(Large rectangular marker; full text follows)
Original Date Cast:
You are standing at the center of the second phase of fighting in the Battle of Averasboro, March 15, 16, 1865.
On the morning of March 16th, after the fight of the preceding afternoon around John Smith’s house 2 miles south of this road, Union General H. J. Kilpatrick’s cavalry found a back road circled to the rear of the Confederate position. The Union cavalry attempted to use this road to flank the Confederates, but was stopped by Colonel G. P. Harrison’s brigade of McLaws’ division after moving only a short distance.
General W. B. Taliaferro decided to abandon the Confederate second position after finding his men in danger of being flanked. At 1:00 P.M. he withdrew to the third and final line of earthworks, where he was assisted by McLaw’s division on his left and Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry on his right. Rhett’s disorganized brigade was held in general reserve behind the junction of this road and the Smithfield road.
The Union forces soon advanced and established a strong line immediately in front of the Confederate third line. From this new position they pressed the Confederates all afternoon and part of the evening, but were unable to break the line. At 8:00 P.M. General W. J. Hardee, commanding the Confederate forces at Averasboro, having accomplished his objectives, began withdrawing his corps along the Smithfield road. Wheeler’s cavalry was left behind to cover the retreat. By 4:00 A.M. on March 17th, all Confederate units had been withdrawn leaving the Union forces in control.
General Hardee wished to accomplish two things by contesting the Union advance at Averasboro. The first objective was to determine for General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of all Confederate forces in the Carolinas, whether Sherman’s army was advancing on Raleigh or Goldsboro. The Confederates learned it was moving on Goldsboro. The second objective was to stretch out the distance between Sherman’s left and right wings (which were moving on parallel roads) in order to give General Johnston a chance to concentrate his smaller army and destroy the Union left wing before the right wing could come to its assistance. Both of these objectives were fully accomplished. The stage was now set for the greater Battle of Bentonville fought 25 miles east on March 19-21, 1865.
NOTE: In order to better understand the battle it is best to read the large map-marker “Phase One” which is located two miles south of this road.
Mark L. Bradley, Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville (1996)
Mark A. Moore, Moore’s Historical Guide to the Battle of Bentonville (1997)
John G. Barrett, Sherman’s March Through the Carolinas (1956)
Wilson Angley, Jerry L. Cross, and Michael Hill, Sherman’s March through North Carolina: A Chronology (1995)
Averasboro Battlefield website: http://www.averasboro.com/
A William Waud sketch of action at Averasboro, N.C., March 16, 1865