Summary Statement, 2nd Quarter, 1863 – 3rd New York Cavalry, Allis’s… NOT Allee’s… Howitzers!

Sometimes, even Frederick H. Dyer stands need of correction.  Or at least a small adjustment.

Just below the 3rd New York Artillery’s battery summaries for the second quarter, 1863, there is a lonely line:


  • Section, Attached to 3rd Cavalry: At New Berne, North Carolina with two 12-pdr mountain howitzers.

If we consult Dyer’s Compendium we find a listing:

Allee’s Howitzer Battery

Attached to 3rd New York Cavalry (which see)

Consulting the entry for the 3rd New York Cavalry, we see no mention of the howitzer battery.  And that is normal where a section (or battery) served as an integral component of the parent unit.

In the past, I’ve normally just accepted Dyer’s designation.  You’ll see that in entries for the summaries of fourth quarter, 1862 and first quarter, 1863.  But since this entry stands alone for the second quarter, I thought it convenient to pause and provide a more detailed study of this particular unit.

So who was this Allee that commanded this howitzer battery?

Well… the roster of the 3rd New York Cavalry has no record of an officer named Allee.  In fact, there was no soldier in the regiment by that name.  And there are no references, primary or secondary, that would reconcile the name “Allee” to the regiment.  Rather hard for a person to command a battery if there were not IN the unit!

So who should we be looking for?  Consulting New York State Military Museum’s website (an excellent on-line resource that should be in your bookmarks), specifically a collection of newspaper clippings that reference the 3rd New York Cavalry, we find this entry, discussing Brigadier-General Edward Potter’s July 1863 raid on Greenville, Tarboro, and Rocky Mount (emphasis mine):

We had a most delightful passage from New York and arrived at Newbern on Tuesday evening, 21st inst. I found the city of Newbern quiet and pleasant as ever, although … had gone out early Saturday morning, under the command of that most efficient and gallant officer, Brigadier General Potter, Chief of Staff to General Foster. The troops for the expedition comprised two battalions of the 3d N. Y. cavalry, commanded by Majors Cole and Jacobs; one company of the 1st N. C. cavalry, Lieut. Graham, and one battalion of the 12th N. Y. cavalry, Major Clarkston; two sections of 12 pound howitzers, Lieut. Allis, and one section of flying artillery from the 3d N. Y. regiment, commanded by Lieut. Clark. The cavalry was all under the command of Lieut. Col. Lewis, of the 3d N. Y. cavalry.

And there WAS a Lieutenant James A. Allis with the 3rd New York Cavalry.  And he was detached to artillery service, according to his state muster records:


Note the the remarks.  “… On detached service comd’g artillery detachment since Jan 1/63…” THIS is the commander, and the name, that we need to close the loop.  Very possible that Dyer transcribed the name incorrectly.  However, my wife pointed out that “Allis” is likely a name of Norman-French origin.  If that is the case, it would be pronounced somewhat like “Alee” or such.  So Dyer might have worked from a source that spelled Allis as it sounded.  At any rate, I am pretty sure we can match “Allee’s Battery” to “Allis’s Section” in this case.  Those are the howitzers were are talking about!

James A. Allis was born in Cazenovia, New York (Madison County), on September 17, 1840 to Elijah and Diantha Allis.  His family moved to Syracuse, as he appears there in the 1855 state census, aged 14.  The 1860 census has a 19 year-old James A. Allis, from New York, as a teacher in Joliet, Illinois.  Not for sure this is the same person, but certainly matches with some particulars.

Turning to his muster records:


Allis enlisted in what would be come the 3rd New York Volunteer Cavalry on August 3, 1861 in Syracuse as a sergeant in Company I. The remarks indicate he was born in Syracuse (vice Cazenovia), was 5 foot, 7 ½ inches tall, black eyes (!), and brown hair.

He was promoted to First Sergeant on October 8.  And then this “fast mover” was promoted to First Lieutenant on December 31st to close out the year.   (And a side note, the 3rd New York Cavalry was involved through that time in operations on the upper Potomac, to include Balls Bluff and Edwards Ferry in October … thus he was in my neck of the woods for a while.)

In April 1862, the 3rd New York transferred to the Department of North Carolina.  On May 30,  Allis led a detail of 15 men out of Washington, North Carolina on a reconnaissance mission.  At Trantor’s Creek, about eight miles out of the perimeter, the detail encountered a Confederate patrol.  Allis left a detail to secure the bridge at the creek and took up pursuit.  “Finding himself surrounded by a large body of infantry concealed in the woods,” Captain George Jocknick, commanding Company I reported, “Lieutenant Allis gallantly cut his way through the crowd, and returned here with his command about noon, with only one man–Private Ogden Harrison–badly wounded and 2 horses killed.”   In short, Allis got himself into trouble, but smartly… and aggressively…  extracted himself.   On the heels of that action, Allis received promotion to First Lieutenant. Clearly an officer held in high regard.

