New Hope Creek Corridor Advisory Committee

Civil War History

James Davis
February 2013

Durham, North Carolina was the site of one of the last skirmishes of the War Between the States. The first action occurred on April 14, 1865. The location was near a wooden-planked bridge where now NC Highway 54 crosses over the New Hope Creek, in the bottomlands of the Leigh Farm Plantation and not far from the present-day Patterson Mill Country Store on Farrington Road.

Members under Confederate General Wheeler's cavalry engaged pickets from Union General Atkins's brigade. The Federal forces finally secured the area after losses. Wheeler's cavalry and supporting troops then followed the New Hope Creek downstream and destroyed the Stagecoach Road Bridge in an attempt to slow the advance of Atkins's forces on the Town of Chapel Hill and the University.

On April 15 the opposing parties clashed again in an area still known today as Stagecoach Road. The Confederates were forced to retire upstream to a fortified position with cannon, near the intersection of present-day Interstate 40 and Highway 751. They made a final stand under cover of supporting artillery for a third encounter.

After all hostilities ceased, twelve Union and three Confederate troops had lost their lives. The heavily wooded wetlands area can now be visited at the two Waterfowl Impoundments constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers on Highway 54 and Stagecoach Road.


Some notes from James Davis on his research

In April of 2011 UNC conducted a series of lectures and exhibits about the local area and the Civil War, commemorating the 150th anniversary of that terrible time in our nation's past. My interest was piqued due to the fact that I use the New Hope Creek wetlands as a venue for my outdoor pastimes. I had also heard stories that my paternal grandfather had passed from his father about a conflict/skirmish during that time in the area. During free time over the next couple of years I researched the locations and dates of this meeting of the Blue and Gray.

To pin down locations I overlaid historic North Carolina maps from collections at Wilson Library, Perkins Library, a small museum in Morrisville, and historic Durham County/City maps from a site provided by RootsWeb. Some documents and correspondence were located in Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States History by Clement Evans and The Civil War in North Carolina by John Barrett.

The most daunting task was at the Southern Historical Collection at Wilson Library. Using The James Sprunt Historical Publications and the ongoing digitization program entitled "Documenting the American South," I got a huge number of hits when I typed in "New Hope Creek." I even found a memo from General Sherman reporting to General Grant about the miserable weather from April 13-16, 1865 (apparently it rained cats & dogs).



Clement Evans. Confederate Military History: A Library of Confederate States History.

Morrisville History Exibit, Morrisville Town Hall

Last Shots Marker—The Historical Marker Database,

Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, UNC

John Barrett. The Civil War in North Carolina.