11/25/07 — Bridge battle re-enactment will be first at original site

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Bridge battle re-enactment will be first at original site

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 25, 2007 2:00 AM

Civil War re-enactors will for the first time re-create the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge at the exact site where the original battle took place when they take to the field Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 1-2.

The battle, fought in December 1862 pitted Union forces trying to destroy the railroad bridge south of the city against outnumber Confederate e forces determined to defend the crucial railway juncture that linked the port at Wilmington with Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

About 300 Civil War re-enactors will fire up a dozen cannons to create enough smoke and noise, sound and fury on Dec. 1 and 2 to give the public an idea of what it was like at the battle.

The re-enactment is being sponsored by the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association, a non-profit corporation formed by volunteers for just such an occasion on the 33-acre historical site. Wayne County bought the land along the Neuse River several years ago to preserve it. Since then, the association has developed the site with directional signs and a couple of bridges across ditches for the public to have access from one section of the battlefield to the other.

The original battlefield where the Union soldiers struggled to take out the railroad bridge on Dec. 17, 1862, was about four square miles, reaching from the far side of where U.S. 117 is now to Pecan Road and from past the fairgrounds to Arrington Bridge Road. The battle raged from 10 a.m. until around 6 p.m. Confederates were on the north bank of the Neuse and west of the railroad tracks. The Union was on the south bank of the Neuse and the east side of the tracks.

The battle was a significant one, association board chairman Randy Sauls said. The Union forces under Gen. John Foster had 10,000 infantrymen, about 640 cavalrymen and 40 pieces of artillery. The Confederates had 2,000 infantry and about a dozen cannon. In the end, the Union managed to set fire to the bridge before retreating back to New Bern. Confederate engineers rebuilt it within weeks.

The Union attack was planned to coincide with an attack on Fredericksburg, Va., which was repulsed by forces under Lee's command.

Re-enactors for the Goldsborough battle will start arriving Friday afternoon from across the state, Virginia and South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and Ohio, Sauls said. When the battle is not being re-fought (at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday) the soldiers will provide living history exhibits at their encampment on the battlefield.

Parking will be available across Old Mount Olive Highway from the battlefield site.

To find out what exactly happened that day and where all the different exhibits and the encampments will be, visit the Web site at www.goldsboroughbridge.com, where the association has a map of the field.