Civil War Daily Gazette

A Day-By-Day Accounting of the Conflict, 150 Years Later

‘Battles, Campaigns & Raids’

‘I Can Do No More Than Annoy Him’ – Johnston Must Give Up

Cover of  George W. Nichols' diary.

March 23, 1865 (Thursday) Following the Battle of Bentonville, Joseph Johnston, commanding the Confederate forces, retreated across Mill Creek, into and through the town. Taking up positions a couple of miles beyond the crossing, Jo Wheeler’s cavalry held the bridge until the Federals came near to crossing. By that evening, Johnston’s army was near Smithfield. On the afternoon of this date, Johnston informed General Lee in Petersburg of the battle. “Troops of Tennessee army have fully disproved slanders that have been published against then,” he wrote, referring to John Bell Hood’s excuses for his defeat at Nashville. He also told of how Sherman’s army had moved to Goldsborough rather than to give chase. “Sherman’s course cannot be hindered by the small force I have,” Johnston warned Lee. “I can do no more than annoy him. I respectfully suggest that it is no longer a question of whether you leave present position; you have only to decide where to meet Sherman. I will be near him.” There was no question at all now. Johnston could not… Read More

Meade and Grant’s Cash-for-Guns Program a Hit with Deserting Confederates!


March 22, 1865 (Wednesday) For some time now, a curious policy had been in place – paying the Rebel deserters for their arms. Meade had noticed in February that most who defected the Southern army did not throw down their muskets, but brought them over. “Can they be compensated for them,” asked Meade of Grant on February 21st. “My order does not contemplate payment for arms brought in by deserters,” came his timely reply. “I do not know, however, but it would be good policy to amend the order so as to make it an inducement for them to bring their arms with them.” A week and a half later, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton agreed: “There is no objection to your paying rebel deserters for their arms, horses, or anything they bring in, a full a fair price. That kind of trade will not injure the service.” Meade wished for the price to be fixed, because at this point, word had reached the Rebel lines that if they deserted with their arms, they would… Read More

Sherman’s Mistake at Bentonville


March 21, 1865 (Tuesday) “The next day,” wrote General Sherman, “it began to rain again, and we remained quiet till about noon.” Sherman had placed Francis Blair’s Seventeenth Corps on the right, with Joseph Mower’s division holding the flank near Mill Creek. In his report, General Mower wrote: Learning that a road. leading from the right of the line crossed Mill Creek by a ford, I pushed my command down that road for the purpose of closing on the enemy’s flank. I left five companies of the First Brigade to guard the ford, then formed in line of battle, and throwing out skirmishers moved forward, keeping my line parallel, or as nearly so as possible, with the road crossing the creek. In moving forward the brigade on the right (Brigadier-General Fuller’s) encountered a very bad swamp, and I found it necessary to half the Third Brigade some three quarters of a hour to allow the First Brigade to pass the swamp. At this time our skirmishers advancing met those of the enemy; they being thus… Read More

‘Our Position Was Extremely Perilous’ – Johnston Hangs on at Bentonville


March 20, 1865 (Monday) “On the 21st the skirmishing was resumed with spirit by the enemy,” wrote Joe Johnston. Through the night, little hand changed on the Bentonville battlefield. Johnston’s three small corps still remained in their initial lines and his left was sharply engaged. His right, on the other hand, was quiet. General Sherman, commanding the Union troops, had learned of the battle late the previous night. On the morning of this date, he rode toward the lines, his Right Wing in tow, to bring his entire force to bear against Johnston. When he arrived near the field with the bulk of the two corps, he established lines of battle and advanced, with skirmishers front, in hopes of linking up with General Slocum’s wing. Through the night, Slocum improved his line as elements of the Fifteenth Corps augmented his numbers, making the lines, in Sherman’s words, “impregnable.” The next morning, the rest of the Right Wing joined them. “I ordered General Howard to proceed with due caution, using skirmishers alone,” wrote Sherman, “till he… Read More

‘With Unusual Stubbornness’ – The Battle of Bentonville Begins


March 19, 1865 (Sunday) General Sherman rose early. His orders for the day’s march had gone out last night, and he suspected a clear road ahead. In this, he was mistaken, and in his ignorance, he departed from the Left Wing of his army and rode casually for the Right, moving along parallel roads ten or so miles away. The day’s march was started as planned. For John Slocum’s Left Wing, this meant that the Fourteenth Corps again took the lead, with the Twentieth to follow. Even from the start, the march was contested. This was, however, only cavalry before them. A Union prisoner, escaped from Rebel captors, was brought to Slocum, telling the general that Joe Johnston’s Confederates were all up near Raleigh. Southern deserters all spoke the same tidings. And even with the boom of artillery, Slocum remained certain that cavalry only lay ahead. As General Jefferson C. Davis lead the Fourteenth Corps, he noticed that “the enemy’s pickets yielded their ground with unusual stubbornness for cavalry troops.” But the prisoners they took… Read More

