Battle of Bentonville: Facts & Summary

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  • 0:02 Background
  • 0:54 Turning Northward
  • 1:55 Battle of Bentonville
  • 3:26 Aftermath
  • 3:57 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adam Richards

Adam has a master's degree in history.

The Battle of Bentonville was one of the final battles of the American Civil War. In this lesson, learn about the reasoning behind the engagement, the battle, and its impact on ending all conflict in the Southern theater.

Background

By March 1865, the Civil War had changed dramatically. Major General William T. Sherman, commander of Union forces in the South, had cut a path of destruction during his March to the Sea. Additionally, Sherman had been extremely successful in eliminating Confederate forces in North and South Carolina during his Carolina campaign. As a result, General Ulysses S. Grant requested the assistance of Sherman's army in the North to finally destroy Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of northern Virginia. Happy to oblige, Sherman decided to turn his regiment northward but not before re-equipping his forces at Goldsboro, North Carolina. Sherman's march to Goldsboro was met preemptively by hostile force, and the Battle of Bentonville from March 19-21,1865, was the result.

Turning Northward

General Lee knew that the South had been completely ravaged by Sherman. Understanding that combat was winding down, Lee appointed General Joseph E. Johnston as commander of the Army of Tennessee with the foremost goal of stalling and/or preventing Sherman from marching north. Simultaneously, Sherman divided his regiment into two forces: one commanded by General Oliver Howard and the other by General Henry Slocum. The split in the regiment prevented a Confederate ambush from destroying the entirety of Sherman's soldiers. Both entities were expected to march to Goldsboro and restructure their forces.

The movement toward Goldsboro began on March 13, 1865. Johnston caught wind of Sherman's plans. On March 16, Johnston launched an assault on what he thought was the entirety of Sherman's army at Averasborough, North Carolina, which is just south of Raleigh, North Carolina. After learning that Sherman had divided his regiment, Johnston quickly regrouped and planned to attack General Slocum's unit of men.

Battle of Bentonville

On March 19, 1865, General Johnston ambushed over 15,000 of Slocum's Union troops on a road outside of Bentonville. Johnston's men fought hard against the powerful Union army. The Confederates were able to drive Slocum's army in a southern direction by the early afternoon. Yet, after being frustrated by the Confederates' irregular warfare, Slocum requested assistance from Sherman. By nightfall, Union troops greatly outnumbered the Confederates, and Slocum was able to push forward against the resistance.

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