Google Map of Raleigh’s Civil War Earthworks

I’ve developed a Google Maps version of the 1863 Henry T. Guion map of Raleigh’s Civil War defenses. See “1863 Map of the approaches to Raleigh NC and Civil War entrenchments (Guion map).” I’m hoping that this interactive map will give researchers a better idea how to find the locations of the artillery emplacements and the lines of entrenchments on the modern landscape. One of the things I like about this Google Map is that it’s possible to view the Civil War locations on either a street map or a satellite map, or even with a “terrain” overlay. (To find these options, scroll all the way down the key window.) If you view this map on a mobile phone, your GPS should be able to show your location relative to where the fortifications were.

Here’s an image of the Google Map. To go to the interactive version, click on this image or on the link that follows:

Click here to open the Google Map.

This Google Map should be considered a first iteration. To develop the map, I first identified a set of anchor points, indicated in purple. I have a good level of confidence that these anchor points identify locations that have not changed since the Civil War, such as the main Mordecai house, the Capitol building, and the Dix Hospital main building. I used these anchor points to mark the likely locations of the redans (marked as red points) and the angles in the entrenchment lines (marked as black points). Then I drew the entrenchment lines in black. If you’ll click on any red or black point marker, you will see my rationale for positioning that point. Yellow points indicate mounds or other features that could represent remains of earthworks.

I call this Google Map a first iteration because I recognize that there is a fair amount of error. For most locations, I would estimate that the Google Maps point could be perhaps 50 or 100 feet off from the actual location. A more precise take-off from the Guion map (whether by me or someone else) could probably produce a better correlation.

A note about historic preservation: As far as I can tell, no one has ever carried out a concerted and comprehensive archaeological study of the Raleigh earthworks. Certainly very little of these structures remains today in any readily identifiable form. The redans (artillery emplacements) no longer exist as such, but in some cases their platforms can still be discerned. Some of the entrenchment lines ran through areas that have not been extensively developed since the Civil War, so it might be possible to identify remains of breastworks, even if all that is left are low mounds or depressions in the ground.

Archaeology nowadays is capable of studying underground structures non-invasively, at least to some extent. I would think that some kind of study should be possible, at least along some stretches of the approximately six miles of historical entrenchments. I can imagine that, if some remains can be identified and studied, it should be possible to undertake some level of historic preservation, with the cooperation of property owners.

If any readers find this map useful as an exploration tool, please leave a comment below to let me know what you discover.

ARB — 24 January 2020

2 thoughts on “Google Map of Raleigh’s Civil War Earthworks

  1. Al – This is fabulous information. As Program Chairman for RCWRT many years ago, I led a project to determine if any of the original breastworks or rifle pits surrounding Raleigh during the Civil War still existed. This turned out to be an interesting project and included overlaying the Confederate Map of the breastworks onto a current day map of Raleigh and the surrounding area. Long story short – I was able to track & discover some pieces of the original works & a couple of rifle pits that still existed – at least at the time of my investigation (about 12 years ago). In just the last few weeks, I turned over all of my files, notes, maps, photos & findings to Bob Graesser, who is the webmaster for the RCWRT. Since there is included a thesis by a grad student on the same subject (which I relied upon heavily), I thought you might want to contact Bob and check out the information we came up with. All the best.

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    1. David — Thank you so much for your comment. I had heard about your previous project to identify locations of the defenses and had hoped to get in touch with someone involved. I would love to see any records of that effort, so I will certainly get in touch with Bob Graesser. I’d also love to get a chance to chat with you by phone at some point. Maybe you could send me you contact information as well as Bob’s. My email address is alfredbredenberg@gmail.com.
      A. Roy

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