Averasboro Battlefield

Averasboro Battlefield


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Averasboro Battlefield, in North Carolina, was the site of The Battle of Averasborough, during the Carolina Campaigns of the American Civil War.

History of Averasboro Battlefield

The Battle of Averasborough took place on 15 and 16 March 1865. Part of the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War, the Battle of Averasborough was fought between the Unionist Army of Georgia led by Major General Henry W. Slocum and a Confederate army led by Lieutenant General William J. Hardee. The Union army, under General Sherman, had begun to march north – the Confederates acted swiftly in order to try and delay and damage the Union army’s progress northwards.

Sherman decided to split his troops at Cape Fear River, with those under General Slocum going via Averasboro and Bentonville. General Hardee was ordered to delay Slocum’s troops to allow General Joseph E. Johnston to amass troops at nearby Bentonville: he did this by engaging them at the Battle of Averasborough.

There is debate as to whether Hardee succeeded in delaying the Union army for as long as he required. Overall, the Battle of Averasborough resulted in over a thousand casualties, with 682 on the Confederate side and around five hundred Unionists. However, given Union forces outnumbered Confederate forces 3 fold, many believe they should have had a crushing victory.

Many see the battle as setting the stage for the major clash at the Battle of Bentonville, shortly afterwards, which was the last major clash in the Western American theatre of war.

Averasboro Battlefield today

The battlefield and accompanying museum and visitors centre are run by the Averasboro Battlefield Commission today – a non-profit organisation who have also restored the nearby Chicora Civil War Cemetery. The site is open Tuesday – Saturday, 10-3 normally, although it’s worth checking ahead of time. Look out for living history and battle re-enactments, which run semi-regularly. They’re a bit bonkers but quite fun, and definitely bring the place to life.

Getting to Averasboro Battlefield today

Averasboro is about 45 minutes south of Raleigh, and 25 minutes north of Fayetteville on the I-95. If you’re coming from Fayetteville, take exit 65 and move onto Highway 82 WEST, which is a scenic route through the heart of some of the most important territory from the Civil War. If you’re coming from Raleigh, take Exit 73 at Dunn and then follow signs for the battlefield and museum.


History buffs remember Averasboro, Bentonville as Confederacy's last stand

The bloody battles of Averasboro and Bentonville near the end of the Civil War fail to summon the same attention as those at Antietam or Gettysburg.

Though Averasboro proved to be a prelude to the larger Battle of Bentonville - which is regarded as the last chance for the Confederacy - they were separate engagements fought at winter's end of 1865 in rural eastern North Carolina.

Part of the same Confederate operation, the battles were intended to inflict blows on Gen. William T. Sherman's army during the last stage of the Union commander's unrelenting campaign through the Carolinas.

"Up to that point, Sherman met with very little resistance. From the fall of Atlanta to the Battle of Averasboro, there's little more than skirmishing going on," said Mark Bradley, the author of several books focusing on the Civil War in North Carolina. "I think it's fair to say they're overconfident, especially just before Bentonville. Here's Johnston's scrapped-together army, and suddenly there's the danger he could pose to Sherman's Carolinas campaign."

"Sherman's able to defeat Johnston . but Sherman's army didn't crush Johnston's army at Bentonville," Bradley said. "His army survived, and he stood toe to toe with a much larger army on the 20th and 21st (of March 1865). Though not a decisive battle, it is still significant."

Technically a Federal tactical win, the preamble Averasboro was actually a Confederate strategic victory. The South, outnumbered 3 to 1, accomplished a primary goal of delaying the advance of the left wing of Sherman's troops for at least one day.

Donny Taylor, who is historic site manager at Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site, said visitors are often surprised by the size of the showdown at Bentonville, some 25 miles from Averasboro in Johnston County.

"It was one, if not the last, where the Confederates actually chose the battle and were the aggressor," he said. "As far as a change in any outcome of the war, it did not do that. The men in the ranks did not know the war was about over. It still showed the efforts the Confederates were making to do their duty as soldiers and stop the presence of what they considered an invading army."

This month, the 150th anniversaries of these two Civil War conflicts are being recognized.

It appears few descendants of the original families who lived in the vicinity of the sprawling Averasboro and Bentonville battlefields are still around. But there are some, including Gene Smith and Nelson Rose, who have passed-down stories to share from the war and its aftermath.

Then there are the re-enactors who long for the weekends and the opportunity to dress in the wool army uniforms of the day, playing roles in re-created field battles of the 1860s.

