north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Fort Dobbs, one of North Carolina’s twenty-seven state historic sites, is the only one dedicated to the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the North American chapter of the broader Seven Years War between England and France. A relatively obscure armed conflict even today, the French and Indian War was significant in setting in motion a set of events throughout the colonies that would conclude with the American Revolution. The expenses incurred from sending and supporting military units would later force Britain to recoup their losses through economic measures such as the Stamp Act and Townshend Act. In addition, British defeats such as that of General Edward Braddock’s would indicate to the American colonies that British military might was far from invincible, uniting them against a common foe for the first time. Lastly, the military campaigns provided invaluable experience to military leaders such as George Washington experience he would later use against England in the War for Independence.

     Western expansion in North Carolina forced England to protect colonists in the wilderness, and as a result, the provincial assembly approved a grant of one thousand pounds sterling to royal governor and Scotsman Arthur Dobbs (1689-1765) for construction of a defensive fortress in March 1756. Dobbs chose an area in the Catawba valley in present Iredell County and charged Col. Hugh Waddell (1734-1773) and his frontier company of fifty men with protecting both the fort and colonists’ trading rights with Indians against the encroaching French. Later that year, Waddell also was appointed commissioner of peace, and was sent to negotiate with local Cherokee and Catawba Indians. The frontier company proved itself on February 26, 1760, when the only recorded attack on Fort Dobbs, a Cherokee force of at least seventy warriors, was repelled with minimal losses to the colonials. The following years passed without fanfare, and the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1763, brought an end to the war and rendered Fort Dobbs all but obsolete. The fortress was reported as abandoned by 1766, as western frontier had expanded far beyond the wooden fortress.

     The only known contemporary description suggests the fort was fifty three by forty feet, with oak pillars supporting the structure, which rose almost twenty-five feet. Soldiers were able simultaneously to fire up to one hundred muskets from the walls of the fort, making Fort Dobbs an imposing headquarters on the Carolina frontier.


References:
Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years' War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (2000)
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina, 459—essay by Paul Branch
Jerry C. Cashion and Jerry L. Cross, “Fort Dobbs Historical Research Report” (unpublished research report, North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1974)
Fort Dobbs website: http://www.fortdobbs.org
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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