Battle of Averasborough

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Battle of Averasborough History Chronology of the Battle of Averasborough Pictures Photographs Maps of the Averasborough Battlefield Carolinas Campaign American Civil War killed Wounded Captured Paroled

Battle of Averasborough

Other Names: Averasboro, Taylor’s Hole Creek, Smithville, Smiths Ferry, Black River

Location: Harnett County and Cumberland County

Campaign: Campaign of the Carolinas (February-April 1865)

Date(s): March 16, 1865

Principal Commanders: Maj. Gen. Henry Slocum [US]; Lt. Gen. William Hardee [CS]

Forces Engaged: XX Corps and XIV Corps (25,992) [US]; Hardee’s Corps (5,400) [CS]

Estimated Casualties: 1,419 total

Result(s): Inconclusive

Averasborough Historical Marker
Battle of Averasborough, aka Averasboro.jpg
(The Battle of Averasboro)

Summary: On the afternoon of March 15, Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry came up against Lt. Gen. William Hardee’s corps—consisting of Taliaferro’s and McLaw’s infantry divisions and Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry—deployed across the Raleigh Road near Smithville. After feeling out the Confederate defenses, Kilpatrick withdrew and called for infantry support. During the night, four divisions of the XX Corps arrived to confront the Confederates. At dawn, March 16, the Federals advanced on a division front, driving back skirmishers, but they were stopped by the main Confederate line and a counterattack. Mid-morning, the Federals renewed their advance with strong reinforcements and drove the Confederates from two lines of works, but were repulsed at a third line. Late afternoon, the Union XIV Corps began to arrive on the field but was unable to deploy before dark due to the swampy ground. Hardee retreated during the night after holding up the Union advance for nearly two days. (See: Battle of Averasboro: A History and Battle of Averasborough: Chronology.)

Battle of Averasborough Map
Civil War Battle of Averasboro Map.gif
Civil War Battle of Averasboro Map

Analysis: The Battle of Averasborough or the Battle of Averasboro, fought March 16, 1865, in Harnett and Cumberland counties, North Carolina, as part of the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War, was a prelude to the climactic Battle of Bentonville, which began three days later.
 
Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman was moving his army north towards Goldsboro in two columns. The right column (Army of the Tennessee) was under the command of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard and the left column (Army of Georgia) was under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum. Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sent Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee's corps to attack Slocum's left wing while it was separated from the rest of Sherman's forces. Slocum's troops had crossed the Cape Fear River at Fayetteville and were marching up the Raleigh plank road. Near Averasborough, they encountered Hardee's corps. On the morning of the March 16, troops of the Union XX Corps under Maj. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams were driven back by a Confederate assault. When reinforcements arrived, the Union forces counterattacked and drove back two lines of Confederates, but were stopped by a third line. By this time, units from Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis's XIV Corps began to arrive on the field. Outnumbered and in danger of being flanked, Hardee's troops withdrew.
 
The Confederates had not delayed the Union Army as long as they had hoped. Although casualties were almost the same for each side, the Federals could readily replace its losses while the Confederates could not afford the loss of a single man. The Battle of Bentonville would be fought in merely three days and it would conclude with the surrender of the remaining organized Confederate resistance of the war.
 
The Battle of Averasborough was fought on the grounds of Oak Grove, near Erwin, North Carolina. Lebanon was used as a hospital. Prior to the  battle, Union soldiers raided the Ellerslie Plantation for supplies and quartered troops in the plantation’s main house. The Averasboro Battlefield Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.

Sources: National Park Service; Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

Recommended Reading: On Sherman's Trail: The Civil War's North Carolina Climax. Description: Join journalist and historian Jim Wise as he follows Sherman's last march through the Tar Heel State from Wilson's Store to the surrender at Bennett Place. Retrace the steps of the soldiers at Averasboro and Bentonville. Learn about what the civilians faced as the Northern army approached and view the modern landscape through their eyes. Whether you are on the road or in a comfortable armchair, you will enjoy this memorable, well-researched account of General Sherman's North Carolina campaign and the brave men and women who stood in his path.

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Recommended Reading: NO SUCH ARMY SINCE THE DAYS OF JULIUS CAESAR: Sherman's Carolinas Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro (Discovering Civil War America). Description: General William T. Sherman's 1865 Carolinas Campaign receives scant attention from most Civil War historians, largely because it was overshadowed by the Army of Northern Virginia's final campaign against the Army of the Potomac. However, a careful examination of this campaign indicates that few armies in all of military history accomplished more under more adverse conditions than did Sherman's. Continued below…

Mark A. Smith and Wade Sokolosky, both career military officers, lend their professional eye to the critical but often overlooked run-up to the seminal Battle of Bentonville, covering March 11-16, 1865. Beginning with the capture of Fayetteville and the demolition of its Arsenal, Smith and Sokolosky chronicle the Battle of Averasboro in greater detail than ever tackled before in this, the third volume of Ironclad's, "The Discovering Civil War America Series." In the two-day fight at Averasboro, Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee's Corps conducted a brilliantly planned and well-executed defense in depth that held Sherman's juggernaut in check for two full days. Having accomplished his objective, Hardee then broke off and disengaged. This delay permitted General Joseph E. Johnston to concentrate his forces in preparation for what became the Battle of Bentonville. The book includes new maps, abundant illustrations, and a detailed driving and walking tour for dedicated battlefield stompers.

 

Recommended Reading: Sherman's March Through the Carolinas. Description: In retrospect, General William Tecumseh Sherman considered his march through the Carolinas the greatest of his military feats, greater even than the Georgia campaign. When he set out northward from Savannah with 60,000 veteran soldiers in January 1865, he was more convinced than ever that the bold application of his ideas of total war could speedily end the conflict. Continued below…

John Barrett's story of what happened in the three months that followed is based on printed memoirs and documentary records of those who fought and of the civilians who lived in the path of Sherman's onslaught. The burning of Columbia, the battle of Bentonville, and Joseph E. Johnston's surrender nine days after Appomattox are at the center of the story, but Barrett also focuses on other aspects of the campaign, such as the undisciplined pillaging of the 'bummers,' and on its effects on local populations. About the Author: John G. Barrett is professor emeritus of history at the Virginia Military Institute. He is author of several books, including The Civil War in North Carolina, and coeditor of North Carolina Civil War Documentary.

 

Recommended Reading: Sherman's March: The First Full-Length Narrative of General William T. Sherman's Devastating March through Georgia and the Carolinas. Description: Sherman's March is the vivid narrative of General William T. Sherman's devastating sweep through Georgia and the Carolinas in the closing days of the Civil War. Weaving together hundreds of eyewitness stories, Burke Davis graphically brings to life the dramatic experiences of the 65,000 Federal troops who plundered their way through the South and those of the anguished -- and often defiant -- Confederate women and men who sought to protect themselves and their family treasures, usually in vain. Dominating these events is the general himself -- "Uncle Billy" to his troops, the devil incarnate to the Southerners he encountered.

 

Recommended Reading: Southern Storm: Sherman's March to the Sea, by Noah Andre Trudeau (Hardcover). From Publishers Weekly: Starred Review. Trudeau, a prize-winning Civil War historian (Gettysburg), addresses William T. Sherman's march to the sea in the autumn of 1864. Sherman's inclusion of civilian and commercial property on the list of military objectives was not a harbinger of total war, says Trudeau. Rather, its purpose was to demonstrate to the Confederacy that there was no place in the South safe from Union troops. Continued below…

The actual levels of destruction and pillage were limited even by Civil War standards, Trudeau says; they only seemed shocking to Georgians previously spared a home invasion on a grand scale. Confederate resistance was limited as well. Trudeau praises Sherman's generalship, always better at operational than tactical levels. He presents the inner dynamics of one of the finest armies the U.S. has ever fielded: veteran troops from Massachusetts to Minnesota, under proven officers, consistently able to make the difficult seem routine. And Trudeau acknowledges the often-overlooked contributions of the slaves who provided their liberators invaluable information and labor. The march to the sea was in many ways the day of jubilo, and in Trudeau it has found its Xenophon. 16 pages of b&w photos, 36 maps.

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