Federal or Confederate troops occupied this hill and its surrounding area beginning at least as early as August 1861, and were on the ground for at least part of every year of the war. Federal forces time and again tried to use this strategic point as a choke hold against raids on the B&O to the north, and as a "jumping-off" point for their own raids further south. The reasoning is clear and is twofold: First, the intersection of the road network at Petersburg and Moorefield and second, the support of the civilian population and Homeguard units in the ridges to the west and north provided a sharp counterpoint to the hostility of the civilians in Petersburg and Moorefield and areas east and south.
The Fort as it exists today, was constructed August-December 1863, by troops under the command of Colonel James A. Mulligan, from Chicago, Illinois. Infantry, cavalry and artillery from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois carried out the backbreaking labor. The rugged earthworks bear silent witness to the sacrifices of the thousands of Americans who marched, dug, fought, froze and died here during the war. The tide of war ebbed and waned across the South during the war, but when troops were in the South Branch, they were always "at the front."