People and Places with Pierce: New Bern Battlefield Park

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) – “Just park your car and you’re back in the 1800’s,” said Paula Escobio of Newport.

New Bern Battlefield Park, home of the Battle of New Bern. It’s a piece of Civil War history virtually untouched by the sands of time.

“It took place March 14th of 1862, so it was early in the war. General Burnside, a Union general, mounted a campaign to capture New Bern,” said Jonathan Miller, site manager of the New Bern Battlefield Park. “New Bern, back then, was the second largest city in North Carolina, it was an important port at the time, so it became an important target for the Union forces.”

One of the things that makes the battlefield in New Bern so unique is just how well preserved it is. Earthen mounds, known as redans, were where Confederate forces held their position as Union forces came into the area.

The Battle of New Bern lasted just 5 hours. Confederate forces were overwhelmed both in number and experience. They quickly retreated. It wasn’t the longest battle of the war, but what it lacked in time, it more than made up for in altering the course of history.

“New Bern was occupied by Union forces for almost 4 full years and that changed the city in a number of ways,” said Miller. “For the African-American community, it’s huge. Almost 10,000 slaves, when they found out that New Bern was occupied, came here. So this was a mecca for slaves who could get away from the owners in the South.”

Nearby James City rose to prominence and became a model for slave assimilation into a free society. There’s plenty for history buffs to like, but it’s not the only way to truly enjoy the park.

There’s plenty for history buffs to like, but it’s not the only way to truly enjoy the park.

“The natural beauty is one thing. You have the swamps, the wetlands, a lot of wildlife, a lot of birds, and so people come just to take their families and walk,” said Miller.

“We have seen some wildlife, so that made it fun. It made it more interesting and made it more like what the soldiers would have run across,” said Escobio.

Some just can’t pass up the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Confederate and Union soldiers 150 years later.

“I think everybody should come, at least once. School kids, adults, middle-aged, anybody who’s interested in knowing anything about North Carolina,” said Escobio. “If you combine it with some of the other historical sites in the area that aren’t far away, you’ve really walked from the 1600’s to the 19th century.”

For a city rich in history, New Bern Battlefield Park certainly ranks among its top treasures.

 

We’re always looking for your story ideas for People & Places with Pierce. If you have an interesting person or place you’d like to see featured, email Pierce or send him a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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