Orange County, North Carolina historic information cache - The Hillsborough Military Academy
The Hillsborough Military Academy
(a.k.a. the North Carolina Military Academy)
The Hillsborough Military Academy was the idea of Moses A. Curtis (at the time the minister of St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Hillsborough, and whose son later became a cadet and was killed at the Battle of Bentonville during the Civil War), to ensure that suitable local boys could obtain a decent education, as he felt the opportunity to do so was lacking in the area. In Late July 1858, he, Charles C. Tew (an 1846 graduate of South Carolina's military academy The Citadel, who was eventually killed at the Battle of Sharpsburg/Antietam in September 1862 while serving in the 2nd North Carolina regiment of infantry during the Civil War), and A.S. Galliard searched Hillsborough and its environs for a suitable site for a military academy. On September 2, Tew advertised in the Hillsborough Recorder that the academy would open January 12, 1859, west of Hillsborough.

Architect John A. Kay (of Columbia, South Carolina) designed the barracks and the commandant's house, and they were built by local builders John Berry and Henry Richards. The academy's barracks was completed in September 1860; it cost $30,000 to build, was 215 feet long by 45 feet wide, and housed the cadets (it was able to house 125 cadets), instructors, and classrooms. (Between the academy's opening on January 12, 1859, and the barracks' completion in September 1860, cadets lived in temporary wooden structures on the academy's grounds or boarded with local families.) The academy's campus eventually included the commander's house, the barracks, a mess hall, a social hall, storeroom, doctor's office (the academy's doctor was Edmund Strudwick), and infirmary. The academy's first teachers were A.S. Galliard and Major William H. Gordon (an 1852 graduate of VMI).

The academy's mission was to "prepare the cadet not only to serve his country in time of crisis, but more importantly, to serve his community as a civilian." The academy provided instruction in scientific and engineering courses, and in military tactics and drill. Entrance requirements included an ability to read, write, and perform "with facility, arithmetical operations involving the four grand rules." Its curriculum was modeled after West Point's, the Virginia Military Institute's (VMI), and the Citadel's.

The academic year ran from January to November, and cost the cadet's family $315, payable in three installments. The fee provided each cadet with uniform items, room and board, instruction, textbooks, and medical care. By January 1860, 107 cadets from eight Southern states had enrolled. The academy was initially privately funded, but in 1861 became chartered by the North Carolina State legislature, designating it a public institution (the charter didn't, however, provide free education for students who were unable to pay).

At the beginning of the Civil War, after Colonel Tew left for a permanent Army assignment in May 1861, John M. Richardson became acting superintendent of the academy. Soon, however, the academy closed down and became an ordnance manufacturing and storage facility, as well as a camp of instruction and recruiting area for the military. In 1862, the academy was reopened and was commanded by Major Gordon. Throughout the war, the academy supplied both officers and enlisted men for the Confederate military. In May 1865, after Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrendered at the nearby Bennett farm, the remaining cadets were dismissed and sent home, Major Gordon left, and the academy was closed.

After the Civil War ended, the academy was briefly run by Colonel James B. White (a former superintendent of The Citadel), but he was unsuccesful in obtaining financial support from the State so was forced to close the academy. In 1866, General Raleigh E. Colston reopened the academy and in 1867 the North Carolina State legislature changed the name to the North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy. Its staff (besides General Colton) consisted of Major D. Truehart (professor and 1850 graduate of VMI), Captain (later Major) William A. Obenchain (adjutant and professor), Colonel Llewellyn Hoxton (professor and 1861 graduate of West Point), and Edmund Strudwick and his son William S. Strudwick (doctors). Tuition (including room, board, textbooks, medical, and uniform items) was $400 per year. The academy lasted until 1868, when General Colston moved to Wilmington to open a new military academy.

In early 1868, Robert Fitzgerald, a teacher working for the Friends Freedmen�s Association, was looking for a school building to teach in. He noted in his diary that the former �Hillsboro Institute� (i.e. the Hillsborough Military Academy) building was �rapidly going down and could be bought for $1500� for use as a school for black students if so desired. He described it as �where the well-to-do sons of Orange County had once gotten their education.�

Sometime after the academy closed in 1868, Elizabeth F. Tew (the widow of Colonel Tew) may have moved into the upper floor of the barracks. She died in 1870, and local resident Paul C. Cameron purchased the academy property for $5,000 at auction in 1872. After Cameron purchased the property, the Friends Freedmen�s Association approached him to see about renting or purchasing the property for a freedmen's school; however, Cameron didn't want to have anything to do with assisting former slaves.

In 1874, James H. Horner of the Horner School (of Oxford) and Ralph H. Graves of the Graves School (near Hillsborough; formerly the Caldwell Institute and the Bingham School) combined their schools into the "Horner and Graves School" and moved to the former academy buildings at the request of Paul Cameron (as part of the inducement, Cameron had the former commander's house finished and renovated for Horner's residence). The principals of the school were Daniel H. Hamilton, Jr. (a former instructor at the Hillsborough Military Academy), and Hugh Morson, Jr. (who had been one of the first instructors at the Hillsborough Military Academy); additional instructors were Horner, Graves, and A.W. Venable. Also, in 1874, a gymnasium was constructed on the grounds of the academy. Their "classical, mathematical, scientific and military academy" failed in 1877, possibly due to lack of patronage but more likely due to Graves's death (May 26, 1876) and Horner's departure also in 1876. Most of the school's students left and entered the University of North Carolina the same year.

