ATLANTIC BEACH — N.C. State Park Service staff at Fort Macon State Park, along with volunteers with the Friends of Fort Macon, gathered Wednesday to reveal several new artifacts for display at the fort, including a historic battle flag.
The staff and volunteers, about 32 in all, gathered at the Fort Macon Visitor Center auditorium. After a few words from Superintendent Randy Newman on the state of repairs from Hurricane Florence, as well as a few ongoing projects at the facility, fort historian Paul Branch revealed the new artifacts.
“Fort staff is always on the lookout for artifacts for the fort,” Mr. Branch said. The first one he unveiled was an artifact staff found for sale online – a straight razor that’s been identified as belonging to Capt. Thomas D. Sheffield, an officer who was stationed at Fort Macon during the Civil War.
Perhaps the most remarkable artifact, however, was a historic flag. As Mr. Branch pressed a switch on a remote control, the auditorium’s projector screen was drawn up into the ceiling, revealing the flag behind it to the applause of staff and volunteers.
“A very important artifact came to light,” Mr. Branch said, just before raising the screen, “purchased by the Friends of Fort Macon and the (state) park service, the battalion colors of the 5th Rhode Island Battalion.”
The 5th Rhode Island Battalion took part in the siege of Fort Macon in 1862. Mr. Branch said the battalion colors the fort received would have been carried with the battalion into battle. However, the battalion received new flags just prior to the surrender of the fort, so the flag wasn’t present at that event.
“We’re very fortunate to have this invaluable artifact,” Mr. Branch said.
Last but not least, Mr. Branch revealed an artifact that will be put in a new display being installed at the visitor center. The artifact is a British half-pounder cannon, discovered in the waters just offshore from the fort and believed to have been part of the armament of a British ship involved in the Battle of Beaufort in 1782, the last battle of the American Revolution.
Meanwhile, Mr. Newman said another, more recent artifact has been located and the state park service is working on acquiring it for Fort Macon. Mr. Newman said they’ve located a World War II artillery cannon that’s the same type as those positioned at the fort during WWII, which they’re in the process of acquiring from the U.S. National Guard.
N.C. Park Service Director Dwight Patterson was present at the artifact unveiling Wednesday. Mr. Patterson praised fort staff and volunteers for their work in acquiring more artifacts for the fort and maintaining and improving the facilities.
“The individual friends groups (for state parks) have done amazing things like acquiring artifacts like these,” Mr. Patterson said.
N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susi Hamilton was also present Wednesday. Ms. Hamilton said she loves to see the hands-on work that’s been done by the volunteers and staff at the fort on projects like the walking trails, as well as bringing in local military servicemen to help.
“It’s rare our state parks include a historic site,” Ms. Hamilton said. “The great thing about North Carolina is we have such diverse natural resources…but it’s the staff and volunteers that demonstrate how wonderful our people are.”
Ms. Hamilton said in her work, she promotes some of the best locations in North Carolina.
“Our parks are a major component in returning regional and community pride,” she said. “It’s my job to ensure we not only take care of these places, but ensure they serve North Carolina. You are the keepers of these places that become the backdrop of family photos that are cherished for generations.”
Contact Mike Shutak at 252-726-7081 ext. 206, email firstname.lastname@example.org; or follow on Twitter at @mikesccnt.