"I just think it's one of the most interesting times in our history," said W.S. Jackson, a 57-year-old re-enactor who lives near Spivey's Corner. "It's not taught and studied that much in school, and a lot of folks don't care."

While he can portray both sides, Jackson will dress as a Confederate during the anniversary commemoration at Bentonville, where about 3,000 re-enactors are expected.

"They're interested in history. The Civil War was a turning point in the history of this country," Taylor said. "A lot of them had ancestors fight on either side, which was brother against brother. There's a definite camaraderie there. You make a lot of friends from all over the country.

"You relate to the history of that time - manners, dress. You relate that to today's public."

Times have changed since the reverberations from artillery and gunfire shook the ground during the Battle of Averasboro.

Only one of the three antebellum homes from the once 8,300-acre Smithville plantation - Lebanon - remains in the ownership of the original family. A U.S. flag flies outside a contemporary home built on part of the battlefield, in front of where the Oak Grove plantation home originally stood off Burnett Road.

"Tourists and people come all the time. If I didn't stop them, they'd come right through the front door," said Ron Lewis, who bought the Oak Grove home about six years ago before having it moved across Burnett Road.

This rural pocket at the Cumberland-Harnett county line remains well preserved, and well away from development.

"It's a wonderful place," said Wade Sokolosky, who co-wrote the book "No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar - Sherman's Carolina Campaign: From Fayetteville to Averasboro."

"People can go out there on a calm morning, and you can feel the battle," he said.

Remnants of the clash remain.

Not far from the battlefield museum is Chicora Cemetery, the final resting place for 56 Confederate soldiers.

Cannon ball holes and places where stray bullets pierced the heart pine of the Oak Grove plantation house are still visible. The structural damage - including part of a hand-hewn beam in the attic's wainscoting that was cut away by a cannon ball and a near perfect circle from a second cannon ball on an opposite wall - remains from the Battle of Averasboro on March 15 and 16, 1865.

The battle was fought along three lines in northern Cumberland County and southern Harnett County, at a bottleneck formed by the Cape Fear and Black rivers. Accounts vary, but the North suffered 682 losses at Averasboro, including 533 soldiers who were wounded the South tallied 500 losses, with no record of how many were wounded.

In a letter dated April 12, 1865, nearly a month after the conflict, 18-year-old Jamie Smith wrote to a schoolmate: "All nature is gay and beautiful, but every Southern breeze is loaded with a terrible scent from the battle field, which renders my home very disagreeable at times."

The young woman lived on the Smithville plantation, better known today as Lebanon.

Gene Smith, the retired senior editorial writer for The Fayetteville Observer, has lived much of his life in the Lebanon house. It is an early example of Greek Revival architecture and the first Harnett County property placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Smith family has owned and occupied the home since its construction in 1824 as a wedding gift.

Some of Gene Smith's ancestors were witnesses to the horrors of Civil War conflict, as the extended Smith family huddled in an upstairs room of the house after it had been turned into a hospital for the Confederate wounded. Barns, outbuildings and sheds were used for the injured.

Tables set up under shade trees were used for amputating limbs.

"A lot of people died here," said Smith, 67, and a keeper of his family history. "It was an infirmary, and they did the surgery outdoors under the outbuildings. They had the sick people indoors."

Lewis recalls driving along N.C. 82 just outside Godwin and seeing the stately Oak Grove, at the time standing about 200 yards from the road. He loves history, and he fell in love with this remote area and its link to U.S. history.

"To have a home that was an important part of the Civil War - it's actually an honor to own something like this," said Lewis, 49, who lives in nearby Eastover and plans to turn the empty Oak Grove into a museum. "This house was an operating room during the Civil War. People's blood was all over this wooden floor."

Stains remain on the rough-hewn hardwood floor downstairs in one of Oak Grove's dozen rooms. Two rooms were used to perform surgeries during the battle, and the stains are from the blood of the wounded and dying, Lewis said he was told.

While Lebanon was transformed into a Confederate field hospital and the 1865 home of William T. Smith served as a Federal field hospital, Oak Grove was used as a Confederate hospital where the wounded from both sides were treated briefly, according to recorded sources.

"Sherman and his troops came to this house," Lewis said. "The family was kicked out and stayed in a ravine before going to (Lebanon). They ransacked everything. Then they burned the furniture."

The Battle of Averasboro, as Smith pointed out, was not fought in Averasboro.

The battle took place on the Smithville plantation, which was made up of three smaller plantations that had all been owned by John Smith.

