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North Carolina Civil War Trails


In the final year of the 150th anniversary commemoration, more stops to the North Carolina Civil War Trails guide have been added.  We’ll talk about the most recent additions and local sites closer to home.

150 years ago, the war that divided the states took place right here at various locations in eastern North Carolina with the Battle of Bentonville, the Battle of Plymouth, and the Battle of Kinston.  Since it’s Spring Break, staycation ideas may include historic Civil War sites. The North Carolina Department of Tourism recently unveiled a new statewide Civil War Trails guide to help you plan your trip.  Tourism Development Manager Andre Nabors says he’s expecting people from around the country and the world to visit eastern North Carolina historic sites as the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War winds down.

“We think that North Carolina is going to see a pretty big influx of travelers just learning more about North Carolina’s role which was such a huge event for our country.”

The new North Carolina Civil War Trails guide is available online at civilwartrails.com and in print at historic sites across the state. The idea for the guide was proposed in the early 2000’s.   The Department of Tourism, the Department of Cultural Resources and the Historic Sites Division worked together to identify places in the state where significant military action took place.  The original Civil War Trails guide was released a decade ago.

“There’s just such a huge, huge draw of folks throughout the country as well as internationally as well that are interested in Civil War tourism and visiting these trails.  So they use this guide to be able to visit a lot of these sites throughout the state.”

 The Civil War Trails program started in Virginia and now includes Tennessee, Maryland, North Carolina and West Virginia. As you travel around those states, you may see the Civil War Trails signs on the side of the road.

“no matter where you are, when you see that logo sign on the side of an interstate, off an exit, or if you’re just  traveling down a country road and you see that bugle logo, you know you’re close to a Civil War Trails marker.”

 The Civil War Trails guide highlights 231 historical sites in 79 North Carolina counties.  Most of the state’s trail signs are located in eastern North Carolina because this region served as the primary battleground in the state during the Civil War. 

The Battle of New Bern took place on March 14th, 1862 when Union soldiers under the direction of General Ambrose Burnside sought to capture New Bern.  The town was a strategic military target because the Atlantic and North Carolina railroad was located here.  Around 7:30 on a Friday morning, the Battle of New Bern commenced as Union troops pushed their way past Confederate lines.  In only six hours, the vastly outnumbered and ill-equipped Confederate troops retreated, leaving New Bern in Union control for the remainder of the war.  Steve Shaffer is a volunteer guide at the New Bern Battlefield Park. 

“people will enjoy seeing how well these historical places, redans, entrenchments, have been preserved over the years.”

Shaffer says $5 guided walking tours of the battlefield can be made by contacting the New Bern Historical Society. 

Another eastern North Carolina stop on the Civil War Trails guide is Fort Macon at Atlantic Beach.  The fortress was constructed in 1834 on the eastern end of Bogue Banks to defend the entrance to the ports of Morehead City and Beaufort.  After Union General Burnside’s victory in New Bern on March 14th, 1862, he turned his focus to capturing the Beaufort port.  After three commands to surrender were given, Burnside laid siege to Fort Macon starting on Friday, April 25th.  Park Ranger Paul Branch.

"the morning at 5:40, the union guns opened fire on the Fort and bombed it for 11 hours. The fort resisted the ships of the Union Navy which joined in and drove them away after an hour and a half. And the Union artillery fire was very destructive.  They were, the artillery fire was concentrated at the gunpowder magazines and the main magazine to the fort was cracking open and it had five tons of gun powder in it so the Confederates were about to get blown up by their own gun powder.”

The next morning, the Confederate flag was lowered, and the Union took control of Fort Macon. Today, the fort is open to the public to explore daily from 9 am–5:30 pm for free. Guided and self-guided tours are available.

You can find a number of stops on the Civil War Trails guide in Kinston, including markers for the Battle of Wyse Fork, the First Battle of Kinston and the CSS Neuse State Historic Site.  Civil War historian Andrew Duppstadt explains the role of the gunboat CSS Neuse.

“she was launched in April of 1964 to undertake an operation against New Bern.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough water in the river and she ran aground and got hung up.   At that point, the Confederate army had already been called back to the Virginia front by Robert E. Lee so in about a month, the water rose and the ship floated but with no troop support for the operation, they simply returned to the dock in Kinston and remained there for the next 10 months.”

Eventually, the ironclad was later burned by the crew in 1865 to prevent capture. In addition to seeing what’s left of the boat hull, you can tour a full-size replica of the CSS Neuse in downtown Kinston open most Saturdays 10 am-4 pm.

If you don’t mind traveling, two new stops to the Civil War Trails were added just this month in the central part of the state.  The updated map includes a stop where the Emancipation Proclamation was read to former slaves who built St. Phillips Moravian Church.  The other site is located at Louisburg College in Franklin County where several encampments were recorded. To learn more, download the Civil War Trails guide from www.civilwartrails.com.  Paper maps are also available at historical sites throughout the state. 

Jared Brumbaugh is the Assistant General Manager for Public Radio East. An Eastern North Carolina native, Jared began his professional public radio career at Public Radio East while he was a student at Craven Community College earning his degree in Electronics Engineering Technology. During his 15+ years at Public Radio East, he has served as an award-winning journalist, producer, and on-air host. When not at the station, Jared enjoys hiking, traveling, and honing his culinary skills.