north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Construction of the CSS Neuse, an ironclad gunboat and ram, was commissioned by the Confederate Navy in October 1862. The vessel was needed to bolster southern naval defenses and to prevent Union occupation of the state’s sounds and estuaries. Designed by naval contractor John L. Porter and built by the New Bern shipbuilding firm of Howard and Ellis, the vessel was one of twenty-four ironclad warships completed by the Confederacy.

     The vessel was constructed at Whitehall on the Neuse River, while a sister ship, the CSS Albemarle was built on the Roanoke River. The vessels were based of the design of the CSS Virginia, which had fought a Union ironclad vessel, the USS Monitor to a draw earlier that year at Hampton Roads, Virginia. In December 1862, the partially constructed vessel was severely damaged by raiding Union troops during the Battle of Whitehall.

     The CSS Neuse was completed in April 1864, and began patrolling the Neuse River that spring. On April 22, 1864, while attempting to maneuver downstream and retake New Bern from Union occupation, the vessel became stuck on a sandbar one-half mile below Kinston. The Neuse remained wedged in the mud for nearly a month. Although a shower freed her in May, most of the infantry troops that would have operated with her in retaking New Bern had been transferred to Virginia in the interim. Without such support, the vessel could not mount any major assaults. Instead the crew maintained their position until the following year.

     In March 1865, Union forces advanced on Kinston, and the CSS Neuse became threatened with capture. Captain Joseph H. Price ordered his men to fire their guns at approaching Union infantry and cavalry, and then placed a charge under the bow, intending to scuttle the ship. The explosion blew an eight foot wide hole in the hull, and the vessel sank into the depths of the river.

     Shortly after the war, salvage operations removed most of the machinery and armor from the wreck. Afterwards, the vessel lay largely undisturbed until raised in the spring of 1963, and placed on display at what was then Governor Caswell Park in Kinston. The vessel is now part of the CSS Neuse State Historic Site and Governor Richard Caswell Memorial in Kinston. In 2005, the CSS Neuse II, a replica of the vessel was constructed by the CSS Neuse Gunboat Association and is on display at Heritage Landing in Kinston. On June 23, 2012, the original Confederate ironclad was moved to the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center at 100 North Queen Street. The new facility is fully enclosed and climate controlled, with exhibits telling the stories of the CSS Neuse and eastern North Carolina during the Civil War.






References:
William S. Powell, ed., Encyclopedia of North Carolina (2006)
Leslie S. Bright, William H. Rowland, and James C. Bardon, C.S.S. Neuse: A Question of Iron and Time (1981)
William N. Still, Jr., Confederate Shipbuilding (1987)
William N. Still, Jr., Iron Afloat: The Story of the Confederate Armorclads (1985)
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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