Cannon Branch Fort

Friday, September 30, 2022

Located at 10611 Gateway Boulevard in Manassas, Virginia, Cannon Branch Fort is a historic Civil War fortification. While details of its construction are unknown, it's believed that the fort was built by Union army forces in 1863 or 1864 to protect the nearby railroad line. 

Cannon Branch Fort is an earthwork fort situated on eleven acres near the western edge of Manassas. It overlooks the railroad bridge that crosses Cannon Branch Creek, a tributary of the Broad Run River. The site is located near a number of water resources, so it may have been a seasonal base camp. There are seventeen Native American archaeological sites within a two-mile radius.

The site also contains a cemetery and is the site of Civil War reenactments. There are also several CSA trenches, as well as a 300-foot long, six-foot-deep CSA trench, which spans Edwards' Ferry Road. The CSA also used the fort as a supply base along the wagon road from Alexandria to Winchester.

Prehistoric artifacts found on the site reflect the existence of a hunter-gatherer culture, as well as extensive migration and trading connections. In the year 1740, European settlement began in the area. Peter Hamrick patented the land, which became known as Mayfield. During the Civil War, the area was populated by soldiers from the newly established C.S. Navy and was home to many soldiers.

Two Union redoubts were built in the area. The largest was a sixty-foot square work with two guns, which could hold one hundred men. It was located northwest of the depot and near Payne's Lane. A smaller redoubt was built near the railroad bridge and was smaller in size, holding only 25 men.

The CSA signal station, Wilcoxen Signal Station, is located in the area. It's located on a treeless hill that offered excellent sight lines. Until it was abandoned in March 1862, it was used by the Union army for communications. In the same year, the first use of semaphone signalling during combat took place here.

There are several museums at Cannon Branch Fort. The Fort Museum contains information about the military during the Civil War. The site is open to the public. There is an admission fee to enter the museum. There's also a short walking trail through the park where visitors can explore a CSA four-gun battery.

The CSA also built a shore battery at the entrance to Potomac Creek to guard the area. There was also an encampment at Quantico Creek, which is now a USMC Systems Command complex. The CSA also built a supply depot on the site, which was later abandoned in favor of the larger depot at City Point on the James River.

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