Averasboro and Bentonville

Battle of Averasboro

Though the Civil War was all but over, there were still several skirmishes that occurred before the end finally came for the Confederate states. During one of the last stages of his trek from Savannah, Georgia to Fayetteville, North Carolina, General Sherman's troops engaged in a battle with Confederate troops headed by Confederate General William Hardee, just a few miles south of the village of Averasboro.

Hardee was under orders by General Joseph Johnston to report on Sherman's movements. When Sherman ordered a section of his troops headed by General Slocum to continue on towards Averasboro and Bentonville, Hardee was then commanded to delay Slocum and his men in order to allow Johnston to rally his forces to attack Union forces when they arrived in Bentonville. On March 16, 1865, Slocum's Union force encountered Hardee and his Confederate soldiers near Averasboro, where Hardee was able to drive back the Union side. Union reinforcements arrived and Slocum was able to push Hardee's men back. Hardee and his troops rallied and pushed back but as more Union soldiers began to arrive to back up Slocum, Hardee was in danger of being outnumbered and outmaneuvered and ordered a retreat. Slocum lost close to 700 men in this battle and though Hardee suffered a loss of almost 500, it was a loss that enabled the Confederate Army to gain some time in order to gather troops for some of the final battle engagements against the Union Army in the Civil War.

Battle of Bentonville

The Battle of Bentonville was fought as part of the Carolinas Campaign during the Civil War and was one of the final few battles of any relative significance fought in the final months of the war. It was also the last major battle fought by the troops of Union General William Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnston.

Because of General William Hardee's tactics in delaying General Slocum's troops at Averasboro, General Johnston was able to have the necessary time to rally as many Confederate soldiers as possible to be ready to meet General Sherman's forces when they arrived at Bentonville. Slocum was already on his way there and mistakenly believed that he would only be facing cavalry and artillery and would therefore not have much resistance. He initially notified Sherman that because of these beliefs, he would not need extra assistance.

On March 19, Slocum began his initial drive against the Confederate troops, but was quickly driven back by the enemy numbers. He deployed several defensive lines to try and delay the Confederate advance and to allow time for the rest of his backup troops to arrive, but these lines were quickly compromised by an afternoon attack from Confederate infantry which caused his left flank to begin dissolving. Despite the initial success of the Confederate attacks, Union reinforcements began to arrive and the Confederates were soon driven back to their side.

By this time, Slocum had called for aid from Sherman and Union help began arriving by the afternoon of March 20. Very little fighting occurred this day and Confederate General Johnston delayed a retreat, hoping that he could still engage Sherman in battle. On March 21, the Union began a final drive on Johnston's Confederate forces. Fighting was fierce and by nightfall, General Sherman ordered his troops to hold as the Confederates began pulling back in earnest. During the night of March 21, Johnston completely withdrew his troops from the area and though the Union side did not notice the retreat until the following morning, they did not pursue Johnston and instead continued on to Goldsboro to join additional Union forces. General Sherman was criticized for this move, with many stating that it was a missed opportunity to essentially end the Carolinas Campaign. It was overlooked for the fact that the Confederates had basically failed in their final attempt to acquire a victory over the Union Army in North Carolina.

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Terms: North Carolina Civil War Trail: Averasboro and Bentonville

North Carolina Civil War Trail: Averasboro and Bentonville

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