FORT BRAGG, N.C.– On a cold and drizzly day, much like it was in 1865, the Fort Bragg Cultural Resource Management Program led history buffs to the infamous battle site at Monroe’s Crossroads on its 158th Anniversary, March 10.
Guided by historians and archeologists, service members, Department of the Army civilians and veterans had the opportunity to participate in a staff ride to one of the many historically protected sites located deep within the training lands of the installation. It was also an opportunity to gage interest in educational opportunities for units to incorporate professional development staff rides into their training schedules.
“We would like to do this more routinely,” explained Col. John Wilcox, Fort Bragg garrison commander. “This team has done an amazing job of doing what archeologists are called to do – preserve history. We are lucky to have this protected battleground that is surrounded by active ranges our service members utilize daily. We are able to understand more deeply through place-based learning, and by seeing the terrain and the artifacts. One really gets a true appreciation of what happened here 158 years ago.”
Because the location of many historical sites is on active military training areas, visits must be approved, and visitors must be escorted by the appropriate installation officials. This visit showcased a large interest for more guided tours to Monroe’s Crossroads and other places of historical importance around the installation.
For Robert Haggerty, a Soldier who is attending a captain’s career course on Fort Bragg, the timing of the staff ride aligned just right.
“I’ve always been interested in the Civil War and history in general, so I jumped at the opportunity to come during our (course) break,” Haggerty explained. “I’ve been in the proximity of these places so many times. I’ve jumped on these drop zones, and I’ve done those ranges right down the road. I just didn’t know the significance of the ground we were training on.”
On March 10, 1865, Confederate cavalry soldiers launched a surprise attack on an encamped Union cavalry near the Charles Monroe Homestead on Blues Rosin Road, south of Long Street. Monroe’s Crossroads was one of the last Confederate cavalry charges of the war, which ended the next month in April 1865.
Shortly after the battle, locals began to mark the Union and Confederate causalities on the field. Six months after the battle, residents of the Long Street Church community exhumed some Confederate soldiers and relocated them to a mass grave in the church cemetery.
In 1921 the Army designated several mass graves of fallen Soldiers, many of whom were unidentified. In 1996 the U.S. Army created a battlefield monument dedicated “To the American Soldier” on the site and installed signage for staff rides to mark the key areas of the fighting.
Fort Bragg and the U.S. Army continue to protect the battlefield site to remember and honor those who died during the battle and to share the legacy of the Soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Haggerty agreed that resuming the capability of staff rides to the monument and other historical areas on Fort Bragg is beneficial.
“On the way out here, I told my buddies about the trip,” said Haggerty. “I’m originally from Clarksville, Tennessee and we’ve been to many Civil War battle sites in that area as lieutenants and young captains. It would definitely be worthwhile to do the same here. You’d be surprised how little people know about the history here.”
This year, Fort Bragg will be redesignating its name to Fort Liberty due to the connection to the Confederate States of America. Many have worried the change is erasing history. However, the redesignation doesn’t mean the legacy of the installation is changing or disappearing. In fact, the Fort Bragg Cultural Resource Management Program has been preserving the history, artifacts, and stories of the installation for decades.
The CRMP encompasses archaeology, historic preservation and curation of collections found on or related to Fort Bragg. The program complies with federal laws and Army regulations as they actively promote stewardship and preservation of Fort Bragg’s non-renewable cultural resources to share with the current generation and those to come.
To learn more about the battle at Monroe’s Crossroads or about how CRMP preserves the history of the installation, go to https://home.army.mil/bragg/index.php/about/garrison/directorate-public-works/environmental-division/cultural-resources.