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March 2006

Reenactment a boon for Lenoir County tourism

Coming to our county next week: The first re-enactment of the Battle of Wyse Fork conducted on a site near where the actual battle took place.

The Battle of Wyse Fork, North Carolina’s second largest battle during the Civil War, was fought right here in Lenoir County - and for the first time, Union and Confederate reenactors will give people some of idea of the sights, sounds and smells of 1865 battle.

Saturday, March 4, and Sunday, March 5, are designated for the reenactment. The place: one-quarter mile south of the intersection of U.S. 70 and U.S. 258 on fields bordered by Measley Road and the Old Asphalt Road.

The fields open to the public at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and will close at 5 p.m. each day. At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Confederate and Union forces will recreate “The Capture of the 15th Connecticut.” At 1 p.m. Sunday, reenactors will recreate “Hoke’s Flank Attack.”

Cannon will boom, cavalry will charge, and the sound of musketry will flood the field with the noise and smoke of battle.

But even before these recreations begin, you will be able to visit “living history” areas to see first hand how soldiers camped and how the civilian populations lived during this period of history.

One special treat awaiting those who take the time to visit the area is a full-size replica of the CSS Hunley, the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship in time of war.

One of the people most responsible for organizing this reenactment is Bob Tolar, commanding General of the Army of Northern Virginia. Tolar, who has nearly 4,000 reenactors under his command, was the chief reenactor wrangler for the movie “Gods and Generals.”

Lynn Bull, a Wayne County teacher, will be commanding Union forces next weekend. Bull appeared as Col. Preston Smith in the movie “God and Generals.” Chris Cook, who portrayed Major Moxley Sorrel in the same film, will be on hand for next weekend.

Lenoir County native son Donnie Taylor will be commanding Confederate reenactors. Taylor, director of the Bentonville Historic Site and a reenactor for more than 20 years, grew up on the Wyse Fork Battlefield. He is considered a leading authority on the 1865 battle.

Admission is $5.00 per person, but children 12 and under will be admitted free. The funds raised through admission fees will go the historic preservation in Lenoir County.

Just last year the Historic Preservation Group obtained funding to purchase 56 acres of the original Wyse Fork Battlefield, ensuring that this historically significant ground will not be lost to development. I am proud to see our county moving in this direction. But to keep the momentum going, this effort needs local support. How disappointing would it be to see multiplied hundreds travel miles and miles to visit next weekend’s reenactment if only a handful of Lenoir County residents make the short trip to watch something sure to be memorable?

Watch history come alive.

Mike Parker is a columnist for The Free Press. He can be reached at  or in care of this newspaper.


Civil War history unfolding


As “Old Glory” has unfurled her red, white and blue symbolism — tattered and singed in the worst of times, and tailored and bold in the best — over this country’s history, so will reenactors unfold this history to make the Civil War alive this weekend in Kinston.

From exhibits and vendors to battle reenactments and demonstrations, more than 500 people will be at the reenactment site Saturday and Sunday to memorialize and preserve this history and to educate the generations following the Civil War period.

Sponsored by the Historical Preservation Group, the Lenoir County Battlefields Commission and the Kinston Convention and Visitors Bureau, the two-day event will include Battle of Wyse Fork reenactments at 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday, featuring The Capture of the 15th Connecticut and Hoke’s Flank Attack. The scenarios will include artillery, infantry and cavalry.

The Confederate commander is Donnny Taylor and the Federal commander is Lynn Bull. A living history civilian camp and various sutlers (period vendors) will be on site both days.

A full-scale reproduction of the C.S.S. Hunley will be on display. The CSS Hunley was a submarine of the Confederate States Navy that demonstrated both the advantages and dangers of undersea warfare.

She made her first live attack Feb. 17, 1864, against the USS Housatonic, an 1,800-ton steam powered sloop-of-war with 12 large cannons. The 7 1/2-ton Hunley successfully embedded a barbed spar torpedo into the Housatonic, positioned at the entrance to the Charleston, S.C., harbor, sending her to the bottom of the harbor in five minutes.

The Hunley also sank, but not before it had earned a place in history as the first submarine to sink a warship.

Sutlers, or period vendors, will be on hand to sell original and reproduction items. A sample of vendors attending includes Heirloom Emporium; North State Haberdashery; Tart, Brantley and Benjamin; Village Tinsmithing Works; Old North State Sutlery; Old South Blacksmith; Heritage Leather; and Eagles Nest.

The sponsoring reenacting units are Northampton Artillery, 7th North Carolina State Troops, Co. F; 18th North Carolina Troops, Co. K; 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, Co. I.

Camps open at 9 a.m. and close at 5 p.m. each day.

Admission is $5 per person, and children 12 and younger are admitted free. All proceeds from the event will go into the preservation of the two Lenoir County battlefields.

The reenactment site is on U.S. 258 S., one-fourth mile south of U.S. 70.

For more information, visit and or call Bob Tolar at (252)  523-8958 or Lyle Holland at (252) 527-7494 or (252) 361-2434.



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