Jane Phillips: Man from Alaska visits site of ancestors capture on Wyse Fork battlefield
I answered the phone and it was Wilbur King on the other end.
He had a gentleman in the restaurant from Alaska and was visiting Kinston because his great grandfather had been in the battle of Wyse Fork (on the eastern side of Lenoir County). He had come to Kinston to see where his ancestor had fought in the Civil War. Wilbur told me the man was interested in purchasing a set of maps of the Wyse Fork Battlefield.
I entered King’s restaurant with a map in hand. When I glanced into the dining area, I immediately spotted Wilbur and a stranger sitting at a table. Introductions were made as I took a seat at their table. While we engaged in conversation, I began to learn that Raymond Reed was a retired Navy man and worked for the State of Alaska with the Wildlife and Fisheries Department. He had business that was taking him to Florida, so he decided to make the side trip to Kinston to visit the site where his great grandfather had fought, been wounded and captured during the Civil War.
Mr. Reed recalled how his grandfather had told him stories of Pvt. James Reed (the great grandfather) and his times in the Civil War. James Reed had lived in Shutesbury, Massachusetts and had served in two different Regiments. James Reed had served in the western theater at Vicksburg and later transferred east. He was serving with the 27th Massachusetts at the battle of Wyse Fork, when he was wounded in the thigh and captured on the first day of the battle.
Mr. Reed was among over 600 men that were a part of the last mass capture of the Civil War and it took place on the first day of a 3-day battle at Wyse Fork in Lenoir County. After his capture the prisoners were put on a train and sent to Libby Prison in Richmond. The war ended weeks later, and he was released.
James Reed later received land in North Dakota for his service and he settled there with his family. In 1888 a terrible blizzard came upon the land with temperatures dropping rapidly. James Reed was on his way home 14 miles away when a blizzard hit. After the blizzard his body was found, and he had frozen to death. He had survived the horrors of war but not the fury of nature.
Raymond Reed enjoyed his visit to Kinston and spent several days here. The Wyse Fork Map Set pointed out just where the 27th Massachusetts had been located. He took many photographs while he visited Kinston Battlefield sites, Wyse Fork Battlefield Sites. The CSS Neuse II and the CSS State Historic Site.
Mr. Reed is among a growing number of people coming to Kinston for the very same reason as he did, to see where their ancestor of the Civil War period had fought.
Tourism of this type continues to grow. Everyone that I have had the opportunity to meet, has a different story to tell about their ancestor and I love hearing every one of them.
The Historical Preservation Groups’ battlefields, North Carolina’s CSS Neuse Civil War Museum, and the CSS Neuse Foundation’s CSS Neuse II are integral parts working together to tell the story of the Civil War in Lenoir County. The community needs to support their projects that continue to develop and grow tourism in Lenoir County.