dispatches from terra incognita

Category: Travel

In My Backyard

The general area in which I live is replete with historical import. Beginning on the coast, you have Manteo and the site of the “Lost Roanoke Colony.” Down a bit, one finds Ocracoke Inlet, site of Blackbeard‘s dispatch, and Beaufort Inlet, resting place of his Queen Anne’s Revenge. Closer to my home in the piedmont, we have Bennett Place, where Johnson surrendered to Sherman in 1865, and amble further west to the site of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.

Even the hamlet 6 miles south of my home — Hillsborough — is a historical powerhouse. Here the Regulators rampaged and were hung, Earl Cornwallis occupied the town in 1781, and forwarding fast to 1949, Occoneechee Speedway was one of the first two NASCAR tracks. A relatively minor bit of history I run past frequently are the remains of the Hillsborough Military Academy. (Here’s more information.)

Opened in 1859, the Academy was yet another casualty of American Civil War, and by 1870 it was closed and the widow of the founding superintendent (Colonel Charles Courtney Tew, first graduate of the Citadel, killed at Antietam) haunted the upper floor, alone.

The barracks in 1938, demolition imminent.

What remains today? That dirt road in the picture above is now paved and called “Barracks Road;” I run down it 2-3 times a week. The little wooden structure on there right was the “social hall” (according to this website). It still stands, and according to the sign is the All Saints Anglican Church, though I’ve observed nary a soul within.

The most impressive bit is the Commandant’s House across the street, now a private residence. Below is what it looked like yesterday. You can almost make out the cool crenelations. For most of the 20 years I’ve lived in the area, the holly bushes in front were grown up almost to the height of the building and one had to peek through the brambles to catch a glimpse.

Here’s a historical photo giving a better view of the architecture.

This drawing shows the relationship between the two structures.

I shall endeavor to track down more such tidbits that I stumble over in my backyard…

Victorian Science Fact

I am not a frequent traveller. On my occasional rambles, I do encounter inspiration for gaming. Last fall, my wife and I visited the somewhat-nearby college town of Athens, GA. Mostly a pilgrimage for artifacts of my favorite band from adolescence, R.E.M., we unexpectedly encountered a bit of military history from the era of VSF.

Keeping watch over a town square, this beauty was an authentic failure of the military imagination. The accompanying documentation tells the whole story. There’s a Wikipedia page, too, which fleshes things out a bit.

A replica in miniature would be a straightforward scratch building affair, intended for either the VSF or Warhammer milieux. When fired, I imagine it would have a certain chance of inflicting double damage or flying wild and potentially hitting friendly troops…

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