The Battle of Wyse Fork (Second Kinston): New York Herald

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The Battle of Wyse Fork (Second Kinston): New York Herald

An Account from the New York Herald
Thursday, March 23, 1865


Our Kinston Correspondence.
Kinston, N.C., March 17, 1865


Particulars of the Occupation of Kinston

Succeeding the hard fight of Friday, the 10th [at Wyse Fork], our troops occupied their old position near Southwest Creek, recuperating and making their time useful by picking up and capturing many stragglers from the rebel army. Tuesday morning at eight o'clock the entire force was on the march, moving by the flank. Colonel A. G. Malloy of General Carter's division being in advance of the whole force. Colonel Malloy, with his command, moved within three-quarters of a mile of the Neuse River, opposite Kinston, when, meeting the rebel skirmishers, he immediately deployed skirmishers, formed in line of battle and moved on the enemy.

The Enemy Withdraws Across the Neuse River
The rebel skirmishers retired across the Neuse River, and for half an hour their sharpshooters kept up a heavy fire upon our skirmishers, at the end of which time they fell back.

Occupation of the Town
The First battalion, Major Hammil, of Colonel Malloy's brigade, crossed the river and took possession of the town. The mayor and some influential citizens of Kinston came out and made a formal surrender of the place, the enemy having evacuated. On the morning of Wednesday, the 15th, the remainder of the forces crossed the river on pontoons, took position around the city, and immediately went to work fortifying the place.

Strength of the City
On both sides of the river the enemy had some of the most formidable works that have been seen anywhere during the war, being traversed so that it was absolutely impossible to do them damage from any quarter.

On the Kinston side they abandoned two thirty-two pounders and a magazine containing two thousand rounds of fixed ammunition. Ten thirty-two pounders they threw into the river.

Destruction of the Ram
The ram Neuse was destroyed by fire and sunk. Her smokestack can be seen now still standing. She must have been a formidable craft. Her crew, exclusive of officers, numbering ninety, surrendered themselves as prisoners. On the ram were twenty-one hermetically sealed cans of powder, two hundred pounds each, and two sixty-eight pounders, rifled guns—all of which at present slumber quietly in the bosom of the Neuse. The rebels had fixed a train of powder running from the magazine, two inches deep, four inches wide and two hundred yards long. At the entrance of the magazine percussion shells were placed on end, covered with about a bushel of powder, which would have raised the whole concern to the heavens. Capt. Haskins, of the 13th Iowa, detached and cut off this train before anything could be done, as he, in company with two other officers, preceded the troops in crossing the river.

Torpedoes
The rebels, before they left, set torpedoes all around the town—that is, near and on all the roads leading out of it. Last night one exploded, killing two cavalry horses. Efforts are being made to remove them.

Most of the citizens remain. However, there are few males. One box car [sic] was the only rolling stock captured.

The City of Kinston
The city is pleasant and healthy in appearance, and the residences very neat and handsome. A ridge of hills forms a semi-circle running from the river on one side to the same on the other, thus completely surrounding the place with water and hills, making it, of course, a strong position naturally.

Both the railroad and wagon bridges were destroyed. A detail of one thousand men was made from the Twenty-third corps to assist in building the railroad. Trains will be running to this place in a few days.

Sherman is not far off, and will be heard from in a few days. Contrabands are coming in by hundreds. Deserters and Union men who have escaped from the enemy report that they have retreated beyond Goldsboro, evacuating the latter place and falling back to Raleigh.

The Rebel Loss in Wounded in the Battle of Kinston [Wyse Fork]
A telegraphic operator, who surrendered himself here, reports that the enemy transported from this place two thousand of their men who had been wounded during the fight and skirmish in front of Kinston. All citizens and deserters say that [Gen. Braxton] Bragg confessed that he suffered a terrible defeat at Wise's Forks, on the 10th of March.

Captures
About one hundred prisoners were captured here. I have just ascertained that the railroad bridge was burned about the time Newbern [sic] was taken, and has never since been wholly rebuilt. It was burned, so reports say, by a man named Thompson, who is now said to be doing business in one of the towns in North Carolina held by our forces.

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From the Collection of Mark A. Moore

Recommended Reading: The Battle Of Bentonville: Last Stand In The Carolinas (Hardcover: 575 pages). Description: As Sherman completed the destruction of Georgia, only the outnumbered but wily Confederate commander Joseph E. Johnston stood between Sherman’s army and the conquest of North and South Carolina. Finally, the Battle of Bentonville and the Campaign of the Carolinas ‘gets its well deserved attention.’ Bradley takes the reader from the last organized skirmish against Sherman's army in South Carolina to the climatic Battle at Bentonville. In between, Bradley discusses in detail the Campaign of the Carolinas, which includes the following battles: Rivers’ Bridge, Wyse Fork (aka 2nd Kinston), Monroe’s Crossroads, Averasborough (aka Averasboro), and the grand finale at Bentonville. On these pages, you will literally feel like you are emotionally rising and falling with Johnny Reb and Billy Yank. You will feel that Rebel Yell screaming in your ears and imagine that crackle of musketry. Continued below…

But the finest aspect of the book is its gripping depiction of the Battle of Bentonville; it was literally the Confederate’s last stand to halt Major General William T. Sherman's march through the Carolinas. For nearly a day, a rag tag, mottled army of Confederates from every corner of the Confederacy had the previously unchallenged army of Sherman "on the ropes." However, as the book vividly describes, the determination of a few Federal divisions and reinforcements save the Union army. In between the vivid descriptions of the fighting, Bradley masterfully throws in personal recollections and eyewitness accounts that are unmatched by previous books on the Campaign. An outstanding ‘photo section’ reflects the battlefield from numerous viewpoints, as well as several good-sized photographs of the participants. Also, and most importantly, the book is devoid of prejudice and bias. You will be hard pressed to find a more objective study; even for a subject that pulls so much emotion as Sherman's march. If you read just one book on the rarely discussed Campaign of the Carolinas, with the Battle of Bentonville, and the Confederacy’s last stand... READ THIS ONE. You will not be disappointed.

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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.

 

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: The March to the Sea and Beyond: Sherman's Troops in the Savannah and Carolinas Campaigns. Description: This book contains an examination of the army that General William Tecumseh Sherman commanded through Georgia and the Carolinas, in late 1864 and early 1865. Instead of being just another narrative of the March to the Sea and Carolina Campaigns, however, Glatthaar's book is a look at the individuals that composed the army. He examines the social and ideological backgrounds of the men in Sherman's army, and evaluates how they felt about various factors of the war--slavery, the union, and, most significantly, the campaign in which they were participating. Continued below…

The result is a fascinating look at Sherman's campaigns through the eyes of the everyday soldier. Glatthaar makes the army come alive, and shows the men not as heartless animals who delighted in wanton destruction, not as mechanized marching machines who could perform the most difficult marches without even flinching, but instead as real human beings, complete with sore feet, empty stomachs, and minds engaged in contemplation over the ethical ramifications of what they were doing to the people of the South. This book is a refreshing change from the norm in Civil War history. The book’s great value is its ability to assist the reader in understanding that the war was fought by individuals--not masses of blue and gray--and what these individuals felt, thought, and believed during America’s most trying era.

 

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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