Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

Mower's lead with the whole of the right wing, which would have

brought on a general battle, and it could not have resulted

otherwise than successfully to us, by reason of our vastly superior

numbers; but at the moment, for the reasons given, I preferred to

make junction with Generals Terry and Schofield, before engaging

Johnston's army, the strength of which was utterly unknown. The

next day he was gone, and had retreated on Smithfield; and, the

roads all being clear, our army moved to Goldsboro'. The heaviest

fighting at Bentonsville was on the first day, viz., the 19th, when

Johnston's army struck the head of Slocum's columns, knocking back

Carlin's division; but, as soon as General Slocum had brought up

the rest of the Fourteenth Corps into line, and afterward the

Twentieth on its left, he received and repulsed all attacks, and

held his ground as ordered, to await the coming back of the right

wing. His loss, as reported, was nine officers and one hundred and

forty-five men killed, eight hundred and sixteen wounded, and two

hundred and twenty-six missing. He reported having buried of the

rebel dead one hundred and sixty-seven, and captured three hundred

and thirty-eight prisoners.

The loss of the right wing was two officers and thirty-five men

killed, twelve officers and two hundred and eighty-nine men

wounded, and seventy missing. General Howard reported that he had

buried one hundred of the rebel dead, and had captured twelve

hundred and eighty-seven prisoners.

Our total loss, therefore, at Bentonsville was: 1,604

General Johnston, in his "Narrative" (p. 392), asserts that his

entire force at Benton sville, omitting Wheeler's and Butler's

cavalry, only amounted to fourteen thousand one hundred infantry

and artillery; and (p. 393) states his losses as: 2,343

Wide discrepancies exist in these figures: for instance, General

Slocum accounts for three hundred and thirty-eight prisoners

captured, and General Howard for twelve hundred and eighty-seven,

making sixteen hundred and twenty-five in all, to Johnston's six

hundred and fifty three--a difference of eight hundred and

seventy-two. I have always accorded to General Johnston due credit

for boldness in his attack on our exposed flank at Bentonville,

but I think he understates his strength, and doubt whether at the

time he had accurate returns from his miscellaneous army, collected

from Hoke, Bragg, Hardee, Lee, etc. After the first attack on

Carlin's division, I doubt if the fighting was as desperate as

described by him, p. 385, et seq. I was close up with the

Fifteenth Corps, on the 20th and 21st, considered the fighting as

mere skirmishing, and know that my orders were to avoid a general

battle, till we could be sure of Goldsboro', and of opening up a

new base of supply. With the knowledge now possessed of his small

force, of course I committed an error in not overwhelming

Johnston's army on the 21st of March, 1865. But I was content then

to let him go, and on the 22d of March rode to Cog's Bridge, where

I met General Terry, with his two divisions of the Tenth Corps; and

the next day we rode into Goldsboro', where I found General

Schofield with the Twenty-third Corps, thus effecting a perfect

junction of all the army at that point, as originally contemplated.

During the 23d and 24th the whole army was assembled at Goldsboro';

General Terry's two divisions encamped at Faison's Depot to the

south, and General Kilpatrick's cavalry at Mount Olive Station,

near him, and there we all rested, while I directed my special

attention to replenishing the army for the next and last stage of

the campaign. Colonel W. W. Wright had been so indefatigable, that

the Newbern Railroad was done, and a locomotive arrived in

Goldsboro' on the 25th of March.

Thus was concluded one of the longest and most important marches

ever made by an organized army in a civilized country. The

distance from Savannah to Goldsboro' is four hundred and

twenty-five miles, and the route traversed embraced five large

navigable rivers, viz., the Edisto, Broad, Catawba, Pedee, and Cape

Fear, at either of which a comparatively small force, well-handled,

should have made the passage most difficult, if not impossible.

The country generally was in a state of nature, with innumerable

swamps, with simply mud roads, nearly every mile of which had to be

corduroyed. In our route we had captured Columbia, Cheraw, and

Fayetteville, important cities and depots of supplies, had

compelled the evacuation of Charleston City and Harbor, had utterly

broken up all the railroads of South Carolina, and had consumed a

vast amount of food and forage, essential to the enemy for the

support of his own armies. We had in mid-winter accomplished the

whole journey of four hundred and twenty-five miles in fifty days,

averaging ten miles per day, allowing ten lay-days, and had reached

Goldsboro' with the army in superb order, and the trains almost as

fresh as when we had started from Atlanta.

It was manifest to me that we could resume our march, and come

within the theatre of General Grant's field of operations in all

April, and that there was no force in existence that could delay

our progress, unless General Lee should succeed in eluding General

Grant at Petersburg, make junction with General Johnston, and thus

united meet me alone; and now that we had effected a junction with

Generals Terry and Schofield, I had no fear even of that event. On

reaching Goldsboro, I learned from General Schofield all the

details of his operations about Wilmington and Newbern; also of the

fight of the Twenty-third Corps about Kinston, with General Bragg.

I also found Lieutenant Dunn, of General Grant's staff, awaiting

me, with the general's letter of February 7th, covering

instructions to Generals Schofield and Thomas; and his letter of

March 16th, in answer to mine of the 12th, from Fayetteville.

These are all given here to explain the full reasons for the events

of the war then in progress, with two or three letters from myself,

to fill out the picture.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, February 7, 1865

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding Military Division of the


GENERAL: Without much expectation of it reaching you in time to be

of any service, I have mailed to you copies of instructions to

Schofield and Thomas. I had informed Schofield by telegraph of the

departure of Mahone's division, south from the Petersburg front.

These troops marched down the Weldon road, and, as they apparently

went without baggage, it is doubtful whether they have not

returned. I was absent from here when they left. Just returned

yesterday morning from Cape Fear River. I went there to determine

where Schofield's corps had better go to operate against Wilmington

and Goldsboro'. The instructions with this will inform you of the

conclusion arrived at.

Schofield was with me, and the plan of the movement against

Wilmington fully determined before we started back; hence the

absence of more detailed instructions to him. He will land one

division at Smithville, and move rapidly up the south side of the

river, and secure the Wilmington & Charlotte Railroad, and with his

pontoon train cross over to the island south of the city, if he

can. With the aid of the gunboats, there is no doubt but this move

will drive the enemy from their position eight miles east of the

city, either back to their line or away altogether. There will be

a large force on the north bank of Cape Fear River, ready to follow

up and invest the garrison, if they should go inside.

The railroads of North Carolina are four feet eight and one-half

inches. gauge. I have sent large parties of railroad-men there to

build them up, and have ordered stock to run them. We have

abundance of it idle from the non-use of the Virginia roads. I

have taken every precaution to have supplies ready for you wherever

you may turn up. I did this before when you left Atlanta, and

regret that they did not reach you promptly when you reached


Alexander Stephens, R. M. T. Hunter, and Judge Campbell, are now at

my headquarters, very desirous of going to Washington to see Mr.

Lincoln, informally, on the subject of peace. The peace feeling

within the rebel lines is gaining ground rapidly. This, however,

should not relax our energies in the least, but should stimulate us

to greater activity.

I have received your very kind letters, in which you say you would

decline, or are opposed to, promotion. No one world be more

pleased at your advancement than I, and if you should be placed in

my position, and I put subordinate, it would not change our

personal relations in the least. I would make the same exertions to

support you that you have ever done to support me, and would do all

in my power to make our cause win.

Yours truly,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.

Major-General G. H. THOMAS, commanding Army of the Cumberland.

GENERAL: With this I send you a letter from General Sherman. At

the time of writing it, General Sherman was not informed of the

depletion of your command by my orders. It will, be impossible at

present for you to move south as he contemplated, with the force of

infantry indicated. General Slocum is advised before this of the

changes made, and that for the winter you will be on the defensive.

I think, however, an expedition from East Tennessee, under General

Stoneman might penetrate South Carolina, well down toward Columbia,

destroying the railroad and military resources of the country, thus

visiting a portion of the State which will not be reached by

Sherman's forces. He might also be able to return to East

Tennessee by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, thus releasing home

our prisoners of war in rebel hands.