Averasboro (often spelled Averasborough), once the third-largest town on the Cape Fear River behind Wilmington and Fayetteville, no longer exists. Founded before the Revolutionary War, it served as a key stopping point for Stage Road travelers and boatmen.

Chicora Golf Course has been built where the town once thrived.

"It was large enough to have been considered for a possible site as the (state) capital," Smith said.

The Confederates staged the Battle of Averasboro to stall the Union troops, and it proved to be well-planned and well-executed. However, some longstanding accounts question whether the conflict can even be considered a battle. It has been dismissed as a tactical skirmish, a delaying action.

It also has a number of names, such as the Battle of Black River and the Battle for Smithville.

"It's not well understood," said Smith, who lives with his wife, Sherry, in the Lebanon home on the northern end of the battlefield. "If you judge a battle by what they were attempting to do, the Rebs did that. If it's judged by the number of casualties, this was certainly a battle. There was well over 1,000 killed here, not including the injured and missing in action."

The fight at Averasboro led, three days later, to the Battle of Bentonville, one of the last major battles of the Civil War and the largest battle ever fought on North Carolina soil.

"The Battle of Averasboro was a significant play in this. It was not simply some sort of happenstance occurrence as the Union troops came up," said Walt Smith, a former vice president of the Averasboro Battlefield Commission whose ancestors lived in the William T. Smith plantation home.

Technically, Smith recounted, the fighting got underway around the William T. Smith home at the southern end of the battlefield. That's more than two miles south of the Lebanon estate.

"It was wet, cold and rainy," he said. "They were mired in mud."

Southern troops led by Gen. William G. Hardee - soldiers from South Carolina, Georgia and Florida - fell under the overall command of Gen. Joseph Johnston by the time of the Averasboro conflict. Johnston had been looking for a place to strike Sherman's army during the Union general's Carolinas campaign.

Following the skirmish at Monroe's Crossroads on what is now Fort Bragg, and after the fall of Fayetteville to Sherman's troops, Hardee's Confederates burned the Clarendon Bridge on the way out of Fayetteville before setting up a defensive arrangement on the Smithville plantation.

It was there, just south of Averasboro, that Johnston saw an opportunity.

He learned that Sherman's 60,000 troop-strong army was traveling in two wings, with a good day's march between them. And he saw that he could delay the left wing at Averasboro. Johnston wanted Hardee's troops to hold back Sherman's advance so he could concentrate his total available forces of about 20,000 men and boys at Bentonville.

From a Confederate's perspective, Averasboro is important for where Hardee decided to make a stand, said Sokolosky, the writer and expert.

"His army had basically been shadowing Sherman's army coming up through South Carolina," he said. "Originally, Hardee's army started with about 12,000 troops. By the time Hardee reaches Fayetteville, his army is down to about 6,500 to 7,000."

Despite the odds, Averasboro allowed Johnston time to organize his strategic attack for the battle at Bentonville, where he surprised Sherman's 14th Corps.

It gave the Confederates "kind of a morale boost," Sokolosky said, while - more important - giving Johnston's and Hardee's combined forces a fighting chance at Bentonville.

"Without Averasboro," Civil War writer and historian Bradley said, "Bentonville really isn't going to be possible."

Sherman and Johnston's armies had met before on the battlefield - at Shiloh, Vicksburg and Atlanta.

Veterans of the Battle of Bentonville would later say the fighting was as intense, fierce and devastating as the battles at Gettysburg or around Atlanta, according to information posted at Bentonville Battlefield State Historic Site.

About 4,100 men were killed, wounded or went missing during the battle, staged March 19-21, 1865. Gunfire was said to be so intense it stripped several feet of bark from the pine trees. Survivors opened haversacks to find their flour salted with shrapnel.

At Bentonville, the Rebels suffered the heaviest casualties as the Confederacy was collapsing and the war was nearing an end. Historically, it was the only major attempt to arrest the progress of Sherman's army after the fall of Savannah.

"Here we are three weeks before the South surrenders, and we have men fighting for their lives at Bentonville," said Bradley, author of "Last Stand in the Carolinas: The Battle of Bentonville."

"Like the game is not up yet. Like the Confederates have not lost," he said. "It's amazing to me men are still fighting as if the war is still in doubt. That's what I find so fascinating about that battle. They still fought with the same determination and dedication as if this was an early battle that could determine the outcome of the war.

"Appomattox Court House takes place just three weeks later."

Nelson Rose and his wife, Ann, live in a two-story farmhouse on 8 acres of the Bentonville battlefield. The first day of the battle took place on their land, and what's left of a line of overgrown Confederate earthworks is still on the property.

