The fort has been described as one of the best preserved earthworks Civil War sites east of the Mississippi.
Eight of the original 11 cannons are on display in the fort museum, including the history of how the cannons were discovered and rescued from the Roanoke River.
At the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, the Confederate Army chose the site of Fort Branch to provide the upper Roanoke Valley with badly needed protection against the Union gunboats that were beginning to enter eastern North Carolina's rivers and sounds. The fort was named in honor of General Lawrence Branch, a local hero who had been killed on a Maryland battlefield.
The 100-foot clay bluffs gave the Confederates a clear view of the river in both directions, and their vantage point was too high for the guns on the Union boats. In addition to protecting the citizens of the area, the fort protected ''The Lifeline of the Confederacy'' -- a railroad bridge at Weldon, NC that helped to supply General Lee's army with provisions -- and the building site of an ironclad warship, the C.S.S. Albemarle, just above Hamilton.
Though nearby Plymouth, NC --at the mouth of the Roanoke River -- was the site of several battles in which the port was captured, lost, and recaptured by the North, Fort Branch was never lost. The fort was ordered evacuated immediately after General Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Before leaving, the Confederates threw the cannons into the deep Roanoke River to keep them from falling into Union hands.
Three of the scuttled cannons were retrieved by the U. S. Navy in 1865. However, 7 of the remaining 8 were not found until 1972. Now owned by the State of North Carolina, they are on permanent loan to the Fort Branch Battlefield Commission.
1861 Map of Fort
Annual re-enactments are staged in late October / early November.
Fort Branch is open April thru November of each year on Saturdays and Sundays in the afternoon.
For more information, contact Martin County Tourism