Local governments have endorsed and committed funding for the North Carolina Civil War History Center proposed for Fayetteville. Cumberland County Commissioners joined Fayetteville City Council in adopting formal resolutions in support of the proposed $65 million branch of the state Museum of History. The city and county agreed to provide $7.5 million each if the state legislature and Governor Roy Cooper approve an appropriation of $30 million from the state. Rep. Billy Richardson (D-Cumberland) is optimistic the funds will be included in the governor’s budget. State Sen. Wesley Meredith (R-Cumberland) says he believes the Senate will favorably consider funding the history center. The History Center Foundation budget asks the state for $30 million. The rest of the money would be raised statewide in private contributions. Foundation President Mac Healy says $6.5 million has already been pledged locally. The facility would be built on the site of the historic Fayetteville Arsenal in Old Haymount.
City Council endorsed the project late last year. Commissioners were asked by the foundation to make a commitment in September. They had not publicly discussed the matter since then, but adopted their resolution of support and funding last week without comment. Their vote was unanimous. Once built, the center would become a state-owned branch of the North Carolina Division of History. Neither city nor county taxpayers will pay to operate it. Healy notes the history center will be the first of its kind in the nation. It will examine the antebellum period, the impact of the Civil War and reconstruction. He describes the center as an education facility, not a museum. “It will deal honestly and factually with the entire period and will examine the events and impacts of this tragic time in our history on all who lived through it,” Healy said. City Councilman Chalmers McDougald says that can’t be emphasized too much to allay concerns of African Americans. Here’s one of the stories from the Civil War Center Foundation’s historic research:
Henry Lawson Wright was only 19 when he left his home in Tarboro to go off to war with the Edgecombe Guards. Henry was one of 88 privates in the Edgecombe unit. It had nine noncoms and four commissioned officers. This group became Company A of the First Regiment of North Carolina Volunteers. On June 10, 1861, the First North Carolina was in Virginia near a place called Big Bethel Church, not far from Hampton. That’s where the war began for Henry. His unit got into a skirmish with a group of Massachusetts troops. On the battlefield was a house. Inside were some of those Massachusetts soldiers. An officer decided it would be a good idea to burn them out. So, on that Monday morning in 1861, Private Henry Lawson Wyatt and four comrades crossed a field to burn the house.
It isn’t known how far Henry advanced or what his thoughts were as he and his comrades undertook their mission. None of it really matters anymore. What matters is that shots were fired from somewhere along the Federal line. What matters more is that one of those shots slammed into the head of Henry Lawson Wyatt. The Battle of Bethel Church ended after about two hours, and the Federals retreated. Henry never opened his eyes again. He died that night. He was the battle’s only Confederate fatality and was the first soldier from North Carolina who died in combat. Thirty-five thousand North Carolinians followed over the next four years.