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The Battle that Decided the Goldsborough Expedition


Naval Engagement: Confederate artillery at Camp Pool turned back nine Union gunboats Result: Union victory; Union casualties: 90 dead, 478 wounded, 9 missing; Confederate casualties: 71 dead, 268 wounded, 400 taken prisoner and paroled the next day Confederate forces engaged: Fewer than 2,500 Union forces engaged: 11,000-12,000 Confederate Commander: Gen. Nathan “Shanks” Evans Union Commander: Gen. John G. Foster Union objectives: Take Kinston, destroy the C.S.S. Neuse at White Hall, wreck the railroad bridge at Goldsboro and capture Wilmington Campaign: The Goldsborough Expedition, December 11-19, 1862

December 13-14, 1862

Battle of Kinston

About the

Begin your visit at the Kinston-Lenoir County Visitor and Information Center at the intersection of US 70 and US 258. The Battle of Kinston battlefields are located in southern Lenoir County, North Carolina, along US 258 and on US 70 near Kinston.

Battle of Kinston

North Carolina


The Battle of

The Battle of Kinston, December 13-14, 1862

—the battle that decided the Goldsborough Expedition

By the spring of 1862, the entire North Carolina coast except Wilmington was in Union hands. Kinston was the Confederate first line of defense between New Bern and Goldsboro. Confederate engineers built earthworks on Southwest Creek along the roads coming into the city and on the Neuse River. In December 1862, Union Gen. John G. Foster took the initiative. He planned to take Kinston, destroy the Confederate gunboat at White Hall, wreck the Wilmington-Weldon railroad bridge at Goldsboro, and capture Wilmington in one bold stroke. On December 11, 1862, Foster left New Bern with 10,000 infantry, 40 pieces of artillery, 640 cavalry, 200 supply wagons, and 300 African American pioneers. Nine gunboats steamed up the Neuse River in support. Only Gen. Nathan G. “Shanks” Evans and fewer than 2,500 Confederate soldiers at Kinston stood between Foster and Goldsboro. On the morning of December 13, 1862, Federal cavalry attacked a detachment of Confederate infantry and artillery near Woodington on the Wilmington Road (US 258) at Southwest Creek. The Confederates destroyed the bridge and waited behind earthworks just north of the creek, with a swamp between them and Foster’s forces.

rifle range and many Confederates spent a cold night, “sleeping on their arms.” That same day, four Union gunboats approached Camp Pool on the Neuse River, about five miles downstream from Jones Bridge. Low water levels had prevented the five larger Union gunboats from reaching Camp Pool. Now, obstructions placed in the river forced the remaining boats into a narrow channel and the welldirected fire of the Confederate shore batteries. The Union boats could not turn around; they could only back out. The battle was brief but deadly. The gunboat Allison took the brunt of the Confederate fire. The Union steamer’s guns silenced one Confederate battery but the rest pounded her and forced all of the Union boats to retreat, ending the role of the navy in the battle. In the early morning hours of December 14, the land battle resumed. Union soldiers pushed the Confederates northward to the final line of Kinston’s defenses. Evans deployed his line behind earthworks south of the Neuse River. Confederate artillery opened on the

Union infantry as they deployed on either side of the Wilmington Road. The outnumbered Confederates held for three desperate hours until their left flank was overrun. At noon, Evans ordered his troops into Kinston and Jones bridge burned. In the chaos, only those in the center and east of the road got the word to fall back. The rest kept fighting. Finally, they too were forced to make for the bridge. The withdrawal turned into a panic when they reached the burning bridge. The Federals captured about 400 Confederates at the bridge. Evans pulled back north of Kinston and regrouped, ending the battle. The Union army occupied Kinston during the night of December 14, 1862. The next day, the Union army recrossed the river, burned the bridge, and turned towards Goldsboro. Foster damaged the C.S.S. Neuse at White Hall and burned the Wilmington-Weldon railroad bridge in Goldsboro, but he did not achieve his final objective. Circumstances following the Confederate victory at Fredericksburg, Virginia, forced him to abandon his plan to attack Wilmington and retreat back to New Bern.

An undefended milldam at Hines Mill on the Confederate right and a hastily constructed bridge of felled trees on the Confederate left allowed Union forces to flank the defenders. The Federals captured a cannon and forced the Confederates to fall back. Evans regrouped and directed a fighting withdrawal, stubbornly giving ground until nightfall ended the contest. The Union soldiers bivouacked just out of

The Battle of Kinston Driving Tour Natural features played a significant role in the Battle of Kinston. As you drive the roads look at the low rolling hills, the creeks, rivers and wetlands. Imagine this area without paved roads, with only a few wooden bridges spanning the streams. Imagine that it is winter, the cold wind is blowing. You march, knowing a battle is coming. You are probably excited and at least a little frightened. You think of your loved ones. Will you ever see them again? Try to put yourself in the shoes of a young man who is far away from home for the first time—cold, scared, and determined to do your duty. Look around you. If this landscape could talk it would tell a powerful story.

