This article originally appeared on WanderWithWonder.com.
Set along the banks of the Neuse River, Kinston, North Carolina is one of the oldest towns in the state. It has seen its share of wars, including the Tuscarora War, the Revolutionary War, and the Civil War, and is part of the African American Musical Heritage Trail. On a recent trip, I discovered it has some history spots that are sure to wow—like the remains of an ironclad warship, a Civil War battlefield, and a pre-American Revolution home. Here are my five must-see history moments on your Kinston adventure.
1—The African Amercian Music Trail
One of the most surprising moments I had in Kinston was learning about the African Ameican Music Trail and how deep Kinston’s musical roots run. During its tobacco days, Kinston was a hotbed of music and musicians traveled from all over to play in the tobacco warehouses. One of those singers you’ll know, James Brown, who traveled with his band members from Kinston like Maceo and Melvin Parker, and Dick Knight. It is said they brought “a Kinston sound” to Brown’s music.
A great way to learn more about Kinston’s African American music scene is at the Kinston Music Park. Located near the Neuse River, visitors can stroll through the park, read lyrics and quotes, and admire colorful music-inspired mosaics. You can also enjoy the park’s sculpture Intersections, which has images of famous jazz, soul, gospel and rhythm and blues musicians from Kinston and nearby communities.
2—First Battlefield of Kinston Park
Kinston saw its share of bloody battles during the Civil War, and during my visit, I got to see where the heaviest fighting took place. In 1862, 2,400 Confederates troops and 12,000 Union troops faced off at a site known as Harriet’s Chapel. The church is part of The First Battle of Kinston Park, which includes more walking paths and interpretive signs, earthworks, and markers.
3—CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center
Before my Kinston visit, I had heard of an ironclad warship but had never seen one. The CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center houses the remains of the CSS Neuse and tells the story of the warship that got stuck on a sandbar on the Neuse River. The center also explains how the Neuse was recovered, and the importance of ironclads in battle. If you think all you’ll be looking at is the remains of the ship, think again. During its recovery, they found more than 15,000 artifacts, including shells and what they believe to be the ship’s wheel. There is also information on Kinston, the wars that came to its front door, and historical figures.
Another part of the museum I found fascinating were the displays on Civil War social customs, particularly the collection of jewelry made out of human hair. Sweethearts, close friends, and family exchanged unusual jewelry, which was also worn during periods of mourning.
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