michigan Engineers, to raze the arsenal. Afterward, Union troops headed north out of town. Both sides would clash again at the Battle of Averasboro on March 15 and 16. Following the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, African-Americans demonstrated their patriotism by taking a greater role in the military. By 1876, an African-American militia company is known as “The Fayetteville Rifle Guards (Colored)” marched in the Fourth of July parade. In later decades of the 19th century, African-American patriotism was exemplified by a local militia company called the “Howard Light Infantry” and from service during the Spanish-American War. Dr. Ezekial Ezra Smith took a leave of absence as principal of the State Colored Normal School to serve as the First Lieutenant in the 3rd North Carolina Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Spanish-American War. Eventually appointed Regimental Adjutant in May 1898, he served in the staff position until the regiment was mustered out of service in February 1899. When World War I broke out, hundreds of local African-American men joined the ranks and became Doughboys.

When the United States Army wanted to expand its field artillery training facilities for World War I, they chose a site northwest of Fayetteville and named it Camp Bragg, in honor of North Carolina native and veteran of the Mexican-American War, Braxton Bragg. Camp Bragg, established in 1918, became a permanent post and was renamed Fort Bragg in 1922. Fort Bragg’s rich airborne history and tradition were informally launched in 1934 when artillery spotters jumped from a balloon platform. In 1940, Fort Bragg expanded overnight from a sleepy peacetime post of a few thousand soldiers to a sprawling training cantonment of more than 60,000 men. As a result of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II, and thousands of Fort Bragg troops deployed for battlefronts in every corner of the world. In 1942, army airborne units trained at Fort Bragg. The post has been “Home of the Airborne” ever since. Today, Fort Bragg is the world’s largest airborne facility, with more than 45,000 military personnel. Among the 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg is home to the 18th Airborne Corps, Special Operations, the “Green Berets,” Psychological Operations Command, the Delta Force, and the colorful “Golden Knights” of the U.S. Army Parachute Team.

Pope Field located adjacent to Fort Bragg, completes one of the largest military complexes in the world. Pope Field, previously known as Pope Air Force Base, has played a leading role in the development of tactics and air-power throughout history. Missions at Pope have ranged from airlift and close air support for American armed forces to humanitarian missions flown all over the world. The War Department and the Army Air Corp officially established “Pope Field” in 1919. It is named after First Lieutenant Harley Halbert Pope, who was killed on January 7, 1919, when the JN-4 Jenny he was flying crashed into the Cape Fear River. Original operations included photographing terrain for mapping, carrying the mail, and spotting for artillery and forest fires. The local Veterans Medical Center provides for many patriots that served in the U.S. military and reside within the region. In October of 1940, the U.S. Government dedicated this facility in Fayetteville on the grounds where remains of Confederate earthworks sit preserved in stillness and peace. As you drive this trail, remember those that created the patriotic paths upon which you travel.

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