The Battle of Bentonville: March 20, 1865

Earthworks built by Hoke's division along Johnston's new line.
Earthworks built by Hoke’s division along Johnston’s new line.

Dawn broke on the morning of March 20 with Slocum and Johnston still facing each other. Meanwhile, Sherman, Howard and the Army of the Tennessee were on their way to the battlefield. Approaching from the east, the Federals were delayed by Confederate cavalry under Brig. Gen. Evander M. Law. Apprised of Sherman’s imminent arrival and the possibility of being trapped between the two enemy armies, Johnston decided to swing the left of his line back to the north, effectually forming a salient with the ends of his line anchored on Mill Creek. Surprisingly, Johnston remained on the field, although he was facing nearly three times his number. Johnston wrote after the battle that he stayed in his position to evacuate the remainder of his wounded. He also hoped that Sherman would be induced to attack. Sherman, however, was not interested in prolonging the battle. He had to worry about feeding his armies, and was still about a day’s march from his new supply depot at Goldsboro. Both sides engaged in skirmishing for the remainder of the day.


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