- The last battles in North Carolina -- Gen. J. G. Martin's command -- battles with Kirk and the Federal marauders -- the army under Gen. Joe Johnston -- evacuation of Forts -- fight at town creek -- engagement at Kinston -- battle at Averasboro -- Johnston Repulses Sherman at Bentonville -- Johnston falls back to Durham -- surrender.
It remains now only to consider the final campaign in North Carolina. Toward the close of 1864, Gen. J. G. Martin had been recalled from the Virginia army and placed in command of the Western department of North Carolina, with headquarters at Asheville. Under his command were, according to Martin's return, March 10th, the following troops: Col. J. B. Palmer's brigade, embracing the Sixty-second, Sixty-fourth and Sixty-ninth (?) North Carolina regiments; Macbeth's light artillery; Erwin's battalion of Senior reserves; Thomas' legion (Love's regiment), McKamy's battalion, Indian battalion, and Barr's battery—a total force of 2,910. It is not clear why in this report General Martin seems to count one regiment twice. These regiments of active, hardy mountaineers were mainly employed in repelling the numerous raids through the mountains by Federal mixed forces, and in meeting detachments from Col. George W. Kirk's notorious regiment of Union North Carolinians. This regiment was a constant menace to that section and was restlessly energetic. In July, 1864, it surprised and captured Camp Vance, near Morganton. Into this camp about 200 Junior reserves had been assembled to be mustered into the Confederate service. Only one company had arms, and  the surprise was so complete that this company could not fire a shot. Kirk made off with his captures. At Winding Stairs a few regular and local troops overtook and attacked him, but he made good his escape with his prisoners. In this engagement Col. W. W. Avery was mortally, and Col. Calvin Houk, seriously wounded. To meet the raiders, and, in many cases, marauders of that section, General Martin directed Maj. A. C. Avery, of Hood's staff, then at home on account of family reasons, to organize a new battalion to operate against them. This little battalion, composed of Capt. John Carson's company, of McDowell, Capt. N. A. Miller's company, of Caldwell, and Capt. W. L. Twitty's company, of Rutherford county, rendered most faithful service in keeping deserters and marauders out of their counties. In March, Colonel Kirk entered Haywood county, but Colonel Love, of the Sixty-ninth regiment, met him at Balsam Grove and drove him back. On March 5, 1865, Colonel Kirk encamped on the headwaters of the Saco with part of his command. The next morning Lieutenant-Colonel Stringfield, also of the Sixty-ninth regiment, attacked him with some Indian and white companies of the Thomas legion. During the time of Stoneman's raid into the mountains, all the troops there were more or less engaged. Near Morganton a little field piece served by Lieut. George West and some soldiers on furlough, and supported by Captain Twitty, of Avery's battalion and Maj. T. G. Walton of the militia, bravely held in check for some hours one of Stoneman's detachments. At Waynesville, on the 8th of May, occurred the last engagement on North Carolina soil. There, Col. J. R. Love, with a force of about 500 men of the Thomas legion, routed a regiment of Union cavalry. After the fall of Fort Fisher, the Federal government sent General Schofield's corps to New Bern. General Terry's corps at Fisher was ordered to capture Wilmington, effect a junction with Schofield, and move up toward  Goldsboro to reinforce Sherman, who was then marching for North Carolina. The shattered fragment of the Western army had again been placed under Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, and the soldiers gave their old commander an enthusiastic welcome. General Hardee, commanding most of the forces in Sherman's front from upper South Carolina to Averasboro, showed fight whenever circumstances allowed, but his force could do little more than harass Sherman's march. General Johnston, as soon as he reached his command, determined to take the initiative, and if possible deliver battle before the Federals could unite. All the force under Bragg at Wilmington was ordered to join Hardee, and Johnston hoped, with a united army, small but entirely pugnacious, to fight his foes in detail. With this general plan in mind, it is necessary to notice the troops with which he purposed to carry it out. Coming from the South under Generals Hardee, Cheatham and S. D. Lee, were the veteran fragments of Cleburne's, Cheatham's, Loring's, Taliaferro's, b. H. Hill's, Walthall's and Stevenson's divisions of infantry, and Hampton's consolidated cavalry. Hoke's division consisted of four very small but veteran brigades. Major Manly's and Major Rhett's artillery battalions accompanied Hardee's corps. In addition, the following troops were found in North Carolina; four regiments of Junior reserves under Cols. C. W. Broadfoot, J. H. Anderson, J. W. Hinsdale and Charles M. Hall—all under General Baker. At Fort Caswell, the First North Carolina battalion, Col. T. M. Jones; the Third North Carolina battalion, Capt. J. G. Moore, and the Sampson artillery were stationed. At Fort Campbell there were three companies of North Carolina troops under Lieut. J. D. Taylor. Fort Holmes was garrisoned by eight companies of the Fortieth regiment and one company of the Third battalion; that post was commanded by Col. J. J. Hedrick. At Smithville, a post of which Maj. James Reilly had been  the commander, two companies of the Tenth North Carolina battalion and one light battery constituted the garrison. At Magnolia there was a small post under Col. George Jackson Parts of all these garrisons joined Johnston's army. The union of all these forces would give General Johnston an effective strength of only about 36,000. A larger number than this is reported on the parole list of the surrender, but this comes from the fact that many soldiers never in Johnston's army were paroled in different parts of the State. Before he received his concentration orders, General Hoke, at Wilmington, had been engaged in some minor actions. Moore says: ‘General Hoke had posted Lieut. Alfred M. Darden with 70 of the survivors of the Third North Carolina battalion, on the summit of Sugar Loaf. This battery and the guns at Fort Anderson, just across the river, kept the enemy's gunboats at bay. Brig. Gen. W. W. Kirkland, of Orange, with his brigade, held the intrenched camp. He had highly distinguished himself as colonel of the Twenty-first North Carolina volunteers. At the foot of the hill were posted the Junior and Senior reserves, under Col. J. K. Connally. Across the Telegraph road, upon their left, was Battery A, Third North Carolina battalion, Capt. A. J. Ellis. Next was the brigade of General Clingman, and still further the Georgia brigade of General Colquitt. For tedious weeks the great guns of the mighty fleet, close in upon the left flank, and the sharpshooters in front, made no impression upon General Hoke and his men.’ General Schofield, however, came to reinforce his lieutenant, and the landing of his forces made necessary the evacuation of Forts Caswell, Holmes, Campbell, Pender and Anderson. The garrisons from these forts and part of Hagood's brigade became engaged at Town creek, and for some time gallantly defied all efforts to push them aside. By the 7th of March, Hoke was near  Kinston and part of the Southern army was at Smithfield. On that date Gen. D. H. Hill was ordered to take his own division and Pettus' brigade of Stevenson's division and move to Hoke's position for battle. Clayton's division of Lee's corps and the Junior reserves under Baker soon after reported to General Hill. On the 8th, Generals Hoke and Hill engaged the corps of General Cox, stated by him to be 13,056. The battle was fought near Kinston, and its opening was fortunate for the Confederates. Upham's brigade was broken and this initial success was about to be followed up vigorously, when an order from the commanding general diverted a part of the force engaged. The Federals retained their works, and the Confederates retired to effect the purposed junction. The Federal loss was 1,257. Hardee at Averasboro, on the 15th of March, was called upon to make a stand against Sherman until Hoke and Hill could get up from Kinston. Bravely Hardee's men met the issue and gained the time. General Johnston, determined to strike Sherman before Schofield's arrival, concentrated his army at the hamlet of Bentonville. There, on the 19th, he inflicted a signal repulse on Sherman. Davis was the first to feel the weight of the Confederate battle. Carlin advanced two brigades against the Confederate front and recoiled in disorder. Buell's brigade was next broken by Bate, and then Stewart and Hill continued the success toward the center. Brigade after brigade of Davis' was crushed, and but for a gallant charge by Fearing, the center would have been entirely disrupted. Morgan tried in vain to break Hoke's front. Toward 5 o'clock a general advance was ordered by the Confederate front, and was also continued until dark. It was successful in front of Cogswell and at other points, but did not result in drive ing off Sherman. The Junior reserves, of North Carolina, ‘the unripe wheat’ of the State, made themselves prominent for gallantry on this field.  How reduced the Confederate army was by this time is shown by a statement in Gen. D. H. Hill's report. He commanded that day Lee's corps, and states that his whole corps numbered 2,687 men! Sherman was unwilling to attack after the repulse at Bentonville, but quietly waited for his other corps to join him, knowing that Johnston must retreat, as his numbers would never again enable him to join a pitched battle. General Johnston, after retreating as far as Durham, realized that further resistance was useless and surrendered his army. What Judge Roulhac, of the Forty-ninth regiment, says of his comrades applies to all the youth who in 1861 marched to obey the call of their State:
How splendid and great they were in their modest, patient, earnest love of country! How strong they were in their young manhood, and pure they were in their faith, and constant they were to their principles! How they bore suffering and hardship, and how their lives were ready at the call of duty! What magnificent courage, what unsullied patriotism! Suffering they bore, duty they performed, and death they faced and met, all for love of the dear old home land; all this for the glory and honor of North Carolina. As they were faithful unto thee, guard thou their names and fame, grand old mother of us all. If thy sons in the coming times shall learn the lesson of the heroism their lives inspired and their deeds declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain.