A little known Confederate fort that was built in anticipation of Union General George Stoneman’s Raid into Piedmont North Carolina and to protect the North Carolina Railroad Bridge, Fort York is now located adjacent to I-85 in Davidson County and across the Yadkin River from Rowan County.
Although historians disagree whether the earthworks began being laid in late 1864 or in early 1865, a growing concern regarding invading Yankees prompted the fort’s construction. North Carolinians feared William T. Sherman’s approach from Georgia and South Carolina and George Stoneman’s vengeful cavalry crossing the Appalachians.
The fort is an earthwork system of small artillery batteries connected by rifle pits. There is an inner line (240 yards of infantry trenches and 3 artillery batteries) and an encompassing, outer line (385 yards of trenches and 4 batteries). It was constructed to protect the North Carolina Railroad Bridge from being destroyed.
Many argue that General P.G.T. Beauregard was the head engineer. Records do indicate that he spent a day in Salisbury in March 1865.
Only one recorded military action took place at the fort. On April 12, 1865, three days after Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox and four years after the firing on Fort Sumter, a small detachment of Union raiders fired artillery at the fort and the Confederates replied accordingly. The formidable fort rested on a high location and the Yankees retreated after an unsuccessful afternoon of artillery fire. They more than likely realized that the costs to overtake the Confederate camp far outweighed the benefits and that many miles of railroad track had already been destroyed.
In the end, the North Carolina Railroad Bridge had been saved. And the Confederacy experienced one of its last military successes.