"When we got married, he used to carry me across the branch," Ann Rose said from their living room. "That was the actual trench. They were the original breastworks, pristine from the Civil War."

She recalled how Rose's father, Charlie Nelson Rose, would tell their eldest son, the late Barrett Rose, that when you went out to that hallowed ground, you could hear the soldiers talking.

"He was just messin' with him," Nelson Rose said.

Rose came of age on the battlefield, knowledgeable of what had taken place at Bentonville during the war. Two of his ancestors, William Bright Cole and William Nicholas Rose, fought for the South.

By his father's side, this retired Employment Security Commission manager is directly connected to the plantation of Willis Cole, which Confederate Gen. Wade Hampton selected as the ideal location to halt the Union advance.

Cole is his great-great-great-grandfather.

"Growing up on the battlefield in the '50s and '60s, when you were hoeing and weeding, you would find artifacts on top of the ground," he said. "As the ground was cultivated and it rained, they would work themselves up and be sitting there."

Over the years, the elder Rose has accumulated a small display cabinet worth of war artifacts from his farmland, including U.S. and Confederate buckles, bullets, Minie balls, buttons, coins and shards of rifles.

His family has sold about 250 acres to the Civil War Preservation Trust, a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the places where North fought South. In turn, the property is transferred to the state.

"The land is never going to be sold. This is history," his wife said. "We're sitting on history."

The Battle of Bentonville lasted three days, after which Johnston conceded to Sherman's army. He withdrew his downtrodden troops and retreated to Smithfield.

"Most said it was a last-ditch effort by Johnston to get all the Confederates together and try to stop Sherman," Rose said. "To put together a depleted army like that against a seasoned, well-supplied logistics force like Sherman's was sort of a last-ditch effort. That's why they went on to Smithfield, Raleigh, Bennett Place and surrendered right after Lee surrendered to Grant."


History

Had a good time walking around grounds,also museum was great.A lot of more history all around,cemeteries,Old Bluff Church,a lot of things too see.

What a beautiful area and a very well done museum. We loved it! Came on a rainy day which most of it is inside. The volunteer staff is very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.

Free museum with a large gift shop. The shop offers a 10% military discount. The battlefield is located about 4 miles from the interstate.

On way to Lillington and decided to stop.. great info and people were very nice. Good place for history stop.

We spent time in the museum at Averasboro talking with the staff. While the folks were volunteers , they were very knowledgeable about the battle as well as the battle at Bentonville. The collection at the museum was very good. Well worth the stop


History & Culture

People The men in uniform who served at the Battle of Gettysburg and the civilians whose lives were changed forever by this terrible event.

Collections A look at some of the items in our collection related to the Battle of Gettysburg.

Research The offices at Gettysburg National Military Park where historical records are maintained.

THE BATTLE OF GETTYSBURG

Fought over the first three days of July 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg was one of the most crucial battles of the Civil War. The fate of the nation literally hung in the balance that summer of 1863 when General Robert E. Lee, commanding the "Army of Northern Virginia", led his army north into Maryland and Pennsylvania, bringing the war directly into northern territory. The Union "Army of the Potomac", commanded by Major General George Gordon Meade, met the Confederate invasion near the Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg,and what began as a chance encounter quickly turned into a desperate, ferocious battle. Despite initial Confederate successes, the battle turned against Lee on July 3rd, and with few options remaining, he ordered his army to return to Virginia. The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg, sometimes referred to as the "High Water Mark of the Rebellion" resulted not only in Lee's retreat to Virginia, but an end to the hopes of the Confederate States of America for independence.

Surgery at Camp Letterman.

The battle brought devastation to the residents of Gettysburg. Every farm field or garden was a graveyard. Churches, public buildings and even private homes were hospitals, filled with wounded soldiers. The Union medical staff that remained were strained to treat so many wounded scattered about the county. To meet the demand, Camp Letterman General Hospital was established east of Gettysburg where all of the wounded were eventually taken to before transport to permanent hospitals in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Union surgeons worked with members of the U.S Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission to treat and care for the over 20,000 injured Union and Confederate soldiers that passed through the hospital's wards, housed under large tents. By January 1864, the last patients were gone as were the surgeons, guards, nurses, tents and cookhouses. Only a temporary cemetery on the hillside remained as a testament to the courageous battle to save lives that took place at Camp Letterman.

The Soldiers' Monument in the center of the Soldiers' National Cemetery at Gettysburg.

