Sherman’s strength at Bentonville was initially 58,000 versus Johnston’s aggregate of about 20,000 men. On the way to reinforce Sherman were the 45,000 troops of Schofield, Terry and Cox, advancing from Goldsboro, New Bern and Wilmington — for a total of 103,000 versus 20,000. The author below erroneously suggests a much larger figure for Sherman’s total forces.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com
For the Love of the Dear Old Homeland
“On March 7, 1865 General William T. Sherman and his army of mercenaries from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and Prussia was well as the northern United States, many of whom could not speak English, crossed the North Carolina State line. Behind them lay the smoking ruins of sacked Georgia and South Carolina cities, homeless widows and orphans and death by starvation.
At Laurel Hill, NC, Sherman halted to refresh his troops, and from here he wired Gen. Schofield in Wilmington that he would be in Goldsboro, NC [on] March 20, 1865. On March 12th Sherman and his army of barbarians reached Fayetteville.
After plundering the residential section, it was then burned. Also destroyed were four cotton mills, the churches, banks, courthouse and warehouses. Sherman then moved on looting and burning. Any item that could not be carried, including furniture, carpets and farm equipment, was destroyed. Even the cabins of the slaves were robbed by the Yankees.
Following the fall of Wilmington, by the 7th of March General Robert Hoke and his small division of [mostly North Carolina] brigades were near Kinston, NC. On the 8th, Gen. Hoke and the division of [Daniel H.] Hill attacked the corps of Gen. Cox consisting of 13,056 Federal troops. The battle was a great victory for the Confederates with a loss to Cox of 1257 men.
General Joseph E. Johnston attacked Gen. Sherman at the hamlet of Bentonville on the 19th of March, inflicting a signal repulse. Brigade after brigade of Federals were crushed, and but for the gallant charge of the Federals under Fearing the center would have been entirely destroyed.
After this defeat Gen. Sherman was unwilling to suffer another, so he waited for Gen. Schofield to join him, and this combined force consisted of over 160,000 troops. The Confederate corps of Gen. D.H. Hill numbered 2,687 men.
When Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered his army of half-starved veterans at Appomattox, Virginia, General Johnston was also forced to surrender, April 26, 1865, near Durham Station, NC, and the War for Southern Independence came to a close.
In regards to the Confederate soldiers of 1861-1865, Judge [Joseph de] Roulhac Hamilton wrote:
“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 in their principles. How they bore suffering and hardship, and how their lives were ready at the call of duty! Suffering they bore, duty they performed, and death they faced and met, all for the love of the dear old homeland; all this for the glory and honor of North Carolina.
And 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 their heroism their lives inspired and their lives declared, then not one drop of blood was shed in vain.”
[General Robert F. Hoke’s said (excerpted) in a farewell address to his men:]
“The fortunes of war have turned the scale against us. The proud banners which you have waved so gloriously over many a field are to be furled at last; but they are not disgraced, my comrades. History will bear witness to your valor and succeeding generations will point with admiration to your grand struggle for constitutional freedom.
You have yielded to overwhelming numbers, not to superior valor. You are paroled prisoners, not slaves. The love of liberty, which led you into this contest, burns as brightly in your hearts as ever. Cherish it. Associate it with the history of your past. Transmit it to your children. Teach them the rights of freedom, and teach them to maintain them.
Teach them that the proudest day in all your proud career was that on which you enlisted as Southern soldiers, entering that holy brotherhood whose ties are now sealed by the blood of your compatriots who have fallen, and whose history is coeval with the brilliant record of the past four years.”
(Land of the Golden River, Volume 2, Lewis Philip Hall, Hall’s Enterprises, 1980, pp. 101-103)