11/19/04 — Kenansville was site of Civil War sword maker

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Kenansville was site of Civil War sword maker

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 19, 2004 1:57 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Civil War Trail is leading tourists to Kenansville.

The historical trail markers at the intersection of N.C. 11 and 903 show where the Confederate Arms Factory made weapons and other supplies for the Confederate armies.

Historian Franklin Fussell says the factory had three buildings where the Dollar General is now. He doesn't know how many people were employed at the factory in Kenansville, but 70 people worked there when it was in Wilmington. A yellow fever scare in the summer and fall of 1862 sent the operation to Kenansville.

The factory's owner, Louis Froelich, was a Bavarian immigrant. He came through the woods and brought the equipment from Wilmington, said Fussell. "It became like an industrial complex."

The population of Kenansville was 640 in 1863 when the sword factory started manufacturing swords, bayonets, Bowie knives, buttons, surgical instruments and knapsacks.

Shortly after the factory started up operations in Kenansville, a federal cavalry burned it down.

According to one of the historical markers in front of the Dollar General, "North Carolina was furnishing much of the material that the Confederate armies needed to sustain field operations. ... Blockade runners smuggled contraband goods that were then funneled to Virginia (heart of the war's Eastern Theatre) via the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad and the Petersburg Rail-road.

"Cutting that lifeline became a major Union objective."

On July 4, 1863, U.S. cavalry struck the Confederate States Armory. The cavalry had come up from New Bern on its way to Wilmington-Weldon Railroad at Warsaw. They pillaged and plundered, and several houses were raided. Historians say $100,000 in Confederate money was taken.

"It was the only time in Duplin County history when the deeds were taken out of the courthouse," said Fussell. "They hid the records to keep them from burning, and the courthouse didn't get burned. They got wet. The county is restoring some of them now."

Magnolia had a turntable where the trains could turn around, but Fussell says the Union soldiers couldn't get at it. The Confederates were camped there.

Confederates also camped at the place across from James Sprunt Community College where the agribusiness complex is being constructed. Fussell said artifacts have been spotted there since the site work began.

Froelich rebuilt the sword factory and continued to produce military equipment. The armory is last known to have operated in 1864. After the war, Froelich turned to agriculture, selling scuppernong wine and other farm products. He later moved to Halifax County, where he died in 1873.