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Report of the battle of Averysboroa, North Carolina, by General W. B. Taliaferro.

[We are indebted to our gallant friend General Taliaferro, for his original report of this important battle. So far as we are able to ascertain this is the only copy extant.]

headquarters Taliaferro's division, camp near Smithfield, N. C., April 4th, 1865.
Lieutenant-Colonel T. B. Roy, A. A. General:
Colonel — I have the honor to make a brief report of the operations of my division on the 15th and 16th ultimo, near Averysboroa, North Carolina:

On the morning of the 15th, Rhett's brigade was encamped near Smith's house, at the intersection of the Fayetteville and Raleigh road with the road leading to Smith's ferry, on the Cape Fear river, and Elliott's brigade half a mile higher up, at another cross road leading to the same ferry. On the previous evening the enemy, who had advanced as far as Silver run, were reported by the cavalry to have retired a distance of four miles below that point, and our troops had received orders from the Lieutenant-General commanding to remain in camp for the day and rest after their fatiguing marches. About 8 o'clock A. M. I was informed by Lieutenant-General Hampton that the infantry of the enemy were pushing our cavalry back, when I at once selected a position for Rhett's brigade near Smith's house, in rear of an open field on the right of the road, and extending across the road to the left into a body of woods, thus concealing my dispositions from the enemy, and proceeded to erect in my front such hasty breastworks as the scanty means at my command permitted. I threw forward a strong skirmish line a few hundred yards in front of this position, and ordered up some of my field pieces to support the main line — my object being only to check temporarily the advance of the enemy until our baggage trains should be beyond the reach of danger, when I designed to retire Rhett's brigade upon Elliott's.

The Lieutenant-General commanding, as soon as he was notified of the advance of the enemy, rode to my front, and directed me to advance still further my picket line, which being done, we struck the enemy some half a mile in the front of my position, our cavalry having been retired to the right and left. [32]

I threw a few shells into the woods in front of my skirmish line, but except an occasional slight demonstration along that line, nothing of consequence occurred during the rest of this day.

I regret to have to report, however, that Colonel Rhett, of the First South Carolina artillery, commanding this brigade, mistaking a body of the enemy's cavalry for a party of our's of this arm, rode in advance of the picket line, to communicate with them, and was made prisoner.

I was directed by Lieutenant General Hardee, that in the event that the enemy moved forward in the morning, I should hold the position occupied by Rhett's brigade, now commanded by Colonel Butler. First South Carolina infantry, until it was no longer tenable, and then fall back upon the position occupied by Elliott's brigade, which I had placed in position behind a narrow swamp some two hundred yards in rear of the first line — which second line was to be held by my division as long as practicable; after which I was to retire upon an extended line, being prepared for defence by light works, some six hundred yards in rear, and which was in part occupied by General McLaws' division. At seven o'clock on the 16th the enemy advanced in considerable force, and the cavalry pickets, which had been re-established, retiring, he soon appeared in my front and advanced to the attack.

Our skirmishers, under the command of Captain Hugenin, First South Carolina infantry, received the advance very handsomely, and retired with coolness, contesting the ground well, to the main line. On the right of my line; and well advanced, the houses and grounds of Smith's plantation were occupied by two companies of the First South Carolina artillery, who held the position with great. determination.

The enemy now established batteries over a rising ground beyond the swamp in our front to the left of the main road, and shelled our lines with great determination and vigor, and made several successive attempts upon our lines with their infantry, chiefly pushing our left — in all of which they were met with a gallant resistance, and were repulsed.

About eleven o'clock he severely pressed our left and threatened to turn it; at the same time he massed additional troops, extending his line to our right, finally lapping and turning it, when, in consequence of the heavy attack, and the impossibility of extending our line, already deployed to its fullest extent, I directed the troops to be withdrawn to the line held by Elliott's brigade, which was accomplished, [33] under the circumstances, with remarkable coolness and with little loss. The fighting was severe during the entire morning, and men, as well as officers, displayed signal gallantry. Our loss was heavy, including some of our best officers.

The light pieces used by me here consisted of two twelve-pound howitzers, of Le Garden's New Orleans battery, and one twelve-pound Napoleon, of Stewart's South Carolina artillery, which were admirably served, and which operated with decided result upon the enemy's infantry and opposing battery. The ground was so soft from the heavy rains that it was with difficulty the pieces could be manoeuvred, while the concentrated fire upon them was terrible — nearly every cannoneer of both sections being killed or wounded, while nine of Le Garden's and every horse of Stewart's, except one, were killed. Spare horses had been ordered from the rear, but did not arrive before it was found necessary to withdraw from the line; and the roads being so deep and heavy from the rains and the passage of baggage trains, they could not be withdrawn by hand — so that two of the guns had to be abandoned — not, however, until all the ammunition to the last shell had been expended upon the enemy. Sergeant Ginbert, of Le Garden's battery, deserves special mention here for his gallantry and energy. After this the enemy made several demonstrations along the new line now held by my division, attacking with considerable determination, but were always handsomely and successfully resisted.

About one o'clock it was ascertained that the enemy was moving a large force to our left, in the direction of Black river, which his immense superiority in numbers enabled him to do without much weakening his lines in our front. To meet this demonstration, I determined to move my division back to the main line selected by General Hardee, which was done with no difficulty and little loss, where I was directed to hold that part of the line which lay on the right and left of the main road, the division of Major-General McLaws connecting with me on the left, and Major-General Wheeler's cavalry, dismounted, on my right.

The enemy shelled this new position at intervals during the day, and assailed it with infantry several times unsuccessfully. Their artillery fire was returned by my pieces.

Heavy skirmishing continued along my line until eight o'clock at night, when my troops were withdrawn and resumed the march with the main body of General Hardee's command, leaving General [34] Wheeler's cavalry (dismounted) temporarily occupying our abandoned works as their skirmish line until near day break.

The officers and men of my command fought admirably. Although unaccustomed to field fighting, they behaved as well as any troops could have done. The discipline of garrison service, and of regular organizations, as well as their daily exposure for eighteen months past to the heavy artillery of the enemy, told in the coolness and determination with which they received and returned the heavy fire of this day. I take pleasure in especially mentioning Brigadier-General Stephen Elliott and Colonel W. B. Butler, commanding brigades; Lieutenant-Colonel Brown, Second South Carolina artillery; Lieutenant-Colonel Joseph Yates, First South Carolina regiment artillery; Major Blanding, First artillery; Major Warley, Second South Carolina artillery; Major----------, Twenty-third Georgia battalion; Captain Matthews and Lieutenant Boag, Mannigault's battalion; Captain King, First South Carolina artillery, and regret that I have not the names of many who distinguished themselves, nor of those gallant officers who yielded up their lives in their country's service on this occasion. I hope. to forward a complete list with the reports of the subordinate commanders.

To my personal staff is due the testimony of my appreciation of their gallantry and efficiency. Major P. W. Page, my Adjutant-General, was severely, and Captain Reid, Aid-de-Camp, slightly wounded, whilst faithfully and ably discharging their duty; Captain Matthews, Engineer Officer; Captain Penin Kemp, Lieutenant Henry C. Cunningham, Ordnance Officer, temporarily with General Elliott, and Lieutenant George Harrison, Signal Officer, gallantly and well seconded my efforts during the two days of our engagement with the enemy at Averysboroa.

I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,

William B. Taliaferro, Commanding Taliaferro's division.

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