Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point --
NEWPORT, N.C. - More than 100 Union and Confederate soldiers died in a battle that stretched across Craven County ending in Newport Feb. 2, 1864.
The Confederate forces advanced stealthily under the command of Brig. Gen. James G. Martin who, with no warning, attacked the Union forces in and around the small eastern North Carolina town then called Shepardsville located in Carteret County.
To make it worse for the Union forces, their colonel, Edward Ripley, was away on court-martial duty, leaving his post to Lt. Col. Valentine Barney. The 9th Vermont Regiment, garrisoned at Newport Barracks, had just a few days earlier welcomed 400 fresh recruits who, for the most part, had never drilled or fired a rifle.
The Rebels first advanced on two outposts west of Newport Barracks at Gales Creek, breaking through with superior troop strength. Barney managed to put up a brief defense at Bogue before withdrawing toward Morehead City to gather his regiment.
Regaining control of his troops, Barney strategically placed the regiment on the edge of the forest, a mix of experienced and inexperienced men. Once Martin released his forces, the battle began again.
Barney attempted to hold his position but fell back repeatedly, overwhelmed by Martin’s larger, more experienced force.
As a final effort, Barney planned to occupy the fort at Newport Barracks. Finding the remaining defense collapsed, Barney had no other choice but to retreat with his inexperienced regiment across the Newport River to safety to live and fight another day.
The battle was the bloodiest the town had ever seen, and more men died during the fight than lived in Newport at the time, according to Eric Lindblade, a Battle of Newport Barracks Civil War Memorial Park historian.
The battle included three Medal of Honor recipients, the highest military honor, awarded for personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty, according to Linblade.
150 years later, the town and community paused to remember and commemorate a park in its name, during a ceremony Sunday. A century and a half later, the memory of the Battle of Newport Barracks lives on with the new memorial park, though most residents are unfamiliar with the historical significance of the battle, according to Gerald D. Mann, chief architect of the project.
“We want to tell the story of the Civil War, and particularly, the story of Newport Barracks,” said Mann.