On October 17, 1862, the contract was signed to build the Confederate ironclad gunboat CSS Neuse. The vessel was needed to bolster southern naval defenses and to prevent Union occupation of the state’s sounds and estuaries. The CSS Neuse was one of 24 ironclad warships completed by the Confederacy. It was completed in April 1864, and began patrolling the Neuse River that spring. Within weeks the Neuse became stuck on a sandbar one-half mile below Kinston and it remained there for nearly a month.
In March 1865, Union forces advanced on Kinston, and the CSS Neuse became threatened with capture. Captain Joseph H. Price ordered his men to scuttle the ship. Shortly after the war, salvage operations removed most of the machinery and armor from the wreck site in the river.
The vessel was raised in the spring of 1963 and placed on display at what was then Governor Caswell Park in Kinston. It is now at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretive Center in downtown Kinston. The new facility is enclosed and climate controlled, with exhibits telling the stories of the CSS Neuse and eastern North Carolina during the Civil War.