On December 17, 1862, Union Brig. Gen. John G. Foster's expedition began destroying the tracks leading to the Goldsborough Bridge in an effort to break the main Confederate supply line. The Confederates were able to delay the destruction but it could not be prevented. It is estimated 220 men lost their lives in this battle. This battle field has been well preserved and hosts school events and reenactments throughout the year.
The Goldsborough Bridge spanned the Neuse River and
was used by the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad. In 1861-1862 this bridge was
an important link that moved supplies and men to and from the port of
Wilmington. It was also a connection from the states of the Deep South to the
Confederate forces in Virginia. Both the Union Army and Confederate forces
wanted to fortify the strategically significant Wilmington and Weldon Railroad
Union Brig. Gen. John G. Foster began a series of
raids on December 11th, 1862, when he marched his troops inland from
New Bern, fighting the Confederate forces all the way. The Confederates were
outnumbered in men and guns and were rarely able to hold their position.
As they neared the bridge on December 17th,
the Confederate brigade of Gen. Thomas Clingman prepared to defend the bridge
with less than 2000 men. The Confederates were lining the woods leading up to
the railroad bridge when Foster fired at them with his cannons. Clingman pulled
his men back under this attack; however the fighting was far from over. The
Union forces kept firing and fighting and pushing forward. Even though the
Confederates had far fewer cannons, they continued firing their guns and the
one cannon they had mounted to a railcar. The fighting was bloody and violent. Within
two hours the Union forces had reached the bridge.
The Unions objective was to destroy the bridge and
with it, so they thought the Confederates lifeline. Each time a man ran forward
to set the bridge on fire, he was shot by a southern sharpshooter. Finally, Lt.
George W. Graham and Lt. B.N. Mann got the fire underway on the bridge but Mann
was injured. General Foster ordered all cannon fire on the bridge to keep the
Confederates from extinguishing the fire. When he was satisfied it was fully emblazed
he began his withdrawal from the battle field. However Foster was unaware that
additional Southern troops had arrived for a counter-attack using another
bridge. As they were preparing to leave, the Confederates came out of the woods
and charged with a rebel yell and waving their flags. As the fighting continued
the Southern troops broke a dam and flooded the field between Foster’s main
force and his rear guard. They were able to escape only by wading through neck-deep
water in freezing temperatures.
The total Union casualties in the Battle of
Goldsborough Bridge were 92 killed and 487 wounded. The Confederate losses were
71 dead and 268 wounded.
While the Battle of the Goldsborough Bridge was a
Union victory, the destruction of the railroad bridge was not as successful in
creating the devastating impact the North had hoped.
The included video is an hour long informative video detailing the various aspect of this battle. It includes specifics of the Union and Confederate uniforms, the typical food and utensils they used, an interview with a descendant of the battle and a reenactment. Replicas of the medical equipment presented in this video indicate the crude conditions these men dealt with on a daily basis. This video was made during the 150th Anniversary Reenactment on December 15, 2012.