Saturday, March 18, 1865

Averysboro, North Carolina

With Hardee retreating from Averysboro’ the left wing turned east, toward Goldsboro’, the Fourteenth Corps leading. I remained with this wing until late in the night, when we were within twenty-seven miles of Goldsboro’ and five from Bentonsville. The mud has delayed the progress of the Right Wing and they are now behind the left instead of in front. Our supplies are running low and I want to reach Goldsboro as soon as possible. Thus, our wings will take a more direct route.

HDQRS. MILITARY DIVISION OF THE MISSISSIPPI, In the Field, Twenty-seven Miles from Goldsborough,
March 18, 1865. 2 p.m.
General O. O. HOWARD, Commanding Right Wing:
The Fourteenth Corps is here, but the Twentieth is well back. It started from Averasborough and North River with Kilpatrick to the north of the road. We heard some musketry and artillery in that direction, but Colone Poe left Mingo Creek, which he bridged, at 11, at which time the Twentieth Corps was half a mile behind. We cannot get any farther today. Davis may go a couple miles farther to the forks of the road. I think this road, the Averysborough and Goldsborough road, will lead to Cox’s Bridge, though it is represented as passing three miles south of Bentonville. Get on to the right hand road so that Geary and his trains may take that to Goldsborough via Cox’s Bridge. I think the enemy is concentrated about Smithfield and I cannot make out whether Goldsborough is held in force or not. I think it probable that Joe Johnston will try to prevent our getting Goldsborough. We find a good deal of forage today, but the roads still cut deep. I hope the sun of today will dry them up good.

Our map is evidently faulty. Can’t you send me, tonight, a sketch of the country toward Dead Fields, Everettsville, and Faison’s? I fear Slocum will be jammed with all his trains in a narrow space; but at the same time I don’t want to push you off too far. Still this flank is better covered by the Neuse.

Slocum is back with the Twentieth Corps and as soon as I hear from him I will send over to you. Morgan’s division found a couple of Hampton’s regiments here, but they cleared out toward the north as soon as deployed skirmishers.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Howard Reports:

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Alex. Benton’s House, N. C., March 18, 1865.
Major-General SHERMAN:
I am going into camp near this point. It is on what is called the new Goldsborough road, and is about one mile from Lee’s Store and about five miles from Troublefield’s Store. General Blair will be not far from Troublefield’s Stone tonight and the trains will be between that point and Beaman’s Cross-Roads. I have suggested to General Geary that he had better encamp near Lee’s Store. I heard some cannonading on my left this morning, but it ceased by the time I reached Lee’s Store. From the last named place Goldsborough is equidistant by the old road and the new.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

Major-General HOWARD, Present:
Slocum is up. The firing you heard was Kilpatrick, who found parties picketing roads to the north. He reports Hardee retreating on Smithfield, and Joe Johnston collecting his old Georgia army this side of Raleigh. I know that he will call in all minor posts, which embraces Goldsborough. You may, therefore, move straight for Goldsborough, leaving Slocum the river road, and, if possible, the one from Lee’s Store toward Falling Waters. Make a break into Goldsborough from the south, and let your scouts strike out for Schofield at Kinston, though I hope to meet him at Goldsborough. Our roads are very bad, but I think the Fourteenth Corps will be at Cox’s Bridge tomorrow night, and will aim to strike the railroad to the northwest of Goldsborough. If any change occurs I will notify you tonight.
W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General

Howard Writes:

HDQRS. DEPARTMENT AND ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE, Benton’s Cross-Roads, N. C., March 18, 1865. 6:30 p. m.
Major General W. T. SHERMAN:
I think that General Geary would do well to follow my four light divisions on the new Goldsborough road. I understand that I have kept entirely out of his way, and shall be able to remain so. If he goes to my left it will bring the whole corps on the one road. I have already suggested this to General Geary. It is currently reported by the citizens that Goldsborough is occupied by General Schofield’s forces. Please find inclosed a rough sketch of the roads, made by Captain Reese, from information derived from the citizens.
O. O. HOWARD, Major-General

The left wing will advance toward Smithfield tomorrow.

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