20 February 2010 by Published in: Battlefield preservation 2 comments

My friend Teej Smith sent along a really intriguing little tidbit about the discovery of Civil War-era human remains found on Bald Head Island, south of Wilmington, NC. Susan and I have spent several delightful vacations at Teej’s lovely home on Bald Head, so this tidbit is of great interest to me.


State archeologists uncovered a third set of human remains on the Bald Head Island golf course Friday, February 12th. After construction workers unearthed a human skull a week earlier while renovating the golf course, authorities cordoned off the area to determine whether they were dealing with a crime scene or significant historical artifacts. It didn’t take long for officials to rule out foul play. Within hours, more bones turned up, and now investigators are considering the possibility that they have stumbled upon a Civil War-era burial site. Department of Public Safety Chief Chip Munna said that because the bodies were buried in a deliberate fashion, with arms folded across the chest, there’s reason to believe this could be the site of an old cemetery. State archeologists are checking to see if there are any records of burial sites located on Bald Head Island.

The bones and the investigation are now under the purview of the State Office of Archeology, and definitive conclusions about the remains won’t be available for a couple of weeks. However, authorities believe the bones are from adult males who lived in the 19th century. Porcelain buttons found at the site were commonly used on undergarments in the 1840s. The ethnicity of the men has not yet been established, and with Bald Head’s varied history, the bones could have belonged to Civil War soldiers, slaves, or even pirates.

On February 12th, a state archeology team collected two sets of skeletal remains for further study off-Island. While covering the story, a local TV news reporter tripped over a part of a skull, landing on a set of teeth, which led investigators to uncover the third set of remains.

Whether there are more remains is still unclear, but either way, Assistant Village Manager Chris McCall said that the State Office of Archeology will not require any further excavation. Instead, the State is asking the Club to fill in the hole in which the remains were found, leaving any other remains undisturbed. The State may also require the Club to hire a contract archeologist to monitor the filling and conduct a “remote-sensing survey” once the site has been restored to its pre-construction state.

In the meantime, authorities urge the public to stay away from the investigation site. The golf course is private property, and it’s also a potentially hazardous construction area. Said DOPS Chief Munna, “Anyone caught trespassing or attempting to locate or remove any items related to this investigation will be prosecuted.”

There was a large sand fortification on Bald Head Island called Fort Holmes, named for the wretched Confederate general, Theophilus Holmes, but very little of the fort remains intact today. Most of it was destroyed during the development of the island, so it makes sense that men might have died of disease or what not there and that they would have been buried there on the island. Still, this sort of thing is always intriguing when it occurs.

Thanks to Teej for sending this along.

Scridb filter


  1. Thu 11th Mar 2010 at 2:29 am

    I visited Bald Head Island a few years ago. My husband who had worked on the Island before we met wanted me to see the Island. I found it very interesting. I am going to save your blog and show this to him. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Loyd Hoke, Jr.
    Sat 20th Mar 2010 at 7:18 am

    My great-great grandfather, Pvt. Ambrose Hoke died May 10, 1864 and was buried on Bald Head. I have been there and could find no grave. I have a copy of his last letter from Bald Head and a copy of a letter confirming his death and burial there. Another Confederate soldier-prisoner died there also about the same time(Thomas C. Smith from wilmington). I am writing an historical novel on Ambrose’s 1 year in the Confederacy in Co. A, 13th Batt.,NC light Artillery.
    I have contacted Richard Lawrence, State Archaeologist, and he tells me the bones are in Raleigh. I am to check back with him in a month to see if identification can be made. If through DNA(or whatever) identification could be made, my family would like to bury the remains beside his two sons in Catawba County.

    My book is on hold for the time being.

    Loyd Hoke, Jr.

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