Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield monument dedicated
By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 11, 2010 11:20 PM
A throng of men in reproduced Civil War uniforms gathered in the rain Saturday in the fields just south of the Neuse River, as spectators looked on from under umbrellas and hooded raincoats, braving the cold and wet weather to mark a piece of Wayne County history.
Dozens of visitors met at the Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield to dedicate a special stone monument in honor of the soldiers who fought, nearly 150 years ago, for control of an important railroad crossing.
The Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association, in conjunction with the Robert E. Lee Memorial Heritage Association and the Stonewall Jackson chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, along with dozens of public and private donors, joined their efforts to raise money and place a monument on the battlefield marking the historic site.
The engraved monument was installed several months ago on the site, but the groups waited until the annual reenactment Saturday to dedicate the monument, Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association President Randy Sauls said.
"We're happy to have it, because it's a permanent monument," he said.
The monument displays a brief summary of events from December 17, 1862, the day 15,000 men fought for control of the Wilmington and Weldon railroad bridge spanning the Neuse River. Each of the regiments -- North and South -- are now memorialized on the stone in the place where more than 250 men from both sides were casualties in the fighting.
The Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association, working with the Robert E. Lee Memorial Heritage Association, raised about $4,000 needed to purchase and install the engraved stone. The monument bears an engraving of the American flag, the Confederate flag and the names of all the regiments that fought in the battle.
The battlefield has other markers scattered around the site, telling the history of the battle, but they are wooden or plastic, and prone to wearing out, Sauls said, while the stone monument will be in place far into the future.
"We've been wanting to do it, but we didn't have the money," he said.
Eventually the group hopes to seek funding for several more engraved stones, which will serve as memorials to the soldiers who fought in the battle, Sauls said.
The monument lists the fighting regiments in the order of battle, and is a starting point for a half-mile, self-guided tour of the battlefield walking trail. Guests can pick up a free handout sheet in the parking lot and walk around the fields, stopping at each marker to learn more about the battle.
The Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield Association organizers thanked the many donors and others in the North Carolina Civil War history community who helped make the monument possible.
After the dedication, the assembled group prepared for the annual re-enactment of the Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, with a smaller spectator turnout this year likely due to the adverse weather conditions, Sauls said.
Thousands of soldiers from North Carolina, South Carolina, Mississippi, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut and Rhode Island fought in the 1862 battle. Several hundred people from regiments across the state joined in for the re-enactment, which featured real cannons and a nearby camping field with open fires.
The billowing smoke would have been much worse on the fields during the actual battle, and the air would have been filled with the noise of 40 cannons, not just eight, as the two armies fought, Sauls said, but the re-enactment was enough to bring history to life for onlookers and participants alike.
"It is just to give people a little bit of an idea what it looked like, smelled like, sounded like," Sauls said.