Treasure trove of Civil War artifacts discovered at site of Raleigh Farmers Market in 1988

In July 1988, site work was already underway for the new North Carolina State Farmers Market, when a group of historic preservation enthusiasts pleaded for the opportunity to search the area for Civil War artifacts before the site was lost for good. Students of the Civil War are well aware that the area south of Raleigh and around Dix Hill was the encampment area for thousands of Union troops assembled at Raleigh after the city was surrendered at the end of the war, starting 13 April 1865 until about the end of that month.

On the weekend of 16 and 17 July 1988, 18 volunteers searched the site with metal detectors and recovered dozens of relics, such as bullets and buckles, and even a bayonet, a cannonball, and a harmonica. The items are now on display in the administration building at the Farmers Market site.

Now after 30 years, it’s likely that Civil War enthusiasts will ask for more archaeological investigation in the area of Dix Hill, as the City of Raleigh has just unveiled an ambitious master plan for its Dorothea Dix Park. The plan would involve a major disturbance and reshaping of the landscape of one of the most important Civil War sites in the Raleigh area.

On this map, I have marked the approximate area where the Farmers Market was built 120 years after the War of the Rebellion (based on the Drayton map, drawn up by Union engineers after the war). As you can see, the site is in a low-lying area within sight of Raleigh’s Wall, including one of its redans, or artillery emplacements. The spot is shown next to Rhamkatte Road (now Lake Wheeler Road), just a little north of Walnut Creek and I-40:

Following are some shots of the items on display at the Farmers Market admin building. This should give an idea of the potential for discovery in the Dix Hill area, especially considering that these items were recovered by 18 volunteers in a single weekend.

These artifacts are presented in two separate lightboxes. However, upon examining the plaques included in each lightbox, I noticed an interesting distinction. One of the plaques references “The War Between the States,” but the other uses the phrase “The War of Northern Aggression,” which I hadn’t heard for many years. I suppose it indicates the cultural leanings of someone involved in the collection effort.

Following is an illustration from the Dorothea Dix Park master plan, which might give you an idea how much the landscape of the area could be changed through development of the park, and might emphasize the desirability of a good program of archaeological evaluation and preservation.

ARB — 18 September 2019

One thought on “Treasure trove of Civil War artifacts discovered at site of Raleigh Farmers Market in 1988

  1. Your post on the recovered relics from the Farmer’s Market construction site did not mention the special interest group, the Triangle Relic Recovery & Historical Preservation Association (which is now Wake County Metal Detecting) that recovered the materials, built the display cases, and provided the identification tags. Understandable and forgiven. It was a major effort to get permission from the State to do this…the Division of Archives and History considered us “grave robbers” and their statement was “it is better to see it go to the landfill” than let us recover these items. Fortunately, we had a friend in Agriculture Commissioner Jim Graham, who controlled the site and secured permission to hunt, recover, and preserve this portion of Raleigh history.
    Any efforts that can be exerted on your behalf in allowing some structured recovery operation at Dix Hill would be for the benefit of many. For those interested, our group can be found on Facebook “Wake County Metal Detecting”, and we aren’t limited to just metallic finds, but bottles, arrowheads/projectile points, etc. We meet 4th Tuesday each month at Ridge Road Baptist Church at 7:30pm for meet and greet, show & tell competitions.

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