Drive approximately 6.7 miles south on US 258. Pass Woodington School and stop at the intersection of US 258 and Lightwood Knot Road. Note: This east-west route is part of the Blue-Gray Scenic Byway. On December 13, 1862, Union Gen. John G. Foster began his assault on Kinston, turning his column north onto the Wilmington Road (US 258). He sent cavalry to Southwest Creek at Woodington, where they found the bridge destroyed and the Confederates waiting behind earthworks. Foster put his army in motion. The Battle of Kinston had begun.

3 The Terrain Becomes the Enemy Drive north on US 258 1.9 miles, just past the Woodington sign. Turn right on Woodington Road and travel 0.2 miles. Turn left on Stroud Corner Road and go 0.2 miles to the Civil War Trails® site on the left. “I was ordered by the general to send forward two companies as skirmishers, to examine the wood and swamps as far as the creek, to see if a crossing were practicable.” Col. Joshua B. Howell, 85th Pennsylvania Foster stopped on this high ground to deploy for battle. A swamp almost one-quarter mile wide stood between him and the Confederates. Only the fortuitous discovery of a milldam upstream and the African American Pioneer Corps, who built a bridge of felled trees downstream, helped Foster overcome the strong defensive position held by the Confederates.

4 Union Encampment Drive back east on Stroud Corner Road 0.2 miles to the intersection of Woodington Road. Turn left and go 0.3 miles to the intersection of Alexander Rouse Road. “The camp was pitched in a pleasant grove near a little church known as Woodington.” Frank T. Robertson, 5th Massachusetts Darkness ended the fighting. Thousands of men, horses, mules, wagons and artillery were scattered from here to the main road. East of the intersection, near the cemetery, stood Woodington Meeting House; a simple frame church used by several congregations. About 8,000 of Foster’s men spent the night on this side of Southwest Creek. The soldiers, ordered to sleep without fires, spent a cold, miserable night.

5 Union Assault on the Confederate Line Proceed on Woodington Road 0.3 miles to the intersection of Bill Stroud Road. Stop here. “Morrison’s battery was accordingly ordered into position on the high ground above the creek and directed to shell the opposite woods.” Lieut. Col. Henry A. Purviance, 85th Pennsylvania At Southwest Creek, Foster deployed 30 guns against the Confederates. Two guns of Battery B 3rd NY Artillery accompanied the cavalry and fired on the Confederates throughout the battle. The battery’s remaining four guns deployed near here, firing 40 rounds on the Confederate position. Twenty-four more guns of 3rd NY Artillery Battery deployed on the center and left of the Union line.

6 Hines Mill Dam Drive west on Bill Stroud 0.2 miles to the Intersection of US 258. Pull off the road by the stop sign. Use extreme caution.

The Old Wilmington Road ran behind the homes on the west side of US 258. The bridge that crossed Southwest Creek during the Civil War was just west of the current bridge.

Return to US 258. Turn left and proceed 0.2 miles to US 70. Turn right on US 70. Go 0.4 miles to the next stoplight. Turn right and go 0.2 miles to Wil King Memorial Park where there is a Civil War Trails® site.

The Confederates built earthworks on both sides of the Wilmington Road; about 1,000 feet remain here. Engineers constructed earthworks on all of the roads leading into Kinston. They took advantage of the terrain, building earthworks with swamps in front of them and, where possible, anchored on swamps. Attackers were forced to cross the wetlands under fire or to find another way across, as part of the Union force did here.

“As it was, it touched at least two mortal spots without penetrating. I had no feeling, and I was suddenly hurried away on a stretcher to the rear.” William P. DuBose, Holcombe Legion

Continue slowly down Albrittons Road. When the earthworks end, look to your left. You should be able to see Hines milldam. Turn around in the driveway on your right and drive back to US 258.

8 Confederate Bivouac Turn left on US 258 and go 2.4 miles to Will Baker Road. Stop at Ma’s Hot Dog House, a local landmark, on the right. “Night was approaching and this Yankee line of battle marched up in sight of us and their artillery exchanged a few rounds with Capt. Boyce, when they stacked arms, built up fires and went to cooking supper.” Capt. William H. Edwards, 17th South Carolina On December 13, Confederate troops encamped here, with the lead elements of Foster’s army within sight. The rest of the Union army was south of Southwest Creek and part of the Confederate army was near Kinston. All spent a cold, miserable night knowing that they would fight the battle for Kinston the next day. The old Wilmington Road ran just behind the row of rental houses to the south, parallel to and just east of US 258.

You are now on the far end of the Confederate line, defended by 17th and 23rd South Carolina on December 14. They bore the brunt of the assault as Union troops surged from the woods in front of you, crushing the Confederate left. Gen. Evans ordered a general retreat and the South Carolinians joined the mass of men, horses and vehicles rushing toward the escape route—Jones Bridge.

13 Jones Bridge Return to US 70 and turn left, getting into the right lane. Go 0.5 miles and turn right onto US 70 business. Turn right again just before crossing the Neuse River bridge, stopping at the Civil War Trails site. “We then prepared faggots of fat pine and made a fire at the west end of the bridge from which to light our torches at the opportune moment.” Lieut. H.F. Scaife, Macbeth Light Artillery Chaos reigned at Jones Bridge. As Union forces closed in the Confederates desperately fought to hold the bridge until their comrades were across. Foster’s artillery converged at the river, firing canister at the Confederates on the bridge. The Confederates retreated and Union soldiers doused the fire on the bridge. The Battle of Kinston was over.

14 Confederate Burials 9 Battle at the Upper Trent Road Take Will Baker Road east 2.3 miles to NC 58. Turn right on NC 58; go 0.1 mile; just after you cross Southwest Creek pull into the drive of Patterson Chapel on your right. “The cavalry dismounted, deployed, and, with their carbines, acted as a support to the Battery. Our boys then opened on them with shell.” Sergeant J. W. Merrill, 24 Independent Battery On December 13, while the battle raged along the Wilmington Road, Gen. Evans sent a detachment of South Carolina troops to man the fortifications on the Upper Trent Road (NC 58). They destroyed the bridge and waited. The next day, Union forces attacked, forcing the Confederates to pull back toward Kinston. After rebuilding the bridge, the Union soldiers joined their comrades at Kinston.

Turn right onto Business US 70, Queen Street. Proceed 0.9 miles. Turn right onto Shine Street and proceed 0.3 miles. Turn right into Maplewood Cemetery and follow the signs to the Confederate monument. After the battle, Union soldiers buried the Confederate dead where they lay, placing them side-by-side in shallow trenches. They remained in those unmarked graves until 1881, when the City of Kinston donated this lot and moved the remains of 44 men to this site. Ten years later, the United Daughters of the Confederacy erected this monument.

Ne u s e 70 258

10 Harriet’s Chapel

Old As

Mallett did not receive Evans’ order to retreat across Jones Bridge. He and his men were trapped on this side of the river. Believing his men had retreated, Evans ordered his artillery to fire on Mallett’s position! The Federals later captured Mallett and about 400 of his men.


Me ph 13 as alt Roa ley 1 d 10





Harriet’s Chapel stood about where the relocated church building now stands—in the center of the Confederate line. A trail and boardwalk explore the chapel’s role in the battle and take you along the earthwork and to the gun emplacement manned by Starr’s Battery.

The Union left was all around you. A deep swamp stood between the Federals and Col. Peter Mallett’s North Carolina Battalion to the north.


70 258

11 55

“An old barn-like church had also served to protect them in some measure. It was perforated with holes of all sizes, from that of the Minié-ball to the one caused by the thirty-two-pound shell.” Charles Estus Hubbard, 45th Massachusetts

Cross US 258 and proceed approximately 0.2 miles down Measley Road. Stop on the north side of the road.

Shine St.


Turn left on NC 58 and turn left on Will Baker Road. At US 258 turn right and go 2.0 miles. Stop at the Civil War Trails® site on the right, opposite Measley Road.

11 The Union Left


Tour Route

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Albr itton s

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Lig htwo od Knot Road



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st 1909 R


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6 5 Woodington 3

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Bill Stroud Road 1912

ouse Roa Alexander R d

Woodington Road St ro ud ’s . r Rd rne Co

The driveway in front of you follows the old road that led to Hines Mill Dam, where the 9th NJ attacked the Confederate right flank. Foster also ordered the 23rd MA to cross here and support the 9th NJ.

Turn right and drive north on US 258 0.4 miles, crossing Southwest Creek. Turn left on Albrittons Road. Travel 0.3 miles and stop on the right shoulder road. A line of earthworks is immediately north of the road.

Queen Street

2 Foster Turns North

12 The Confederate Left


Before you begin, we recommend that you see the twelveminute film on the Battle of Kinston and look at the exhibits on the Civil War in Lenoir County. Thank you for your interest in our history and heritage.

The Confederate Defense at Southwest Creek


The Kinston-Lenoir County Visitor and Information Center is located in the center of the battlefield on the southeast corner of the intersection of US 258 and US 70.



1 Visitor and Information Center

Driving Tour Map


Battle of Kinston  

Brochure including history of the First Battle of Kinston, and directions supporting a driving tour of the significant sites.

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