Battle of Bentonville
At 3 p.m., Confederate infantry from the Army of Tennessee launched an attack and drove the Union left flank back in confusion, nearly capturing Carlin in the process and overrunning the XIV Corps field hospital. Confederates under Maj. Gen. D.H. Hill
Daniel Harvey Hill
On July 22, 1862, Hill and Union Maj. Gen. John A. Dix concluded an agreement for the general exchange of prisoners between the Union and Confederate armies. This agreement became known as the Dix-Hill Cartel....

 filled the vacuum left by the retreating Federals and began enfilading
Enfilade and defilade
Enfilade and defilade are concepts in military tactics used to describe a military formation's exposure to enemy fire. A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. A unit or position is "in defilade" if it uses natural or artificial obstacles to...

 the Union troops remaining along the front. Morgan's division was nearly surrounded and was being attacked from three sides, but the Confederate attacks were uncoordinated and therefore unsuccessful in driving them from the position. Other units under the command of Hardee attacked the Union positions near the Harper house but were repulsed after multiple assaults. After a heated engagement, Union reinforcements arrived and checked Hill's assault. Fighting continued after nightfall as the Confederates tried without success to drive back the Union line. About midnight, the Confederates withdrew to their original positions and started entrenching.

Slocum had called for aid from Sherman during the afternoon attacks, and Howard's wing arrived on the field late on the afternoon of March 20, deploying on Slocum's right flank and extending the Union line towards Mill Creek. Johnston responded to Howard's arrival by pulling back Hoke's division so it ran at a right angle to Stewart's left flank, and deploying one of Hardee's divisions on Hoke's left. Confederate cavalry protected the Confederate flank to Mill Creek in a weak skirmish line. Only light skirmishing occurred on this day. Johnston remained on the field, claiming that he stayed to remove his wounded, but perhaps also in hope of enticing Sherman to attack again, as had happened at Kennesaw Mountain
Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was fought on June 27, 1864, during the Atlanta Campaign of the American Civil War. It was the most significant frontal assault launched by Union Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman against the Confederate Army of Tennessee under Gen. Joseph E...


On March 21, Union Maj. Gen. Joseph A. Mower
Joseph A. Mower
Joseph Anthony Mower was a Union general during the American Civil War. He was a competent officer and well respected by his troops and fellow officers to whom he was known as "Fighting Joe". William T. Sherman said of Mower, "he's the boldest young officer we have".-Biography:Mower was born in...

, commanding the division on the Union right flank, requested permission from his corps commander to launch a "little reconnaissance" to his front, which was granted. Mower instead launched an attack with two brigades on the Confederate left flank, which was defending Mill Creek Bridge. Mower's men managed to come within one mile (1.6 km) of the crossing before Sherman peremptorily ordered them to pull back. In his memoirs, Sherman admitted that this was a mistake and that he missed an opportunity to end the campaign then and there, perhaps capturing Johnston's army entirely. Among the Confederate casualties was Hardee's 16-year-old son, Willie. Hardee had reluctantly allowed his son to attach himself to the 8th Texas Cavalry just hours before Mower's attack.


During the night of March 21 until the following dawn, Johnston withdrew his army across Mill Creek and burned the bridge behind him, leaving behind a cavalry detachment as a rearguard. The Union army failed to detect the Confederate retreat until it was over. Sherman took little notice and did not pursue the Confederates, but continued his march to Goldsboro, where he joined the Union forces under Terry and Schofield. The Confederate army had failed in its last chance to achieve a decisive victory over the Union army in North Carolina.
Sherman was criticized after the war for not attacking and capturing most, if not all, of Johnston's army when he had the chance. According to his critics, this might have shortened the war by several weeks. Others (such as Nathaniel C. Hughes, Jr.) suggest that he knew that the war was rapidly drawing to a close, and that any further bloodshed at that point was pointless. Once he joined with the Union forces at Goldsboro, he would vastly outnumber Johnston and would be able to "lever Johnston easily from any position he chose. North Carolina, indeed Virginia, would be his."

Battlefield today

The site of the battle is preserved as the Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site
Bentonville Battlefield
Bentonville Battleground, also known as Bentonville Battleground State Historic Site, was the location in North Carolina of the Battle of Bentonville in the waning days of the American Civil War....

, which was declared a National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmark
A National Historic Landmark is a building, site, structure, object, or district, that is officially recognized by the United States government for its historical significance...

 in 1996. The park, founded in 1965, includes 130 acre (0.5260918 km²) of the battlefield and runs a visitor's center adjacent to the restored Harper House, which served as a hospital for Union soldiers during the battle. The Bentonville Battlefield Historical Association and the Civil War Preservation Trust
Civil War Preservation Trust
The Civil War Trust is a charitable organization whose primary focus is in the preservation of American Civil War battlefields. The Civil War Trust also promotes educational programs and heritage tourism initiatives to inform the public of the war's history and the fundamental conflicts that...

 also own portions of the battlefield not included in the state park, including 909 acres (3.7 km²) by the CWPT alone.

External links

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