Friday, March 17, 1865

Averysboro, North Carolina

During the battle of Averysboro, I was sitting on my horse and approached by a man on foot, without shoes or coat, and his head bandaged by a handkerchief. He announced himself as the Captain Duncan who had been captured by Wade Hampton in Fayetteville, but had escaped; and, on my inquiring how he happened to be in that plight, he explained that when he was a prisoner Wade Hampton’s men had made him “get out of his coat, hat, and shoes,” which they appropriated to themselves. He said Wade Hampton had seen them do it, and he had appealed to him personally for protection, as an officer, but Hampton answered him with a curse. I sent Duncan to General Kilpatrick, and Kilpatrick had applied to General Slocum for his prisoner, Colonel Rhett, whom he made march on foot.

Hardee is gone, in full retreat toward Smithfield. We lost twelve officers and sixty-five men killed, and four hundred and seventy-seven men wounded; a serious loss, because every wounded man has to be carried in an ambulance.

The rebel wounded (sixty-eight) were carried to a house near by, all surgical operations necessary were performed by our surgeons, and then these wounded men were left in care of an officer and four men of the rebel prisoners, with a scanty supply of food, which was the best we could do for them. In person I visited this house while the surgeons were at work, with arms and legs lying around loose, in the yard and on the porch. In a room on a bed lay a pale, handsome young fellow, whose left arm had just been cut off near the shoulder. Some one used my name, when he asked, in a feeble voice, if I were General Sherman. He then announced himself as Captain Macbeth, whose battery had just been captured; and said that he remembered me when I used to visit his father’s house, in Charleston. I inquired about his family, and enabled him to write a note to his mother, which was sent her afterward from Goldsboro’.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Eighteen Miles Northeast Fayetteville, March 17, 1865. 7 a.m.

Major General O. O. HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
General Slocum found the enemy covering the narrow neck from Taylor’s Hole up to the Goldsborough road. He drove them from two successive positions, taking three guns, some prisoners and wounded, but losing himself pretty severely, I think as many as 300 in all. But the enemy lost heavily also, from appearances. At night the enemy still held the forks, but it is just reported that he is gone, I suppose up to Averysborough, where the Raleigh and Smithfield roads fork.

Your scout, Duncan, is just in, having escaped from McLaws’ guard, he thinks about twelve miles out on the Smithfield road; so Hardee is retreating on Smithfield. Slocum will feel out toward Averasborough, but move his column on the Goldsborough road, which is that which crosses Black and Mingo Creek just ahead of where we are. Our true tactics would be to push all our columns to Smithfield, but I will only follow Hardee far enough to give him impulse, when we must resume our course.

I want you today to get to where the Goldsborough road crosses Mingo, and have that bridge well repaired. You need not come over to Slocum unless you hear him engaged. We might cut his column at Elevation, but it will be time enough to think of that tonight. Blair is getting too far off. Better draw him and all your trains toward Troublefield’s Store. Weather having cleared off, we may count on better roads. Have a road for your column reconnoitered from Mingo bridge to that point north of Troublefield’s where three roads meet. I expect to be tonight somewhere between Black River and Mingo bridge.
Yours,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Crossing of Fayetteville and Goldsborough with Clinton and Raleigh Roads, March 17, 1865-3 p. m.

Major General W. T. SHERMAN, Commanding Military Division of the Mississippi:
Your dispatch by Duncan received. I am glad enough to see him back. He was stripped of his clothing, and everything, even to his finger ring, and in the presence of Hampton himself. Quite different usage from that I bestow on prisoners from Hampton. Your order for me to repair the bridge across Mingo Creek made me think you were mistaken as to my position. By dark Logan will have his four divisions at this point. It is thirteen miles from here to Averysborugh, eleven to Bentonville, and seven to Beaman’s Cross-Roads, to which place Blair is moving. You said you thought Blair was getting too far off. When Logan turned northward toward this road Blair did the same. You gave me Everettsville as my objective. Now that General Slocum has turned toward Goldsborough, I have given my orders according to the programme you laid down for me; but thinking you might wish still to turn on Smithfield, I will lead the disencumbered divisions toward Bentonville, across both branches of the Cohera, and then can take a road leading direct to Everettsville. This road begins about five miles beyond Seven-Mile Branch.

