Mission Statement:

"To advance through research, education and symposia, an increased public awareness of the Cape Fear region's unique history."

Charles Pattison Bolles 

Coast Surveyor & Engineer

Cape Fear Historical Institute Papers

Charles Pattison Bolles


Charles Pattison Bolles was born in Charleston, South Carolina on

May 13, 1823, the seventh child of Abiel & Hannah Pattison Bolles.

He was a lineal descendant of Joseph Bolles who came to America

from England in 1640 and rose to the position of deputy commissioner

for the Province of Maine.

Abiel Bolles, Charles Pattison's father, was born at Woodstock, Wyndham County, Connecticut on July 13, 1786 and graduated from Brown University with a Master of Arts degree in September, 1808.

Abiel later moved to Charleston, South Carolina where he married

Hannah Pattison of that city on May 10, 1811, and for many years was professor of mathematics at the College of Charleston. The Charleston Daily News of July 16, 1866 carried the announcement of Abiel's

death, stating that:

"He was for over half a century one of the most distinguished

teachers of Charleston, superintending, at one time, the Orphan House, afterwards the old Charleston College, and afterwards a

large and well known female academy on his own account. There

is scarcely a family in Charleston of which some of the members

have not been taught by Mr. Bolles..."

Hannah's cousin of Commodore Morris who was with Stephen Decatur

off the coast of Africa battling the Barbary pirates as they harassed American shipping. Abiel and Hannah's marriage would produce ten children and Charles Pattison Bolles would benefit greatly from his father's teaching position, graduating from the College of Charleston in 1844 with

a Bachelors of Arts degree in civil engineering.

Early Service

Bolles immediately entered service with the US Coast &  Geodetic

Survey where he developed a reputation as a capable and well-respected officer. He is credited with completing the first authentic surveys of the Cape Fear River, Frying Pan Shoals, Beaufort Harbor, as well as the

coast of Maine. His work in the Cape Fear region included detailed soundings and bathymetric shading, topography, tables for lights, tides

for the Cape Fear River, Frying Pan Shoals, Smith Island (Bald Head), Oak Island, Lockwood’s Folly.

Clark's History of North Carolina tells us that:

"In 1851, then a lieutenant in the United States Navy, he came to Smithville, now Southport...on the schooner Gallatin...under the command of Capt. John Newland Maffitt. Under Captain Maffitt young Bolles made exhaustive charts of the Cape Fear Bar and

Lower River, and the name of Major Bolles appeared on all of the

old charts of this region."

Unknown then to both men, they would soon put their extensive

knowledge of the North Carolina coast to work in the State's defense---

in the case of Maffitt as a famed blockade runner. Both men would

spend much time in Wilmington during the course of their work, Bolles

from his manhood considered this city to be his home. As a testament

to Bolles high reputation in his profession, a 70-foot Survey schooner,

built in 1855, was named in his honor.

On January 11, 1854, Charles married Eliza Morehead Walker, daughter of Major John Walker, an officer during the War of 1812; and on her mother's side the granddaughter of General Thomas Davis who commanded the Fayetteville Independent Light Infantry during the War

of 1812. From this marriage came son John Walker (August 17, 1855)

and daughter Hannah Pattison (September 18, 1859). This marriage

would end in tragedy almost  8 years later as Eliza died on

December 1, 1862 in Fayetteville.

While a member of the Coast Survey Bolles was part of a theatrical company formed by Maffitt, which perfomed frequently in Smithville (now Southport) with the society people of that town. Like many other Coast Survey officers, Bolles could not resist he attractions of local young ladies which led to his marriage to Eliza Walker. Ironically, a fellow officer of Bolles and Mafitt was Lt. A.C. Ryan who would  in December 1864 command "the celebrated powder ship which was to blow up Fort Fisher, and drive its garrison in terror into the woods and adjoining swamps, but none of these dire results happened." (Reminiscences by Dr. W.G. Curtis)

War Between the States Erupts

When sectional disputes between North and South became acute in early 1861, Bolles held the position of Assistant Superintendent of the US

Coast and Geodetic Survey. His field work scheduled for Winyah Bay

in South Carolina was cancelled due to that State’s political secession the previous December and like many Southern officers in United States service, Bolles could not remain neutral. The NOAA historical library records that Bolles resigned from the Coast Survey on April 20, shortly after Fort Sumter had capitulated.

To understand Bolles decision to leave United States service, it is

important to recognize that Wilmington was his adopted home, his family here and in South Carolina, and he felt it his duty to commit his allegiance to, and to defend, his home State of North Carolina.