Prominent Gettysburg residents became concerned with the poor condition of soldiers' graves scattered over the battlefield and at hospital sites, and pleaded with Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin for state support to purchase a portion of the battlefield to be set aside as a final resting place for the defenders of the Union cause. Gettysburg lawyer David Wills was appointed the state agent to coordinate the establishment of the new "Soldiers' National Cemetery", which was designed by noted landscape architect William Saunders. Removal of the Union dead to the cemetery began in the fall of 1863, but would not be completed until long after the cemetery grounds were dedicated on November 19, 1863. The dedication ceremony featured orator Edward Everett and included solemn prayers, songs, dirges to honor the men who died at Gettysburg. Yet, it was President Abraham Lincoln who provided the most notable words in his two-minute long address, eulogizing the Union soldiers buried at Gettysburg and reminding those in attendance of their sacrifice for the Union cause, that they should renew their devotion "to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.."

The entrance to the park in 1900.

In 1864, a group of concerned citizens established the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Association whose purpose was to preserve portions of the battlefield as a memorial to the Union Army that fought here. The GBMA transferred their land holdings to the Federal government in 1895, which designated Gettysburg as a National Military Park. A Federally-appointed commission of Civil War veterans oversaw the park's development as a memorial to both armies by identifying and marking the lines of battle. Administration of the park was transferred to the Department of the Interior, National Park Service in 1933, which continues in its mission to protect, preserve and interpret the Battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg Address to park visitors.

A CIVIL WAR TIMELINE - Major events of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865.

Finding Your Civil War Ancestor - Our suggestions on how to research the background of an ancestor who may have served during the Civil War.

JOURNEY THROUGH HALLOWED GROUND - Explore vibrant landscapes and historic sites in the historic corridor from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Monticello, Virginia!


Incredible battlefield relics of the Eastern Front

Germany and Russia both lost much of their territory as a result of World War I, though Russia suffered the most. Russia made peace with Germany in 1918, at the cost of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia and Finland. After the war, these land became independent nations. When Germany was defeated by the Allies, it was forced to give parts of Prussia to the newly created Republic of Poland.

After the war, both Nazi Germany and the government of Russia both wanted their lands back, which meant destroying Poland. Even though the German Fascist and Russian Communist governments hated each other, they came to an agreement over Poland in August 1939. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, named after the diplomats who negotiated it, agreed that neither country would attack the other for ten years. There was also a secret clause in the agreement that divided Poland between Russia and Germany. Germany agreed that Russia should have all the territory it had lost in World War I.

In September 1939 Hitler invaded Poland. As Germany advanced into Poland from the west, Russia invaded from the east.

In June 1941 Germany broke the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and invaded Russia. The colossal struggle between these two great powers lasted until May 1945. It was one of the largest, bloodiest and most destructive events of history. Though it looked for a while as if the Russians might be defeated, they ultimately pushed the Germans back, all the way to Berlin.

It is to be wondered if all this horror might have been avoided if the leaders of the world had paid attention to the words of Adolf Hitler. He was quite open about his intentions. On August 11, 1939, he had told Carl Burkhardt, a Commissioner to the League of Nations ‘Everything I undertake is directed against the Russians. If the West is too stupid and blind to grasp this, then I shall be compelled to come to an agreement with the Russians, beat the West and then after their defeat turn against the Soviet Union with all my forces. I need the Ukraine so that they can’t starve us out, as happened in the last war.’

As we all know, the Eastern Front was a gigantic battlefield and comes no surprise as to the amount or relics lost and buried on this battlefield. The images below are just a ‘few’ from the Facebook page The Ghosts of the Eastern Front. There is always a debate to the digging of battlefields and that will continue forever. If you are a collector then you can buy relics from their website www.kurlandmilitaria.com

There aren’t any caption to the images as we think they don’t need any. A picture paints a thousand words………..

The two powers invaded and partitioned Poland in 1939. After Finland refused the terms of a Soviet pact of mutual assistance, the Soviet Union attacked Finland on 30 November 1939 in what became known as the Winter War – a bitter conflict that resulted in a peace treaty on 13 March 1940, with Finland maintaining its independence but losing parts of eastern Karelia. In June 1940, the Soviet Union occupied and illegally annexed the three Baltic states—an action in violation of the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and numerous bi-lateral conventions and treaties signed between the Soviet Union and Baltics. The annexations were never recognized by most Western states.

The Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact ostensibly provided security to Soviets in the occupation of both the Baltics and the north and north eastern regions of Romania (Northern Bukovina and Bessarabia) although Hitler, in announcing the invasion of the Soviet Union, cited the Soviet annexations of Baltic and Romanian territory as having violated Germany’s understanding of the Pact. The annexed Romanian territory was divided between the Ukrainian and Moldavian Soviet republics.

