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[428] was determined to give his antagonist as little time for organizing as possible. He felt almost certain that his own left would be attacked, and sent the trains by interior roads, holding eight divisions ready for immediate battle.

On the 15th of March, as he had anticipated, the left, under Slocum, came up with Hardee's force. The rebels, in retreating from Fayetteville, had halted in a narrow swampy neck at Averysboro, between the South and the Cape Fear rivers, and at the junction of the roads to Raleigh and Goldsboro. They evidently hoped to hold Sherman while Johnston concentrated in the rear. It was necessary to dislodge Hardee in order to secure the Goldsboro road, and also to keep up the feint on Raleigh as long as possible. Sherman proposed to drive Hardee well beyond Averysboro, and then turn to the right, and move by Bentonsville on Goldsboro. Slocum was therefore ordered to press on and carry the rebel position, an attempt rendered difficult by the ground, which at this point was so soft that horses everywhere sank, and even the men could hardly make their way across the common pine barren.

The rebels offered a stubborn resistance, and on the 16th, a brigade was sent to make a wide circuit to the left and catch their line in flank. This movement was entirely successful; the first line of the enemy was swept away; two hundred and seventeen men were captured, and one hundred and eighty killed. Late in the afternoon Slocum's whole command advanced, and drove Hardee within his entrenchments. The night was stormy and the roads were wretched, but in the morning the enemy was gone. In this action, known as the battle of Averysboro,

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