The original arsenal housed numerous brick and stone structures and octagonal corner guard towers. Arms-making machinery from the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry Virginia was installed in October 1861, and the arsenal became a major supplier of small arms to the Confederate troops.
The principal armament was known as the "Fayetteville Rifle." Seized from North Carolina by the Confederate States of America at the start of the Civil War, the arsenal was General Sherman's first objective in NC during his infamous march through the South. The arsenal was destroyed by engineers of General Sherman's Union Army on March 14, 1865.
Much of the remnants of the U.S. Arsenal can be seen on display of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex.