The battle of Wyse Fork was arguably the second largest Civil War battle in North Carolina and the first of four major battles that occurred in the Old North State in March 1865.
Its significance in the days prior to the seminal battle of Bentonville cannot be overstated. In July 2017, the U>S> Department of Interior determined the Wyse Fork battlefield to be of historic significance and listed it on the National “Register of Historic Places, encompassing slightly more than 4,000 acres of core battlefield land. In March 185, men fought, bled, and died for what they believed in Wyse Fork.
The little-known but hard-fought four-day battle is rich in cultural significance. Notably, Native American soldiers of the 6 Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, which included Tuscaroras, whose ancestors once inhabited the very land upon which the battle occurred. There is also the historic Cobb-King-Humphrey house, which served as a Union headquarters and field hospital during the battle,. Once these crucial cultural resources on the battlefield are destroyed to build the by-pass, they are gone forever.
I am writing as both a North Carolina taxpayer and one that truly enjoys the rich history of our state. The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) selection of R-2553’s Alternative ISB, commonly referred to as the “Shallow Bypass,” ad the ‘Preferred’ Alternative deeply troubles me. The proposed Kinston 1SB bypass route extends 22 miles from U.S 70 near La Grange to U.S. 70 near Dover. It is important to note that the NCDOT selected 1SB despite the fact its estimated costs greatly exceed that of other alternatives. It also results in the major destruction of the Wyse Fork Civil War battlefield. Plans for Alternate 1SWB’s Section E show an interchange at the Wyse Fork/Caswell Station Road/Hwy 70E intersection that will destroy the location and sense of where the 13,000 strong Union forces left flank (supported by more than 18 artillery pieces) defended against a combined 10,000 Confederate force that attacked Union positions on March 10, 1865.
First, why did the state select Alternative 1SB knowing that it was one of the most expensive of all the alternatives considered? Table 1’s Summary Comparison of Current Detailed Study Alternatives, found I the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USAVC E), Wilmington District, Public Notice, dated July 22, 2019, in that year, that Alternative 1SB had projected cost of $440M, which recently, according to the NCDOT website, is now estimated to be approximately $723M.
The Federal Highway Administration is not funding this project; as such, under section 404 of the Clean Water Act, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has responsibility to ensure compliance with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). They have received an application for a permit from the NCDOT so that upgrading of existing US 70 and constructing a bypass portion on new location (TIP R-2553 US 70 Kinston Bypass) near Lenoir/Jones county line can proceed.
Second the irreversible destruction cause by ‘preferred’ 1SB’s Section E is not acceptable and destroys a key Wyse Fork battle area. The selected ‘preferred’ 1SB last section E does not meet National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 compliance. The permit requested by NCDOT should not be issued if it destroys the site of the March 10, 1865 Wyse Fork battle. There was a suitable Section E in an earlier Alternative (#11) that missed the battle ground; it was rejected in order to use more of the existing US Hwy70; but, upgrading that portion of existing Hwy 70 requires funds to get it to the interstate standards.
According to Table 1 of the USACE Public Notice, the selection of a route (Alternate #11) at the eastern end (Dover) of Kinston bypass would save the taxpayers an estimated $56M based on the 2019 study, while preserving 100% of the Wyse Fork battlefield.
I strongly encourage you to join the Facebook group ‘Save Wyse Fork Battlefield’ and remain abreast of the ongoing efforts to save the battlefield. Additionally, you and your friends can help by sending a note of concern to:
American Battlefield Trust, 1156 15th St NW, Suite 900, Washington, D.C. 20005-1717; or by calling them at either 202-367-1861 or 800-298-7878; or by sending a fax to 202-367-1865.
For folks in North Carolina, a note or call to the Raleigh & local offices of your elected officials would help draw attention to your concern about this issue and the destruction of a historic N.C. location.