09/18/05 — Battles will be re-enacted at Waynesborough Village

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Battles will be re-enacted at Waynesborough Village

By Turner Walston
Published in News on September 18, 2005 2:03 AM

More than 200 Civil War historical re-enactors will re-create the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge Sept. 24-25 on the grounds of Waynesborough Historical Village.

This is the second year the battle will be re-enacted. In 2004, it was held in late January and early February. The actual battle took place in December 1862.

The battle re-enactments are free and open to the public. The park will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Battle re-enactments will take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.

The number of re-enactors will be almost twice the number who participated last year, said Danny Davis, one of the organizers of the event.

"We've increased the troop participation this year," Davis said.

Re-enactors from six states will take part in the weekend's events, portraying 16 units from both sides of the conflict.

Among them will be re-enactors of the 101st Pennsylvania Infantry, who will walk in the footsteps of their ancestors. Four members of the unit are direct descendants of Union soldiers who fought in the battle.

Waynesborough Historical Village will feature "sutlers," who were merchants who operated stores near military camps. In addition to the battle, there will be weapons drills, uniform makers, leather workers, medical demonstrations and a rolling forge blacksmith.

New this year will be lantern tours Saturday night. Beginning at 7 p.m. and running every 20 minutes, visitors will be given a first-person experience, walking through about eight vignettes of life in the Civil War era.

"It's kind of an event within an event," Davis said. Tickets for the lantern tours are limited and are now on sale at the Waynesborough Visitor's Center. They are $15 each.

The Battle of Goldsborough Bridge took place Dec. 17, 1862.

The railroad bridge, which was located south of the city over the Neuse River, was a key position for both Union and Confederate forces. The Wilmington and Weldon Railroad that led from the seaport at Wilmington to Virginia was a vital link for supplies to the Confederate Army commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee.

Preserving it was crucial to the Confederate cause. Destroying it would give the Union a decided advantage.

Early in the war, Union forces captured most of the North Carolina coastline and made repeated forays into the state, mostly unsuccessful. But in December of 1862, in concert with a major Union attack at Fredericksburg, Va., forces stationed in New Bern struck out for Goldsborough and the bridge over the Neuse. Union Gen. John Foster led about 12,000 troops, marching through what is now Jones and Lenoir counties before encountering Confederate forces at Whitehall, now Seven Springs.

After attempting to destroy the Confederate ironclad under construction there, the Union troops continued on their way toward Golds-
borough. A cavalry contingent also surprised the residents of Mount Olive and stopped a train there, causing great consternation among the people in the town.

At Goldsborough, about 2,000 Confederate troops were charged with protecting the bridge. When Foster's men arrived, they found the Confederates dug in across the river.

A fierce battle resulted, with the Union forces managing to set fire to the bridge just before Confederate reinforcements arrived.

The Union troops retreated back to New Bern and the Confederates repaired the bridge.

Randy Sauls, who will portray Gen. Foster, said the re-enactment is important for Wayne County. County economic officials have said they hope to convince more tourists interested in Civil War sites to visit the county.

"From my standpoint, it's to increase public awareness of historical events which occurred in Wayne County during the American Civil War. It's an opportunity to get the word out and provide a fun venue for people to come to."