I heard that the quartermaster in charge of shoes, &c., by the steamer had refused to send the half I left to General Slocum for want of quartermaster’s receipts. I regret it exceedingly, as I would have had them receipted for and sent to him had I suspected such meanness. I hope, however it is not true. Thinking you might wish me to push farther north, I have had one division encamped well out on the Averysborough road, and Corse has sent a reconnaissance toward Mingo Creek. I have not done more than that, as you intimated that I should not move over to Slocum, unless there was farther need than now appears. I had information that Bragg had left Goldsborough and was retreating on Raleigh, through Smithfield, prior to Duncan’s arrival.
Respectfully,
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Camp between North River and Mingo Creek, March 17, 1865.

Major-General HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
North River had to be bridged and has delayed us today. Davis is on Mingo and Williams on North River. Kilpatrick is up the road in the direction of Elevation. We still threaten Smithfield, but tomorrow will move rapidly toward Cox’s Bridge and Goldsborough. If the enemy fail to fight for Goldsborough, of course we go right in, Slocum by Cox’s Bridge, and you by the south, as Schofield comes from the east (Kinston). But if the enemy opposes, I propose to throw our empty wagons down to Kinston for forage and supplies whilst we proceed to reduce Goldsborough. To this end Slocum will break the railroad west of Cox’s Bridge, and you will cross Neuse in front as Schofield comes from the east and swings against the railroad north of the town. I doubt if there be any fortifications at Goldsborough capable of holding anything more than a railroad guard.

I have examined your order and it will do, only get on a right-hand road as soon as possible, that you may not delay Slocum’s troops, who will necessarily all be forced on the one road. Try and keep around the head of Falling Water Creek, viz, to its south. I will push Slocum tomorrow and next day and think by day after tomorrow we will all be in position, viz, you directly in front of Goldsborough and Slocum at Cox’s Bridge. At the time I sent Colonel Ewing to you yesterday the enemy had brought Slocum up all standing, and it was on the theory that he would hold Slocum there that I wanted you at Mingo bridge; but the enemy retreated in the night on Smithfield and we are again on the march feigning to the left, but moving trains and troops as rapidly as the roads admit, on Goldsborough. You may do the same. The enemy yesterday had a strong intrenched line in front of the cross-roads, and had posted the Charleston brigade about one-third mile in front, also intrenched. The Twentieth Corps struck the first line, turned it handsomely and used the Charleston brigade up completely, killing about 40 and gathering about 35 wounded and 100 well prisoners, capturing 3 guns, but on advancing farther encountered the larger line, which they did not carry, but was abandoned at night.

This morning a division of Williams’ followed as far as Averysborough whilst the rest turned to the right, as I have heretofore stated. Slocum lost in killed and wounded about 300. He is somewhat heavily burdened by his wounded, which must be hauled. We left the Confederate wounded in a house by the roadside. The route of retreat of the enemy showed signs of considerable panic, and I have no doubt he got decidedly the worst of it.
Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

MOSES SUMMERS of the Twentieth Corp Reports:

I arrived here with the train about 2 p. m. Found the Raleigh road-or rather the portion of it we had to travel-perfectly abominable, but thanks to whips and labor and perseverance we waded through. A few wagons from the other divisions joined me on the route and half a dozen cavalry wagons also joined the train. The supply of empty wagons is abundant, but Doctor Goodman scolded about the lack of ambulances. The fight was evidently a sharp one. About 75 killed and 250 wounded, 3 pieces rebel artillery captured and 250 prisoners. Rebels are now on the retreat and our forces are following. We are directed to remain with the troops, and it is expected the lines will converge together rapidly and the wagons will then joins their commands. I have dismissed my mounted escort and presume sufficient force will be furnished to get the wagons foward, at least until the troops and trains are again united. I found the Third Division train badly stuck in the mud, about two miles this side of the river. They sent seven wagons to join my train. I thought perhaps you would be interested in learning some of the facts I have stated above.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, March 17, 1865.

Major-General KILPATRICK, Black River Mills:
The enemy has gone from our front, and I take it he is up at the forks of the Raleigh and Smithfield roads-Averysborough. General Slocum will feel up that road, but prepared to use the Goldsborough road which crossed Black and Mingo. I have ordered General Howard to be at Mingo tonight, but I want your cavalry on the road which leads from Black River bridge toward Elevation. Captain Duncan, of General Howard’s scouts, is here, having escaped. He reports Hardee and Wheeler ahead of us on the Smithfield road. Wade Hampton and Butler are off in front of General Howard. You can forage from the Goldsborough road northward between Black and Mingo.
Yours, truly,
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General, Commanding

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