Yadkin River Bridge Battle Historic Highway Marker Bulldozing Hallowed Ground

SPENCER, NC -- The Civil War Preservation Trust, with 60,000 members the largest nonprofit battlefield preservation organization in the United States, has released “History under Siege: Most Endangered Battlefields 2009”.   For the second year in a row, the report includes the Yadkin River Bridge, NC.

In the final weeks of the War Between the States, Gen. George Stoneman led a Union force from Tennessee into western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia – his goal to destroy Confederate supplies and supply lines. On April 12, 1865, he overcame resistance north of Salisbury, and occupied the fifth largest city in North Carolina. This city was an inescapable target: site of an infamous prison, Confederate storehouse and arsenal.

With Salisbury under his control, Stoneman turned his attention to the rail bridge over the Yadkin River, six miles to the east. He sent Col. John K. Miller's brigade to destroy the bridge. Miller soon found the bridge defended by Gen. Zebulon York and ten or twelve hundred Confederates, including a large number of “galvanized Yankees”, from fortifications on the far side of the river. Miller sent for the artillery, and the two forces of roughly equal strength fought furiously for five and a half hours. With dark approaching and no means of victory in sight, Miller retreated, leaving the bridge intact. York's defenders had won the last Confederate victory of the war in North Carolina.   (Read the rest of the story...)

Today, 200 acres of the heart of this battlefield are threatened by development of the High Rock Raceway. In August 2007, developers got a permit from the Town of Spencer, but failed to apply for a county permit before beginning excavation and grading. Ignoring repeated admonitions and a “stop-work” order, construction was eventually stopped by a court injunction. When the report was prepared, the racetrack nonetheless predicted an October 2009 opening.

Racetrack developer David Risdon has steadfastly denied that the Civil War battle took place on his land. Brownlee counters that, in addition to her own research, accounts written by historians Philip Shiman, Wayne Boone, Chris Hartley, and Chris Watford all place the battle squarely on Risdon's property. Artifacts have been found throughout the racetrack land, and Tim Grubb describes playing in Civil War trenches as he grew up in the Yadkin village.

Dave Risdon wants to destroy the heart of this irreplacable battlefield,” says Brownlee. “His denial is as vapid as, quite frankly, his development acumen. This hallowed ground is a testament to the courage, valor, and sacrifice of those who fought there. It would be a sacrilege to desecrate it in such a callous manner.”

The Trading Ford Historic District Preservation Association has opposed destruction of the battlefield since the project was first announced in early 2005. Association President Ann Brownlee is pleased by the recognition of the plight of this battlefield by the Civil War Preservation Trust. “CWPT is the nation's premiere Civil War preservation organization,” says Brownlee. “You expect them to pay attention to Antietam and Gettysburg. It's encouraging that this lesser-known battlefield also warrants their attention.”

In a letter to CWPT members, President Jim Lighthizer said, “All across the nation, America's Civil War history is being attacked by people who couldn't care less about what happened on this hallowed ground.” The message every CWPT member must send to these developers is this: “While you can choose a different site on which to build, we cannot change where our history happened.”

History under Siege 2008

Download the CWPT
Most Endangered 2008 Report
( PDF - 1.52MB)
History Under Siege Report

Download the CWPT
Most Endangered 2009 Report
(9.5 MB)

Yadkin River bridge listed among endangered Civil War battlefields
, by Steve Huffman, Salisbury Post, May 10, 2008

Fight resumes at Civil War site, by David Perlmutt, Charlotte Observer, May 17, 2008
  • also reprinted in:  Asheville Citizen-Times, Burlington Times-News, Charleston Post and Courier,  Fayetteville Observer, Hickory Daily Record, Raleigh News and Observer,  Winston-Salem Journal, Baltimore Sun,  Boston Herald, Chicago Tribune, Ft. Wayne IN Journal Gazette, Houston Chronicle, Newsday, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Three N.C. battle sites 'at risk', Journal staff and wire report, Winston-Salem Journal, March 21, 2009

Yadkin Civil War battlefield again listed as one of nation's 25 most endangered, The Dispatch, March 25, 2009

Civil War battlefield in Spencer makes 'most endangered' list again, Staff reports, Salisbury Post, April 2, 2009

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