Most resignations like Bolles's from United States service were said to be gentlemanly and cited sentiments such as:

“Differing entirely as I do in every respect with the present administration of the Government and in consequence of the

present condition of the country and the course which has been pursued by all the officers of this State, I feel it my duty to tender

my resignation. With many thanks for kindness received and a

deep regret at the termination of our official associations.”

Beginnings of Fort Fisher

With his extensive experience and knowledge of the Cape Fear and surrounding coastline, Bolles was considered an invaluable asset in defending the area from enemy invasion.

Bolles was commissioned as a Captain, and later Major of Engineers

on the staff of Major (later General) W.H.C. Whiting's staff.

Author Harry Hayden writes that “On April 24, 1861, Captain Bolles

was ordered by Major Whiting to proceed to Confederate Point and

begin construction of sand batteries for the protection of New Inlet,”

the southern access to the Cape Fear River and the port of Wilmington. Capt. Bolles constructed two batteries, one of which was located to

have direct lines of fire toward the ends of the inlet and the other

battery westward of it to have a direct and ricochet fire toward the

main part of the channel.”

The two batteries designed by Bolles were connected by a covered curtain for infantry to pass under in support of the guns, this ran eastwardly “toward a line of natural sand dunes extending across the peninsula from the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean” (Hayden).

These batteries were located just north of (Colonel William) Lamb's Mound Battery which was built in 1862-1863.

Captain Bolles was then ordered to Oak Island “where he constructed a sand battery west of Fort Caswell. This battery would command the main entrance to the Cape Fear River as part of the growing defensive network that was emerging.

The early defensive preparations at Confederate Point underscored the great importance of Wilmington as a port for Southern shipping. The Confederate government recognized this by appointing Generals W.H.C. Whiting, Joseph R. Anderson, Samuel French and Louis Hebert in successive leadership of the Cape Fear District and its fortifications, and overseeing its extensive network of defenses.

"Battery Bolles" Under New Command  

On May 4, Captain William Lord DeRossett and his Wilmington Light Infantry (WLI) took command of the works begun by Captain Bolles, completing the earthworks and naming the southernmost battery as “Battery Bolles” in honor of Confederate Point’s first commander. The dedication and naming of the battery was conducted by formal military ceremony, and under the auspices of the WLI.

Two 24-pounder cannon would shortly arrive to put Battery Bolles in operation; by the time of the Northern attack in January 1865, two

10-inch rifled Columbiads would be mounted in the battery.  

Captain DeRossett would be superseded by fellow Wilmingtonian

Captain John J. Hedrick, who was the last commander of Confederate Point---in early June 1862 the works were renamed “Fort Fisher” in

honor of Colonel Charles Frederick Fisher of Salisbury, killed at First Manassas on July 21, 1861.  The WLI would later be absorbed into

the 8th North Carolina Regiment under Captain Henry Savage,

and eventual duty in Virginia.

Capt. (later Colonel) John J. Hedrick of Wilmington

Transfer to Arsenal Duty

Upon completion of the Oak Island battery and other defensive preparations on the Cape Fear River, Captain Bolles was

transferred to the Fayetteville (North Carolina) Arsenal in early 1862

for ordnance and engineering duty where one of his first tasks would be fabricating unusual projectiles for cannon. Though the British government had presented the Confederate authorities with a battery of six new Whitworth breech-loading rifled cannon, no supply of ammunition arrived with them. At Fayetteville, Bolles led the development of unique projectile bolts for these new weapons which were very effective in keeping enemy blockading ships far off the coast of North Carolina, and thus assisting the blockade runners in slipping past them.

The Fayetteville Arsenal received the machinery and rifling equipment

from the Harpers Ferry (Virginia) Arsenal after it was evacuated by Confederate forces, and it became a vital weapons and ammunition source for the Confederacy. Bolles would also help the Arsenal attain full production level in the Spring of 1862 for Minie balls and the famed .58 caliber "Fayetteville Arsenal Rifle" which was being manufactured on the

relocated machinery, a total of 10,000 rifles were produced before the Arsenal was totally destroyed by enemy forces in March 1865. Another Wilmingtonian at the Arsenal with Bolles was Captain Armand L. DeRosset, in command of Company B, 6th Battalion of the Armory Guards. DeRosset fought at Wilmington with his men in February, 1865, was wounded and left for dead at the battle at Averasboro.

First assigned as Executive Officer at Fayetteville Arsenal under Captain John C. Booth, Bolles assumed command of the Arsenal

upon Booth's death in early September 1862, though only for a few weeks. After the arrival of Lt. Colonel Julius A. DeLagnel as new Arsenal commander, Captain Bolles commanded Company A of the Arsenal Battalion and was charged with the additional responsibility of "Inspector of the Laboratory."

