restricted access 5. Fort Dobbs, North Carolina: How Documents and Artifacts Led to Rebuilding the Fort
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5 FortDobbs,NorthCarolina How Documents and Artifacts Led to Rebuilding the Fort Lawrence E. Babits This chapter reports on the forty years of historical, archaeological, and interpretive investigations conducted for the Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, Iredell County, North Carolina. The focus is on using documentary and archaeological information, in conjunction with surviving examples of frontier fortified barracks to re-create the fort as a heritage tourism destination . Detailed artifact analysis is not offered except as to how the artifacts provided suggestions for interpreting site structures. A brief historical narrative placing the fort in its French and Indian War context is followed by information about the site’s archaeological excavations. Taken together, the history and archaeology suggested interpretations that led to slightly earlier British fortified barracks as suggestions for re-creating the main fort building. Historical Documents No contemporary plans or drawings of Fort Dobbs have been located; the few documentary references provide clues about the fort’s history and appearance . The lack of extant imagery or full descriptions proved a major stumbling block for restoring the fort as a state historic site. Nevertheless, there were references, some of which could only be understood after considerable research. The frontier post was part of Governor Arthur Dobbs’s plan to defend the frontier and came after Dobbs completed a personal survey of the colony . Dobbs planned on “a Company of 50 men under one Captain one Lieutenant & Ensign for the Defence of this frontier” (Dobbs 1755a:313). Fort Dobbs, North Carolina: Documents and Artifacts Led to Rebuilding the Fort · 85 Dobbs wrote later in August 1755 that he wanted the fort on Third Creek, in what was then Rowan County (Dobbs 1755b:357). The actual site, however, is on Fourth Creek. Evidence is lacking as to whether Dobbs’s original site was rejected, whether he had confused the two creeks that join about 10 miles to the east before joining the South Yadkin River, or if the builder put it near his own property. About the same time, Dobbs ordered Capt. Hugh Waddell to scout the frontier and erect a barracks “to winter over” (Dobbs 1755b:357). The lower house voted an allocation of £1,000 for Waddell’s Company to build a “small fort or strong barrack” (Assembly 1754b:515; Dobbs 1755c497-98). The terms barracks and strong barrack are especially important in light of English frontier fortifications in the Scottish Highlands, as will be seen later. The frontier fortified building would provide shelter for the garrison and potential refugees, while still having the strength to hold out until relieved. The key point is that a barracks was the first planned building, but interpretations changed when historians learned that Dobbs later wrote: “The first thing to be done is to make log houses for the soldiers and then to trase out and clear the Ground about the fort, and then throw up some of the Fosse to form the Glacis and fix the Pallisades; and then after making a proper barrack for the officers, to fall about the raising of the fort” (Dobbs 1755d: 476). The shift from fortified barracks to glacis, ditch, and palisades came despite knowing that Dobbs intended this more traditional fort to be located on North Carolina’s coast. Considerable confusion resulted as archaeologists and historians tried to transplant the coastal information to the interior piedmont. The fort was probably not finished by March 1756, because Dobbs ordered the post “stockaded” and noted that it was temporary and that “only Swivel Guns will be necessary” (Dobbs 1756a:572). Dobbs may have meant that the barracks had been erected but not fortified, because Waddell’s men certainly required shelter over the winter of 1755–56. When Dobbs wrote in May 1756 that no construction had taken place (1756b:672), it is likely that he was referring to planned outer fortifications, because a Moravian account dated 1 June 1756 noted that Waddell was “Captain of the Fort” along Fourth Creek (Fries 1922, 1:167). The barracks’ satisfactoriness for wintering over was described by two colonial Assemblymen, Richard Caswell and Francis Brown, who reported that 86 · Lawrence E. Babits they had likewise viewed the State of Fort Dobbs and found it to be a good and Substantial Building of the Dimentions following (that is to say) The Oblong Square fifty three feet by forty, the opposite Angles Twenty four feet and Twenty-Two In height Twenty four and a half feet as by the Plan annexed Appears, The Thickness...


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- History -- French and Indian War, 1754-1763.
  • Fortification -- United States -- History.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- United States.
  • Historic sites -- United States.
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