08/07/06 — Battle site will get new emphasis

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Battle site will get new emphasis

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 7, 2006 1:53 PM

The site of the largest battle ever fought in Wayne County will soon become more visible and more accessible if a new organization designed to protect and promote the battlefield gets its way.

The Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association was formed to save the site near the intersection of Old Mount Olive Highway and U.S. 117 south and convert it into a historical destination. Local lawyer and historian Randy Sauls helped create the organization, which is made up of volunteers interested in preserving a part of the county's history.

The battle was fought in December 1862, when Union troops from New Bern tried to destroy the railroad bridge over the Neuse River just south of Goldsboro. The railroad was a crucial link in the Confederate supply line, taking goods that came into the port at Wilmington to Virginia.

Wayne County bought a little over 30 acres at the site several years ago with the intent of turning the location into a historical park. But it remains little more than a cleared field near the wooded riverbank, with a small gravel parking lot and a marker noting the site's significance.

Sauls and the other volunteers plan to change that. They plan to work with county officials to develop the site and have already cleared several trails that lead to the remains of earthworks and the railroad bridge. Plans call for additional historical markers to describe interesting details about the battle, which involved more than 10,000 Union troops and 2,000 Confederate troops. Sauls said earthworks built by the Confederates will be surveyed and marked, along with other key parts of the battlefield, which was fought in conjunction with the Union push at Fredericksburg, Va.

Local officials hope development of the site will boost tourism. Interest in the Civil War has grown in recent years and state economic development leaders have touted the state's rich Civil War history as a way to increase tourism revenue.

Jeff Bockert, a Civil War specialist with the state Department of Cultural Resources Eastern Civil War Office, said the Goldsborough Bridge battlefield holds a key cultural and heritage tourism role in North Carolina, especially with its easy access along the new U.S. 117 bypass. Its proximity to the Civil War sites of the Bentonville Battlefield to the west, the CSS Neuse to the east and Fort Fisher to the south make the location of the Goldsboro battle an easy stopping point for tourists and Civil War enthusiasts, he said.

A ceremony to observe the 144th anniversary of the battle will be held Dec. 17. Association members hope it will create interest in the project.

For information about the site or the battle, contact Si Lawrence at the Eastern Civil War Office at Waynesborough Park at 581-1041 or email si.lawrence@ncmail.net.