This past weekend, I was in Morehead City for the 65th Annual Awards Banquet of the North Carolina Society of Historians. The Society honored me with two of their Willie Parker Peace History Book Awards. Those two books are A Short History of Old Watauga County and The Battle of Hanover Court House: Turning Point of the Peninsula Campaign. It was a great honor and I would publically like to thank NCSH for the awards.
I spent some time visiting some of the historical sites in the area, namely, the old Beauford Burial Grounds, the North Carolina Maritime Museum, and Fort Macon.
On the way home, I came to this conclusion: no section of North Carolina is more steeped in Civil War history than that US 70 corridor. Fort Macon was first taken by state forces on April 14, 1861. The area remained under Confederate control for almost a year. New Bern was lost in battle on March 14, 1862. Havelock Station, Carolina City, Morehead City, and Beaufort were all under Union control by March 24. A month later, Fort Macon was bombarded and surrendered the same evening.
Twice during the war, Federal-controlled New Bern was attacked by Confederate forces. The first was in March 1863 when D. H. Hill launched a three-pronged attack against the city which failed. In February 1864, 13,000 soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia attacked the city and once again were forced back.
Then there is Foster’s raid, led by Union General John G. Foster. The raid started in New Bern on December 11, 1862. On December 14, a small skirmish was fought at Southwest Creek, below Kinston, followed by an attack at Kinston itself. This was followed by skirmishing at Whitehall, now known as Seven Springs. But Foster’s force was turned back on December 17, during a battle just south of the town of Goldsboro.
War came again during the first months of 1865. At Southwest Creek, about five miles east of Kinston, the two forces clashed again on March 7, and on March 10. The Confederates were at first successful, but were forced to retreat when the Federals were reenforced. This battle is known as the second battle of Kinston, the battle of Southwest Creek, or the battle of Wise’s Forks. One historian believes it to be the second largest land battle in North Carolina during the war. On March 12, the ironclad CSS Neuse was sunk in the Neuse River. Goldsboro was peacefully occupied by Federal soldiers from Gen. Sherman’s army that same month.
Bentonville Battlefield is not far off US 70, not far from Goldsboro. If you were to continue west on US 70, you would eventually come to Raleigh.
Once again, I contend that the land around modern US 70, from the coast back towards Raleigh, saw more action during the war than any other point in North Carolina.