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Was there a Civil War powder magazine by the railroad cut between Fifth Ave. and Sixth St.?

Si Cantwell

Jerry Bentley, a student at Cape Fear Community College, produced 3-D CAD renderings from diagrams of a Civil War-era ammo cache believed to have been near the railroad cut downtown. Contributed image.

Q. Last summer or fall, there was mention of a possible ammo depot from the Civil War located in the vicinity of North Fourth, North Fifth or North Sixth streets and the old Coast Line Railroad tracks. Someone said it was too overgrown to investigate, but that it could be checked during the winter when growth was dormant. Was there ever any followup on this, and, if so, what was the result?

A. That was a column I wrote that ran in the StarNews on Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012. I walked around with historians James Burke of Cape Fear Community College and Chris Fonvielle of the University of North Carolina. They had found interesting references to the ammo cache — maps, diagrams and plans — and we looked for evidence that it existed.

We learned about an entrance to a underground chamber located on the south bank of the rail cut between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Street. But it was too overgrown for us to climb down and examine.

Burke, who teaches historical geography at CFCC, brings us up to date. He writes:

“In December, Jim McKee (from the Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson State Historic Site), two UNCW film studies students (Laura Muse and Lauren Salehi), and yours truly explored the site from the inside of the cut. It was quite an adventure even without the heavy undergrowth. We did not find an entrance, but we did find a wooden beam measuring 35 feet long at the site, which that seems to match the plans.

“Michael Koenig (son of Mark Koenig, Wilmington Railroad Museum) and I conducted a rather extensive deed search of the property before Christmas. We discovered that after the war, the site appeared on the block maps as an isolated rectangular parcel owned by Lewis Hollingsworth, architect of St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, nested within a block-length south-to-north lot owned by Moses Davis. Prior to Davis, it was part of the Campbell lands. It was later incorporated into the present east-to-west set of parcels facing Fifth Street.

My student Jerry Bentley produced 3-D CAD renderings from the original drawing (see http://libguides.cfcc.edu/content.php?pid=317640&sid=3252114) for the study.

“While researching landownership, I ran into Bob Cooke. He mentioned that Martha Watson knew about the underground chamber. When I met Martha at the Civil War Roundtable, she stated that her father had explored it as a youngster.

“With the start of the spring term, everybody involved up to that point became busy. I assume we will regroup, compare notes, and then get back to it.”


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