Of the practicability of doing this, General Stoneman will have to

be the judge, making up his mind from information obtained while

executing the first part of his instructions. Sherman's movements

will attract the attention of all the force the enemy can collect,

thus facilitating the execution of this.

Three thousand cavalry would be a sufficient force to take. This

probably can be raised in the old Department of the Ohio, without

taking any now under General Wilson. It would require, though, the

reorganization of the two regiments of Kentucky Cavalry, which

Stoneman had in his very successful raid into Southwestern


It will be necessary, probably, for you to send, in addition to the

force now in East Tennessee, a small division of infantry, to

enable General Gillem to hold the upper end of Holston Valley, and

the mountain-passes in rear of Stevenson.

You may order such an expedition. To save time, I will send a copy

of this to General Stoneman, so that he can begin his preparations

without loss of time, and can commence his correspondence with you

as to these preparations.

As this expedition goes to destroy and not to fight battles, but to

avoid them when practicable, particularly against any thing like

equal forces, or where a great object is to be gained, it should go

as light as possible. Stoneman's experience, in raiding will teach

him in this matter better than he can be directed.

Let there be no delay in the preparations for this expedition, and

keep me advised of its progress. Very respectfully, your obedient


U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 81, 1865.

Major-General J. M. SCHOFIELD, commanding army of the Ohio.

GENERAL: I have requested by telegraph that, for present purposes,

North Carolina be erected into a department, and that you be placed

in command of it, subject to Major-General Sherman's orders. Of

course, you will receive orders from me direct until such time as

General Sherman gets within communicating distance of you. This

obviates the necessity of my publishing the order which I informed

you would meet you at Fortress Monroe. If the order referred to

should not be published from the Adjutant-General's office, you

will read these instructions as your authority to assume command of

all the troops in North Carolina, dating all official

communications, "Headquarters Army of the Ohio." Your headquarters

will be in the field, and with the portion of the army where you

feel yourself most needed. In the first move you will go to Cape

Fear River.

Your movements are intended as cooperative with Sherman's movement

through the States of South and North Carolina. The first point to

be obtained is to secure Wilmington. Goldsboro' will then be your

objective point, moving either from Wilmington or Newbern, or both,

as you may deem best. Should you not be able to reach Goldsboro',

you will advance on the line or lines of railway connecting that

place with the sea-coast, as near to it as you can, building the

road behind you. The enterprise under you has two objects: the

first is, to give General Sherman material aid, if needed, in his

march north; the second, to open a base of supplies for him on the

line of his march. As soon, therefore, as you can determine which

of the two points, Wilmington or Newbern, you can best use for

throwing supplies from to the interior, you will commence the

accumulation of twenty days rations and forage for sixty thousand

men and twenty thousand animals. You will get of these as many as

you can house and protect, to such point in the interior as you may

be able to occupy.

I believe General Innis N. Palmer has received some instructions

directly from General Sherman, on the subject of securing supplies

for his army. You can learn what steps he has taken, and be

governed in your requisitions accordingly. A supply of ordnance-

stores will also be necessary.

Make all your requisitions upon the chiefs of their respective

departments, in the field, with me at City Point. Communicate with

me by every opportunity, and, should you deem it necessary at any

time, send a special boat to Fortress Monroe, from which point you

can communicate by telegraph.

The supplies referred to in these instructions are exclusive of

those required by your own command.

The movements of the enemy may justify you, or even make it your

imperative duty, to cut loose from your base and strike for the

interior, to aid Sherman. In such case you will act on your own

judgment, without waiting for instructions. You will report,

however, what you propose doing. The details for carrying out

these instructions are necessarily left to you. I would urge,

however, if I did not know that you are already fully alive to the

importance of it, prompt action. Sherman may be looked for in the

neighborhood of Goldsboro' any time from the 22d to the 28th of

February. This limits your time very materially.

If rolling-stock is not secured in the capture of Wilmington, it

can be supplied from Washington: A large force of railroad-men has

already been sent to Beaufort, and other mechanics will go to Fort

Fisher in a day or two. On this point I have informed you by


Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.


CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 16, 1865.

Major-General W. T. SHERMAN, commanding military Division of the

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