08/04/05 — Goldsboro houses new state office on Civil War tourism

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Goldsboro houses new state office on Civil War tourism

By Turner Walston
Published in News on August 4, 2005 1:49 PM

During the Civil War, Goldsboro was at the center of the action in eastern North Carolina. The railroad junction here made the town a strategic target for both Union and Confederate forces throughout the conflict.

One-hundred and forty years later, Goldsboro is again in the middle of the action -- this time as the headquarters of efforts to promote the region's Civil War heritage. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources established the Eastern Civil War Office in April to help organizations and individuals with research, educational programs and promotions.

Jeff Bockert and Si Lawrence work at the office, which is located in the Hatch House at Waynesborough Historical Village. Bockert specializes in Civil War research. Lawrence handles information gathering and communication.

Interest in the Civil War grows annually. Thousands of visitors to the state tour battlegrounds and other historically important sites every year and there are a number of state agencies that deal with them in one way or another.

But there had not been a central agency for directing research into the region's history or campaigns to promote the sites, Bockert said. That led officials with the Department of Cultural Resources to create the office. Goldsboro was a logical site, he said, because of its central location, and Waynesborough Park provided an ideal place for the office.

Lawrence said he has been helping people and organizations interested in the region's Civil War history find the resources they are looking for. Word of the office and the help it offers is spreading, he said.

"We're like a resource, like books in a library or an encyclopedia," Bockert said. "We're more like a help desk."

Lawrence has designed and distributed a survey to historical sites across the eastern part of the state to learn exactly what they have to offer visitors and researchers. The office is also seeking to establish partnerships with historical sites and organizations that are involved in historical preservation and re-creation.

Although the war has been over for nearly a century and a half, it still provides new material for discussion, Bockert said. Researchers are finding out more and more about civilian life during the war, a subject that took a back seat to military tactics for many years. As interest in the war grows, more records from the past turn up, more letters and documents are found.

"New stuff becomes available every day," Bockert said. "It's something that would never go dry for research."

"There's a real appetite for stuff like that," Lawrence added.

Lawrence said most people living in eastern North Carolina do not realize the key part the region played in the war and its outcome.

"Every community in proximity to Goldsboro has their own story to tell," Bockert said.

Both men said working here gives them an opportunity to learn about the war from a different perspective.

"We've got to be willing to have a real broad approach," Lawrence said.

Lawrence grew up in Wilson. He started working for the Department of Cultural Resources after stints in the newspaper and technical writing fields.

Originally from California, Bockert is a former historic site manager. He said he visited Fort Fisher as a child and became interested in history.

For more information about the office and the programs it offers, people can contact the Eastern Civil War Office at 581-1041. The office is open Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.