Fayetteville Arsenal Torched by Sherman’s Troops

An circa 1900-1910 oil painting of the Fayetteville Arsenal after its destruction, now in the collection of the N.C. Museum of History

On March 12, 1865, Union troops under the command of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman set fire to the Fayetteville Arsenal complex as they marched through North Carolina.  The United States Arsenal at Fayetteville was built in 1838.  During the Civil War it produced rifles, ammunition and gun carriages for the Confederacy and was vital to the Confederate war effort.

When President Abraham Lincoln asked North Carolina governor John W. Ellis to help suppress rebellion in neighboring states in April 1861, Ellis quickly pledged his loyalty to the Confederacy and ordered all federal property seized. On April 22, the arsenal was surrendered and Ellis transferred it to the Confederacy. Samuel A. Ashe oversaw improvements made to the arsenal in 1863, including the construction of almost 500 buildings used for manufacturing and support of the facility.

Given the importance of the arsenal, Sherman was drawn to Fayetteville in March 1865. His troops invaded the town and set fire to the complex; personnel and equipment had been evacuated the day before. The Arsenal House, built in 1862, is the only surviving structure from the arsenal.

Arsenal Park is now part of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex.

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