Yadkin River bridge listed among endangered Civil War battlefields
By Steve Huffman
SPENCER ó The site of the Yadkin River bridge has been named one of the nation’s 25 most endangered Civil War battlefields by a publication that specializes in such designations.
The designation appears in the most recent copy of “History Under Siege,” subtitled: “A Guide to America’s Most Endangered Civil War Battlefields.” The publication is part of an annual report by Civil War Preservation Trust (www.civilwar. org), based in Washington, D.C.
Ten of those endangered battlefields include pictures and a fairly complex history plus a detailed description of the modern-day threat they’re facing.
The Yadkin River bridge is included among the remaining 15, giving only the date (April 12, 1865) of the struggle, plus a paragraph detailing the threat.
“In August, developers seeking to build a racetrack near the site of the last Confederate victory in the Carolinas began excavations and grading activities without county permits, repeatedly ignoring stop-work orders from government officials,” it reads. “Although a court eventually issued a restraining order against the developers, they still predict a summer 2008 opening.”
Mary Koik, a spokeswoman for Civil War Preservation Trust, said the fact that the Yadkin River bridge’s description was relatively short doesn’t mean efforts to preserve the site are unimportant.
“There’s not a lot of difference between the top 10 and the remaining 15 sites,” Koik said. “Lots of times, it’s the immediacy of the risk.”
She said she’d never seen the Yadkin River site and said officials with Civil War Preservation Trust often depend on the public to keep them aware of lesser-known battlefield sites that need to be preserved.
“Not every site is as well known as Gettysburg or Antietam,” Koik said. “Sometimes we need someone in the community to let us know of a site close to them.”
She said the public is typically responsive in doing so and said, “We could literally list hundreds of battlefields.”
Koik said the publication that details the endangered Civil War battlefield sites goes to the trust’s 65,000 members.
“It’s always interesting to read about these places,” Koik said. “Some are famous, some are not.”
She said the organization is “not anti-development. We just want people to have all the facts.”
Ann Brownlee, founder of the Trading Ford Historic Preservation Association (www.trading-ford.org) and long-time opponent of the planned High Rock Raceway, described the battle thus:
“On April 12, 1865, Confederate forces numbering between 1,000 and 1,200 faced a numerically equal number of Union troops over the Yadkin River in central North Carolina. Stoneman’s federals were determined to destroy the new railroad bridge and disrupt supply lines. After a five-and-a-half hour artillery battle, Stoneman’s forces retreated, leaving the bridge intact. The plucky Confederates, a hodge-podge of regulars and galvanized Yankees, won their last victory of the Civil War in North Carolina.”
Brownlee said she had been pushing the Civil War Preservation Trust for years to recognize the Yadkin River bridge site as an endangered battlefield.
She said she filled out an application requesting such a designation.
“They said it was one of the best they’d ever received,” Brownlee said.
She said she hopes the designation will help rally individuals against construction at the site.
“Our objection to the racetrack is that the complex would destroy 200 acres of the heart of the battlefield, virtually the entire Rowan County/Union side,” Brownlee said.
She said that while she’s pleased the Civil War Preservation Trust has deemed the Yadkin River bridge site worthy of inclusion in its national publication, there’s a designation she’d prefer seeing.
“I’d actually rather be on the least-at-risk list,” Brownlee said.
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Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or email@example.com.