In late May 1864, Captain Bolles accompanied Lt. Colonel James H. Burton, Superintendent of Georgia’s Armory at Macon, to Tallassee, Alabama and helped negotiate a contract to use the 1844 mill of Barnett, Micou and Company as a Confederate Armory. Captain Bolles would serve as the first commander of the Tallassee Confederate Armory from May 1864 to December 1864. Until the end of the war, this facility was

an important hub of the Confederate supply line providing uniforms

and tents for the Southern war effort.

Postwar Life

At the end of the war Bolles returned to his former position with the US Coast & Geodetic Survey in Washington City, a post he held until retirement in 1908 at age 84 years and seven months. The Secretary of

the Navy, Victor H. Metcalf, expressed regret over his ressignation and stated that Major Bolles "had the best record of any man in the naval department in respect to length of service, efficiency and punctuality."

Bolles was nationally recognized as a master of the art of triangulation

and topography, and in his long lifetime had spent nearly 50 active years surveying the rivers and streams of the North and South American continents, as well as the Pacific Ocean. It can be accurately said that Major Bolles contributed greatly to the betterment of international charts and maps used for navigation.

Clark's History of North Carolina records that:

"When the Atlantic Squadron was sent on its famous cruise around the world a dozen years ago [1907] Major Bolles made the charts

that were issued to all these vessels."

Bolles second marriage to Marie Louise DeBrutz Reston came in June

1873 in Wilmington. Their children included Dr. C.P. Bolles (18 February 1874), Mary Willcox (6 August 1875), Edith Hemingway

(28 February 1877), Frederick DeBrutz (18 March 1881), and

Bessie Bates (7 June 1884).  Marie Louise DeBrutz was the daughter of Dr. Joseph and Catherine (Beck) DeBrutz of Fayetteville; Joseph the

son of Gabriel DeBrutz. Gabriel was a French naval officer with the Expeditionary Forces sent to America to aid in the cause of the Revolution. He was at the Battle of Yorktown with General Lafayette and was wounded during the fight. Gabriel's wife Deborah Montgomery was the daughter of John Montgomery who commanded the American forces

at the Battle of Alamance, May 16, 1771.

The second Mrs. Bolles was married previously to Major (later Lt.

Colonel) William Reston, a Southern officer killed in action in October 1863. Mrs. Bolles later wrote that "Mr. Reston was Lt. Colonel of the

2nd North Carolina Militia Regiment stationed at Camp Lamb at Sixth

and Red Cross Streets [in Wilmington]. In the winter of 1862 the

regiment was ordered to Richmond."

She also recalled the visit of President Davis to Wilmington, writing that "[daughter] Lou was born the night of November 6, 1863, the night President Jefferson Davis delivered an address from the bank steps, where we were living at the corner of Front and Princess Streets, to the troops who were leaving for Richmond under the command of Colonel Edward Hall [of Wilmington]."

The postwar home of Charles P. Bolles and his wife was at 215 North

Third Street in Wilmington, now demolished, but then located across from today's Thalian Hall/City Hall. On April 28, 1870, General Robert E. Lee visited this house as two companies of Cape Fear Academy cadets were paraded in his honor on Third Street. “Standing on the porch of Major C.P. Bolles, he delivered a brief but inspiring address to them.”

Bolles grandson Andrew H. Harriss, Jr. described his beloved

grandparent in this way after the war:

"Grandfather Bolles was a man of very modest means with at least ten mouths to feed. During the postwar period "genteel poverty" prevailed all over the South and money was scarce. So he labored

at his job in Washington and allowed himself only the luxury of one visit a year to his large family. Granny and Grandpa Bolles

accepted circumstances as their lot and never complained.

When he arrived in Wilmington from Washington...I would go to Union Station with my mother to meet him. I noticed he always stepped down from the "day coach" near the locomotive and not

from the Pullman "Sleeper" which meant he had probably ridden "day coach" and had sat up all night to save expenses. Cleanly shaved, his dark suit was impeccable as was his wing-collar white shirt. His shoes were always neatly polished...But there was always that pungent smell of tobacco, which goes with pipe smokers."

Remembering his service in defense of his adopted State, Major Bolles

was a faithful member of Cape Fear Camp 254, United Confederate Veterans of the city of Wilmington.

Charles Pattison Bolles Bolles died in Wilmington on December 19, 1909 and is buried in Oakdale Cemetery.




The Book of Wilmington, A. J. Howell, Wilmington Printing Co, 1930

NOAA Central Library, www.lib.noaa.gov.com

Rah! Rah! Carolina, Harry Hayden, 1966

   Bolles Family Genealogy, Volume 4, A.H. Harriss, 1985

Reminiscences by Dr. W.G. Curtis, 1848-1900, Smithville Herald

Clark's History of North Carolina