CORRECTION: This article misstated the number of soldiers who fought and died in the battle of Bentonville. About 80,000 soldiers fought in that battle. Article corrected at 10 a.m. Sunday, March 17, 2013
FOUR OAKS -- Call them Yankees, federals or Union soldiers, but finally after more than 100 years the men in blue have their own monument on state-owned soil. Southern soil.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War unveiled a $10,000 monument Saturday at the Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site, three days before the 148th anniversary of the Battle of Bentonville, the largest Civil War battle fought in North Carolina. From March 19 to 21, 1865, Gen. Joseph Johnstons troops launched their last offensive attack on the federals.
Of the 80,000 men who fought during the Battle of Bentonville, 60,000 were Union soldiers, said Jerry Devine of the North Carolina chapter of Sons of Union Veterans. The Union army lost an estimated 1,600 soldiers killed, wounded or captured. Casualties on the Confederate side were estimated at 2,600.
(Now), we honor all participants for their willingness to die for a cause they believed in, Devine said to a crowd of about 200 gathered to watch the unveiling.
The group has been working since 2010 to get a Union monument at a state-owned site, and it was the second effort of its kind. Another group attempted to do the same thing in the mid-1990s, said Doug Elwell of Fayetteville, the chairman of the monument committee. The other group raised about $5,000 that went into an escrow account and was reallocated for this project, leaving the organization to raise the remainder from individual contributions.
There are four other monuments in North Carolina that honor Union soldiers, but they are either owned by churches, towns, or on private property. This is the first one in North Carolina on state-owned land, Elwell said.
North Carolina was part of the Confederate South, and the Civil War may have been referred to by some as the War of Northern Aggression, but Elwell said he met no resistance when asking for contributions from individuals or from the state Department of Cultural Resources, which helped the group find a site.
Its a confirmation that when it comes to recognizing service members, whether they were Confederate soldiers or Union soldiers, whats important for people is that they were American, Elwell said.
Pride across battle lines
Andy Cole of Coats had six family members who were Confederate soldiers who fought in the war. Cole said his great-great-great-grandfather owned a farm where the first day of the Battle of Bentonville was fought. He was proud to dress up in his gray Confederate uniform at Saturdays ceremony and line up with other re-enactors behind the Union monument.
A lot times what separated a Union soldier from a Confederate soldier was where you were born, he said.
The monument is dedicated to the Union soldiers of the 14th, 15th, 17th, and 20th Corps. These troops represented 15 states from all over the country.
For Cole, the monument was less about which uniform a soldier wore and more about celebrating history.
I think its important to learn our history so we can learn from our mistakes so we dont repeat them, Cole said.