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[379] swampy neck between Cape Fear and South rivers, in hopes to hold me, to save time for the concentration of Johnston's armies at some point to his rear, namely, Raleigh, Smithfield, or Goldsboro. Hardee's force was estimated at twenty thousand men. It was necessary to dislodge him, that we might have the use of the Goldsboro road, as also to keep up the feint on Raleigh as long as possible. General Slocum was therefore ordered to press and carry the position, only difficult by reason of the nature of the ground, which was so soft that horses would sink everywhere, and even men could hardly make their way over the common pine barren.

The Twentieth corps, General Williams, had the lead, and Ward's division the advance. This was deployed, and the skirmish line developed the position of a brigade of Charleston heavy artillery, armed as infantry (Rhett's), posted across the road, behind a light parapet, with a battery of guns enfilading the approach across a cleared field. General Williams sent a brigade (Case's), by a circuit to his left, that turned this line, and by a quick charge broke the brigade, which rapidly retreated back to a second line, better built and more strongly held. A battery of artillery (Winniger's), well posted, under the immediate direction of Major Reynolds, Chief of Artillery of Twentieth corps, did good execution on the retreating brigade, and on advancing Ward's division over this ground, General Williams captured three guns and two hundred and seventeen prisoners, of whom sixty-eight were wounded and left in a house near by, with a rebel officer, four men, and five days rations. One hundred and eight rebel dead were buried by us. As Ward's division advanced, he developed a second and stronger line, when Jackson's division was deployed forward on the right of Ward, and the two divisions of Jeff. C. Davis' (Fourteenth) corps on the left, well toward the Cape Fear. At the same time Kilpatrick, who was acting in concert with General Williams, was ordered to draw back his cavalry and mass it on the extreme right, and in concert with Jackson's right, to feel forward for the Goldsboro road. He got a brigade on the road, but it was attacked by McLaws' rebel division furiously, and though it fought well and hard, the brigade drew back to the flank of the infantry. The whole line advanced late in the afternoon, drove the enemy well within his intrenched line, and pressed him so hard that next morning he was gone, having retreated in a miserable, stormy night over the worst of roads. Ward's division of infantry followed to and through Averysboro, developing the fact that Hardee had retreated, not on Raleigh but on Smithfield. I had the night before directed Kilpatrick to cross South river at a mill-dam to our right, and move up on the east side toward Elevation. General Slocum reports his aggregate loss in this affair, known as that of Averysboro, at twelve officers and sixty-five men killed, and four hundred and seventy-seven wounded. We lost no prisoners. The enemy's loss can be inferred from his dead (one hundred and eight), left for us to bury. Leaving Ward's division to keep up a show of pursuit, Slocum's column was turned to the right, built a bridge across the swollen South river, and took the Goldsboro road, Kilpatrick crossing to the north in the direction of Elevation, with orders to move eastward, watching that flank. In the mean time the wagon trains and guards, as also Howard's column, were wallowing along the miry roads toward Bentonville and Goldsboro. The enemy's infantry, as before stated, had retreated on Smithfield, and his cavalry retreated across our front in the same direction, burning the bridges across Mill creek. I continued with the head of Slocum's column, and camped the night of the eighteenth with him on the Goldsboro road, twenty-seven miles from Goldsboro, about five miles from Bentonville, and where the road from Clinton to Smithfield crosses the Goldsboro road. Howard was at Lee's store, only two miles south, and both columns had pickets three miles forward, to where the two roads came together and became common to Goldsboro.

All the signs induced me to believe that the enemy would make no further opposition to our progress, and would not attempt to strike us in flank while in motion. I therefore directed Howard to move his right wing by the new Goldsboro road, which goes by way of Falling creek church. I also left Slocum, and joined Howard's column with a view to open communications with General Schofield, coming up from Newbern, and Terry from Wilmington. I found General Howard's column well strung out, owing to the very bad roads, and did not overtake him in person until he had reached Falling creek church, with one regiment forward to the crossroads near Cox's bridge across the Neuse. I had gone from General Slocum about six miles when I heard artillery in his direction, but was soon made easy by one of his staff officers overtaking me, explaining that his leading division (Carlin's) had encountered a division of rebel cavalry (Dibbrell's), which he was driving easily. But soon other staff officers came up, reporting that he had developed near Bentonville the whole of the rebel army under General Johnston himself. I sent him orders to call up the two divisions guarding his wagon trains, and Hazen's division of the Fifteenth corps, still back near Lee's store, to fight defensively until I could draw up Blair's corps, then near Mount Olive station, and with the remaining three divisions of the Fifteenth corps come up on Johnston's left rear from the direction of Cox's bridge. In the mean time, while on the road, I received couriers from both Generals Schofield and Terry. The former reported himself in possession of Kinston, delayed somewhat by want of provisions, but able to march so as to make Goldsboro on the twenty-first; and Terry was at or near Faison s depot. Orders

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