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Little-known office unearths archaeological treasures at Bragg 7-07

By LAURA ARENSCHIELD
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - The longleaf pine forests on Fort Bragg
where soldiers prepare for battle conceal more than the Army's
training secrets.

Pieces of North Carolina's history are hidden there, too.

Dirt piles cover chimneys that once blew smoke from Scottish
settlers' homes. The bones of Civil War soldiers - Confederate and
Union - lie in mass graves beneath wire grass fields. Pointed stones
fashioned by Native Americans have been found from as far back as
12,000 B.C.

There are about 4,200 defined archaeological sites on Fort Bragg and
290 have been declared "worthy of more research" by a little-known
office that protects and explores the sites.

For families interested in their genealogy, military history buffs or
people just interested in the way this region developed, the office
is a link the past.

The Fort Bragg Cultural Resources office employs six full-time
archaeologists, historians and preservation specialists. They
evaluate the land, examine existing buildings, collect relics and
study the way people once lived.

Fort Bragg and Camp Mackall cover more than 160,000 acres - most of
which the Army bought in 1919. As shopping centers and developments
sprouted in the surrounding communities, land on the reservation
stayed untouched.

"It is absolutely unique in the state of North Carolina and in the
southeast," said Joe Herbert, an archaeologist with Fort Bragg
Cultural Resources, "because it is such a huge chunk of land and we
know so much about it because we have been working on it for a
decade."

A tour through the Cultural Resources offices off Butner Road shows
the fruits of their excavations: Stone points from prehistoric times
are displayed in a wall cabinet near bullets and buckles from the
Civil War.

Tools used by settlers to collect turpentine from the longleaf pines
are in a glass case. Photographs and maps describe the Longstreet and
Sandy Grove churches, where Highland Scots attended Presbyterian
services in Gaelic centuries ago. Both structures have been preserved
on Fort Bragg.

Longstreet Church, hidden off Longstreet Road in the back woods of
the reservation, is a simple white structure constructed almost
entirely of pine.

Two doors lead inside from the front of the building. A pine pulpit
and pews fill the room in straight lines. A board divides the pews.

A wooden balcony overlooks the church from three walls.

Historians study this building to reconstruct how the people who
worshipped here lived, said Linda Carnes-McNaughton, an archaeologist
and curator.

The church likely was built by African slaves, Carnes-McNaughton
said. One of the double front doors would have been used by women,
the other by men. The board separating the pews was the dividing line
that kept the sexes apart. The balcony surrounding the room likely
was used by slaves.

The building belongs to the Army, said Charles Heath, an
archaeologist with the office, but soldiers do not have open access
to it.

Some buildings on Old Post, in the heart of Fort Bragg, are managed
by historians and preservation specialists at Cultural Resources but
used as offices by soldiers.

At other sites, if soldiers missed one of the signs designating the
area protected, they never would know they had hiked over history.

Such is the case with homes used by the Highland Scots who settled
this area. In some areas, only a trained eye can recognize where
people once lived. The clues can be as simple as a piece of brick
that once was part of a chimney, or a patch of garlic that still
springs up, hundreds of years later. Soldiers in training can use
those lands, but they cannot dig rifle pits there.

Soldiers use Monroe's Crossroads, where Confederate and Union
soldiers fought an impromptu battle near the end of the Civil War, to
study military tactics and learn from the mistakes of the past.

Archaeologists say they have surveyed about 80 percent of the land
open to them on Fort Bragg, but they have countless sites left to
explore.

"Essentially, what we preserve is part of American heritage," Heath
said. "It ties us in with our past and brings a certain context to
how we live."
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