Beaufort County marks Civil War battle

Published 6:26 pm Wednesday, December 19, 2007

By Staff
New historical marker placed near Tranters Creek
Staff Writer
Civil War history buffs have a new site to visit in Beaufort County. The Civil War enthusiast that spearheaded the effort and his funding partner, the Washington Tourism-Development Authority, say the new marker promises to make the county an even better destination for history-minded tourists.
Mickey Harris, a member of the Pitt County Civil War Trail Council, partnered with the Washington Tourism Development Office to purchase a sign, which was installed Tuesday to mark the 1862 Battle of Tranters Creek in western Beaufort County. The marker is on the south side of U.S. Highway 264, about eight miles west of Washington and about one mile south of the battle site.
Washington fell to Union forces on March 20, 1862. Though the majority of Confederate soldiers in the area fled, a small mobile force remained in eastern Pitt County, near the Beaufort County line. Tranters Creek, about nine miles west of Washington, creates a geographic boundary between Beaufort and Pitt counties.
On the morning of June 5, 1862 a Union patrol made the nine-mile hike to Meyer’s Mill where there was a bridge over Tranters Creek. There about 500 Union troops skirmished with an equal number of Confederates. The fight soon escalated to involve 150 horses, artillery and one armed ship, according to “Beaufort County Heroes,” a local Civil War history by Louis Martin Jr.
A federal grant to the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources is earmarked to pay four-fifths of the cost of the signs. Almost 200 dot North Carolina at a cost of about $5,500 each. Harris was tasked with coming up with the remaining $1,100 local match and finding a spot to locate the marker.
He found that easement in front of Paint Production Services on U.S. 264. Owner Mark Sillitoe donated the front yard of his business for the sign and parking for visitors.
Though the battlefield lies about one mile northwest of the marker on private land, Harris said he chose to place the marker on U.S. 264 so it would be more visible to tourists. Mitch Bowman, executive director of the Civil War Trails, installed the marker Tuesday. He arrived around noon, fresh from planting two markers in Lenoir County. The trails can be found as far north as Maryland.
Because the marker was going to be placed on the Beaufort County side of the Pitt-Beaufort County line, Harris contacted Lynn Lewis, Washington’s tourism-development director, in hopes of partnering with her organization.
There are already two signs on the Washington waterfront and a third at Oakdale Cemetery.
Lewis said tourism development receives “a lot of inquiries about history in general.”
Harris said tourism was at the heart of the Civil War Trails program.