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Reprinted with the permission of the Smithfield Herald
Manuscript of Late C.S. Powell Handed Down
In To Committee on Bentonville Memorial
June 12, 1925
In order to stimulate interest in securing an accurate account of the battle
of Bentonville, fought during the Civil War in this county, Mrs. W.M.
Sanders, who is the chairman of the State Committee in charge of a
Bentonville Memorial, offered recently five dollars for the best account of
the battle. Mrs. Sanders, just before leaving for a trip to Europe, sends us
the following account written by the late C.S. Powell. His neice, Mrs. W.T.
Woodard, of Selma, read this story of the battle before the Henry L. Wyatt
Chapter of the U.D.C. of Selma, at one of their meetings. The story is a
correct account as Mr. Powell saw the conflict. Mr. Powell was an officer
through the entire Civil War and was in a number of important battles.
His account of the Battle of Bentonville is as follows:
"This battle was fought between the Yankee army under Gen. W.T. Sherman,
consisting of 8,000 seasoned, well drilled, trained and equipped soldiers,
and Confederates under Gen. Joseph Johnston, with about 1,800 Confederates
that were mere remnants of the shattered, defeated Western Campaign regiments
and a few Junior and Senior Reserves, poorly equipped and organized, about
two miles south of the obscure village of Bentonville, hence the name.
It was a strange and peculiar battle in its beginning and still more so in
its termination. It may not be germane to the actual description of this
battle, but for a better understanding it may be instructive to go back to
the beginning of Sherman's March through Georgia to the sea, across the
Carolinas to Bentonville. I belonged to, and was Adjutant of, the 10th N.C.
Battallion, and was with the command from the time we were taken from the
Forts below Wilmington in November 1864, to the Surrender near Greensboro in
By making a long skip from the 45th mile post up the Savannah River in
Georgia via Savannah to Averasboro, N.C., over which we marched in retreat
in front of Sherman's army, I can better describe the battle of Bentonville.
At Averasboro a considerable skirmish was fought between Sherman's advance
guard and Sherman's rear guard, which resulted in defeat of the Confederates
who took the Raleigh road, as they supposed. Raleigh was Sherman's objective
(as they had sacked and burned Columbia, the Capitol of South Carolina.)
Instead of being followed, Sherman took the Goldsboro road. Johnston
discovering this, shifted his army to the Smithfield road which paralled the
Goldsboro road some miles apart. When Johnston reached Elevation in Johnston
County by a forced march across the country to Bentonville, interrupted one
corps (Slocumb's) of Sherman's army, which was a complete surprise, as the
main body of Sherman's army was some miles further south on another parallel
road. (That was by Grantham's store.)
This was on a Sunday evening, and after much skirmishing, and the Yankee's
battle line located, the charge was ordered, and the skirmishes being
withdrawn, the battle commenced in earnest and until dark they were driven
back further and further until their reserve line was encountered just
beyond and skirting a string of huckleberry ponds knee deep in water. They
hastily erected temporary breastworks of old fallen logs and dirt dug with
bayonets. This was all in the thick woods, and an incessant fire of musketry
and cannon at every step.
We charged steadily on and when within twenty steps of their line, they
fired a blinding volley from their reserves which was answered by a volley
from us along with the Rebel Yell: 'Hell broke loose in Georgia.' They broke
and ran worse than a herd of stampeded cattle. Such a rattle of canteens and
accoutrements and cursing of fleeing officers and men, I hope never to hear
again. They ceased firing entirely, cannons and all, and where they went to,
the Lord only knows. They left their dead and wounded behind, and they lay
there all night.
My battallion lost 37 men killed and wounded, the most of which fell at the
last volley, and I think some of the wounded drowned in the ponds. We
reassembled on the road at the Willis Cole house, and were then marched
about two miles to the East, facing the Goldsboro and Fayetteville road,
where we threw up breastworks which are yet easily traced.
The next day Sherman's army came nosing around for us until we were located,
and they then entrenched themselves about three hundred yards to our front,
in a line some two miles long. Pretty sharp skirmising took place all along
the line, and we thought they were going to do business on our chdsen ground,
but when fully satisfied that we were not there for fun, they located
themselves. Why they did not give battle we did not know.
Johnston, of course, knew their strength and dared not pit his raw and
ill-organized little army against those 8,000 seasoned, trained and
entrenched troops. On the third night we quietly and unmolested (except for
a continual bombardment from a battery in our front) withdrew from the
battlefield, and sunrise found us four miles away behind breastworks on the
Smithfield and Bentonville road.
We were not pursued or molested, and finally we marched through Smithfield
to Mitchner's depot, near where the army was reorganized. Sherman's army
moved on to Goldsboro, where they were met by other Yankee troops from
Wilminqton and New Bern. Resting there for two weeks they set out for Raleigh,
via Smithfield along the route of which many of us remember the devilment
they indulged in."
October 8th, 1917