I’m not sure when the 3rd New York Cavalry came into possession of the mountain howitzers.  In December, that section was associated with Allis as part of the expedition to Goldsborough.  Captain Newton Hall, commanding the troops from the 3rd New York on that operation, wrote “I must not neglect to mention Lieutenant Allis and his howitzer, which was always ready when wanted, and did us good service at White Hall.”  In March the section supported another expedition out of New Bern.   On May 20-23, the section was involved with a demonstration towards Kinston.   June 17-18, Allis’s section was taken along for a scout to Core Creek.  The section was again called upon in the first week of July to support a raid on the Wilmington & Weldon Railroad.  Later in the month, the battery was part of the expedition toward Rocky Mount mentioned above.

In December 1863, the 3rd New York Cavalry transferred to Newport News, where they became involved with operations against Richmond and Petersburg.  And around that time, Allis appears to have left the howitzers (either the section was turned in, or at least Allis was given other duties).  Allis continued as a lieutenant for Company F and later Company G.  With his initial enlistment complete in the summer of 1864, Allis reenlisted as a captain, in Company C, in July 1864.  However, by that time Allis was working as an aide and staff officer.  In correspondence with Lieutenant-General U.S. Grant, Major General E.O.C. Ord describes Allis as “the best [cavalry] officer I have…” … though it is hard to ascertain the full context, as Ord was speaking from a position of want in regard to proper cavalry!  Still a high accolade, when mentioned between such very high ranking officers.

After the war, Allis returned to Syracuse.  In the 1875 state census, Allis lived with his brother, practicing law.  Around that time, James Allis married Ellen Moore.  The couple had one boy child die in infancy.  But then were blessed with three girls – Olive, Mable, and Ida.  The 1910 census indicated James, still in Syracuse, worked as an equipment clerk.  His three daughters, by then aged 34 to 25, were living with their parents.  All three employed as teachers.  James A. Allis died in Syracuse on October 30, 1920, and is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse.

Circling back to the summary statement, the section did not report any ammunition on hand for the quarter.  Though there were ample implements and other supplies.  Perhaps the cavalrymen were just not accustomed to the artillery reporting forms.

The important take-away from examining that lonely line on the summaries is not the need to correct the spelling of Allis’s name in Dyer’s Compendium.  Rather, that the line allows us to be introduced to James A. Allis and the duties he performed during the war.  He was, as they say, mentioned in dispatches.





Sherman’s March, April 11, 1865: “I will push Joe Johnston to the death”; Sherman advances on Smithfield

In the second week of April, 1865, for the third time in seven months Major-General William T. Sherman started his army group out of camp into a marching campaign.  The movement out from the Goldsboro, North Carolina area differed somewhat from that of the movements out of Atlanta and Savannah.  This time, instead of aiming for a point on the map, the soldiers were marching directly against a Confederate foe.  The aim of the next leg of Sherman’s March was General Joseph E. Johnston’s force… the last major Confederate field formation east of Alabama.

The order of movement evolved somewhat between April 5 and the time of execution.  When Special Field Orders No. 48 was issued on April 5, few details of the victory at Petersburg and the fall of Richmond were in Sherman’s hands.  So the objective of movement at that time was described as “to place this army with its full equipment north of Roanoke River, facing west, with a base for supplies at Norfolk, and at Winton or Murfreesborough on the Chorwan, and in full communication with the Army of the Potomac….”  The scheme of maneuver had the armies advancing to skirt around Raleigh and march almost due north to concentrate around Warrenton, North Carolina.


This arrangement was overtaken by the news from Virginia.

On April 7, Sherman refined the orders.  Instead of a general northward movement, the army wings would focus on Smithfield as the initial march objective, then Raleigh. The movement would be typical of those made by Sherman during the marches, and arranged to allow supporting columns to flank any opposition encountered:

The Left Wing, of Major-General Henry Slocum, had the center of the advance, and would march up the roads on the left bank of the Neuse River. Sherman asked Major-General Oliver O. Howard’s Right Wing to move initially to Pikeville, then sweep west to support the Left Wing in front of Smithfield. The Center Wing, under Major-General John Schofield, would advance on the right bank of the Neuse River, through the old Bentonville battlefield, in position to make a flanking movement at Smithfield, if necessary.  Major-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s Cavarly Division was to move on the left of Schofield, but reach out to the railroad behind Smithfield.  To Kilpatrick, Sherman added, “… you may act boldly and even rashly now, for this is the time to strike quick and strong.”

Above all, Sherman felt the need, as expressed to Lieutenant-General Ulysses S. Grant on April 8, to keep the pressure on Johnston’s Confederates, knowing his superior was doing the same to Lee’s army:

I will follow Johnston, presuming that you are after Lee, or all that you have left to him, and if they come together we will also.  I think I will be at Raleigh on Thursday, the 13th, and shall pursue Johnston toward Greensborough unless it be manifest that he has gone toward Danville.  I shall encourage him to come to bay on or to move toward Danville, as I don’t want to race all the way back through South Carolina and Georgia.  It is to our interest to let Lee and Johnston come together, just as a billiard layer would nurse the balls when he has them in a nice place.

On the same day, in a message to Major-General Montgomery Meigs, Sherman added, “I will push Joe Johnston to the death.” Of course, Sherman’s assessment was again overtaken by events the next day.  But his objective, Johnston’s army, remained the same regardless of events on April 9 in Virginia.

Preliminary movements began on April 10, as depicted on the map below:


The main effort of the first leg of this movement lay with the Left Wing.  All others oriented off Slocum’s advance on Smithfield.  Slocum placed the Twentieth Corps,by then commanded by Major-General Joseph Mower, with Major-General Alpheus S. Williams returning to command First Division in that corps, on the River Road.  The Fourteenth Corps advanced on a road near the North Carolina Railroad.

Mower met some opposition on the 10th at Moccasin Swamp.  Major-General Jefferson C. Davis’ Fourteenth Corps briefly fought with Confederate cavalry near Boon Hill. Major-General James Morgan’s Division (Second Division, Fourteenth Corps) lost two killed and five wounded.  Otherwise the advance made good time and covered between ten to fifteen miles.

Supporting the Left Wing, the 23rd Corps of the Center Wing concentrated at Goldsboro to wait for the roads to clear.  The Tenth Corps, south of the Neuse moved up to a point opposite Cox’s Bridge, on the road to Bentonville.  Kilpatrick’s cavalry reached Mill Creek that evening with no incident.

The Right Wing’s movements were much delayed on the morning of the 10th, as the Left Wing had the right of way on roads in Goldsboro.  Still the corps made good time.  The Seventeenth Corps reached Whitley’s Mill by nightfall.  The bridge over Little River there was partly destroyed by Confederates.  But, as at so many other river crossings along the march, the Federals were quick to repair the bridge.

The Fifteenth Corps reached Lowell Factory on the Little River and found a bridge there.  Major-General John Logan, under orders, had detached the 1st Division of the corps, under Major-General Charles Woods, to conduct a feint march through Nahunta Station on the Weldon Railroad.  Woods encountered Confederate cavalry just south of that point, but drove them out without much pause.  Skirmishing continued west of Nahunta but Woods again cleared the road.  By day’s end, Woods reported the Confederate force which had camped around the station numbered 1,500, but had posed no significant delay or inflicted any casualties upon the Federals.

On the Confederate side, these advances were expected but at the same time overwhelming.  Confronting such wide ranging lines of march, the Confederates could not make a meaningful stand at Smithfield.  So Johnston withdrew on the 10th.  Cavalry would contest the Federal advance, but the infantry was husbanded for a hopeful stand elsewhere.

In possession of Lowell Factory, Logan inquired as to its disposition that evening.  Howard related that inquiry to Sherman, who responded on the morning of the 11th:

You need not have the Lowell Factory destroyed.  I will wait our reception at Raleigh to shape our general policy.  You may instruct General Logan to exact bonds that the factory shall not be used for the Confederacy.  Of course the bond is not worth a cent, but if the factory owners do not abide by the conditions they cannot expect any mercy the next time.

The march for the 11th continued with the concentration around Smithfield:


Continuing with the feint on the right of the advance, Woods’ division moved toward Beulah that morning.  At the causeway over Great Swamp, the Federals met Confederate cavalry.  The Rebels attempted to burn the bridge, “and they would have succeeded had it not been for Colonel [Joseph] Gage’s command; his men, after driving the rebels off, soon cleared the bridge of the burning rails….” Woods continued to spar with the Confederates up to Beulah and beyond.  Reaching Folk’s Bridge at 11 p.m., Woods found 1,500 Confederates on the other side and the bridge destroyed.  The Confederates were uncovered by other elements of the Fifteenth Corps, but Woods was not able to cross until 4 p.m. due to the need to rebuild the bridge.

The rest of the Fifteenth Corps had another delayed march. The bridge at Lowell Factory proved to0 weak to hold up the military traffic.  So Logan ended the day with his corps astride the Little River until alternatives were found.  As for the rest of the Right Wing, the Seventeenth Corps reached Pine Level on the 11th without major incident.

The Left Wing reached Smithfield around noon on the 11th.  First elements entering the town were Third Division, Fourteenth Corps.  They fought through several barricades setup by Confederate rear guards, but were able to secure the town by mid-afternoon.  The bridges over the Neuse were destroyed, so the Federals went to work laying pontoons to facilitate the next day’s march.

For the Center Wing, the 23rd Corps stopped about eight miles short of Smithfield that evening, following the Left Wing’s advance.  The Tenth Corps faced terrible roads, but reached a point just beyond Bentonville by nightfall.

Further to the right of the advance, Kilpatrick reported camping on Middle Creek that evening.  His march was somewhat delayed by Confederate actions, though no fighting was reported.  Due to burned bridges over Black Creek, Kilpatrick made a wide advance around, nearly to Elevation, to reach a point opposite Smithfield.  “My command is not sufficiently well up, owing to the long march and bad roads, to make a successful dash on the enemy’s columns, even if I was within striking distance.”  So much for bold and rash action.

While Federal troops were entering Smithfield that day, to the west in Raleigh Johnston received word of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  Sherman would not receive word until the next morning.  April 12 would see the continuation of military operations.  But both commanders saw the writing on the wall.  Though marching and fighting would continue, it was not at the pace seen a year, or even a month, earlier between these two armies.  There was an exit ramp somewhere beyond Raleigh that everyone wanted to take.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 249; Part III, Serial 100, pages 102, 123, 129, 165, and 171.)

March 31, 1865: Execution of Private James Preble, 12th New York Cavalry, for the crime of rape

The April 7, 1865 edition of the New York Tribune carried, among other news from Goldsborough, North Carolina, an account of the execution in the Federal camp on March 31, 1865:

A most imposing military execution has just taken place about half a mile in front of the field works, fronting the Provisional Division, and running almost parallel with Little River stream.

The condemned, James Preble, of the 12th New York Cavalry, was executed for a rape committed on an aged woman on the 16th inst., in the vicinity of Kinston.

The whole of the Provisional Division of Schofield’s command was paraded together with the arrangements for the execution, under the command of Col. Claassen of the 132d New York Volunteers.

The division arrived on the ground at precisely one o’clock, and was formed in two ranks in three sides of a square, the rear rank ten paces in rear of the front rank, which came to an about face when the unfortunate condemned one was paraded through the ranks.

At about twenty minutes to three o’clock, the procession which attended the unfortunate man who was soon to be summarily summoned into presence of his Maker, made its appearance at the following order: A detachment of the 132d New York and 17th Mass. Vols., under command of Capt. Keenan, Acting Provost-Marshal, four men carrying a coffin, an ambulance containing the condemned man and his two spiritual advisers, the Rev. H.M. Bacon, Chaplain of the 63d Indiana, and the Rev. Mr. Dodd, Chaplain of the 25th Mass.  Upon arriving on the ground the unfortunate man was taken from the ambulance and escorted in mournful procession with Drum Corps playing the dead march through the ranks forming the three sides of the square.

James Preble did not appear to be more than 20 years of age, and about six feet in height; his appearance in no way gave indication of the brutality which would be naturally supposed to characterize the appearance of one proved to have been guilty of so heinous an offense. He marched with a remarkably steady step all the way round the square, and but seldom raised his eyes from the ground.

In the center of the space in the open side of the square, Preble’s grave was dug, and on arriving at it, after marching around the square, the procession halted, and the proceedings and sentence of his court-martial, together with the order for his execution, was read by the Provost-Marshal, after which he knelt down by his coffin, with the chaplains in attendance, and prayed for about five minutes, when his eyes were bandaged with a white handkerchief, and the firing party, consisting of 12 men from the 132d New York and 17th Pennsylvania, were formed in line about twelve paces in front of him.  At precisely five minutes past three the order to “make ready, aim, and fire,” was delivered in a clear, audible tone by the Acting Provost-Marshal, and the unfortunate man fell down dead, pierced through the breast. He was immediately examined by the Provost-Marshal and the Surgeon in attendance and pronounced dead.  The whole division then marched past the corpse, which was placed on top of the coffin, by columns of companies, and filed back to their quarters.  This will doubtless prove, as it is intended it should, a warning to evil disposed and reckless men, and they well know that acts of barbarity will not be tolerated in an army whose purpose is to restore law and order.

Among all the remarks made by the thousands of men present as spectators of the terrible scene, your correspondent failed to hear a single remark but what approved of the punishment inflicted on Preble.  So jealous are the men composing this army of their reputation, that I actually hear many of them express a desire to be of the firing party.

That last line is worth rolling around.  Major-General William T. Sherman is often figuratively tarred and feathered for his liberal foraging policies.  And certainly those policies opened situations where soldiers could push the limits of convention.  But at the same time, these men did not want to return home in shame for such deeds… particularly given the honor and glory hard won on the battlefield.

Sherman’s March, March 24, 1865: The armies close on Goldsboro, commanders reflect on the achievement

I’m going to offer up a map showing the movements for March 24, 1865, but only to support the short summary offered:


For the 24th, the Left Wing went into position on the west and north of Goldsboro.  The Right Wing, moving on two roads and crossing on two pontoon bridges, reached camps to the east and south of the town.  The Twenty-Third Corps started a march back to Kinston, where it would camp for a few weeks.  Major-General Alfred Terry’s command maintained a front west of Goldsboro while the Left Wing went into position.  During the day, Brigadier-General Charles Paine’s Third Division of that corps fought with Confederate cavalry.  But that evening, Terry’s command commenced recrossing the Neuse River and began their march to Faison’s Depot.  Major-General H. Judson Kilpatrick reported all his cavalry closed on Mount Olive on the 24th.  The brigade of Brigadier-General Smith Atkins moved as far south as Clinton.  Kilpatrick found the forage in that area very plentiful.

Thus the elements of Major-General William T. Sherman’s command went into camp for a deserved rest and refit.  As the formations transitioned to these camps, the commanders began to catch up on their paperwork.  Within days, reports were filed recounting the movements which started, for some, in January.  With those came a wealth of statistics.  The observations and statistics offered in that period of late March are important to consider, as they offer a measure of the impact of the campaign… and appear well before post-war claims which attempted to exaggeration on some points.

Major-General Oliver O. Howard indicated that the Right Wing marched 463 miles from February 1 to March 24.  The average rate of march per day was thus 8.19 miles.  Though Howard also pointed out that counting only “marching days” the average was 13.23 miles!  On the Left Wing, Major-General Alpheus S. Williams indicated his Twentieth Corps marched 465 miles, while his trains covered 456.10 miles.  Thus both wings covered the same distances.  Williams felt at least 3/5ths of the route of march was corduroyed. On the other hand, Howard indicates the Right Wing only corduroyed 106 miles.

Brigadier-General Orlando Poe, Sherman’s breveted Chief Engineer, recorded the Right Wing laid 3,720 feet of pontoon bridges, and the Left Wing laid over 4,000 feet (engineers on the Left Wing indicate that figure was actually 5,490 feet).  Howard tallied 31 bridges laid to support the Right Wing’s movements.  All impressive numbers considering the rate of march and the weather encountered.

And what damage was inflicted on the Confederates? According to Howard, the Right Wing captured nearly 2.5 million pounds of foodstuffs.  Add to that 4.8 million pounds of corn forage and 2.7 million pounds of fodder.  The Wing destroyed 15,000 bales of cotton and 42 miles of railroad (a figure far less than that inflicted on Georgia).  Howard’s command captured 3,049 horses and 3,766 mules. In terms of military stores, the Right Wing captured and/or destroyed 70,000 pounds of powder, 67 pieces of artillery, over 18,000 artillery projectiles, over 13,000 rifles and muskets, and over 1.2 million small arms cartridges.  Such figures do not account for the equally active Left Wing.

Any of these measures should be considered against several situational factors that existed in March 1865.  Foremost, by the winter of 1865, the Carolinas were the supply base for the forces engaged in Virginia.  Every pound and every horse that Howard included within his total was a pound or an animal not available to General Robert E. Lee.  The loss of thousands of muskets, tens of artillery pieces, and tons of powder were military supplies the Confederacy could not recoup.  In terms of logistics, the march through the Carolinas caused the Appomattox Campaign.

Another facet to consider with these figures is just how much remained in the Carolinas through the winter of 1865 – enough for Sherman to feed 50,000 men for upwards of six weeks.  That stands in sharp contrast to the lack of supplies reaching Richmond-Petersburg, the shortage of animals for Confederate troops moving to oppose Sherman, or the limited rations given Federal prisoners.  This lends the conclusion that the logistical problem in the Confederacy was not lack of foodstuffs, but rather the lack of transportation resources and the inability of the Confederate commissary to gather those supplies.   Sherman’s men had neither of those problems as they proceeded through the Carolinas.

Another measure compiled at the time was the casualty figures.  Howard reported the loss of 963 killed, wounded, or missing throughout the march.  Major-General Henry Slocum, who’s Left Wing carried most of the burden for the two major engagements of the campaign, reported 242 killed, 1,308 wounded, and 802 missing (for a total of 2,352).  Kilpatrick reported an aggregate of 604 casualties from the cavalry division during the march.

Confederate figures are hard to establish, given the split nature of the commands.  Likely in terms of killed and wounded, the total figures were similar to that of the Federals.  However the Federals reported capturing far more prisoners during the campaign.

In summation of the march, Major-General John Geary offered this paragraph in his March 26 report:

The Carolina campaign, although in its general military features of the same nature as that from Atlanta to Savannah, was one of much greater labor, and which tested most thoroughly the power of endurance and elasticity of spirit among American soldiers. The distance marched was much farther, through regions presenting greater natural obstacles, and where a vindictive enemy might naturally be expected in force sufficient to harass our troops and interfere frequently with our trains. The season was one of comparative inclemency, during which the roads were in the worst condition, yet my command marched from Savannah to Goldsborough without serious opposition, and without a single attack upon the trains under my charge. The spirit of my troops throughout was confident and buoyant, expressive of that implicit trust in their commander-in-chief, and belief in themselves, which are always presages of military success. It was their common experience to march at dawn or earlier, corduroy miles of road, exposed to drenching rains, or standing waist-deep often in swamps lifting wagons out of mire and quicksand where mules could not obtain a foothold, and, when the day’s work was through, encamp late at night, only to repeat the process with the next day. Then again there were many days of pleasant march and attractive bivouac. Through this all they evinced a determination and cheerfulness which has added greatly to my former high appreciation of the same qualities shown by them on so many battle-fields of the past four years.

Geary, like many of the men who made the march, were justly proud of their accomplishments.

(Citation from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, page 695.)

Sherman’s March, March 20, 1865: “I cannot see why he remains” – Second day at Bentonville

The first day in the battle of Bentonville had gone the Confederate’s way.  Knocking the Federal Left Wing on its heels, General Joseph E. Johnston’s attack came up short of eliminating that force… well short.  But Johnston launched his March 19, 1865 attack at long odds knowing a lot of luck was needed.  At the close of the day, he still held the upper hand and could maneuver away.  But instead he stayed put.  No just for the 20th, but the 21st as well.  Johnston would mention the need to “cover the removal of our wounded” in a report to General Robert E. Lee on the 21st.   While that justification holds partly, unstated were more likely reasons – forcing Major-General William T. Sherman to concentrate and hoping that Sherman would attempt “Kennessaw” outside Bentonville.

Sherman was indeed concentrating his armies, but he was decidedly against another “Kennessaw.”  With two divisions each from the Fourteenth and Twentieth Corps, along with the battering from the 19th fresh in his memory, the last thing on Major-General Henry Slocum’s mind was an offensive.  He had the Left Wing entrench along a line centered on the Morris Farm.  Slocum would be ready in case Johnston renewed the attack on the 20th, but would hope for timely arrival of reinforcements.


As detailed in the second post yesterday, in the late afternoon of March 19, Sherman issued a series of orders directly to subordinates to converge in support of Slocum’s Left Wing.  Already moving at the early hours on the 20th were Major-General William B. Hazen’s Division from Fifteenth Corps, to report to Slocum without delay.  Marching through the night, Hazen made twenty miles distance from his afternoon camp to report to Slocum at dawn on the 20th.   After a brief rest, the troops moved up on the right of Fourteenth Corps.

Also moving in the early morning hours, Major-Generals John Geary and Abaslom Baird left one brigade each to mind the trains of the Left Wing and pushed the remainder of their respective divisions to Bentonville. Geary marched eight miles and arrived at 4:30 a.m.  Baird didn’t get orders to move until 5 a.m. that morning, but pressed his two brigades to link up by mid-morning.  While Geary’s men would be in reserve the rest of the battle, Baird’s division would be heavily engaged on March 20th.

But it was the Right Wing that Sherman most wanted at Bentonville.  Preliminary movement started as ordered at 4 a.m. with the divisions on the move an hour later.  The Fifteenth Corps, under Major-General John Logan, lead the wing.  Logan arranged his march with Major-General Charles Woods’ division (minus a brigade under Brigadier-General William Woods, escorting the Corps’ trains), followed by those of Major-Generals John Corse and John Smith.  Following the Fifteenth Corps was the Seventeenth Corps.  This force moved with only ordnance wagons and ambulances, leaving the rest of the trains in a temporary depot in the vicinity of Falling Creek.

To prevent any Confederate force from reaching the Right Wing’s rear, Logan had Colonel Clark Wever’s brigade (from Smith’s division), supported by a section of artillery, to attack Cox’s Bridge.  Wever’s objective was not to capture the bridge, but to ensure it was destroyed.  Opposing Wever was a brigade of North Carolinians under Colonel John N. Whitford.  Smith later reported:

After a sharp skirmish for one hour our men penetrated the swamps and thickets, and, obtained a good position, succeeded in driving the enemy to the other side of the river. The enemy used artillery freely, having four guns in position, completely covering the bridge and narrow road leading to it.  Our guns could not be used with effect, as we could not get a position in range for them.  At 7:45 a.m. we had possession of the bridge and completed its destruction, which had already been commenced by the enemy, who fired it as they retired to the opposite bank.

Everyone was happy with Cox’s Bridge destroyed.

Logan turned the rest of Woods’ division west along the road to Bentonville.  Within a few miles, the Federals ran into cavalry from Butler’s Division, that day under the command of Brigadier-General Evander M. Law.  While Law worked to delay the march, they lacked the strength to stop the Fifteenth Corps.  At 9:50 a.m., Law reported to Johnston, “The enemy’s infantry and artillery is advancing rapidly from the direction of Cox’s Bridge.  He is now about two miles from Flower’s House.”  Law suggested infantry might check the Federal advance.

The mechanics behind Law’s observation lay in the tactics applied by the Fifteenth Corps that morning.  Right Wing commander Major-General Oliver O. Howard directed Logan to use only skirmishers to push the cavalry. So the Federal fight with Law was one of constant flanking, repositioning, and flanking. This had the effect of eliminating any delays while regiments and brigades formed on line.  But to pull it off, Logan had to recognize when his skirmishers met the main Confederate line, and then quickly deploy his infantry in battle line.  Otherwise, he invited one of those dreaded “feed his command into battle piecemeal” actions.   Nothing better than having an “ace” to play in a difficult situation.  Logan’s ace in this case was Second Brigade of Woods’ Division, under Colonel Robert F. Catterson.

Among the seven regiments, small though they were, that made up Catterson’s command all but one carried repeaters – either Spencer or Henry rifles.  This firepower allowed Catterson’s skirmishers to overwhelm an enemy force with a flurry of fire.  The advantages and disadvantages of repeating arms was on full display that morning.  Though able to drive Law’s cavalrymen, some of the Federals burned through ammunition quickly, as Catterson noted in his report:

Six companies of the Ninety-seventh Indiana were thrown forward as skirmishers, rapidly driving the enemy about three miles, when it was relieved by the Sixth Iowa, which drove the enemy briskly to within about three miles of Bentonville, where he made a determined stand. The ammunition of the Sixth Iowa having become exhausted it was relieved by the Forty-sixth Ohio. During its deployment the enemy was discovered turning the left of my skirmishers, having already gained their rear. The One hundredth Indiana was hurried forward to check this move, and they accomplished their work with dispatch and marked gallantry. During this time the Forty-sixth Ohio moved forward on double-quick, driving the enemy from his strong barricade of rails in splendid style. I immediately moved the brigade forward to the position thus gained, and fortified it, at the same time advancing my skirmishers half a mile, when it was halted, and in this position I awaited further orders.

Catterson’s brigade cleared a path through to the Flowers House.  And behind them the Fifteenth Corps deployed.  In response to Law’s report, Johnston moved Major-General Robert Hoke’s Division back from in front of the Fourteenth Corps to face east against the Right Wing.  This move prompted some of the Fourteenth Corps to push forward towards Hoke’s old position.  And at the same time Hazen’s Division moved forward on their right.  Late afternoon, Hazen came in contact with the left of Woods’ division.  At that point the Federals had one solid front – south of and east of Johnston’s.  You Easterners, with a mind to Gettysburg, will notice some irony here.  Howard arrived on March 20 to relieve Slocum.

With some pressure released as Hoke’s Division repositioned, Slocum moved forward to regain some of the ground contested on the 19th. With that, Baird’s Division ended up in the fields around the Cole Farm. And just as happened the day before, that became a “hot spot” under Confederate artillery fire.  Elsewhere, Kilpatrick felt out for the Confederate flank and portions of the Twentieth Corps gained the ground lost on the Federal left flank the day before.  Presence of Federal skirmishers forced Johnston to refuse his right.

By sunset, Johnston had retracted his position to face Federals on three sides, forming a salient.  The only way out of that salient was a lone bridge across Mill Creek.  A risky, dangerous position to hold.  Good military sense called for Johnston to withdraw in the night.  That’s what Sherman expected.  Writing to Slocum that evening, Sherman expressed:

Johnston hoped to overcome your wing before I could come to your relief. Having failed in that, I cannot see why he remains and still think he will avail himself of night to get back to Smithfield.  I would rather avoid a general battle if possible, but if he insists on it, we must accommodate him.

Sherman called for Slocum to clear a good road to the east, which would allow him to set his line with the Right Wing. Sherman wanted his back to the Weldon Railroad and Goldsboro.

Major-General Alfred Terry’s column made good progress that day, reaching a point just south of Falling Creek.  Sherman probably could not have planned this any better.  Not only were Terry’s men in position to cover the Right Wing’s trains, they were within range of Cox’s Bridge.  Sherman ordered Terry to proceed there to meet Slocum’s pontoon train and effect a crossing.

At Kinston, the much delayed advance of the Twenty-Third Corps began that morning also.  Schofield headquartered at Rockford that evening, about half the distance to Goldsboro.  Sherman did not expect any opposition at that point.  After describing the situation at Bentonville, Sherman laid a contingency plan for Schofield, “if you hear nothing to the contrary, join a part of your forces with General Terry’s and come to me wherever I may be.”

At day’s end on the 20th, Johnston and Sherman occupied lines of solid earthworks opposing each other in a manner seen the previous spring at points in Northern Georgia.  For Johnston, this was a gamble of sorts.  A roll of the dice with the decision to stay one more day.  Sherman did not indulge the temptation to strike.  He was happy to give Johnston the “golden bridge” escape.  Sherman’s focus was on resupplying his command for the next leg of the campaign.  However, that view was not shared by all of Sherman’s subordinates.  And that difference lead to more action the following day and a large “might have been” to play out at Bentonville.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 259, 321 and 1055; Part II, Serial 99, pages 919, 922, and 1443.)

Sherman’s March, March 14, 1865: “I do think it is Johnston’s only chance to meet this army “

One more day of “partial rest” for Major-General William T. Sherman’s men on March 14, 1865, as everyone prepared for the next leg of the march.  Main activities for the day involved staging the commands for movement. To Major-General Oliver O. Howard, Sherman explained his intent for the next phase.  He planned a feint on Raleigh, and wished to cut the road near Smithfield to support that appearance.

To this end the cavalry will move to-night across the bridge, beginning at 3 a.m., and will push to-morrow up the plank road to about Averasborough, Slocum following up with four disencumbered divisions to near the forks of the road, moving his trains by a cross road toward Bentonville. The next move will be the cavalry to Elevation, and Slocum will cross Black River. The next move will bring Slocum to Bentonville, and Kilpatrick, supported by a division of infantry, will make a dash for the railroad.

Sherman wanted Howard’s Right Wing to support the Left Wing closely.  But beyond that:

I want you to be as near in support as possible. I do think it is Johnston’s only chance to meet this army before an easy junction with Schofield can be effected. I would like you to have four divisions free to move rapidly to the sound of battle in the direction of Mingo Creek and Elevation, and, at any event, to make a junction by head of column with Slocum at Bentonville.

Key to supporting Sherman’s intent, both the Left and Right Wings needed to form light marching columns in the advance, so as to quickly respond if – when – General Joseph Johnston moved to oppose the march.


The Federal arrows on today’s map are somewhat crowded and imprecise.  For the Right Wing, Seventeenth Corps moved out on the Wilmington Road to give room for the Fifteenth Corps assembling into camps over the Cape Fear River.  The Fifteenth Corps had orders to use both pontoon bridges while crossing.  But this brought some unexpected delays.  The Fourth Division crossed the lower bridge that afternoon, taking about half the corps’ trains. But the other three divisions had to wait for the Left Wing’s trains to clear the upper bridge.  The Second and Third Divisions crossed during the afternoon and evening of the 14th, but the First Division had to wait until the 15th.

On the east side of the river, Major-General John Logan took time to organize the corps for the next march.

The further movement from this point was to be made with unencumbered divisions, men to be supplied with five days’ rations.  All of our supply train and a portion of ordnance train was to move by another and lower route directly on Everettsville.  The organization of the train was effected before moving from the Cape Fear River, and the First Brigade, First Division, with a regiment each from the Second and Fourth Divisions, under command of Brevet Brigadier-General Woods, was assigned as a guard for the train.  All the ambulances and twelve ordnance wagons with the headquarters and regimental teams, accompanied the troops.

The Left Wing made similar movements and dispositions.  Fourteenth Corps prepared First and Second Divisions for light marching order.  But Third Division remained in Fayetteville on guard.  In town, Major-General Absalom Baird had orders to destroy all mills in vicinity of Fayetteville, save one that would be sufficient to sustain the people of the city.

The Twentieth Corps also prepared two divisions for light marching to come.  To probe the Confederates ahead, Third Brigade, Third Division, under Brigadier-General William Cogswell, made a reconnaissance on the road leading out from Fayetteville.  One scouting column went on the Goldsboro Road, reaching Great Creek.

The other, moving north on the road to Raleigh, met more resistance.  Lieutenant-Colonel Philo Buckingham, 20th Connecticut Infantry, in command of that column had orders to proceed to Taylor’s Hole Run.  Buckingham was “not to attack in line of battle” but to use skirmishers only.  After only a few miles march, Buckingham ran into the advance guard of the Confederate line.  As the skirmish line deployed, the Confederates fell back to the next creek.  The Federals repaired a bridge near a mill on that creek and proceeded forward, cautiously.  This setup a series of bounds where the Federals would locate a Confederate picket force, deploy skirmishers, then watch their opponents fall back.  At Silver Run, the Confederates deployed an artillery piece and gave a good fight, as Buckingham later reported:

After quite a spirited skirmish the enemy was driven back to the cross-roads to within a quarter of a mile of Silver Run. Here, finding the force of the enemy had been increased and that he was making quite a determined stand, I sent forward four companies from the One hundred and second Illinois Volunteers to re-enforce and extend my line of skirmishers, at the same time sending one company from the Thirty-third Massachusetts Volunteers out toward the left and rear of my skirmish line to guard a road which led from my left toward the right of the enemy, so as to prevent a flank attack in that direction. After these dispositions were made I ordered an advance, and the enemy was soon driven back across Silver Run Creek and took refuge behind earth-works, in which I discovered artillery in position and a force sufficient to occupy works a mile or more in extent.

Buckingham proceeded forward again, but sensed he was up against a superior force.

After skirmishing with him quite briskly for nearly two hours, and finding I could not dislodge him without using my whole force, and that I had not more than time to reach camp by a seasonable hour, I withdrew my force in good order and, unmolested by the enemy, marched back to camp, which I reached about 9 p.m., having marched in all about twenty miles, skirmished with the enemy about three hours, and driven him nearly four miles into a strongly intrenched position.

Officers who lead reconnaissance missions are allowed to write run-on sentences.  But in all seriousness, there are a couple points we should consider from Cogswell’s reconnaissances.  First, consider the details of Buckingham’s report.  We often read about skirmishing on such reconnaissance operations.  But let the events pass as we rush through the pages to the big battles.  The report speaks to similar actions taken at hundreds of other points during the Civil War.  And Buckingham, an experienced officer, did exactly what he was supposed to do – didn’t get in over his head and demonstrated the discipline required for such duty.

Secondly, this was the infantry making this probe, not the Federal Cavalry.  Maj0r-General H. Judson Kilpatrick’s command was still in Fayetteville that day.  Why wasn’t Kilpatrick up to conduct this reconnaissance?  After all, this is what the cavalry does.  Well, Kilpatrick’s command was still recoiling from Monroe’s Crossroads.  And at the same time, Sherman displayed a reluctance to push the cavalry out on similar missions – as the covering force – again.  Instead, Kilpatrick’s troopers would cross the Cape Fear River the next day to pick up a position supporting the Left Wing.

But before we start counting the measure of Kilpatrick, remember there was a thumb on the scale which factors here.  Good subordinates operate as a direct reflection of their superior’s intents.  In this case, before we rate Kilpatrick in terms of accomplishing cavalry missions, we must ask if Sherman assigned Kilpatrick such missions.  One can argue that Sherman’s desire to use the cavalry in certain ways prevented Kilpatrick from exercising those traditional cavalry operations.  But was that because Sherman couldn’t trust Kilpatrick to perform those missions?  Or because Sherman didn’t understand cavalry (and how to direct them on those missions)?  Or a little of both?

Now in communication with other commands in North Carolina, Sherman issued marching orders.  Major-General Alfred Terry was to make a light march of his own out of Wilmington.  When that column joined the main force, Sherman would provide them with wagons, hoping supplies would be abundant at or near Goldsboro.

Finding the Confederates had left Kinston, Major-General John Schofield ordered a crossing of the Neuse River.  The critical task for Schofield was not so much to gain territory, but to repair the railroad.  Orders went out to General Jacob Cox:

You will please detail from your command 1,000 men with from 200 to 300 axes to cut railroad ties and distribute them along the track.  They will commence where the road strikes the Neuse and work southward towards New Berne.  Let the work be commenced early in the morning and pushed with vigor.  The ties are to be cut from eight to nine feet long, seven inches thick, and with faces not less than five inches broad.  They are to be distributed along the railroad at the rate of one tie to every two feet of track.

The advance of the supply line, and thus the element most critical to Sherman’s success, would be measured in two feet increments.

(Citations from OR, Series I, Volume 47, Part I, Serial 98, pages 233 and 836; Part II, Serial 99, pages 822 and 837.)