‘Old Hampton is Playing a Bluff Game’ – Saving Bentonville for Battle


March 18, 1865 (Saturday) For days, there was no certainly in Joe Johnston, commanding the patchwork of Southern forces in North Carolina. General Sherman’s forces, he believed, would march toward one of two places – the more southerly Goldsboro or the more northerly Raleigh. And so at Smithfield, located in between, he held much of his command. Johnston was relying upon his cavalry, helmed by Wade Hampton, to act as scouts and determine which way Sherman’s forces were marching. Just before dawn on this date, the fog was cleared. Hampton sent a message detailing the position of the enemy. Even better, due to the battle at Averasboro a couple of days before, the two wings had become separated, with the Left Wing being greatly strung out on the road to Goldsboro. “General Johnston directs that you immediately put your command in motion for Bentonville,” read the order to all. Bentonville was a small crossroads south of Smithfield through which the Right Wing of Sherman’s command would pass. With the Left Wing strung out and about… Read More

‘With a Deafening Yell’ – The Battle of Averasborough


March 16, 1865 (Thursday) Through the darkened rain marched the division of Col. William Hawley. It was five long miles to the advanced position held by Judson Kilpatrick’s cavaliers, themselves in the face of an untold number of entrenched Rebels, just this side of Averasborough, North Carolina. The Confederates under William Hardee had taken for themselves a fine position, with both flanks resting upon unfordable rivers. Fearful of attack, Hawley had been ordered forward and encamped for the night less than a mile from the enemy’s works. They formed in the dawn, a skirmish line stretching the length of the enemy’s, and advanced. They drove pickets before them, and pushed back the thin forward line of the Rebels to their main line of battle. “After thoroughly reconnoitering the enemy’s entire position,” wrote Kilpatrick, “I decided it was not prudent to attack, and sent back for infantry re-enforcements.” Hawley agreed, noting the artillery in his report. Lt. Col Fielder Jones, however, saw things differently. He commanded the 8th Indiana Cavalry, holding the right flank of Kilpatrick’s… Read More

The Capture of Col. Rhett and His Fabulous Boots

The impressive Col. Rhett

March 15, 1865 (Wednesday) “On the 15th of March the whole army was across Cape Fear River, and at once began its march for Goldsboro’; the Seventeenth Corps still on the right, the Fifteenth next in order, then the Fourteenth and Twentieth on the extreme left ; the cavalry acting in close concert with the left flank. With almost a certainty of being attacked on this flank, I had instructed General Slocum to send his corps-trains under strong escort by an interior road, holding four divisions ready for immediate battle. General Howard was in like manner ordered to keep his trains well to his right, and to have four divisions unencumbered, about six miles ahead of General Slocum, within easy support.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs. As Sherman expected an attack to come on his left, he threw Judson Kilpatrick’s cavalry out ahead of the Left Wing as they marched on the road to Averasborough, a small burg on the road to Raleigh. About six miles before reaching this town, Kilpatrick’s men encountered the Confederates.… Read More

‘The Whole Thing Was Done So Quickly’ – Sherman Captures Fayetteville


March 11, 1865 (Saturday) “The advance of the Fourteenth Army Corps last nigth reached Buckhead Creek,” wrote General Henry Slocum in his morning message to Sherman, “where they met the enemy in some force. [Absalom] Baird’s division is now moving from this point. The Twentieth Corps is several miles in rear. I shall soon learn whether they intend to defend the place and shall be in there at 9am if they do not.” At the same time, Olive Otis Howard, commanding the Right Wing of Sherman’s forces, send a scouting party, helmed by a Captain Duncan. “He encountered the enemy’s pickets just outside town,” Howard related, “which he drove before him easily, but on entering the town he met a large force of the enemy’s cavalry.” Still remaining inside the town was Confederate General Wade Hampton, who was now taking breakfast as a local hotel. “General,” said one of his officers, “give me four or five men and I will run them out of town.” But Hampton, looked upon this young man and considered the… Read More

The Battle of Kilpatrick’s Pants


March 10, 1865 (Friday) Now, these young men ought undoubtedly to have been engaged in saying their prayers and softly humming snatches of hymns recalled from early days, for the purpose of bracing up their nerves for the fight fixed for daylight, but the truth must be told, and the words overheard by the hungry, tired trooper just arrived were: “It is she! I know it is!” “By Jove! Certain?” “Yes! I tracked the wheels for hours today. No chance to mistake the wheel-marks of that victoria among these heavy wagontrains. She is in his camp, and we will be sure to see her in the morning.” Then they all whispered “By Jove!” with great earnestness. The rumor around Wade Hampton’s camp was that General Kilpatrick, sleeping not far away with a small brigade of his own cavalry, was with “an exceedinly pretty young girl” from Columbia. She had been espied by many of the Rebels before they had to leave, and, according to this particular camp gossup, was in the loving embrace of Kilpatrick… Read More

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