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North Carolina Polytechnic Academy

The North Carolina Polytechnic Academy was a later iteration of the North Carolina Military Academy, also called the Hillsborough Military Academy. The Academy was established in 1859 in Hillsborough, North Carolina. It was the project of Colonel Charles C. Tew, a Citadel graduate and professor. W.D. Galliard and Major William H. Gordon were the academy’s first teachers. After Colonel Tew died at the Battle of Sharpsburg in 1862, Major Gordon assumed command of the academy for the remainder of the war.

North Carolina Polytechnic Academy Building Drawing of the North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy.
To see more North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy ephemera preserved at the North Carolina Collection, click on the picture.

Classes were first held in the Hillsborough Academy building while the Military Academy campus was constructed. In 1860 the campus was complete, and comprised a large, three story brick barracks with a crenellated roof, a headquarters building, and a smattering of smaller buildings. The barracks had room for 125 cadets. The Academy continued operations throughout the Civil War, supplying the Confederate Army with officers and enlisted men.

After the war the Academy was run first by Colonel White and then by General R. E. Colston. In 1867 the curriculum changed from strictly military to include civil courses as well. The North Carolina state legislature changed the name to the North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy and established a program in which eight students could attend gratis in return for two years of teaching in the state. This last reincarnation of the Military Academy was a failure, and General Colston relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1868.

In 1872 Paul C. Cameron purchased the Academy buildings and in 1874 convinced James H. Horner of the Horner School and Ralph H. Graves of the Graves School in Oxford, North Carolina, to remove to the Military Academy buildings. This new school failed in turn two years later, due to the illness of Horner and the death of Graves. In 1895 the Cameron family sold the property to the Farmers’ Alliance, which in turn sold it to a developer in 1919. The barracks and outbuildings, now decayed, were dismantled and the bricks used in other construction. The headquarters building became part of the National Historic Register in 1972. It is now a private residence, known as the “Commandant’s House.”

Source for image on this page: Image from "North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy," in the North Carolina Military and Polytechnic Academy Ephemera Collection, North Carolina Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. VC378.9 M67 Military.


Works Consulted:

Anderson, Jean B. “North Carolina Military Academy.” In Encyclopedia of North Carolina, ed. by William S. Powell. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2006. 820-821 pp.

Smith, Charles Lee. The History of Education in North Carolina. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1888. 138 p.


For further information:

Items available at the North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives

Hillsborough, Orange County. Hillsborough Military Academy. North Carolina County Collection P1, Series P1.

Stereograph Collection P43
Military Academy at Hillsborough, ca. 1860. Image no. 43.68.1. Negative no. 86-471.
Military Academy at Hillsborough, ca. 1860. Image no. 43.68.2. Negative no. 86-472.
Military Academy at Hillsborough, ca. 1860. Image no. 43.68.3. Negative no. 86-473.
Military Academy at Hillsborough, ca. 1860. Image no. 46.68.4. Negative no. 86-470.

Mary Claire Engstrom Collection P50. Box 2, Hillsborough Military Academy Folder.

Items available in the North Carolina State Archives

Roster of Officers of the Militia of North Carolina, in the North Carolina State Archives. Call number: AG 129.

Cased photograph of an Unidentified Hillsborough Military Academy Cadet in the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received in 1985. Folder: Photographs Received in November, 1985. Call number: N.85.11.12.

Photographs of Hillsboro Military Academy in the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received 1958. Folder: Photographs Received in September, 1958. Call number: N.58.9.6.

View of Hillsborough Military Academy, Hillsborough, ca. 1860 in the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received 1992. Folder: Photographs Received in September, 1992. Call number: N.92.9.17.

Copy of the letterhead of Hillsborough Military Academy from a letter dated August 8, 1865 to Vance from William M. Gordon in the North Carolina State Archives, Office of Archives and History Photograph Collection Series. Box: Photographs Received 1986. Folder: Photographs Received in June, 1986. Call number: N.86.6.49.