Battle of Goldsborough Bridge - Dudley, NC
Battle of Goldsborough Bridge - Dudley, North Carolina
|Goldsborough Bridge Battlefiefield
The culminating action of Foster's 1862 North
Carolina Raid was the Battle of Goldsborough
Bridge, fought just outside Goldsboro, N.C.
Well-preserved Civil War
earthworks are among the
features still visible on the
Restored fencing parallels
the path across the battlefield
at Goldsborough Bridge in
The Battle of Goldsborough Bridge - Dudley, N.C.
Last Battle of Foster's Raid
|Copyright 2013 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Last Updated: November 22, 2013
Historic Sites in North Carolina
The flags of both sides share
equal space on the stone
monument at Goldsborough
Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield borders the
Neuse River just south of Goldsboro, North
Carolina. It preserves the site of the climactic
battle of Union Gen. J.G. Foster's 1862 raid.
The Goldsborough Bridge which gives the
battle its name was an important span where
the trains of the Wilmington & Weldon
Railroad crossed the Neuse River. In 1861-
1862, this bridge was a vital link used to
move men and supplies to from the port of
Wilmington and the states of the Deep South
to Confederate forces in Virginia.
By the winter of 1862, Union planners in
Washington, D.C., hinged their hopes on a
two-pronged attack they believed could turn
the tide of the War Between the States (Civil
War) in their favor.
While Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside and the
Army of the Potomac attacked Gen. Robert E.
Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, a
second Union force under Gen. J.G. Foster
would strike into North Carolina, take the
Goldsborough Bridge and break the main
Confederate supply line.
The North Carolina phase of the campaign
began on December 11, 1862, when Gen.
Foster marched inland from the coastal town
of New Bern with 10,000 infantry, 640 cavalry
and 40 pieces of artillery. Fighting began the
next day at Vine Swamp and continued on the
13th at Southwest Creek, on the 14th at
Kinston and on the 16th at White Hall.
The Confederates were outnumbered and
outgunned in each of these engagements
and only at White Hall were they able to hold
their position. By the morning of December
17, Foster was nearing the Goldsborough
After sending small columns out to feint
toward Dudley Station and Everettsville on
one flank and Thompson's Bridge over the
Neuse on the other, Gen. Foster closed in on
the Confederate brigade of Gen. Thomas
Clingman. With fewer than 2,000 men and
only 12 cannon, Clingman prepared to
defend not only the railroad bridge, but a
second covered wagon bridge just upriver.
The battle opened when Foster ordered up
Riggs' battery from the Third New York
Artillery and unleashed cannon fire on the
Confederates who were positioned in the
woods lining the railroad track leading to
Goldsborough Bridge. Under this shelling,
Clingman pulled his men back.
The fighting, however, was far from over. The
Union army formed into lines of battle and
the Seventeenth Massachusetts and Ninth
New Jersey were ordered to drive up the
railroad to the bridge, with the Third, Twenty-
fifth and Twenty-seventh Massachusetts in
support. Thirty cannon were brought forward.
Heavy cannon firing took place as Union
gunners opened on the bridge and woods.
The Confederates had far fewer cannon, but
their artillerymen stuck to their guns and
returned fire. Led by Col. C.A. Heckman, the
Union infantry pushed for the bridge.
The Confederates tried to hold them back
with fire from their own guns - including a
cannon mounted on a rail car - as well as
infantry volleys from the woods to the left of
the bridge. The fighting was fierce and bloody
and it took Heckman's men two hours to
reach the span.
Finally the Federal soldiers neared the foot of
the bridge, but each time a man went forward
to set it on fire, he was picked off by Southern
sharpshooters. Lt. George W. Graham,
Twenty-Third New York Battery, and Lt. B.N.
Mann, Seventeenth Massachusetts Infantry
finally got the fire going, although Mann was
Ordering all of his cannon to fire on the
bridge to prevent Confederate soldiers from
putting out the blaze, Gen. Foster waited until
it was fully engulfed before directing his army
to begin its withdrawal from the battlefield.
Gen. Clingman and his men had been driven
back across the railroad bridge before it was
fired and the Federals now believed it was
safe to begin their return march to New Bern.
Foster was unaware that additional Southern
troops had arrived on the field during the
battle and were marching upriver to the
county or wagon bridge to cross over for a
Most of the Union army left the battlefield and
the brigade forming the rear guard was about
to do the same when the Confederates came
out of the woods with flags flying. The rear
guard formed to receive this counter-attack
as Clingman, now reinforced by Evans',
Pettigrew's and the Mississippi Brigade of
Maj. Gen. G.W. Smith's command gave the
rebel yell and charged.
Heavy fighting erupted as Confederate troops
drove straight for the Union rear guard and
the battery firing in its support. The cannon
drove back the charge, but as this fighting
was underway other Southern soldiers broke
a mill dam and flooded the terrain between
Foster's main force and his rear guard. The
Federals involved in the renewed fighting
were able to get away only by wading through
neck-deep water in freezing weather.
Total Union casualties in Foster's raid
numbered 92 killed, 487 wounded and 12
captured/missing. Most of these fell at the
Battle of Goldsborough Bridge, among them
Col. Charles O. Gray of the Ninety-sixth New
York who was killed.
Confederate losses in the raid were 71 dead,
268 wounded and 400-500 captured or
missing. Most of the latter had been captured
at Kinston prior to Goldsborough Bridge.
Foster paroled them as he marched back to
The Battle of Goldsborough Bridge was a
Union victory, but the destruction of the
railroad span failed to have the devastating
impact the North had hoped.
Burnside and the Army of the Potomac were
badly whipped by Lee's Confederates at the
Battle of Fredericksburg even as Foster was
advancing inland. The Southern victory at
Fredericksburg ended any possibility the
temporary disruption of railroad traffic would
cripple the Confederate war effort.
The Goldsborough Bridge was repaired in
just a few weeks and it was not long before
trains loaded with men and supplies
continued moving north to Virginia.
Goldsborough Bridge Battlefield is located
on Old Mount Olive Road near Dudley, North
Carolina. The park is open daily during from
sunrise to sunset and is free to visit. Points
of interest include an 8/10 mile walking tour,
Civil War earthworks, interpretive stations
and a monument honoring the men of both
To reach the battlefield from the intersection
of US 70 and US 117 in Goldsboro, travel
south on US 117 for 4.5 miles to Old Mount
Olive Road. Turn left and the park will be 1/4
mile ahead on your left.
Please click here for more information.
Of interest nearby is Old Waynesborough
Park, which preserves a historic village on
the site of Wayne County's first seat of
The modern railroad bridge
can be seen from a tour stop
at Goldsborough Bridge
Battlefield. It spans the Neuse
The Confederateattack swept
across this field in the closing
phase of the Battle of
A monument, interpretive
panels and Civil War Trails
kiosk help visitors learn about
|Photos by Alan Cox & Lee Ann Cox