OK, the original idea was for our Davidson County Civil War Round Table to take its annual spring campaign to New Bern to visit the battlefields there as well as nearby Kinston last weekend.
And we pretty much did that.
Full disclosure: The last time my wife and I were in New Bern was about 25 years ago. Things have changed. The city of about 31,000 has gone through a nice revitalization where downtown (or is it uptown?) buildings have reinvented themselves, utility lines have gone underground, and historic sites (like Caleb Bradham's shop where he invented Pepsi, or Tryon Palace, or the 200-plus-year-old Episcopal Church with its painted glass windows and 1717 King James Vinegar Bible), are proudly brought forward.
My wife didn't make this trip, but 15 or so of my alpha male friends did. Some of us (mostly the retired guys) arrived on Thursday, and the rest of us showed up on Friday, finally coalescing as a full round table at the New Bern battlefield for a morning tour.
Quick history lesson: the battle of New Bern was a small but significant action that happened in 1862, early in the war. It was a Union victory that captured a Confederate seaport, which it never relinquished. Today's battlefield features some pristine earthworks and clear interpretative markers that make the place a real asset.
In Kinston, about a half hour away, rests the remains of the CSS Neuse, one of only three Confederate ironclads still in existence (the others being the CSS Cairo in Vicksburg and the CSS Georgia in Savannah). All that's left of the Neuse is its water-damaged wooden hull and about 10,000 artifacts that came out of the Neuse River when the boat was finally raised in 1963. But the hull and the artifacts now reside in a state-of-the art museum in downtown (or is it uptown?) Kinston, protected for all to see.
Our round table field trips are great because they offer reasonable doses of history while leaving us enough time to explore other options. When we went on trips to Chattanooga, Richmond and Charleston, for example, we were able to take in some minor league baseball games in those cities. Our trip to Charleston also offered us an opportunity to visit the Eight Air Force Museum in Savannah.
This time, not only did we take in Kinston, but also Morehead City, where Fort Macon has stood guard since 1826. That was cool until about 600 middle school kids showed up for their get-out-of-class free field trip. Sigh.
Anyway, the nice surprise on this trip were the food options. Places like Beer Army, Craven 247, Morgan's and Persimmon's, all within walking distance of each other and all spectacular in their own way. Even Morehead City gave us Southern Salt, where I had some of the best crab cakes I've ever had outside of Baltimore.
Each day when I called Kim, the first thing out of my mouth was what we had for dinner the previous night. Oh, yeah. The battlefield was nice, too. So much for history.
Clearly, it's time to start plotting our next foray.