End of the War: April–May 1945

All that was left for the Soviets to do was to launch an offensive to capture central Germany (which would eventually become East Germany after the war). The Soviet offensive had two objectives. Because of Stalin’s suspicions about the intentions of the Western Allies to hand over territory occupied by them in the post-war Soviet zone of occupation, the offensive was to be on a broad front and was to move as rapidly as possible to the west, to meet the Western Allies as far west as possible. But the overriding objective was to capture Berlin. The two were complementary because possession of the zone could not be won quickly unless Berlin was taken. Another consideration was that Berlin itself held strategic assets, including Adolf Hitler and part of the German atomic bomb program.

The offensive to capture central Germany and Berlin started on 16 April with an assault on the German front lines on the Oder and Neisse rivers. After several days of heavy fighting the Soviet 1BF and 1UF punched holes through the German front line and were fanning out across central Germany. By 24 April, elements of the 1BF and 1UF had completed the encirclement of the German capital and the Battle of Berlin entered its final stages. On 25 April the 2BF broke through the German 3rd Panzer Army’s line south of Stettin. They were now free to move west towards the British 21st Army Group and north towards the Baltic port of Stralsund. The 58th Guards Rifle Division of the 5th Guards Army made contact with the US 69th Infantry Division of the First Army near Torgau, Germany at the Elbe river.

On 29 and 30 April, as the Soviet forces fought their way into the centre of Berlin, Adolf Hitler married Eva Braun and then committed suicide by taking cyanide and shooting himself. Helmuth Weidling, defence commandant of Berlin, surrendered the city to the Soviets on 2 May. Altogether, the Berlin operation (16 April – 2 May) cost the Red Army 361,367 casualties (dead, wounded, missing and sick) and 1,997 tanks and assault guns. German losses in this period of the war remain impossible to determine with any reliability.


Averasboro

By mid-March, 1865, Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman had moved his army into North Carolina in pursuit of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston's Confederates. Since turning north from his march to the sea, Sherman had met little Confederate resistance as he moved to prevent Johnston’s army from joining Robert E. Lee’s army in Virginia. The two wings of Sherman’s army traveled north on parallel routes, the left toward the state capital at Raleigh and the right toward the road junction at Goldsboro.

On the afternoon of March 15, Sherman's cavalry screen under Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick came up against Lieut. Gen. William Hardee’s corps, consisting of Brig. Gen. William B. Taliaferro’s and Mag. Gen. Lafayette McLaw’s infantry divisions and Maj. Gen. Joseph Wheeler’s cavalry. The Confederates were deployed across the Raleigh Road near Averasboro, 40 miles south of Raleigh. Hardee was the pre-war Commandant of Cadets at West Point and author of "Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics," the definitive combat manual carried by soldiers in both armies. His orders were to delay Sherman’s 25,000-man left wing under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum so that Johnston could consolidate his remaining forces to defend the road networks connecting Raleigh and Goldsboro. Hardee posted his 6,000-man corps in a well-chosen position astride the road, with the Cape Fear River anchoring his right flank and the Black River swamps to the east anchoring his left.

After feeling out the Confederate defenses, Kilpatrick withdrew and called for infantry support. During the night, two divisions of the XX Corps under Brig. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams from Slocum's wing arrived to confront Hardee’s men arrayed across the plantation of the John C. Smith family. At dawn on March 16, Williams’ infantry advanced against McLaws’ division on the Confederate left and drove back the rebel skirmishers, but was stopped by the main Confederate line and a sharp counterattack. Around mid-morning, Williams renewed his advance with reinforcements on his left and drove Taliaferro’s Confederates from two lines of works, but was repulsed at a third line of defenders. Late that afternoon, two divisions from the Union XIV Corps under Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis, also from Slocum’s army wing, arrived on the field and attempted to flank the Confederate right where they were stopped with significant casualties by Wheeler's dismounted cavalry. Sporadic fighting continued into the evening with little result. Around 8:30 pm, Hardee withdrew from the battlefield and retreated north toward Smithfield, leaving his campfires burning to conceal his departure.

Despite being outnumbered nearly four to one, Hardee’s one-day delay of Sherman’s force was successful. Losses for both sides were about even. Hardee bought time for Johnston to consolidate his army near Bentonville where both sides would fight again three days later.


Averasboro Battlefield - History

On March 15th the left wing of General Sherman’s Union army, commanded by General H. W. Slocum, was advancing from Fayetteville to Averasboro. General H. J. Kilpatrick’s cavalry division was in the lead, skirmishing with General Joseph Wheeler’s Confederate cavalry which contested the Union advance. (See also Battle of Averasboro: A History .)

At 3:00 P.M. the Union forces struck a heavy Confederate skirmish line. General Smith Atkins’ 9th Michigan cavalry drove the skirmishers back into the first of three lines of breastworks erected across the road. The Union cavalry then constructed heavy barricades in front of the Confederate works.

At 6:00 P.M. Confederate General W. B. Taliaferro, whose division was holding position, ordered an attack along his line. The Union forces, though hard-pressed, were able to hold their position due to the arrival of reinforcements from the 14th Corps. Nightfall found the two armies in nearly the same positions they had held throughout the afternoon. General W. T. Sherman, Union commander, arrived on the field during the night.

At 11:00 A.M. two newly-arrived Union brigades engaged the Confederates in front, while the brigade of Colonel Henry Case assaulted the Confederate right flank. This attack forced the Confederates to withdraw into their second line of works.

Civil War Battle of Averasboro

(Historical Marker)

General W. B. Taliaferro decided to abandon the Confederate second position after finding his men in danger of being flanked. At 1:00 P.M. he withdrew to the third and final line of earthworks, where he was assisted by McLaw’s division on his left and Wheeler’s dismounted cavalry on his right. Rhett’s disorganized brigade was held in general reserve.

The Union forces soon advanced and established a strong line immediately in front of the Confederate third line. From this new position they pressed the Confederates all afternoon and part of the evening, but were unable to break the line. At 8:00 P.M. General W. J. Hardee, commanding the Confederate forces at Averasboro, having accomplished his objectives, began withdrawing his corps along the Smithfield road. Wheeler’s cavalry was left behind to cover the retreat. By 4:00 A.M. on March 17th, all Confederate units had been withdrawn leaving the Union forces in control.

John Smith House at Oak Grove (present-day)

Present-day John Smith House at Oak Grove

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 : 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.

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 : The Battle Of Bentonville: Last Stand In The Carolinas , by Mark L. Bradley (Hardcover). Description: Mark L. Bradley's book could not have come at a more proper time. The terrible fighting that took place in the fields of North Carolina in March of 1865 has been long forgotten thankfully, Mr. Bradley has reminded us of the sacrifices that our ancestors endured on that sacred ground. Bentonville is a stirring reminder of the American spirit. something that was exhibited on both sides of the lines during those fateful three days in March. Mr. Bradley has written a stirring tribute to the two armies that fought in this last great battle that pitted the forces of "Uncle Billy" Sherman , against his old nemesis "Old Joe" Johnston . Continued below…

Mr. Bradley has written an outstanding account of the soldiers who fought this landmark battle in the waning days of the war, and he has given us a thorough look at what was going on in the minds of the Generals who led their soldiers to the killing fields of Bentonville. Bradley has also included an outstanding photo collection of the battlefield as it appears today, something that is rarely added to most of the narratives on Civil War battles. These photos give us an understanding of the terrain that each man, Union or Confederate, faced on those days in March 1865. I heartily recommend this narrative to all students of the Civil War. The Battle of Bentonville has been neglected too long. Thankfully, Mr. Bradley has corrected that mistake, and he has provided us buffs with a truly compelling story. Special appreciation is due to Mark A. Moore. Mr. Moore's maps of the campaign are outstanding, and they help the reader understand and comprehend the many troop movements of this last major battle of the Civil War in the Eastern Theater.

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.


Averasboro Battlefield & Museum

Under his most recent executive order, Governor Roy Cooper has lifted all capacity limits, social distancing requirements and most mask mandates for the entire state. However, the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services recommends that people still wear a mask if they are in a large crowd or not vaccinated.

If traveling, individuals are encouraged to check with local tourism organizations to determine if any limitations are still in place (e.g., visitor center closures), and to contact lodging establishments directly for their most up-to-date information.

More information about local restaurant resources specific to North Carolina destinations can be found via their local tourism organization, which can be found here. Visit Count On Me NC to see a list of businesses – restaurants, lodging, attractions and others – that have completed the Count On Me NC training, as these businesses are making a concerted effort to help keep everyone safe and healthy. As a guest, you can take your own pledge, too, to show you're doing your part.

In March 1865, the Battle of Averasboro was the first deliberate, tactical resistance to the infamous march of Federal forces through the Carolinas and Georgia. Come experience history through our displays of artifacts, facts, maps and much more. Explore the grounds to learn more about what took place on this hallowed ground.
Outside, historic markers outline the events of March 1865 military action, the prelude to Bentonville. The museum outlines the conflict and contains artifacts from the battle found on the battlefield.

