12/02/07 — Goldsborough Bridge re-enactment held at site of original battle

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Goldsborough Bridge re-enactment held at site of original battle

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 2, 2007 2:09 AM

For the first time in nearly 135 years, cannon fire and musketry rocked the Neuse River south of Goldsboro Saturday as Civil War re-enenactors re-created the Battle of Goldsborough on the same site where the battle took place in December 1862.

About 350 spectators watched as 300 men and boys dressed blue and gray took to the field, determined to push back the opposing side.

The action will continue today when the two sides square off again at 1 p.m.

Jim McKee drove more than two hours to take part in the mock fight. He is the education coordinator and historian for the N.C. Maritime Museum near Wilmington and said his love of history prompted him to take part in the re-enactment. He is a member of an artillery unit.

"For our battery, it's even more special, because we know what goes into preserving a place like this," McKee said. "I know what these guys have done."

He was referring to the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association, which was formed to help develop the site and preserve its history.

Randy Sauls and Danny Davis are co-chairmen of the association and were in the thick of Saturday's re-enactment. Sauls portrayed Union General John Foster, who led the more than 10,000 northern soldiers who took part in the original attack, designed to destroy the railroad bridge over the river and render it useless to the Confederate army.

"Randy has Gen. Foster down to a science," McKee said. "You put a black and white photo of Randy up beside a picture of the general and it's hard to tell who is who. He looks just like him."

During Saturday's skirmishing, soldiers from both sides maneuvered through the thickets and across open ground, trying to get the advantage. From the edge of the field, three small boys waved wooden rifles and cheered the soldiers on as they exchanged rifle fire.

About 250 men on both sides were killed in the real battle, most of them Confederates who were shot when the bridge's defenders made a counterattack after the bridge had been set afire by a daring Union soldier.

"They charged the Union rearguard," Sauls explained. "Most of the troops had just left the field, and when they heard the gunfire, they ran back to the field."