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Battle of Averasboro, North Carolina
in the American Civil War

Union Battle Summary

Averasboro, N.C., March 16, 1865. 14th and 20th Army Corps and Kilpatrick's Cavalry. Gen. Sherman left Fayetteville on March 14. Gens. Schofield and Terry with their columns were to join him at Goldsboro, where he had planned to end his immediate campaign in order to the establishment of his position with New Berne for a base. Johnston had disposed his troops along the Raleigh roads and Sherman understood that the Confederate general would try to turn the Federal left flank in the march to Goldsboro. To meet this movement he threw out Gen. Slocum's left wing, without trains and in light marching order, to cover the advance of the main army and its wagons. A light column embracing Gen. Kilpatrick's cavalry in strong force, the divisions of Gens. Ward and Jackson of the 20th corps, and the divisions of Gens. Carlin and Morgan of the 14th corps, was sent up the Raleigh road in a direct demonstration against Raleigh. The right wing moved on the direct road to Goldsboro. Between it and the light column was the remainder of Slocum's wing. On the evening of the 15th the Federal cavalry advance encountered that of the enemy 5 miles from Fayetteville and forced it to fall back to Kyle's landing, midway between Fayetteville and Averasboro. Reinforced by an infantry brigade, Kilpatrick camped during the night within easy range of the Confederate pickets and at daylight on the 16th he moved out in line of battle, the infantry having the center. The enemy's pickets were driven in and his skirmish line forced back to his main line of battle. Doubting the prudence of an attack, Kilpatrick sent back for infantry reinforcements and the entire 14th and 20th corps were hurried forward. In the meantime the enemy moved out of his works and furiously attacked Col. Jones' cavalry on the right. Jones gallantly held his position until reinforced by the brigades of Jordan and Atkins, when he repulsed three determined attacks, then charged in turn and drove the Confederates back behind their works. The 14th and 20th corps having gone into position, Kilpatrick's cavalry operated on the right throughout the day, and mounted or dismounted fought side by side with the infantry. Gen. Howard was ordered to send his trains, under good escort, well to the right, toward Fairon's depot and Goldsboro and to hold 4 divisions in light marching order to go to the aid of the left wing if that should be attacked while in motion. The weather was bad and the roads were a mere quagmire, passable for wheels only after being corduroyed. Sherman accompanied Slocum, who went up the river road on the 15th, following Kilpatrick to Kyle's landing, Kilpatrick skirmishing heavily with the enemy's rear-guard at Taylor's Hole creek, 3 miles beyond. On the morning of the 16th, the column advanced in the same order and developed the enemy with artillery, cavalry and infantry intrenched a mile and a half in front of Moore's cross-roads, the junction of the Smithfield and Raleigh road with the one toward Goldsboro through Bentonville. Hardee, in retreating from Fayetteville, had halted in the narrow swampy neck between Cape Fear and South rivers, hoping to impede Sherman's advance and enable Johnston to concentrate his forces at Raleigh, Smithfield or Goldsboro in Hardee's rear. To keep the Goldsboro road clear and to prolong the feint on Raleigh, Sherman had to dislodge Hardee. Slocum was ordered to press forward and carry the position, a difficult undertaking, because horses sank in the swampy ground and men could scarcely walk on it. Hawley's brigade began skirmishing early in the morning. It was 10 o'clock before other troops could reach the field. The 20th corps under Gen. Williams had the lead and Ward's division the advance. This division was deployed to the left of the road, its right connecting with Hawley's left, and developed Rhett's brigade of heavy artillery armed as infantry, posted across the road behind a light parapet, with a battery enfilading the approach across a cleared field. Williams sent Case's brigade by a circuitous advance to turn this line. Case charged on and broke Rhett's brigade, which retreated to a second line of barricades, better built and more strongly held. The advantage was promptly followed up by a destructive fire from three batteries, under Maj. Reynolds, chief of artillery of the 20th corps. Ward's division advanced and developed a thord and still stronger line. Jackson's division was deployed forward on the right of Ward and two divisions of the 14th corps under Davis on the left, well toward the Cape Fear river. Kilpatrick, acting in concert with Williams, now massed his cavalry on the extreme right and with Jackson felt forward for the Goldsboro road. He reached that road with one brigade, which was driven back by McLaws' division to the flank of the infantry. Late in the afternoon the whole Federal line drove the enemy well within his intrenchments, pressing him so hard that in the stormy night which followed he retreated over almost impassable roads, leaving his dead and wounded. Ward's division followed him to and through Averasboro, developing the fact that Hardee had retreated, not on the Raleigh but on the Smithfield road. The Federal loss in killed, wounded and missing was 682. The enemy's loss may be inferred from his dead, 108 of whom were buried on the field by Federals.

Source: The Union Army, Volume 6, Cyclopedia of Battles, 1908


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