C.S. Powell Account of the Battle

Harper House

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 April 1865. 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." C.S. Powell October 8th, 1917

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