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[707] posted on a narrow, swampy neck of land between the Cape Fear and South rivers; his total strength being estimated at 20,000. Ward's division of the 20th corps, in our left advance, was deployed, sending forward a skirmish line, developing a brigade of infantry behind a light field-work, with a battery enfilading the approach. Williams sent Case's brigade by a circuit to our left; turning the enemy's work, and, by a quick charge, driving back the infantry brigade holding it, under the fire of Winnegar's battery, to a stronger and better line behind it; whereupon, Ward's division charged directly on the retreating foe, capturing 3 guns and 217 prisoners, of whom 68 were wounded; while 108 of the enemy's dead were buried by Williams on the field.

Jackson's division was now sent up on the right of Ward, and two divisions of the 14th corps on the left: while Kilpatrick, massing his cavalry farther to the right, was directed to feel for the road to Goldsborough. He had gained that road with one brigade, when he was vehemently assailed by McLaws's Rebel division, and pushed back, fighting gallantly; until, at length, our whole line advanced, driving the enemy within his intrenchments and pressing him there till night fell, dark and stormy; under cover of which he retreated, taking the road not to Raleigh but to Smithfield. Slocum's loss was 77 killed and 477 wounded (no prisoners)--which may or may not include that of Kilpatrick. The enemy's was probably about the same. Ward's division made a show of pursuing the enemy; while the rest of our army, bearing to the right, pushed directly for Goldsborough.

Sherman, supposing the fight all out of the Rebels for the present, had ridden across to the right wing, and was intent on reaching Goldsborough and meeting Schofield, when the sound of guns on the left again challenged his attention. Slocum, approaching Bentonville, had been assailed by Jo. Johnston with the entire Rebel army. Couriers from Schofield and from Terry now arrived; the former reporting himself at Kinston, short of provisions, but able to reach Goldsboroa on the 21st, which he was directed to do; Terry being likewise directed to advance. Meantime, the several divisions of the right wing were ordered to move on rapidly to the relief of the outnumbered left.

Slocum had at first encountered1 Dibbrell's cavalry; which he was driving, when he ran headlong upon the whole Confederate army: the two leading brigades of Carlin's division being hurled back on the main body, with a loss of 3 guns and their caissons. Slocum thereupon, very properly, stood on the defensive; showing a front of four divisions, and throwing up slight barricades; while Kilpatrick came into action on the left. Here our left received six assaults from Johnston's army; holding our ground firmly, and inflicting heavy loss on the foe with our artillery — they having brought up little or none. Johnston had hurried hither by night from Smithfield, moving very light, expecting to crush Slocum before he could be supported; but he was mistaken. Night fell 00 March 18.

1 March 18.

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