part of a volume entitled History of the Ninety - Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry: From Organization To Muster Out --Statistics Compiled by Aaron Dunbar Sergeant, Company " B", Revised and Edited by Harvey M. Trimble, Adjutant
Submitted by Jeffrey MacAdam, to whom every reader should be grateful.
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This web page is the last of four for Chapter X.
Up to this time General Sherman's strategy and rapid movement had been successful and kept the enemy divided. But now, General Cheatham's corps had reached General Beauregard, general Hardee's command was across Cape Fear River, just ahead of our army, and both were about to join the Confederate forces in North Carolina, under the command of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, General Sherman's old-time antagonist. He had more cavalry than General Sherman, and a formidable force otherwise. General Sherman had previously sent two scouts to Wilmington, then in Federal possession, and, on the 12th, the army tug, "Donaldson," from Wilmington, reached General Sherman at Fayetteville. He immediately sent dispatches back, by this tug, to General Terry and Schofield, (the latter, with the Twenty-Third Army Corps, having been transferred from Tennessee to Newbern, North Carolina), to the effect that he would move on Goldsboro on the 15th instant. The command of General Terry and Schofield were immediately ordered to proceed to that place. General Sherman now became a little more cautious.
On the 13th, the Ninety-Third Illinois remained in camp. On the 14th, starting at 11:15 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched four miles, crossing Cape Fear River, and went into camp a half mile from it. On the 15th, starting at 3:15 o'clock p.m., the regiment marched eleven miles, and at 7:15 o'clock p.m., went into camp near South River. Rain fell nearly all that afternoon. The command waded in water knee-deep. On the 16th, starting at 9 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched eight miles, crossing South River, and went into camp at 7 o'clock p.m. The roads were bad. The army crossed the Cape Fear river on two pontoon bridges. General Kilpatrick's cavalry was to move to and beyond Averysboro in advance of the left wing, and make a feint on Raleigh, North Carolina, the capital of the state. But the main army was to move for Goldsboro. Four divisions of the left wing were to follow the cavalry, and the other two divisions were to escort the trains. General Sherman went with the left wing. The right wing moved on a more easterly route toward Goldsboro; but four divisions of the right wing were to move within supporting distance of the left wing, in order to reach it in case of a battle. Before reaching Averysboro, the left wing came upon General Hardee's forces, on the 16th, where the road branches toward Goldsboro, through Bentonville. It was necessary to take the position in order to reach the Goldsboro road, and also to continue the feint on Raleigh. General Ward's division, of the Twentieth Corps, in advance, developed the position of the enemy, and general Casey's brigade turned their left wing. Their line was broken, and three guns and two hundred and seventeen prisoners were captured. Advancing, General Ward's division then developed a second and stringer line of the enemy. General Jackson's division then came up on the right of General Ward's division, and the Fourteenth Corps on the left. General Kilpatrick massed his cavalry on the right and felt forward for the Goldsboro road. One of his cavalry brigades reached the road, but was driven back by General McLaw's Confederate Division. Late in the afternoon, the whole Federal line advanced, and quickly drove the enemy behind their intrenchments. That night they retreated. The next day, General Ward's division advanced beyond Averysboro, and then learned that general Hardee, with his army, had fallen back on Smithfield, the county seat of Johnston County. The Federal losses in the battle at Averysboro were, seventy-seven killed, and four hundred and seventy- seven wounded. The Confederate losses were, one hundred and eight killed, and five hundred and forty wounded, and two hundred and seventeen captured. The Goldsboro road was now in possession of the left wing, and, on the night of the 18th, that wing of the army encamped five miles from Bentonville and twenty-seven miles from Goldsboro. No further resistance to its progress was then expected.
On the 17th, starting at 12 o'clock m., the Ninety-Third Illinois marched six miles, and camped, at sunset, at Jackson's Cross Roads. On the 18th, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched twelve miles, and went into camp, at 3:30 o'clock p.m., at Benton's Corners. This was a fine day. On the 19th, starting at 6 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched fourteen miles, and went into camp, at dark, near Falling Creek. This, also, was a fine day. A heavy battle was in progress, nearly all day, on our left, at Bentonville, in Johnston County. At times the cannonading was very rapid. The fourteenth and Twentieth Corps were engaged. Reports in the evening were to the effect that the battle of the day resulted favorably to General Slocum's army, although at times it was a hard struggle against superior numbers. The right wing moved rapidly during the day, toward the Confederate left, and, in the evening, it was expected that we would get into the battle early the next morning. On the night of the 18th, the left wing of the army was only two miles away from the right wing. The right encamped on the road two miles farther south, and had to move to Goldsboro, via Tulling Creek Church. General Sherman joined the right wing that night. On the morning of the 19th, he was no more than six miles from General Slocum's army, when he heard artillery firing on the left. One of General Slocum's staff officers soon reported to general Sherman, that general Carlin's division, of the Fourteenth Corps, had met general Debbrell's Confederate cavalry, and was driving them easily. Shortly after, others of General Slocum's staff reported to General Sherman, that general Slocum had developed the whole of General Johnston's army, near Bentonville, and that a battle was on. General Johnston had about twenty thousand infantry and about five thousand cavalry. He made a most vigorous attack upon the left wing of the Federal Army. Two of General Carlin's brigades were driven back, and three of his cannon were captured, as the result of the first onset. General Slocum, fully aware of the threatening danger, promptly brought up all his available forces, hastily constructed light barricades in the timber, and at once assumed the defensive, knowing that General Sherman would hasten the right wing to his assistance. General Johnston fought his army with considerable desperation, making six or seven charges upon Jeff. C. Davis' corps, the Fourteenth, in the open timber. But they were all unsuccessful. After the first repulse of General Carlin's two brigades, the corps could not be moved back another inch. It was planted to stay. Later in the day, portions of the Twentieth Corps came to the battlefield in the same obstinate mood, and would not recede an inch after they reached there. Time and again general Johnston's lines and charging columns were broken and dashed to pieces against those invincible and immovable lines of western veterans and western pluck. At no time during the day was there more than four divisions of the left wing engaged, and during the early part of the battle there were only two divisions. The third division reached the battlefield before noon, and the fourth between two and three o'clock in the afternoon. The upshot of the fighting was, that general Johnston, with his whole army, was unable, in a half day, to drive two divisions, one-third of the left wing, from their position in an almost open field, and was not able, in a whole day, to defeat four divisions, two-thirds of the left wing, in an open field fight. What hope could he have entertained of success as against the whole of that wing, to say nothing of a battle against the united army? And the next day, if he had fought at all, he would have had to fight the entire army.
