Fort Nonsense built by Confederates, research shows

by Sherry Hamilton - Posted on Apr 17, 2013 - 02:21 PM

Photo: Capt. William H. Clarke of Gloucester, below, was the Confederate engineer in charge of construction of the fortification at Smart’s Mill (now known as Fort Nonsense) from December 1861 to March 1862. The document above shows the provisions (flour, coffee, rice, etc.) allocated to Clarke’s command during a period of time in 1862 while at the fortifications.

Capt. William H. Clarke of Gloucester, below, was the Confederate engineer in charge of construction of the fortification at Smart’s Mill (now known as Fort Nonsense) from December 1861 to March 1862. The document above shows the provisions (flour, coffee, rice, etc.) allocated to Clarke’s command during a period of time in 1862 while at the fortifications.

Photo: Capt. William H. Clarke

Capt. William H. Clarke

Research by Becky Foster Barnhardt, head of history and genealogy at Mathews Memorial Library, has determined that the fortifications at Fort Nonsense, a historical site at the intersection of Routes 14 and 3 in Mathews, were built by Confederate forces during the Civil War.

The discovery calls into question long-held speculation that the structures could possibly have been constructed on a Revolutionary War site.

Barnhardt recently briefed members of the Mathews County Historical Society board of directors on her findings. Barnhardt reported that she found records showing that the fortifications were built by members of the 61st Regiment Virginia Militia, also called Matthews Battalion, between December 1861 and March 1862. The records were contained in "Fold3," a digital resource providing access to U.S. military records as well as stories, photos, and personal documents of the men and women who served.

Among the men identified as working on the fortification, said the release, were William H. Clarke, a 2nd Lt. Assistant Engineer at Gloucester who was in charge of the construction, and William D. Soles, employed as "overlooker on defensive works at Smarts Mill."

Clarke, Barnhardt said, was a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, a lieutenant of the Provisional Army of Virginia, and served not only as an engineer but also as an ordnance officer under Brig. Gen. E.A. Perry and Brig. Gen. J. Finegan. He was also a teacher and a farmer.