Annual living history events and reenactments are held here, too, so please check our website for upcoming events.


William T. Smith House

ARCHITECTURAL DREAM STEEPED IN HISTORY! Stately 1835 Federal house with exquisite woodwork once served as a Civil War field hospital. Rural two-acre setting belies its close proximity to Fayetteville, Research Triangle, and RDU International Airport in the 5th most populated county in North Carolina.

Virtual Tour available here.

The William T. Smith House is one of three Smith family plantations that all served as field hospitals during the 1865 Battle of Averasboro. The substantial 4,000+ square foot house features numerous high-style architectural elements. The exquisite woodwork throughout is an architectural lover’s dream. The house requires complete rehabilitation, but qualifies for historic preservation tax credits. Excellent location minutes from I-95 provides the best of rural living with city amenities close-by. Nearby access to the Cape Fear River Trail offers exceptional water-related outdoor activities.






Chimney which collapsed Prior to chimney collapse Prior to chimney collapse Prior to chimney collapse

Architectural and Historical Information

In a rural pocket at the Cumberland-Harnett county line once known as Smithville, three Smith family plantations still remain: Oak Grove (1789) in the center Lebanon (1824) to the north and the William T. Smith House (1835) to the south. The Battle of Averasboro occurred in this community of Smithville, a strategic location because of its setting between the Cape Fear River and the Black River. All three houses were used as field hospitals during the battle. This impressive house was built for William Turner Smith (1810-1855) and his wife Mary Campbell Smith (1814-1886) around 1835 shortly after their marriage.

Extensive archaeological studies have revealed the rich architectural history of this elegant home. The floor plan retains its Federal two-over-two-room hall-and-parlor plan. The interior is a feast for your eyes with its exquisite woodwork including Federal and Greek Revival mantels, extensive paneled wainscot with crotch mahogany faux finish, winder stair with Chinese Chippendale railing, paneled doors with original hardware, bold door and window moldings, and antique built-in cabinets. They just don’t build them like this anymore!

On the exterior, the two-story, single-pile frame house with a side-gable asphalt shingle roof is flanked by two large Flemish bond chimneys with diamond-pattern brickwork. The east chimney sadly collapsed in September 2018 as a result of Hurricane Florence but photos could be utilized to reconstruct it. A two-story pedimented portico dominates the front façade and is accented by a decorative sheaf-of-wheat balustrade. The striking first floor entrance is marked by the unusual two-door configuration, each door capped with a wide two-light transom. A wide fluted pilaster door surround adorns the entrance. The central entrance on the second floor is flanked by sidelights and a transom. Fluted pilasters on either side further accent the porch bay. A substantial Greek Revival two-story wing with a two-story side porch was added to the rear just prior to Smith’s death in 1855.

RENOVATION WORK NEEDED

Though it retains its historic form and much of its excellent early woodwork, the William T. Smith House has undergone some alterations including the installation of replacement windows (the original windows were 9-over-9 sash), a bathroom addition that covers the west end chimney, and enclosure of the two-story rear wing porch.

Some structural work has been performed including restoration of siding, and construction of 22 additional foundation piers. The house requires complete rehabilitation including some remaining foundation repairs, restoration of key architectural features and form, installation of mechanical systems, bathrooms, and a kitchen, and restoration of the front porch. Located just inside the southern boundary of the Averasboro Battlefield Historic District, it qualifies for historic preservation tax credits.

Area Information

Located in Cumberland County in the town of Averasboro, the historic town’s landscape retains its rural character: vast fields give way to thick forests, shallow and deep ravines, and meandering creeks. And yet, its close proximity to nearby Campbell University and the City of Fayetteville provides plenty of city amenities. Just minutes from I-95, it is an hour’s drive to the Research Triangle area and RDU Airport.

Close to the Cape Fear River, nearby access to the Cape Fear River Trail offers exceptional water-related outdoor activities. Also located within a few miles of the William T. Smith House are the other two restored Smith family plantations (privately owned), a Civil War museum and cemetery, and several monuments. Legend has it that this former port town might have become the capital of North Carolina, with the measure failing by just one vote.


Averasboro Battlefield - History

Battle of Averasborough

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

Location: Harnett County and Cumberland County

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

Averasborough Historical Marker

(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 wor ks, 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

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.

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…


Watch the video: Bentonville 156: The Battle of Averasboro


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