In 1863 the citizens of Raleigh gathered at the Wake County courthouse to petition the city and the state to fortify the capital city against an invasion by the Union army. On July 6, Governor Zebulon B. Vance and former Governor Thomas Bragg endorsed the decision to create a fortification of breastworks around the city.


  • The remains of the defensive breastworks are about a third of a mile west from this marker.
    The remains of the defensive breastworks are about a third of a mile west from this marker.

Governor Vance ordered militia colonels in Wake County to gather up male slaves between the ages of sixteen and forty-five who were of good health and to collect one slave for every ten working men of a slaveowner. The men were then brought to the courthouse and set to work on the fortification until it was complete. By the account of a letter writer to a Raleigh newspaper in 1936, the fortifications, constructed primarily in 1864, were never manned and were thrown up strictly as a precaution in the event that fighting reached the Capital City. 

The remains of the earthen breastworks could still be seen until the second half of the twentieth century in the vicinity of Peace College and other locations. A detailed map of the fortifications, prepared by a Union army engineer, can be found in the North Carolina State Archives and in Elizabeth Reid Murray’s history of Wake County.