09/05/06 — Fence installed at Civil War battlesite

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Fence installed at Civil War battlesite

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on September 5, 2006 1:48 PM

While most Wayne County residents took the day off Monday, a group of Civil War buffs labored to erect a split rail fence at the site of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, where county officials and local historians hope a park will be eventually created to commemorate the 1862 fight.

Union troops clashed with Confederate defenders in December of that year, trying to destroy the railroad bridge that was a key link in the Confederate supply chain. Thousands of men on both sides took part in the battle.

On Monday, about 15 people sweated in the heat to erect the fence, which gives the open field site a more historical look. The only other indication that the site is special is an historical marker erected by the state, noting the action that took place there.

Local officials hope the entire 30-acre site, purchased by the county a decade ago, can eventually become a tourist destination, part of the Civil War trail being developed by the state to lure tourism dollars to eastern North Carolina.

Most of the helping hands belonged to members of the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association.

Randy Sauls said the work went well.

"It went great," he said today. "It really looks good. It turned out better than I expected. Never having built one of these before, I didn't know what to expect."

The volunteers used three trucks and two trailers to transport each of the 1,500-pound bundles of wooden rails, making three trips, Sauls said. A total of 8,500 pounds of rails were set up.

The purpose is to help make the field look the same as the day the blue and gray clad troops marched across it.

The fence around three sides of the parking lot sits on a rock base donated by Mulch Express. Such fences were called "snake-rail," or "Virginia rail" in the 1800s. Their posts sat on rocks because untreated wood will eventually rot and the fence will fall, Sauls explained.

The rails, which are hand split, then pressure treated, were difficult to find, said Sauls, who happened to see some park service workers installing some replacement rails one day last year at the Gettysburg National Battlefield in Pennsylvania. He asked about a source for the rails and found out how to order them. The county agreed to buy the rails for about $1,500.

The rails arrived only a few weeks ago.

"We weren't very high on their totem pole," Sauls said. "Ours was a small order."

The fence is about 300 feet long.

"It gives a good historical feel for the site," said Sauls. "The field is still cultivated, and we don't want to change that."

The field had been under cultivation when battle took place in mid-December. Sauls called the erection of the fence a big step in developing the battlefield.

"This has been a long time coming. In a few weeks, we hope to have a trail that will go from the parking lot to the battlefield. We'll have to wait for cooler weather. It's a little thick back there now, and we'll have to bushhog it."

The trail should be finished around mid-October, Sauls said.

The half-mile gravel path will run from the parking lot, through some woods and to the site of the old railroad bridge.