Important Archaeological Sites at Fort Bragg

Site 31HT435 - An Ancient American Indian Campsite

Site 31HT435 is a precontact site that contains artifacts left behind by people who lived in the Sandhills in the Early Archaic 8,000 years ago to the Late Woodland period around 3,000 years ago. Archaeologists found two fire pits, post molds, and dense scatters of chipped stone where new tools were made and old tools were resharpened. Radiocarbon dates from one of the hearths showed it was used to warm someone or cook their food nearly 5,000 years ago. The other fire pit, which also dates from around 5,000 years ago, was found near five round brown soil stains and a circular scatter of stone flakes. Archaeologists believe the round stains are remnants of wooden posts that rotted away thousands of years ago. The arrangement of the posts in a semi-circle suggests to archaeologists that they supported a windbreak. Based on the analysis of pollen samples taken from the site, they believe the windbreak was covered with pine branches and straw. A structure like this, with the fire pit outside, was used during warm months. Just imagine a person sitting, thousands of years ago, a rabbit roasting on the fire, as he or she chips flakes off a stone to make a knife for skinning a deer, cutting branches, or carving bone. This is just some of the important information archaeologists recovered from this valuable archaeological site.

Site 31HK1624 - Gillis Farm

Roderick Gillis was born in Scotland around 1783 and immigrated to North Carolina as a baby with his parents John and Mary Gillis around 1785. John Gillis settled on approximately 325 acres of land along Cabin Branch. Three generations of the Gillis family lived and worked here until 1921 when the Army finally purchased the property. Upon his father’s death, Roderick Gillis inherited the family farm and began to build a new house in 1825. Roderick would marry three times and have 12 children.

Duncan Gillis was born in 1848, the son of Roderick and his third wife Sally. Duncan never married. When the farm was assessed in 1919, Duncan and his three unmarried brothers Roderick, Jonathan, and Malcolm lived in the family house. Duncan Gillis had refused to sell the land to the army. As a result, the land was condemned. Gillis received $3,800.00. Today the remnants of the Gillis farm are preserved at site 31HK1624.

In 2006 archaeologists investigated site 31HK1624, the location of the former home of Duncan Gillis which is no longer standing. They found evidence of the stable and other outbuildings as well as chimneys that once were part of the main house. Investigators recovered pieces of plates, cups, bowls, bottle glass, and other kitchen related artifacts, nails, pieces of farm equipment such as horse shoes, harness parts, and axes, and tools used for turpentining. These investigations provided important insight into the social and economic evolution of Scottish families in the Sandhills.

Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads

The battle at Monroe's Crossroads was fought on March 10, 1865. Some historians consider it a footnote to the Battle of Appomattox Courthouse which ended the Civil War in Virginia. Although this was a minor battle in the overall course of the war, historians and archaeologists are interested in understanding the role it played in Sherman’s march through the Carolinas.

“The battle is of interest in history because it was a cavalry clash between two flamboyant and highly regarded cavalry officers, Lieutenant General Wade Hampton… and Brevet Major General Hugh J. Kilpatrick . . . Kilpatrick was totally surprised, almost captured, and nearly lost his command. Hampton executed a daring dawn cavalry charge, overran the Federal camp, but failed to capture his objective.”
Archaeologist Douglass Scott, NPS

In 1994 and 1995 the National Park Service's (NPS) Southeast Archeological Center, in association with the NPS Midwest Archeological Center undertook archaeological and historical investigations to gain a greater understanding of the details of the battle and to help Fort Bragg better preserve the battlefield. Many of the same investigation techniques used to unravel the mysteries of the Battle of the Little Bighorn were used at the Monroe's Crossroads Battlefield. This project was funded through a Department of Defense Legacy Program grant awarded to Fort Bragg.

One of the most important goals of the study was to define the limits of the battlefield. Archaeologists also believed they could begin to understand the movement of troops across the battlefield by carefully plotting the location of artifacts and studying their pattern of distribution across the site. Battlefield studies can also yield information about soldier’s dress and equipage.

The first task archaeologists undertook was to develop a field procedure that would allow them to examine the entire battlefield. They assumed that most artifacts would either be made from metal or associated with metal therefore they decided to undertake a systematic metal detector survey of the site. Archaeologists and volunteers examined approximately 5,000 square meters. This technique had worked well at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

During the survey, NPS staff and volunteer metal detector operators walked transects to located and marked possible artifacts with a small flag. A second crew of archaeologists and volunteers carefully excavated down to each find, leaving it in place. A recording team then mapped each artifact location, assigned a field specimen number, and collected the artifact. More than 1,000 artifacts were recovered this way. The majority of these artifacts were fired and unfired bullets including Smith (.50 caliber), Sharps Carbine (.52 caliber), Burnside Carbine (.54 caliber), and Spencer Repeating Rifle (.56 caliber) rounds. Artillery canister shot balls, musket rifle percussion caps, artillery case shot shrapnel and fuse adapters, and cavalry horse and wagon related artifacts were also found.

Archaeologists plotted the precise location of all of the artifacts they found on a map. They looked at the distribution of artifacts across the site to begin to learn more about how the events of the battle unfolded. The result of this research is included as part of a US Army staff ride for officers and non-commissioned officers to enhance military operations training.