North Carolina Voices

Sherman's March Through North Carolina

Battle of Wyse Fork Estimated casualties: 2,601 total

"[A] flank movement was made by Hoke's Division . . . around the left of the enemy's forces, near Cobb's Mill. We took them completely by surprise . . . effectually routed them, capturing a large number of prisoners . . . . The field was covered with dead and dying, broken guns, empty saddles, dismantled caissons and artillery and cavalry horses in great numbers . . . . Seeing two fine looking black horses standing side by side . . . Major [D. S.] Davis and the writer left the line and ran with all their might to capture these horses, and imagine their surprise to find that their ham-strings had been cut and the animals could not move out of their tracks . . . [On March 10] we found that the enemy had prepared for us with his breastworks facing both ways, and the same protected by small pines, which had been cut down, lapped over each other and their limbs trimmed and pointing in our direction. When the [66th] was within about fifty yards of the enemy, it was ordered to lie down to protect itself from the galling fire from the breastworks. The troops on the left of our line . . . did not come to our support, and we were compelled to fall back, leaving a large number of the men of the regiment dead and dying on the field . . . How many were killed or how many were taken prisoners, we were never able to find out. We only know that at least one-half of the regiment was left upon that field, and the balance of it, under command of Major Davis, was cut off from the rest of the army and was in rear of the enemy's position . . . [B]y taking the swamps and by-paths we avoided meeting any considerable armed force of the foe, and late in the night made our way back to Kinston, to which place the army had retired."
  George M. Rose, Adjutant, 66th North Carolina, Kirkland's Brigade, Hoke's Division (Army of Northern Virginia), Department of North Carolina describing a scene from the Battle of Wyse Fork (Southwest Creek), N.C., fought March 8-10, 1865.

Battle of Averasboro Estimated casualties: 1,182 total

"Their infantry made repeated attempts to carry our position . . . . they made a vigorous attack upon the left of the line, at the same time massing on and overlapping the right, forcing the retirement [of Rhett's Brigade, Col. William Butler] on the second line occupied by [Brig. Gen. Stephen] Elliott . . . . [T]hey moved a heavy force in the direction of the Black river, completely flanking and exposing to a severe cross-fire the left wing. This necessitated retirement [of Elliott's Brigade] on the main line held by General [Lafayette] McLaws . . . The Confederate loss . . . was very heavy in Rhett's Brigade."
  Lt. J. C. Ellington, 50th North Carolina, Hardy's Brigade, McLaws's Division, Hardee's Corps, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida; Army of the South describing a scene from the Battle of Averasboro, N.C., fought March 16, 1865.

"Where home used to be . . . . it baffles words to express my thankfulness when I hear that my friends are left with the necessities of life, and unpoluted by the touch of Shermans Hell-hounds . . . . I found our officers gallant and gentlemanly . . . but such an army of patriots fighting for their hearthstones is not to be conquered by such fiends incarnate as fill the ranks of Sherman's army . . . . The pailing did not hinder them at all. They just knocked down all such like mad cattle. Right into the house, breaking open bureau drawers of all kinds faster than I could unlock. They cursed us for having hid everything, and made bold threats . . . . They left no living thing in Smithville but people . . . . Every nook and corner of the premises was searched and the things they didn't use were burned or torn into strings . . . . The house was so crowded all day that we could scarcely move and of all the horrible smelling things in the world the Yankees beat. The battle filed does not compare with them in point of stench . . . . I had heard the officers would protect ladies, but it is not so . . . If I ever see a Yankeewoman, I intend to whip her and take the clothes off of her very back . . . . the battle was fought so near the house, we lost a whole day hiding . . . The infirmary was here and oh it makes me shudder when I think of the aweful sights I witnessed that mornming. Ambulance after ambulance drove up with our wounded . . . every barn and out house was filled and under every shed and tree the tables were carried for amputating the limbs . . . . The scene beggars description, the blood lay in puddles in the grove, the groans of the dying and complaints of those undergoing amputation was horrible. The painful impression has seared my very heart . . . The scamps left our piano, used Aun't Mary's for an amputation table . . . I can dress amputated limbs now and do most anything in the way of nursing the wounded soldiers . . . . My favorite, a little black eyed boy with the whitest brow and thick curls falling on it, died last Sunday . . . . the yard and garden at Uncle John's, the cottage and Aunt Mary's are used for Yankee grave yards, and they are buried so shallow that the places are extremely offensive . . . I am not afraid of perishing though the prospects for it are very bright . . . . They took a special delight in burying the stinking carcasses at everybody's door . . . . All nature is gay and beautiful, but every Southern breeze is loaded with a terrible scent from the battlefield, which renders my home very disagreeable at times."
  Janie Smith, to Janie Robeson, April 12, 1865. Seventeen-year-old Janie Smith's lengthy letter was scrawled on pieces of wallpaper from the Farquhard Smith house, known as "Lebanon," which was used as a Confederate hospital during the Battle of Averasboro (fought March 16, 1865).

Battle of Bentonville Estimated casualties: 4,500 total

"The presence of General [Joseph E.] Johnston again in command of veteran troops inspired the fullest confidence in the small army. The [58th], in this, its last battle, numbered about 300 effectives. The brigade (Palmer's) was selected as the directing column for the Army of Tennessee in the assault on the enemy's line. The charge was made with great spirit and dash, and the enemy entrenched and with a high fence built in their front, gave way before inflicting great loss on their assailants. In the pursuit which followed, [three] pieces of artillery, limbering with all haste to the rear, were captured and driven back into our lines with their teams complete. In running down and taking the guns some of the artillerymen were shot while on the chests, and the old pine field was strewn with blankets, provisions, and plunder of all sorts thrown away by the flying foe."
  Maj. G. W. F. Harper, 58th North Carolina, Palmer's Brigade, Stevenson's Division, Lee's Corps (D. H. Hill, Army of Tennessee), Army of the South describing a scene from the Battle of Bentonville, N.C., fought March 19-21, 1865.

"The scene was a combination of field and thicket . . . . No one who witnessed the inspiring sight can ever forget the charge of S. D. Lee's Corps [D. H. Hill, Army of Tennessee], early in the action. With ranks well aligned, field and staff officers mounted, as upon parade, light batteries filling the spaces between the brigades, grandly they swept across the open field, driving the enemy before them. Later in the day when it became necessary to charge the Federal divisions entrenched within the almost impenetrable swamp, and during the two following days to hold against their assaults the line of hastily formed breastworks, the [N.C.] Junior Reserves were in the tickest of the fight, and proved themselves no unworthy comrades of the veterans of the Eastern and Western armies."
  Lt. Fabius H. Busbee, Company E, 77th North Carolina (Third Junior Reserves), Junior Reserves Brigade (Nethercutt), Hoke's Division (Army of Northern Virginia), Department of North Carolina, Army of the South describing a scene from the Battle of Bentonville, N.C., fought March 19-21, 1865.

"At Bentonville . . . we got pretty badly mixed. We got after the Yankees and they just fired and fell back; we chased them on Sunday evening until after dark. I think we went in twenty feet of one of their lines, when they suddenly fired a volley . . . . If the fire had been well directed not a man of us could have escaped. The sheet of fire was blinding . . . . I have met many of these old comrades at our annual reunions since, and some times [sic] I think we get our war stories a little mixed and rather shaky."
  Lt. Charles S. Powell, 10th North Carolina Battalion, Hardy's Brigade, McLaws's Division, Hardee's Corps, Department of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida; Army of the South describing a scene from the Battle of Bentonville, N.C., fought March 19-21, 1865.

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In Their Own Words ...

R. H. Bacot Letter - CSS Neuse