north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

      During the winter and early spring of 1864-1865, General William Tecumseh Sherman’s army wreaked destruction on Georgia and South Carolina. On March 8, his men entered North Carolina. Concerned with the ability to feed and supply a 60,000-man force, Sherman divided his army into two wings: the left, commanded by Major General Henry Slocum and the right commanded by Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard. Both wings advanced in the direction of Goldsboro, as Confederate forces from across the region were cobbled together in an attempt to delay their progress.

      On the night of March 18, Sherman camped two miles west of Bentonville with the left wing of his army. The following morning, the left wing advanced east headed for Goldsboro. Sherman himself departed and joined his right wing under Howard, thus missing the first day’s engagement at the Battle of Bentonville.

      On March 19, at Bentonville a 30,000-man Confederate army led by General Joseph E. Johnston attacked the left wing of Sherman’s army. Johnston had been able to raise nearly 30,000 men from South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and eastern North Carolina. Slocum, initially not realizing that he faced an entire army, pushed forward, but was driven back throughout the afternoon. Soon, Confederates led by D. H. Hill were able to flank his men, pouring devastating fire upon Slocum’s troops. Johnston continued his assaults throughout the evening but pulled back upon realizing that the right wing of Sherman’s army soon would be arriving as reinforcements.

      On March 20, Howard’s wing, along with Sherman, arrived on the field. Only light skirmishing took place during the day as Johnston pulled back his left wing to protect his army’s avenue of escape over the Mill Creek bridge. The following day, Union forces under the command of Maj. Gen. Joseph Mower led an unauthorized assault on the Confederate left flank. Mower’s forces almost succeeded in taking the bridge but were called back by Sherman.

      During the night of March 21, Johnston pulled his army across Mill Creek and retreated, burning the bridge behind him. Although he had lost an opportunity to decisively defeat a wing of Sherman’s army, Sherman, by his own admission, had lost the chance to destroy Johnston’s forces by pulling back Mower’s troops. The Union Army, anxious to reach Goldsboro, did not pursue. Sherman’s army lost 304 killed in action, 1,112 wounded, and 221 missing. The Confederates lost 239 killed, 1,694 wounded, and 673 missing.

      The XX Corps, part of Sherman’s left wing, established their field hospital south of the Harper House. Nearly 400 Union soldiers who had been wounded at Averasboro on March 16 were cared for there in addition to the XX Corps wounded from Bentonville.

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)
Bentonville Battleground Website:
Location: County:

Original Date Cast:




north carolina highway historical marker program

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources