Stop 42: Battle of Bentonville March 19- 21, 1865 Historical Marker
I-95 (northbound) at rest area near Fayetteville (before Exit 49), N 34°59.813, W 78°49.667
Fayetteville, NC 28312
At Bentonville, General William T. Sherman’s Union army, advancing from Fayetteville toward Goldsboro, met and battled the Confederate army of General Joseph E. Johnston. General Robert E. Lee had directed the Confederates to make a stand in North Carolina to prevent Sherman from joining General U. S. Grant in front of Lee’s army at Petersburg, Virginia.
Johnston had been able to raise nearly 30,000 men from South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and eastern North Carolina. His army included a galaxy of generals: two full generals; fourteen major generals; and many brigadier generals. Ahead of Sherman with his force, he looked for an opportunity to strike.
Sherman’s army of 60,000 men was divided into two wings: 30,000 men in the Left Wing marching via Averasboro and Bentonville, and 30,000 men in the Right Wing marching on a parallel route to the southeast. Sherman’s North Carolina objective was Goldsboro, where 40,000 additional troops and fresh supplies would reinforce and nourish his weary army.
The three-day battle ended in a stalemate. After an initial success on the first day, the Confederates were unable to destroy the united Federal Left and Right Wings (60,000 men) and on the night of March 21-22 they withdrew. The Union Army, anxious to reach Goldsboro, did not pursue.
Troops involved: 85,000 to 90,000
Total killed, wounded, and missing: 4,243
The Battle of Bentonville was important because it was: 1) the only major Confederate attempt to stop Sherman after the Battle of Atlanta, August, 1864; 2) the last major Confederate offensive in which the Confederates chose the ground and made the initial attack; and 3) the largest battle ever fought on North Carolina soil.
The Harper House, residence in which John and Amy Harper raised their eight children, has been restored on the battleground. This home was used during the battle as a Union hospital and after the battle as a Confederate hospital. In the Confederate Cemetery are buried 360 soldiers. The museum and 6,000-acre battleground are open for tours on a regular schedule.