Saturday, March 16, 2013

Battle of Averasborough, March 16, 1865

Battle of Averasborough, North Carolina
The Battle of Averasborough or The Battle of Averasboro, fought March 16, 1865, in Harnett and Cumberland countiesNorth Carolina, as part of the Carolinas Campaign of the American Civil War, was a prelude to the climactic Battle of Bentonville, which began three days later.
William Sherman
Oliver Howard

Henry Slocum

Union General William Tecumseh Sherman was moving his army north towards Goldsboro in two columns. The right column (Army of the Tennesse) was under the command of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard and the left column (Army of Georgia) was under Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum.
William Hardee
Confederate Gen. Joseph E. Johnston sent Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee's corps to attack Slocum's left wing while it was separated from the rest of Sherman's forces. Slocum's troops crossed the Cape Fear River near Averasborough, where they encountered Hardee's corps. 
On the morning of the March 16, troops of the Union XX Corps under Maj. Gen. Alpheus S. Williams were driven back by a Confederate assault. When reinforcements arrived, the Union forces counterattacked and drove back two lines of Confederates, but were repulsed by a third line. By this time, units from Maj. Gen. Jefferson C. Davis's XIV Corps began to arrive on the field. Outnumbered and in danger of being flanked, Hardee's troops withdrew.
General Hardee wished to accomplish two things by contesting the Union advance at Averasboro. The first objective was to determine for General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of all Confederate forces in the Carolinas, whether Sherman’s army was advancing on Raleigh or Goldsboro. The Confederates learned it was moving on Goldsboro. The second objective was to stretch out the distance between Sherman’s left and right wings (which were moving on parallel roads) in order to give General Johnston a chance to concentrate his smaller army and destroy the Union left wing before the right wing could come to its assistance. Both of these objectives were accomplished. The stage was now set for the greater Battle of Bentonville, fought 25 miles east on March 19-21, 1865.

Willie Hardee, the 16-year old son of General William Hardee, was on General Hardee’s staff at the Battle of Averasboro. Willie Hardee was severely wounded, resulting in his death, at the Battle of Bentonville. Willie was Hardee's only son.

The Confederates had not held up the Union Army as long as they had hoped. Each side suffered just under 700 casualties; however, these were losses the Federals could afford while the Confederates could not.

Battlefield Memorial
In early 1866, the ladies of Smithville met at Oak Grove plantation to form an organization to honor the memory of the deceased Confederate soldiers of the Battle of Averasboro. Some of the soldiers' remains had been disinterred from temporary graves or sent home, but many were buried in a single cemetery, located near the site of the final line of battle beside the Fayetteville to Raleigh road.  As of May 15, 1867, the women had formally organized the Smithville Memorial Association and initiated efforts to enclose the cemetery and erect a monument. By May 10, 1872, the cemetery had been named "Chicora," the native American name for Carolina; a wrought iron fence was in place; and the monument had been erected. The monument was then dedicated on that date to the fallen soldiers. 

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