November 21, 2004
The outcome of the Battle of New Bern was decided in 1862, but the battle to save area historical sites raged on with renewed intensity Saturday.
Civil War re-enactors from the 7th Regiment N.C. State Troops entertained an estimated 500 residents at the New Bern Historical Society’s first-ever Battlefield Park Day, a living history re-enactment with proceeds allocated for battlefield preservation efforts.
The re-enactment took place at the entrance to the Taberna subdivision on U.S. 70, near the actual location where the Battle of New Bern was fought on March 14, 1862.
Event organizer Ron McCausland said he hoped the event would spark a renewed interest in the role eastern North Carolina played in the Civil War.
"We hope to educate the public first of all that there is a New Bern Civil War battlefield," he said. "A lot of people don’t even know that there was a battle fought here.
"Secondly, it’s the living history that these re-enactors are presenting. They do everything by the numbers. It’s all authentic."
A member of the historical society’s board of directors, McCausland said profits generated from the $5 admission to the event would be used for a planned visitors’ center and Civil War displays on the historical society’s 2.6-acre plot adjacent to the 24-acre battlefield.
"These funds that we’re raising are going to be specifically targeted to the battlefield," he said.
A group of Taberna residents helped organize the event, which the New Bern Historical Society sponsored.
Visitors tromped across the woodsy battlefield and observed a functioning 1860s-era Confederate encampment, replete with strutting officers festooned with brass ornamentations, rows upon rows of authentic Civil War tents and the occasional thunder of gunfire in the distance, as sporadic skirmishes with nearby Union forces erupted.
"I just think it’s interesting," said New Bern resident Rose Miner. "It’s something to do. I wish I had some grandchildren around so that they could come with me."
Re-enactors showcased authentic Civil War weapons, like the .69-caliber 1842 Springfield rifles toted by Confederate soldiers in the Battle of New Bern.
One re-enactor, Havelock resident George Dixon, drilled a fresh recruit on proper marching and rifle-carrying positions. Dixon has participated in various re-enactments with the group for more than 11 years.
"What we’re doing is trying to preserve the local Civil War — War Between the States –history here in the New Bern area," he said. "The 7th Regiment that we are part of had quite an illustrious battle history."
To some, the event was all about the past. To New Bern Alderman Max Freeze, it was all about the future.
Freeze said New Bern was listed the No. 1 endangered Civil War site in a recent issue of Archaeology magazine. He expressed hope that city residents would rally behind efforts to preserve the battlefield and other historical sites.
"Our battlefield is just disappearing under people’s yards and golf courses," he said. "It breaks my heart to see this part of our history disappearing under pavement. We need more of this kind of attention given to it."
© 2004 by Freedom ENC Communications