While General Hardee was fighting at Averysboro, general Johnston concentrated his army at Smithfield, where General Hardee joined him, and immediately, made this rapid movement against General Slocum's army, the left wing, intending to crush it before it could be reinforced by the right wing. But his reckonings were erroneous, and he failed. No part of that army could be so easily crushed.
During the night of the 19th, General Slocum got his wagon train up, and the two divisions that were with it, and general Hazen's division, of the Fifteenth Corps and of the right wing, reached him. These , on the morning of the 20th, made his position absolutely safe and impregnable. General Johnston could now only hope to succeed in his designs by putting his whole army between General Sherman's two wings. This he did not have the courage to do, and his judgment was correct. Under the circumstances, very soon developed, it would have ruined him. On the 20th, the Ninety-Third Illinois marched, at 5:30 o'clock in the morning, prepared for battle. After moving a half mile, the brigade was- massed in column by regiments. At 7:15 o'clock a.m., the command moved forward about a mile, and was then halted. Our course up to this time had been due north. At 8:10 o'clock a.m., the march was continued, but the course was now directly west. The command halted at 12:30 p.m. There was lively skirmishing then in our immediate front. The brigade went into line of battle, in reserve. At 4 o'clock p.m., the whole Fifteenth Corps, and part of the Seventeenth, were close to the front, and ready for battle. The First and Fourth Divisions, of the Fifteenth Corps, were in the advance, skirmishing with the enemy. Just at dark, the Ninety-Third Illinois, with the brigade, moved a half mile to the left, and bivouacked for the night. The distance marched during the day was eleven miles. The camp was full of rumors.
During the battle on the 19th, general Logan's corps, the Fifteenth, rapidly approached Bentonville, without meeting much resistance, and compelled General Johnston to refuse his left flank, and entrench. So that, on the 20th, General Johnston was put upon the defensive, with three of general Sherman's army corps in his front. It was not general Sherman's purpose to fight a battle here, and hence, that day, he simply held General Johnston's army where it was. General Johnston's flanks were well protected by swamps, and he made very strong intrenchments in his front on the night of the 19th, after the battle. On the 21st, skirmishing began early in the morning; in fact, it had continued all night. At 12:30 o'clock p.m., the Ninety-Third Illinois, and the brigade, moved nearly a mile, to the left, and went into camp. Skirmishing continued all the day; and a part of the time it was quite lively. Between 8 and 10 o'clock p.m., it was very heavy. On the 21st, General Schofield's corps reached Goldsboro, with but little opposition, and General Terry's command connected with the Seventeenth Army Corps, at Cox's Bridge, on the Neuse River. The federal lines then reached from Goldsboro to Bentonville, and the entire army contained one hundred thousand men. General Johnston, fearing that his retreat might be soon cut off, as it would have been, had he remained, withdrew his army to Smithfield, on the north side of the Neuse River.
The Federal losses at the battle of Bentonville were, one hundred and ninety-one killed, eleven hundred and sixty-eight wounded, and two hundred and eight-seven missing. The Confederate losses were, two hundred and sixty-seven killed, twelve hundred wounded, and sixteen hundred and twenty-five missing.
On the 22nd, the Ninety-Third Illinois remained in camp. Early in the morning it was discovered there was no enemy in our front. They withdrew about 3 o'clock in the morning, behind Mill Creek. The First Division, of the Fifteenth Corps, pressed them so closely that the bridge was saved. Many of our regiment visited the Confederate fortifications during the day. On the 23rd, starting at 7:30 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched nine miles, and went into camp, at 3:30 p.m., near Falling Creek, in Lenoir County. This was a windy and disagreeable day. On the 24th, starting at 7 o'clock a.m., the regiment marched thirteen miles, and at 4 o'clock p.m., went into camp one mile and a half east of Goldsboro, North Carolina. And here, and on this day, another great campaign was ended.
From the date of its departure from Savannah to this date, inclusive, the Ninety-Third Illinois marched four hundred and ninety-five miles, and moved by steamship sixty-two miles; making a total distance of five hundred and fifty-seven miles. On February 25th, one man was wounded, and that was the only casualty in the regiment during the campaign, being only four-tenths of one percent of the number engaged. The objective point of the campaign was now reached, namely, the possession of Goldsboro, North Carolina, with its two railroads, leading to Wilmington and Beaufort, North Carolina. The whole of this immense army, one hundred thousand strong, was now concentrated at Goldsboro, in perfect communication with Newbern and Morehead City, North Carolina, and the campaign was ended.
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