After the school failed, Cameron rented some of the outbuildings to tenant farmers, but the main barracks building remained vacant. Sometime between 1891 and 1895, after Paul Cameron's death, the Cameron family sold the 42-acre property to the North Carolina Farmers� Alliance, which planned to turn the barracks structure into a grain and feed storage facility. It never did, apparently, but did utilize the property as a manufacturing center and school. It sold the property in 1919. A 1920 deed map of the property shows the former Farmer's Alliance shoe factory on the property (in an outbuilding), and the barracks and buildings were likely used by squatters (and "hobos," perhaps due to its proximity to the railroad) in the 1930s.

In June 1937, Archie A. Biggs took photographs of "The Barracks" for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). He listed its condition as "neglected," its custody as "doubtful," and described it as a three-story brick (Flemish bond) building, with "Windows splayed outside, metal trim, exterior window trim heavy and bold mouldings" with wood sills and "Gothic label moulds on windows," "parapet wall battlemented, heavy brick cornice, Italian Romanesque corbelling" with its entrance "flanked by tower on each side," that were "four-story octagon-shaped with cornice and parapet same as building."

The barracks building was soon dismantled as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and the bricks salvaged for use in new construction. In 1938, the property was sold from the estate of John W. Hill.

The 1859 headquarters building (a.k.a. the Superintendent's House and the Commandant�s House) was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It had fallen into disrepair but was purchased and renovated in the 1960s by Mr. Lucius Cheshire. It is now a private residence. Another still-extant building (the former "social hall" for the Hillsborough Military Academy) is now the "All Saints Anglican Church"; it had also fallen into disrepair but was restored in the early 1990s (perhaps also by Cheshire). Another wooden structure, the infirmary, remains on the property in an unrestored state. The property where the barracks stood still remains largely undeveloped.
Hillsborough Military Academy Civil War-era uniform button   One style of a Hillsborough Military Academy uniform button (from the Civil War-era; not actual size)
Advertisement for the Hillsboro' Military Academy, 1866   Advertisement for the Hillsboro' Military Academy, 1866
(Branson 1866)
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1867   The North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy (with the 'Commandant's House' on the right), 1867; view north
From the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1870s   Cadets in formation, 1870s; view north-northeast
From the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1870s   Cadets in formation, 1870s; view northwest
From the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1870s   Cadets in formation in the rear of the main barracks structure, 1870s; view southwest
From the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1870s   First floor veranda (rear of the main barracks structure), 1870s; view west
From the North Carolina Collection at UNC Chapel Hill
The Hillsborough Military Academy, circa 1910   A photo-postcard that shows the former academy in the (right) background. Taken from Eno (Occoneechee) Mountain, circa 1910; view northwest
The Academy's commandant's house   The former academy's headquarters/commandant's house/superintendent's house, early 20th century; view southeast
The Hillsborough Military Academy, 1937   The former academy barracks, 1937 (Barracks Road is on the right); view north-northwest
From the Library of Congress
The Hillsborough Military Academy site, 1924 and 1943   The Hillsborough Military Academy site; from the 1924 (left) and 1943 (right) Sanborn maps (red outline is the barracks building and its site, the blue outline is the "commandant's house"; Barr Street is now Barracks Road; also, note outbuildings to the north)

Anderson, Jean B. The Cameron Presence in Hillsborough. Hillsborough Historical Society Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1998.

Battle, Kemp P. History of the University of North Carolina 1868-1912. Raleigh: Edwards & Broughton Printing Company, 1912.

Bishir, Catherine W. and Michael T. Southern. A Guide to the Historic Architecture of Piedmont North Carolina. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2003.

Biggs, Archie A. (photographer). The Barracks, Barracks Road, Hillsborough vicinity, Orange County, NC. Survey number HABS NC-269. Historic American Buildings Survey (Library of Congress), 1937.

Blackwelder, Ruth. The Age of Orange: Political and Intellectual Leadership in North Carolina, 1752-1861. Charlotte: W. Loftin, 1961.

Branson, Levi. Branson & Farrar's North Carolina Business Directory for 1866-'67, Containing Facts, Figures, Names and Locations. Raleigh: Branson & Farrar, 1866.

Robert Golan, personal communication.

Ireland, Robert E. The Hillsborough Military Academy. Hillsborough Historical Society Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1998.

Murray, Pauli. Proud Shoes. Harper & Brothers, New York. 1956. 193.

Powell, William S. Moses Ashley Curtis. Hillsborough Historical Society Journal, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1998.

Raper, Charles L. The Church and Private Schools of North Carolina: A Historical Study. Greensboro: Jos. J. Stone, 1898.

Ross, Stephen. 'To Prepare Our Sons for All the Duties that May Lie before Them': The Legacy of the Hillsborough Military Academy and Military Education in Antebellum North Carolina, North Carolina Historical Review, January 2002.

Sanborn Map Company. Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina maps; January 1924 and February 1943.

Smith, Charles L. The History of Education in North Carolina (Contributions to American Educational History No. 3). Washington: Government Printing Office, 1888.

United States Federal Censuses. 1860, 1870.

University of North Carolina. North Carolina Polytechnic Academy. Gone but Not Forgotten: North Carolina's Educational Past.
[Created 2007; Last updated: 30 January 2011]

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